I grew up with a modern orthodox “right leaning” Day School and Yeshiva education, attending Religious Zionist Camp Moshava, active in its Bnei Akiva Movement, where my interaction with less observant Jews was limited. The Torah learning in school was “mildly interesting,” but mostly boring and rote, with many unmotivating and non-dynamic teachers.
Post high school, I spent a “gap year” on a work-study program (in 1970, way before it became popular) on the religious zionistic Kibbutz Yavne, where I worked with chickens, cows and tractors and learned our history first hand, with huge amounts of walking using a Tanach, learning to love our newly liberated present from God, following the 1967 miraculous war, the nearly complete Land of Israel. I still had limited exposure to committed less-observant Jews.
This all changed nearly 20 years ago when I was given the Wexner Heritage Program gift! Two years of Torah and leadership study with my new close friends that changed my life in the magical environment of Snowbird Utah. There I began the Daf Yomi experience, learning two pages of the Talmud everyday, which takes 7.25 years to complete one full Talmud cycle. At the end of the first cycle, I celebrated it with my Wexner Heritage class and was blessed with Rabbi Avi Weiss as our guest of honor. My second cycle completed shortly after having lost my father, an incredibly emotionally charged finale, delivering the siyum in the presence of my fellow shul members and Daf Yomi colleagues.
A month ago, late into my third cycle, tragedy struck with the passing of our mentor, our incredible teacher, my friend of 50+ years Rabbi Barry Robinson, whom I convinced to teach our class 16 years ago. Through his incredible talent, motivation, sense of humor and impeccable Torah knowledge, he grew our class to the largest Daf Yomi in Chicago, an eclectic collection of Zionistic, Torah-hungry Jews in a motivated and fun environment. This was exactly what many of us needed, an experience just like the Wexner Heritage Program.
Through the leadership skills I learned I am a Chicago JUF Board addict, living the JUF mantra of chesed attempting to help all Jews everywhere with a huge focus on Jewish Education. I'm an active board Member of One Israel Fund, helping our beautiful growing communities in Judea and Samaria, where we are on the cusp of building the new Binyamin Medical Center north of Jerusalem to help all! L’Takein Olam B’Malchut Shadai! Proclaiming the World in God's name... the true meaning of Tikkun Olam.
So, thank you Les and Abigail, and the amazing inspirational teachers from all walks of Judaism, and our fellow Wexnerites, who are changing the Jewish world, and for changing my life.
Get To Know The Author
Wexner Heritage Alum Elliott Robinson (Chicago I-99) is an expert “protection specialist” creative in the world of wealth protection, employee compensation programs and solving personal and corporate needs at the Robinson Financial Group, an insurance advisory and placement firm, specializing in individual and corporate life insurance and employee benefits. Elliott’s private life revolves around his wife, three daughters, two sons, and several grandchildren. Elliott is recognized as a leader in the charitable community, having chaired numerous fundraisers, “giving back” to those less fortunate with a continuous commitment to Chicago area charities, private education and social issues. Among these many organizations, he has served as a board member of the Jewish Federation of Chicago, a trustee of Keshet School for special needs children, One Israel Fund, and a past president of Hillel Torah Day School and Camp Moshava.