Two young Orthodox rabbis, Rabbis Zack Blaustein and Yitzy Mandel, and their families have come to Louisville from New York and they have begun the Kentucky Institute for Torah Education (KITE) as a venue for people to learn more about Judaism and explore how Torah can enhance their lives.
They plan on offering a variety of Jewish learning opportunities tailored to the interests of community members. Some possibilities include one-on-one learning and dessert and discussion programs. “We hope to get a location to offer classes in general,” Rabbi Blaustein said. There will be some classes for men, some for women and some for mixed groups. The rabbis and their wives will all teach.
“Torah is for everyone,” he continued, “and is relevant to every lifestyle.” The classes will deal with topics from parenting to marriage to business.
“People can gain tremendous meaning in their lives by seeing how Torah can help them,” Rabbi Mandel said. “It can provide a tremendous boost for overall life experiences.”
KITE was launched earlier this month with a special Family Fun Day event that included a petting zoo, pony rides and a barbecue that brought the community together.
Rabbi Blaustein was born in Manhattan, but grew up in Hollywood, FL, in a traditional home. He has an older brother and two younger sisters. At age 10 or 11, he became more observant, and in the sixth grade transferred to a school run by Rabbi Avraham Yachnes, whom Rabbi Blaustein described as influential in his life.
A weekend Shabbaton at the Institute for Torah Study in Milwaukee, WI, introduced him to the yeshiva concept of learning when he was in eighth grade, and he decided to go there for high school.
He later went on to study for nine years at the Rabbinical Seminary of America. “There, I gained even greater and deeper appreciation of Torah and living life guided by Torah,” he said, and he felt a desire to give back.
“So, when Dr. Hyman and Rabbi Josh Golding came to the yeshiva one day and talked about how Louisville is interested in bringing in young rabbis and families to the city, there was a big buzz in the yeshiva.”
“Dr. Hyman was passionate and gave a certain picture of unique opportunities that could be in Louisville, KY,” he continued. Intrigued, Rabbi Blaustein visited Louisville, met with Jewish community leaders and felt encouraged that an institution for Torah education would be welcome.
His wife, Rachel, worked at Landers College for Women and the couple spent two years serving as dorm parents, frequently hosting 15 or so guests at Shabbat meals.
The Blausteins have a daughter, Chaviva, who is not quite 2 years old.
Rabbi Mandel grew up in Miami Beach, in a family with eight boys and one girl. After high school, he went to Israel for two years and then entered seminary in Queens where he studied for eight years and developed a lifelong love of studying Torah. He enjoys studying with others and guiding and helping younger students. “Torah has given me an approach to living happily a life with positive meaning.”
He’s eager to share his joy in Torah, saying, “It’s about giving back what I have received for so many years.
Rabbi Mandel’s wife, Mishy, is from Tarzana, CA. He described her as part of the team, and added that she is a speech therapist and will work downtown at a clinic. They have a son, Akiva, 3, and a daughter, Batsheva, 1-1/2.
Rabbi Blaustein and Rabbi Mandel would love to hear suggestions of classes and events from the Louisville Jewish community. “We are here for you,” they say. Contact Rabbi Blaustein at email@example.com or Rabbi Mandel at firstname.lastname@example.org. KITE can also be found on facebook at www.facebook.com/KentuckyTorah.
RABBI Zack, where and when did you receive your rabbinical degree? Woukd be very interested in recommending other interested