My Machon Meir

As someone who made the decision to want to convert to Orthodox Judaism by my own personal research, and without connection to any Orthodox community in the United States, I had no idea how to go about undertaking the task of "giur" (which is the Hebrew word for Orthodox conversion). The Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Chaplains I served with in the US Army also didn't know. It's a subject few rabbis deal with. Any Google search for "Orthodox Jewish Conversion" didn't yield any results for me either. My situation looked hopeless, but I had a strong amount of faith that HaShem would lead me to the right place. I left the US Army without knowing where to go, but I knew that G-d-willing, I would make it happen. Not only was it a pure miracle that I have a friend who met a random passerby in an airport who told them about Machon Meir, but I soon learned that the environment of Machon Meir is a pure miracle.

At Machon Meir, I met people who were born and raised religious, non-religious Jews who were searching for answers, and gentiles like myself who wanted to convert (especially those who have Jewish fathers). Machon Meir provides an environment of brotherhood, learning, challenge, and adventurous field trips for those who love history and the outdoors to connect every Jew to the Land of Israel. At the same time, the depth of their Torah teaching caused me to learn enough that many occasions continue to occur where I teach perspectives and insights from the Tanakh and halacha to many religious-from-birth Jews.

Something very unique about Machon Meir is that it offers an environment of diversity. There are over 500 regular students who learn in five different languages (Hebrew, English, Russian, French, and Spanish). Torah study occurs with students from Ashkenazi, Chassidic, Yeminite, and Sephardi backgrounds as one, and from Rabbis of every background listed above. In Machon Meir's Beit Midrash, you will see hats and clothes of every religious traditional background alongside the t-shirt and jeans wearing youth who grew up in religious-nationalist communities in Israel.

Not only am I Jew thanks to HaShem and His guiding me to Machon Meir, I am also a Jew who has experience and knowledge of every religious cultural background who keeps an open mind to learning from every Jewish sage in history from the Vilna Goen to the Alter Rebbe, as well as from the Rambam to the Arizal and the Ben Ish Chai. I have the ability to grow in a beautiful, limitless way that is due to a unique experience which can only be found in Israel.

Are you a non-religious Jew who is curious about religion? Are you a Jew who is religious from birth but has questions which no one in your community can answer? Are you a Jew of strong religious character who would like to develop a deeper understanding of your Jewish brothers of other communities? Are you a Jew just seeking to develop a deeper tie to your cultural history in the Land of Israel, the land of your inheritance? Are you a Gentile (as I once was) who is serious about conversion? If the answer yes to any of the above, Machon Meir is the place for you.

David Yitzchak Ben Shimon (Formerly David Isaac Simpkins)