Ori ran away from home at the age of 16 because he didn’t want to spend his life in Yeshiva (religious school). His parents did not understand that he was interested in more than Jewish books. He wanted to understand the wider world and find his place in it.
Ori went to live with his grandmother and got hold of the curriculum that he would need to qualify for university. He applied to a college where they help students to catch up on what they had missed, but he was too far behind to even join their course.
It took Ori three months of lonely studying to catch up on the basic subjects that he had never been taught, like maths and English, before he could join the pre-university preparation program. Once there, the classroom was a complete culture shock for Ori – he didn’t understand what was required of him because the whole atmosphere was so different from the world of yeshiva study.
Luckily Ori found a support group of other former yeshiva students who had left their ultra-orthodox communities and were trying to get a general education. These kids helped each other and provided a network of contacts who had overcome similar challenges and were happy to share experiences and information.
“I was driven to succeed by a huge thirst for knowledge and the determination that I could make something of myself. I want to be a productive member of society and earn a good salary. I realize that I have a long way to go and will probably need a second degree in order to be taken seriously.”
However, his determination was not enough to finance Ori’s education. Without family support or employment, he was recommended by the University admissions office for a full Moshal scholarship. They not only funded his university degree but also offered him advice on making the most of his opportunities.
In his first year he was still living in his grandmother’s house and had bought a car to drive from her village into town every day. The commuting time and expense was taking its toll on Ori’s ability to focus on his studies. His student counsellor at Moshal sat with him and worked out an alternative plan: selling his car and renting an apartment in town with other students instead. Once he saw that this was financially feasible, Ori also recognized the benefits of living with students and being part of the Moshal support network, instead of driving back to the village every night.
Today Ori works a volunteer for a student rights organization, carrying out research that can be useful in lobbying government ministries to provide more support to students from ultra-orthodox backgrounds. His dream is to become a researcher or statistician who can help to change the world.
“They say that if you want to change the world, you should start with changing yourself and your immediate circle. I’m starting out by helping kids from similar background to myself, mentoring those who have left their homes and families, and encouraging them to change their lives through studying and opening up a whole new world of opportunities. If I can be a role model for such students, I will be sharing the advice and support that others gave to me and facilitating social change.
“Moshal was one of the organizations that enabled me to access a whole new world of educational opportunities. I hope to be able to share this dream with others, first with a few individuals through my personal influence, and one day with many thousands of others through my professional expertise.”