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Archive for August, 2011

During the heat of exam period (literally and figuratively), I managed to meet with one of the Technion’s busiest students. Eliezer Morganstern, also known as Ezzy. Ezzy is a second year mechanical engineering student, the regional director of the Lone Soldier Center in Haifa and the North, and an active member of Engineers Without Borders at the Technion. He helps run the Chabad on campus and is working on becoming a rabbi.

Ezzy and the troops

In addition to all of the above responsibilities, Ezzy is married and has three kids, the youngest of whom is four months old. His wife is an officer in the Air Force working on environmental policy; the two of them met when they were both in officer’s training school during their service in the Israeli army. When I asked him how he does it all he said, “if you want something done, give it to a busy person,” and laughed. Then he added in a slightly more serious tone, “It’s not easy.”

Ezzy was born in a Chabad community and attended yeshivah until he was 18 years-old. He had always wanted to come to Israel and join the army, even though it is not a typical path for someone from his community. “I think it had something to do with my dad’s volunteer work during the Yom Kippur War. For as long as I can remember I wanted to be in the army.”

Ezzy told all of his rabbis and friends about his plans for years. “Most people didn’t believe me. But because I had been saying it for so long, when I finally graduated and told everyone I was leaving they couldn’t really argue with me.” So Ezzy boarded a plane, with a one-way plan, to go to a place he had never seen before. “I knew I was staying. I wanted to go to the army and always wanted to be in Israel even though I had never been here before. When I got on the plane, I knew I was staying; and I haven’t gone back for over a month since.”

Ezzy and his four-month-old

He is the first Chabad member to join the army, where he began as a volunteer and ended up as an officer. Since his service, there have been many more Chabad students to come to Israel and serve in the army, 10 or 15 for each draft. When he came, even the yeshivah track for service was not attended by Chabad members. When I commented that he pioneered this new trend, he shrugged and said, “I wouldn’t say I’m a pioneer, but I hope I made things easier for other people.”

A big chunk of Ezzy’s schedule is taken up by the Lone Soldier Center, a program that helps new solders who don’t have a support base in Israel. “I love it. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to be able to help other people in the same shoes (I was once in).” Ezzy helps take care of the new recruits, going to kibbutzim to talk to them and encourage them to seek out the center if they ever need anything.

At home in the graduate dorms at the Technion, Ezzy and his wife, Michal, host Shabbat dinners frequently with big groups of students and celebrate every chag with the community there. “The whole building is families, and everyone hangs out at one park in the middle of the buildings. It’s like a kibbutz in the middle of the city with a nice mix of non-religious and religious people. The community is really great.”

Ezzy on the Technion campus.

So what could this Chabad, Lone Soldier activist and father be interested in pursuing at the Technion? “Robotics. Right now it’s mostly defense robots. In the next few years, though, robots are going to be much more popular with civilians. Small changes will come into our lives and we’ll learn to accept them. They aren’t all androids.” It’s easy to forget that Ezzy only learned at yeshivah growing up and didn’t learn anything beyond basic math until he was an adult. But he laughs that off. “I love it. It’s very hard and challenging and it keeps me on my toes, which is good.”

I have to wonder if he is ever not on his toes.

— Noa Ben Harav

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