Jewish Journal

A Passion for Talmud and Sports

Eli Isaacs, 17
High School: YULA Boys High School
Going to: Yeshiva University

Eli Isaacs has plans to go into medicine because “I’ve always wanted to help people,” but he’s also fascinated by how medicine relates to Jewish law. It’s why he’s happy to put his plans to attend Yeshiva University in New York on hold for a year, or possibly two, so that he can spend time in Israel studying at yeshiva.

At the end of this summer, Isaacs will head to Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh in Ashdod. Despite the fact the area has been a target of rockets from Gaza, Isaacs is not worried. “I feel very safe in Israel,” he said. “I’ve been there multiple times, and when I’m learning in yeshiva, I feel like HaShem is protecting me.”

Isaacs’ passion for Torah learning is evident at school, too, where he has voluntarily taken on an additional three Talmud classes. “I see that there are people who want to learn Talmud all day, and they have an immense love for it and seem like they live happier lives. I want to emulate that,” he said. He added that he’s also inspired by how his father studies Talmud every night after a busy day at work.

He also is impressed with his father’s work as the owner of Garden of Palms, a Jewish assisted living facility, where Isaacs has spent time volunteering. Isaacs, who lives in Pico-Robertson, has walked with his father and brother (who also works there) all the way to the facility in West Hollywood on Shabbat, “so we can daven with them and sing songs with them.” When he’s at his own shul, Beth Jacob in Pico-Robertson, he’s the gabbai there. 

At YULA Boys High School, his teachers and rabbis have designated him an ambassador for prospective students “because they believe I represent the school well” in taking advantage of everything the school has to offer, being involved and getting consistently good grades. “They feel I have extra insight to share,” he said. 

“I’ve learned that it’s important to be there for other people, and to try to better myself as a person and as a Jew.” 

Isaacs is also a huge sports enthusiast, having played on YULA’s varsity basketball and volleyball teams, serving as captain of the basketball team in both his junior and senior seasons. He also has six older siblings. “They’re all competitive and sporty, so I’m always trying to beat them.”

Before heading off to yeshiva in Israel in August, Isaacs will spend the summer in New York at Camp Kaylie in the Catskills as a member of the sports staff, where he’ll be both teaching sports “and hopefully having time to play, too,” he said. In addition, he said the camp has a Jewish studies learning program in the mornings and evenings that he’d like to take advantage of.

Isaacs said that his years at YULA have taught him how to manage his time and to be grateful for all opportunities. “YULA really pushes [the notion of] brotherhood,” he said, “and I’ve learned that it’s important to be there for other people, and to try to better myself as a person and as a Jew.”