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Yaakov Friedman, age 27

Yozim Leshinuy

We all have the power to change our own lives and influence the lives of others.

My name is Yaakov; I’m 27 years old and a third-year Electrical Engineering student. I owe a great deal to the support and help I received from Out for Change’s “Out to Learn” program.

I grew up in a family of 14 people in Bnei Brak, living as a Haredi, learning all day intensively in a yeshiva. At age 18, I found myself in a crisis of faith; I was restless with questions. I had a hard time learning, and after switching between several different yeshivot, I realized that I could no longer sit and study Torah. After much deliberation, I decided to enlist in the IDF, where I was fortunate to have a meaningful service as a paramedic in a combat unit.

During my service, I decided, somewhat naively, that I wanted to study engineering. I had no English or math skills. While everybody in my unit relaxed outside during off-hours, I locked myself in my room and started learning the material from scratch. And I continued working towards this dream after I finished my military service.

The journey was incredibly challenging, I was trying to complete my high school exams while also supporting myself and adjusting to a whole new world. But I didn’t give up because I knew that this was the only way to achieve my dream. When I mentioned to a friend that I was looking for a quiet place to study, he recommended Out for Change, where I quickly found a home.

At Out for Change, I found a place that accepts you as you are, allows you to learn and develop, and provides dozens of courses that fill educational gaps and inspire you to do more. Most importantly, I found a place that understands where I come from and where I want to be. And everyone working there does so out of incredible love and a sense of mission and purpose.

When my studies became too challenging, I was matched up with great teachers through the Out to Learn program. The support I received encouraged me to pay it forward, and today, I am tutoring other men and women who left the ultra-Orthodox world. It is a beautiful feeling! I cannot adequately describe the feeling I have knowing that I played a part in fulfilling another person’s dream, that I am there for them in their challenging moments, in the daily struggle.

I am proud that I sometimes have the opportunity to be the first to tell them that they are capable, that I am here for them, and that their dream can also come true. And I’m also proud to see the results and experience their success together. We all have the power to change our own lives and influence the lives of others.

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