James Golden, Girard native and current yeshiva student in Israel, was the recipient of the Sam Kooperman Endowment in summer 2019. The endowment was created to provide scholarships for Jewish overnight camping experience for Jewish youth and for Jewish young adults to study in Israel.
The funding from the endowment is helping Golden to pursue his studies at Shapell’s Darché Noam, a baal teshuva yeshiva in Jerusalem. The term baal teshuva is Hebrew to describe someone who has “returned,” meaning one who
has taken upon himself full observance of Judaism. Today, the phrase is generally used to refer to someone from a secular background who decides to take on a fully observant Jewish lifestyle. Attending a baal teshuva yeshiva allows for the people who didn’t grow up with an Orthodox Jewish background to become fully immersed in the lifestyle and practice with the original Hebrew and Aramaic materials through a rigorous study
Golden was raised with no real Jewish presence in his youth and took the first serious steps in his journey around the age of 18. He said that he was naturally drawn to this way of life and felt driven to devote himself to learning about his roots and growing as a person as much as possible. The first yeshiva he attended was Sh’or Yoshiv in New York, where he studied for about four months before moving to Israel. There, Golden attended a few different yeshivos in Jerusalem until he decided to stay at Shapell’s Darché Noam. He’s put his life on hold to focus on his learning, he said, which includes leaving his job and moving to Israel indefinitely.
“First and foremost, I am a Jew,” said Golden. “Therefore, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how big my house is or what kind of car I drive. If I’m not connecting every day to Judaism, while trying to grow and be the best Jew possible, then all these other things are meaningless. My academic pursuits and goal of being self-sufficient in understanding of Jewish texts were my biggest reasons for going to yeshiva. Yeshiva forces you to be better at all the different roles you take on in your life.” Golden said he would like to thank the Youngstown community as a whole for being there at the very beginning of his journey as a young adult. Returning to Youngstown now helps to remind him never to forget where he came from and what has led him on this path. He is very grateful for the opportunities G-d has given him to be able to embark on this journey, he added, now that he is not only learning for himself, but also to honor his father Ronald Golden, who recently passed and was extremely proud of his son learning full time in yeshiva.