Meet This Week’s JewishMOM: Ariel’s Yael Maizels

Meet This Week’s JewishMOM: Ariel’s Yael Maizels

Where did you grow up? Buffalo, NY

Where do you live? Ariel, Shomron, Israel

How old are you? 30
How old are your kids? 5,3,1

< If you are a WM, what do you do? I am a doctoral candidate in developmental and cancer biology at Hebrew University. I’ve always been fascinated by how the world works. In my field I’m investigating how lung cancer cells move, which is related to metastasis (when cancer spreads). Biology is challenging, and requires a lot of persistence. 80% of the time experiments don’t work; when they do you publish a paper! As a mother, this type of work has its pluses and minuses; I can’t bring my cancer cells home, but if I have a sick kid (or two or three) no one expects me to make up those missed hours. Instead they just tell me “Refua Shleima.” My second job is being the rebbetzin of my husband’s shul, Ohel Efraim.

Can you tell us about your city, Ariel? Ariel is one of the biggest cities in the Shomron with a population of 18,000. So it offers a lot of services, shopping, even a theatre. There is a growing religious community here, although the city as a whole is overwhelmingly secular. There are Russians, Sefardim, Ashkenazim and a really warm group of Anglos. The Michlala (college) here has a strong influence on the city, with many of the residents learning or teaching there.

Ariel’s a city, but a small one. The religious community and the Anglo community here are both small enough that you can get to know everyone, if you want to. There are lots of opportunities to make an impact here: through teaching, planning social activities and tons of chessed opportunities. Because my family arrived at a point when the frum community was already really growing, we can be a part of all that. Because of the really mixed nature of the city, you really feel like you are part of Klal Yisrael and unlike many settlements, just by living here you can show secular Israelis what a religious person is like. Ariel is a place that attracts a lot of idealistic people.

I always feel like I could be doing more and am inspired by those around me who are. If you think you could find your place here, please e-mail me!(yael.maizels@mail.huji.ac.il)

What is it like being the wife of a shul rabbi? My husband is definitely one of those around me who is doing more. Sometimes I think he never stops! We both draw a lot of inspiration from his parents, a Rabbi and Rebbetzin in Cape Town, South Africa.

Being a Rebbetzin is my second job, my unpaid one! I love that I get to be involved in building a community, connecting with people, teaching Torah (which I wish I had more time for).

A Rabbi’s schedule is often a surprise, I’m still getting used to that. I’d love to have a community of Rebbetzins to speak to (If there are any Rebbetzins reading this, I always dream of starting a Rebbetzins listserve. Would you be interested?)

Outside of mothering, what do you most love to do?I love to cook; when I was young I used to make fancy plated desserts. I love to read and learn. I wish I had more knowledge about and the time for a real vegetable garden.

What school/university did you attend?Midreshet Lindenbaum, University of Pennsylvania, and now Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I am a perpetual student.

How do you define yourself hashkafically?I am Dati Leumi and Modern Orthodox, both as an ideal. I believe that Hashem created a world that is complex and rich with many growth opportunities and paths to reach Hashem. Living in the State of Israel provides a holistic religious experience, Judaism is not confined to the Shul or Beit Midrash, it’s in the street, the field, the lab and of course the home. I draw a lot from the thought of Rav Soloveitchik. I am privileged to have been exposed to Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, Dr. Tova Lichtenstein and their family.

Are you FFB or Baalat Teshuva?FFB.

What’s your favorite part of being a mom?I love helping my kids discover the wonder in the world, whether it’s a bubble, a heartbeat, or a Dvar Torah. I often find myself standing back and feeling proud of my kids when they show sensitivity, have a clever insight, or perform a dramatic dance. I also love the hugs.

What’s the toughest part, for you, of being a mom?Having the strength to be the mother I want to be. I think being a parent is definitely the hardest job I have, maybe because it’s the most important. In biology, you expect to fail most of the time. When I fail in mothering I feel really disappointed in myself. I also hate the sibling rivalry. And the mess.

What’s the best advice for moms you’ve ever received?When we first had a child, my brother-in-law, who had already been a parent for 2 years, told us that children are always changing. Meaning, if you’re in a difficult stage (potty training, tantrums, nursing) it won’t last forever. The flip side is that when you are at a good stage (all the kids sleeping through the night) there is always the risk that that won’t last forever either.

How did you hear about JewishMOM.com?I met Jenny through Rav Weisberg when I studied one summer at Nishmat as a sophomore in college, and I’ve been following her books and articles since I’ve been a mom!

How long have you been reading JewishMOM.com?Since the beginning.

What’s your favorite part of JewishMOM.com?I loved the Real Jewish Mom videos. Bring those back! Jenny’s calm reassuring voice telling us Jewish moms are doing something that is really super important even when we’re just changing a diaper is always somewhere in the back of my head. When its really hard (like when my husband has reserve army duty) her voice says it’s hard for a lot of us, and that’s OK, focus on what’s important. The sense of perspective she gives me from the more tragic articles helps me to appreciate the good.

I also love the sense of community that no Jewish mother is alone, even us Rebbetzins.

Related posts:

Ayala Nivin's FULL House: Reflections on Mothering a Large Family
Feminist Housewives
Being the Best Mom I Can Be (8-Minute Mommy Peptalk)

9 comments

  1. Thanks for interviewing Yael, whom I’ve “known” online for a while. Had no idea she was a rebbetzin!

  2. Yael Maizels

    Just one quick addition – there are 14 shuls in Ariel. Our shul is called Ohel Efraim.

  3. Tzohar has some kind of a group for rebbetzins – you could probably learn more about it from Penina Neuwirth in Ra’anana

  4. Thanks for the interview. It was very inspiring.

    • it was a perfect interview. i have sent it to my daughter, sarah, who went to that school (rabbi lichtenstein) and is now at sackler school of medicine.

  5. Dena Morton

    Yaeli – this is a lovely interview! How close are you to finishing the Ph.D.? And did you get your parents to show this interview to the folks at home – they would really get a kick out of it!

  6. yael, you are such an inspiration! i’m so proud of you!! sending big hugs!

  7. Amazing work (and amazing juggling) in all of your roles Yael!

  8. yael harati

    yael you’re brilliant and i loved the article – now we’re waiting for your biology article!!!!! 🙂

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