Rebbetzen Liat Mayerfeld was born in New York, but moved to Israel when she was 11 years old with her family. Whilst living in Israel, Liat spent more than two years working for the Israeli military intelligence section, which she feels helped to develop her love and appreciation for Israel. She holds qualifications in teaching and degrees in Jewish studies and special needs education from Machlala College for Women in Jerusalem.
When she first came to visit England with her husband Moshe in 1998, they were keen to work within the community, and to help young Jewish people who were not really involved in any aspects of their Judaism. “We saw that there were not many programmes for non-affiliated young Jews and wanted to be involved in creating infrastructure for young people to connect with their Judaism on different levels.” Liat and Moshe first spent two years working for the JLE and then started working for Aish, running various classes and educational programmes as well as organising social events for sixth form and university students and young professionals.
In 2011, Liat and Moshe along with their children moved from Golders Green to West Hampstead and are now based at the Aish centre there. The centre, which is also their family home, is based on Hillfield Road and the couple run classes and programmes during all hours of the day. Liat particularly enjoys teaching text based classes, which she feels allows for the individual to gain their own understanding and message from the words, and opens up other areas of discussion and learning.
Unsurprisingly, their home is a very busy environment with visitors and guests dropping by at all times, but their children enjoy the hustle and bustle. One of her children commented, “We have all grown up in this kind of environment, and really enjoy meeting new people and sharing our home and Shabbat table with them. I think that the centre offers a family atmosphere to those who attend and it’s a great way for them to learn and experience Judaism while feeling part of a community.”
As well as teaching at the Aish Centre, Liat holds group learning sessions at people’s homes. She also holds a women’s class on alternate Wednesday mornings at Great Portland Synagogue. As a busy working women herself, she recognises the pressures that face people in the modern society, but feels that factoring in some learning is beneficial for self-growth. She says: “In modern society life is a lot more pressured, and it is important to be able to develop a sense of self and understand what you want and believe for yourself. Being able to do that, and to get some clarity enables people to be more focussed when it comes to what they want in their career and in building relationships.”
As a teacher and educator, Liat works with people from all different backgrounds, and Jewish levels, and she really enjoys the chance to help them grow and develop in their own way. As she explains: “Every person has to be seen as the unique individual that they are today. When I meet someone for the first time, there is no agenda or expectation, and I encourage them to do what they want at their own pace.” For many people that attend, they often have become removed from their Jewish identity and culture, and Liat recognises how regaining this connection can often empower them in other areas of their lives as well. She add. “It can often lead to them doing some great things not only for themselves, but for their community, and it is amazing to watch, and be able to help make this happen.”
Another area that she enjoys teaching are pre-marriage classes for brides. Along with her husband, she also runs couples classes for both the bride and groom to teach them about aspects of Jewish marriage. Having been married for almost 25 years herself, she knows how important it is to develop a strong foundation and she feels that these lessons give people the tools to create a successful and strong marriage. She adds: “Often people can get caught in the detail for the wedding day, but these classes help them to focus on the long term and realise that this is for the rest of their lives.” Liat is often invited along to the weddings of many of the couples that she teaches, and Moshe in his role as a Rabbi has officiated at over 50 weddings in the past two years.
As well as formal teaching, Liat is also involved in social action projects. Some of these she does with her husband and family, and others involve those within the local Jewish community. One of their family traditions, is to go into Central London on Christmas Day and bring food and hot drinks to working members of the emergency services, as well as the Queen’s guards at Buckingham Palace. Liat explains: “We feel a Jewish imperative to take the time to show these people gratitude for the jobs that they do, and how we appreciate this. That time of year, it can be very busy, and often very cold, and I think that it is an important positive Jewish message to send out.” This winter, Liat along with some other Aish members, also collected duvets, blankets and food packages which they distributed to the many homeless around London. Their kindness was even mentioned in the Metro newspaper in their ‘Good Deed Feed’ piece which champions the acts of kindness by ordinary people.
For Liat, helping others is key to everything she does, and she believes that making time for this is something that everyone can do, no matter how busy. She is always happy to help and advise individuals who want to get involved, but are often not sure where to start or how much time they can commit.
If you would like to contact Liat about learning or getting involved in Aish Social Action projects, please contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org
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