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Teacher’s Corner

Featuring Rabbi Yitzchak Werbin

Interpersonal relationships serve a key role in any person’s life, and such connections prove especially impactful for AJA Judaic Studies teacher Rabbi Yitzchak Werbin. Rabbi Werbin has played the role of both student and teacher, worked on and off in real estate, spent a period of time living in Israel, developed an exuberant yet loving family, and became the Rabbi of a small shul, Kesher Torah. Through it all, he discovered that forming connections and learning from role models can provide valuable guidance and a moral compass when navigating life’s pathways. 

Born in 1980, Rabbi Werbin has spent the majority of his lifetime in Atlanta. Growing up in Dunwoody, he attended AJA, which, at the time, was known as the Greenfield Hebrew Academy. During these years, Rabbi Werbin’s paternal grandparents moved into his household, an especially formative moment in his childhood. Living with his grandparents made an indelible

impression on the then ten-year old, and the experience became “the greatest thing [he] ever had.” Rabbi Werbin reminisced, “Everywhere we went, my grandparents traveled with us,” whether it was vacations in Hilton Head, trips to Israel, or GHA basketball games. Looking back, Rabbi Werbin feels “blessed” for the “incredible” opportunity to live with grandparents. 

After middle school, Rabbi Werbin attended North Springs High School and continued his education at the University of Florida where he majored in finance. His transition into adulthood coincided with the Second Intifada in Israel and 9/11. These tragedies served as a wake-up call and motivated Rabbi Werbin to reconsider his “priorities” and “what [he was] living for.” He intensified his connection to God and sought a lifestyle of greater meaning, prompting his move to Israel to study in yeshiva and work as a teacher. His brother, a former student of AJA’s Rabbi Daniel Estreicher, guided Rabbi Werbin in his spiritual endeavors. In Israel, Rabbi Werbin met his loving wife, and they had their first four children there. These years, although “not the most lucrative,” proved “very meaningful and purposeful.” 

Consistent with his belief in forging strong connections, Rabbi Werbin turned to the guidance of one his major role models, Rabbi Beryl Gershenfeld, as he became religious in Israel. Rabbi Werbin explained, “He instilled in me… the overwhelming desire to… live the most fulfilled life of meaning and purpose.” Rabbi Gershenfeld gave Rabbi Werbin the drive to “stop at nothing to achieve that.”

 “His passion for connections, specifically family bonds, would ultimately bring him back to Atlanta.”

Rabbi Werbin asserted that his “heart [resided] in Israel” after years of living there, but his passion for connections, specifically family bonds, would ultimately bring him back to Atlanta. In the spring of 2018, Rabbi Werbin’s father z”l, whom he regarded as a major role model, fell ill. Rabbi Werbin described his father as a “very ethical, very moral, [and] very generous” man, and he spent “nine good months with him” prior to his passing in Atlanta. Reunited with his hometown, Rabbi Werbin spends more time with his sister and mother, specifically on Shabbat, an opportunity that he relishes. Additionally, he frequently visits his brother in Brooklyn. Rabbi Werbin appreciates his relationship with his kin in Atlanta, which he values as a unique benefit of being “a native Atlantan” in a city where few have firm long-term family ties.

Now resettled in Atlanta, Rabbi Werbin is in his third year of teaching part-time at AJA. He explained that this job opportunity feels “completely organic.” Considering his upbringing, Rabbi Werbin sees many parallels between his high school self and AJA students. In fact, he hopes to instill in his students a life message that he believes he could have used in his youth: “Greatness is inside of each and every one of us, and no matter where my students are in life… that realization will spur them to find the right path.” Reflecting on his own years in North Springs High School, Rabbi Werbin realizes now that, “If you don’t know what you’re doing in life… find a hero, somebody that you can look up to, and try to learn from that individual.” He believes that if one works to emulate the moral values of a role model, one will achieve greatness far faster than by idolizing the material successes of “sports figures or celebrities,” a piece of guidance he finds relevant to his students today.

In contrast to other schools where he has worked, Rabbi Werbin noted a special link that he shares with his AJA students. For this reason, Rabbi Werbin described his relationship with his students as the highlight of his job. He elaborated, “I love my students; I really do. Forming a relationship with them has been just as beneficial for me as it has for them.” Rabbi Werbin’s self-described reserved personality makes the opportunity to build strong connections through learning Torah with his small group of students even more “fulfilling.” A successful class period in which Rabbi Werbin bonds with his students encapsulates his “definition of a good day.”

In addition to his part-time job at AJA, Rabbi Werbin serves as the Rabbi of Kesher Torah, a small shul in Sandy Springs. He works in his own real estate business and cares for a

family of six children. With a busy schedule and varying daily obligations, Rabbi Werbin “never know(s) what to expect.” Nonetheless, in his sparse moments of free time, Rabbi Werbin enjoys exercising, learning Torah, and taking his children on biking adventures. Throughout Rabbi Werbin’s life journey, he has found role models in his parents and teachers, forged ties with his sister and brother, formed strong connections with students, and developed a loving relationship with the “loves of his life,” his wife and children. Such connections provide Rabbi Werbin with much needed guidance when traversing life’s uncharted waters and and further intensify his relationship with God.

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