Barack Mandela
Barack Mandela
American Soldier/Israeli Soldier

As Israel Turns: A New Jewish Soap Opera

In the United States, daytime TV soap operas are an important part of daily life and entertainment. There are numerous shows such as: “As the World Turns”, “General Hospital”, “Young & the Restless”, “Bold & the Beautiful”, “Days of Our Lives”, “Guiding Light,” “Another World,” “Ryan’s Hope”, “Edge of Night”, “All My Children”, and “One Life to Live”.

As Israel Turns” is a new soap opera that I have created involving themes related to the State of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora.

The soap opera takes place at the fictional ‘Weinberg yeshiva’ and fictional ‘Beth Rivka Women’s Academy’ in the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem. In the future, As Israel Turns may appear on TV or streaming services such as Netflix, Disney, and Hulu.

Scene One (The Rabbi’s Office):

“I have always wanted to be a rabbi,” says 21-year-old Benjamin ‘Ben’ Steinsaltz who is a new student at the Weinberg yeshiva. “I came to Jerusalem from Beverly Hills to learn Torah,” Ben continues.

“We are blessed to have you in our yeshiva,” responds Rabbi Mendel Schneerson who is the ‘Rosh yeshiva’ of Weinberg yeshiva. “According to your university transcripts, you studied physics and mathematics at UCLA. Is that correct?”

“Yes, I recently graduated from UCLA. Initially, I planned to apply to Stanford Medical School; however, I’ve decided to become a rabbi instead,” Ben explains.

“Were you raised in an observant Jewish family?” asks Rabbi Schneerson.

“My family is Modern Orthodox,” Ben responds adding, “we are Shomer Shabbat and we are members of Congregation Beth Jacob in Beverly Hills”.

“My father, Nathan Steinsaltz, is CEO of Spielberg Entertainment in Los Angeles, which specializes in family and faith-based entertainment,” Ben offers.

“Ben, I welcome you as a new rabbinical student at Weinberg yeshiva. Our rabbinical program is a three-year study program involving intense study. At the end of the program, you will receive smikha or rabbinic ordination,” Rabbi Schneerson explains.

“It’s almost time for Schaharit (morning prayers). Let’s walk down to the Kotel (Western Wall) to daven (pray),” the rabbi suggests.

“Yes, let’s pray!” Ben Steinsaltz responds as both men stand up and begin walking to morning prayer.

Scene Two (The Rebbetzin’s Office):

“My name is Abigail Goldberg. I am 21 years old, and I am a new student at Beth Rivka Women’s Academy here in the Jewish Quarter,” she says while sitting in the modest building on Chabad Street.

“Did you recently graduate from Columbia University in New York?” Rebbetzin Sarah Schneerson asks while slightly adjusting her own sheitl (wig). Rebbetzin Sara is the wife of Rabbi Mendel Schneerson who is rosh yeshiva at Weinberg yeshiva. She is director of the women’s academy.

“Yes. After graduating from Columbia where I studied economics, I decided to come to Jerusalem to learn Torah, halacha, and eventually get married to a frum Jewish man. That’s my plan,” Abigail explains.

“We at Beth Rivka will help you on your Jewish journey of Torah learning. I am also a shadchan (match maker) to help with marriage,” the Rebbetzin offers.

“Abigail, let’s walk to the kotel to daven morning prayers.”

Both women walk toward the Western wall for Schararit prayers.

Final Scene (At the Western Wall):

As Rabbi Mendel Schneerson and student Ben Steinsaltz conclude prayers, they walk out of the men’s prayer section at the kotel and move towards the plaza next to the women’s section.

Rebbetzin Sarah Schneerson, who has completed prayer, approaches her husband Rabbi Schneerson.

“We just finished davening morning prayer,” the Rebbetzin says.

“This is Ben Steinsaltz, our new rabbinical student,” Rabbi Schneerson introduces him motioning with his right hand.

“Nice to meet you,” the Rebbetzin softly whispers.

“This is Abigail Goldberg, our new seminary student at Beth Rivka Women’s Academy,” she continues.

“Nice to meet you,” Ben says trying not to look directly at Abigail.

“Why don’t we invite both Ben and Abigail to our home for dinner this Shabbat evening?” Rabbi Schneerson recommends.

“That’s a great idea,” the Rebbetzin responds.


This episode explains how the future Rabbi Benjamin Steinsaltz met his future wife, Abigail Goldberg at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

This is the first episode of As Israel Turns by Barack Mandela who writes for “The Blogs” at “The Times of Israel”.

As Israel Turns will continue to appear here in “The Blogs”. Stay tuned for more of this dynamic Jewish soap opera.

If you enjoy As Israel Turns request a TV version of the soap from your entertainment providers.

About the Author
Licensed Attorney. I earned a Doctor of Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law (1997). I earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Riverside (1994). I was an international student at the University of Costa Rica Faculty of Law (1991-1992) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law (Summer 1996). I am a military veteran of both the United States Army and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). I am a laureate of the National Defense Service Medal from the Pentagon (2006). I am a financial donor to following: Harvard Law, Yale Law, Stanford Law, Berkeley Law, UC Hastings College of the Law, UC Davis Law, Columbine High School, Choate Rosemary Hall, Phillips Exeter Academy, Sidwell Friends School, Viewpoint School, Beverly Hills High School, Eton College in the United Kingdom, Special Olympics, Children's Defense Fund, Obama Foundation, Clinton Foundation, Barbra Streisand Foundation, and the British Red Cross. I am former special assistant and staff attorney to Governor Pete Wilson of California. I was public affairs assistant to US Senator Barbara Boxer and Mayor Ehud Olmert of Jerusalem and Jerusalem spokesperson Haggai Elias.
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