How remote learning drives my balancing act of school, work, family and religion

On a shoot with my wife, Kayla. (courtesy)

It is natural to search for silver linings in life as COVID-19 continues to turn society upside down. While remote learning is often criticized for its shortcomings, it has actually been one of my personal silver linings during the pandemic.

During my second year studying business administration with the International Program in English at the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT), the flexibility of remote learning has enabled me to simultaneously launch a video production company, Wiser Productions, that produces commercials, fundraising campaigns, and other forms of promotional video content, which is a much-needed specialty since the pandemic has forced many companies and organizations to expand their sources of funding and promoting themselves.

The ability to watch recorded classes in my free time has opened me up to balance the duties of a student and an entrepreneur. As an early riser, I can listen to my classes before my wife wakes up and before my clients get to work. Even before the pandemic, JCT’s flexible class schedule allowed me to have a full-time job as a personal trainer.

At the same time, my academic experience has already elevated my early foray in the business world. In management class, I learned about the different business hierarchies of a properly functioning business and have incorporated that knowledge into my work. Further, the mindset at JCT’s business program from the faculty to my fellow students inspired me to believe that anyone can open and run their own business — and then I went ahead and did just that. If you are willing to experience and overcome the challenges that result from the responsibilities of being a business owner, then you will succeed. It is all a matter of time and endurance. 

As it turns out, my balancing act extends beyond work and academics. I also prioritize the ability to maintain a religiously observant and family-centric lifestyle, which is particularly easy to do at an institution like JCT which specifically caters its campus experience and programs to the needs of religious students. This was the case well before remote learning became a necessity. JCT’s flexibility helps students commit time to other priorities like family and Jewish values while they earn their degree. For instance, the college blocks off time during the day for students to devote to beit midrash Torah study.

The religious environment at JCT, meanwhile, is unique in that it condones the combination of Jewish values and the reality we live in. Crucially, this environment embraces the understanding that a religious Jew can have a professional career, but also not forget the centrality of traditional values which help us navigate life. JCT’s acceptance of the need for a religious lifestyle that recognizes the value of a strong secular career path means that the college feel like the best of both worlds.

JCT’s accommodations for religious students are what initially attracted me to the college. After growing up in Philadelphia, I originally came to Israel in 2014 to study for a year at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah in Ramat Beit Shemesh. I would later return to a mechina (pre-army preparatory) program at the same yeshiva before joining the Israel Defense Forces as a combat solider in the Kfir Brigade. Both before and during my army service, I was part of the Lev LeChayal program, which provided completely furnished living spaces, access to yeshiva, and an inviting Anglo-Israeli community. Although I spent my first year of college at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, I learned about JCT from my friends in yeshiva and knew that the institution’s commitment to a Torah-academic balance would help me meet my goals. Since transferring to JCT, I have also enjoyed the small class sizes and professors who are strongly dedicated to the students’ success. It is truly a school that prioritizes the students.

In the long run, I am hoping to work in the Israeli film industry and run my own production studio. For such a venture, I am undoubtedly benefiting from the business knowledge I am gaining at JCT, including the topics of purchases, billing, overhead, contracts and more.

Today’s remote learning environment makes my multifaceted work-life journey feel like not only a dream, but a highly attainable reality. In that regard, I am certainly seeing the silver lining in the pandemic.

Ezra Weiser, 24, is a Philadelphia native who immigrated to Israel in 2017. He is currently in his second year studying business administration in the Jerusalem College of Technology’s International Program in English. In addition, he runs the video production company, “Wiser Productions.”

About the Author
I was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA in the US. I'm married, a business student, and run my own video production business.
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