“Thank God for every dull, boring day,” smiled Menachem (Marshall) Epstein ’60 as he scanned the breath-taking landscape northwest of Jerusalem from his balcony in the city’s Har Nof neighborhood. (“We bought a view with an apartment attached,” his wife Sara explained.
“There were a lot of reasons people sent their children to Maimonides in those days,” he related, not the least of which was the impact of the weekly shiurim delivered by the school’s founder, Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt”l.
Menachem, one of Maimonides School’s first 50 graduates, has realized his lifelong dream – to learn and teach Torah in Israel.
Menachem was the youngest of four Epstein children in a Dorchester family and he entered kindergarten as Maimonides began its 11th year in 1947. “In our house,” he asserted, “we were all Zionists. Like many of his contemporaries, Menachem was active in the Bnei Akiva youth movement and he also helped out with NCSY activities.
During his Maimonides years, Menachem said, Rabbi Isaac Simon, ז"צל, was the teacher with the greatest religious impact on him. Many students left the fledgling school at transition points like Grades 6 and 9, he said, and at graduation there were seven seniors. Of the five living classmates, Laura-Libby (Levinson) Levitt and Dr. Ronald Wachtel also live in Jerusalem.
He graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in engineering, learned for a year at the Mir Yeshiva in Brooklyn, eventually earning his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from New York University in 1969. The following year he visited Israel for the first time.
Menachem spent the next three decades working as an engineer, primarily in New Jersey. He and Sara raised five children. A permanent move to Israel was always on their radar, “but you have to be able to make a reasonable living.”
Finally, about 20 years ago, “once I found I could support myself without working,” they made aliyah. The Epsteins bought an apartment – in terrible shape, other than the view -- in Har Nof, not far from friends from home like the Bostoner Rebbe and Rabbi Mendy Gopin ’66.
Since his aliyah, Menachem has been teaching Torah, including five days a week at the Beth Azriel shul in Har Nof. “I think Israel is the best country in the whole world,” he said. “You know why God picked us now – here’s a tiny country doing so much of the world’s great research.”
“We use our resources to help make life more pleasant for everyone,” he continued, quoting the Gemara regarding non-Jews who also can see the beauty of Torah. “That’s our job in the world. Wherever you go, you have to make a kiddush Hashem.”
Three of the Epsteins’ children live in Israel. They have 21 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.