Hello my name is A.J. L. At the age of 17 I was sent away to the Utah desert as a part of the program called Second Nature (Entrada) for suicidal thoughts and a drug addiction. I spent around three months in the desert working through my soul to find a better me.
After the desert I was sent to residential treatment center by the name of Gateway Academy. As it started out Gateway Academy was a horrid experience for me but soon I was introduced to Rabbi Benny Zippel and then my stay changed significantly.
Rabbi Benny Zippel, heading an organization called Project HEART, took me into his very home and rekindled my Jewish spirit. Very soon I was praying daily, a custom I hold with me to this very day.
I had never been inducted into the orthodox lifestyle before and I was incredibly pleased with what I saw. I was invited to sit Shabbas with the Zippels’ week after week and grew very close to the Rabbi’s youngest son Chiam Zippel. It felt like I had a family for the first time. I was attending services, praying daily and nightly, it was spectacular. I even had the privilege of preparing and delivering a speech at a Channukah festival thrown by the mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah.
To this day I still maintain contact with Rabbi Benny Zippel, a man who picked me up and put me on my feet, turning me away from a very dangerous path of self-destruction.
I would just like to take this last sentence to thank Rabbi Benny Zippel, he has done more for me in my stay in Utah than both Second Nature Entrada and Gateway Academy put together.
Alexander J. L.
To Whom It May Concern:
On April 21, 2010. I, Nate K., was sent away from my home in Los Angeles CA to a treatment center called Heritage, which is located in Provo, UT. Growing up in Los Angeles I gave up on being an orthodox Jew, and started to follow the wrong path of doing drugs and not having any morals whatsoever. As the weeks went by in Utah, my mind started to recover from all the chemicals I took in from the past, and that’s when I realized there has to be more to life than seeking out physical pleasures.
About a month into my program I decided to start going to “Jewish Services” with Rabbi Benny Zippel. Our services were held every other Wednesday. Even though it wasn’t very frequent, Rabbi Zippel motivated and encouraged me to do better with my sobriety, education, and most importantly reestablishing my spiritual background. After having many arguments with rabbi Zippel I finally decided to be more open minded to the laws of Judaism. Every morning I started to wake up an hour earlier than my unit to put my Tefillin on and pray Shacharit (morning prayers). From then on I realized the days I didn’t put my Tefillin on I would have a horrible day. Rabbi Zippel then asked me to try keeping Shabbat, at first I refused because it would get in the way of my program. Rabbi Zippel then spoke to the head of the campus and got me permission to receive grape juice, loafs of bread, and time off of cleaning and unit activities so I can observe Shabbat. Ever since I kept my first Shabbat in Utah I haven’t broken one yet.
This was just the beginning of what Rabbi Zippel helped me with to get through my days of recovery. When Yom Kippur came around I was able to get a visit with my father to go to Salt Lake City to see Rabbi Zippel’s Chabad house. Another thing I really appreciated was that Rabbi Zippel started a kosher kitchen for all the Jewish kids in the cafeteria. As it got closer to December I was informed that I wasn’t going to be able to get a visit on Chanukah, and I knew there was no chance I could light the candles myself because of the strict policy of “no fire” on campus. So I prayed to G‑d to figure a way out for me to see the candles lit. The next day Rabbi Zippel talked to our campus Chaplain, Tami, to get permission to light candles for Chanukah. After Tami put some thought into the request she decided to give us a chance to light our candles.
For the 17 months I was in Utah I feel like the person that helped me the most in my recovery has been Rabbi Benny Zippel. Even until today I am observing Shabbat, keeping kosher, learning Talmud a few times a week, praying 3 times a day, and most importantly respecting my parents. If I hadn’t met Rabbi Benny Zippel I feel like I would still be stuck in Utah going nowhere with my life.
To Whom It May Concern:
I had the supreme privilege of having Rabbi Benny Zippel enter my life in 1996. I was 16 years old and due to hardships in my life at the time was placed in a residential treatment center near Salt Lake City for six months. Coming from Jerusalem, I was far from family and friends and loneliness was omnipresent. What I needed most was a warm, caring and non-judgmental adult figure to connect with. Rabbi Zippel personified those attributes and as an added bonus brought a much-needed and uncomplicated tie to Judaism.
Rabbi Zippel visited me on-site on a weekly basis and when permitted by my program I was fortunate enough to spend full Shabbatot at either the chabbad house or in the Rabbi’s home with his wonderful and embracing family.
A memory that will always be with me and seems a poignant vignette is of my 17th birthday. At first, I celebrated the day half-heartedly with my fellow residents at the facility trying desperately to mask my loneliness, which was at an all-time high. Then, unannounced, in walked Rabbi Zippel, cake in hand ready to take me out for a quick getaway. My counselors, who had come to know and appreciate the profound effect Rabbi Zippel had on my life permitted the outing at once (this was highly unusual for my center). The outing consisted of a drive around town and friendly conversation about my life prior to Utah—this simple gesture literally saved the day.
The warmth that the Rabbi and his family exuded on every visit always carried me through my challenging weeks of reestablishing control over my life. In short, I had a family in a foreign land at the time I needed it most—words can’t express my gratitude.
I am now 32 years old, joyously married to Ariella and giddy father to two adorable boys-- Michael and Eli. I reside in Jerusalem where I run a private practice as a clinical social worker—I specialize in working with teens at risk. It is no stretch to say that the warm and safe holding space provided by Rabbi Zippel during my time of need guides me daily in both of my most cherished roles-- family man and therapist.
I am most thankful for this opportunity to express my thoughts and emotions regarding this great man in writing and would be happy to answer any questions regarding my experiences with him.
Hi Rabbi Zippel. I’m not sure if you remember me, I’m Adam Solomon from Logan River Academy back in 2008-2009. I just wanted to write to you and say thank you, for all the help and education you gave me back in Utah. It really set me down a great path. Since I have been back in California I have slowly but surely continued my Jewish learning. I moved to college in San Luis Obispo and began learning Hebrew at the Chabad House in town and received my own tefillin which I put on almost every day. I even went to a Chabad study retreat at a yeshiva in Miami last winter. and I finally made it to Israel on Birthright. I was lucky enough to stay a few extra days in Jerusalem and wait for Shabbat to come in at the Kotel. Since my time in Logan I’ve become much closer to Torah and my culture. I’ve recently started keeping up with the weekly Parsha. So I just wanted to say hi and say thanks again for all the help and getting me started along this great path.
- Adam Solomon
My name is Daniel K. and I grew up in Chicago, IL, in a very nice home. Then when I got older I got into not such good things, and slowly but surely my life started to fall apart in different ways. Then I got sent to Discovery Academy. I was very upset, and it was very hard and I was just going through a very difficult time.
Baruch Hashem (Thank G‑d), somehow I got in contact with Rabbi Zippel and he made my stay much more enjoyable and life changing. He took me out on Yom Kippur and I was able to fast and daven and he took me out on Rosh HaShanah and I was able to see how a Jew should be. I was also able to enjoy Purim with them, Thank G‑d, I had an amazing time and I spent time with people who really care, and are really sincere.
Now, I am learning in Yeshivas Kesher in Israel and I couldn’t be happier. In my opinion I’m living a perfect life. I’m becoming who I always wished I could be, but I just never knew this is who I wanted to be.
Thank you Hashem for helping me find myself, and for helping me know Rabbi Zippel, and thank you, Rabbi Zippel.
I am Dennis G. I am a fifteen year old boy that has graduated (b”h) Discovery Ranch. When I arrived at Discovery Ranch I was lost. With their help, I explored and found the real Dennis. A big part of my life is Judaism. Not only was I lost in relationships, behavior and respect, I was lost as a Jew. I didn’t know, nor care about any obligations. I didn’t understand nor seek the answers to my questions. Through Project Heart, I was able to find myself, and rekindle my connection to Judaism. I would ask and find out, I would learn and understand. Therapeutically I have made a lot of progress, but I also have made a lot of progress concerning Judaism. I always knew that no matter what was going on at the Ranch, I would be able to talk and trust Rabbi Zippel. He taught me a lot of wisdom, gave me a lot of laughs, and will truly be missed.