By Samantha Ebner, Staff Writer

@SamanthaEbner7 

For Mitzpeh

David Ben Moshe, a new Israeli citizen, spoke to students at Hillel. He discusses the hardships he faced in life, including going to prison and how he overcame these struggles. Photo pulled from Ben Moshe’s website. 

David Ben Moshe, a convert to Orthodox Judaism and an ex-convict, is currently living in Israel with his wife and daughter, but his Israeli citizenship was extremely difficult to obtain. 

After dropping out of college, Ben Moshe resorted to drugs to make a living. He made money from selling OxyContin on the streets and was ultimately federally convicted and placed in prison in Virginia. 

A year into his sentence, Ben Moshe was in the library with other inmates and noticed that the only non-restless man in the room was studying the same book for hours. He approached the inmate to see which book was distracting him, and it was the Torah. Having never seen Hebrew words or a Torah scroll before, Ben Moshe was curious about the pages. What fascinated Ben Moshe the most was the commentary at the bottom of each page.

Having grown up in a fundamentalist Christian family, Ben Moshe was raised with the idea that what is in the Bible is set in stone with no room for change. He liked the idea that over the years Jewish sages reinterpreted their text. 

“A traditional Orthodox way of starting the Bible taught me that you have different opinions and discussions and arguments. This kind of blew my mind as far as what religion meant,” Ben Moshe said. 

For the next year, Ben Moshe began learning with the Jewish inmate and was let out of prison around a year later, early for good behavior. He moved to Maryland to study in a Jewish Yeshiva and soon after had an Orthodox conversion. During this time, he became a physical trainer, which propelled him to become a physical therapist. 

“To help improve the opioid epidemic which is ravaging America, I kind of decided to dedicate my life to helping change the medical model to be less about medication,” Ben Moshe said. 

Ben Moshe was accepted into the University of Florida and hoped to join their physical therapy program but was then denied due to his criminal record. With no place to go, his Rabbi suggested he go to Israel while he decides on his next move. After a few hours in Israel, Ben Moshe met Tamar, his current wife, and they began spending time together. He then applied to schools in Israel and was offered a scholarship to study in Pardes Hanna, a district in Haifa. A few months later he and Tamar got engaged.

Before their wedding, Ben Moshe wanted to become a full citizen of Israel but was rejected numerous times, mostly due to the fact that the Minister of Interior did not deem his conversion acceptable and would not grant him the right of the Law of Return. 

After about three years of never-ending applications and rejections, Ben Moshe was recently recognized as a proper convert and given citizenship in Israel. Despite the rollercoaster that he went through to officially make Aliyah, he never gave up.

“The Jewish people came back to [Israel to] establish sovereignty because we didn’t give up. We kept on thinking about it. We stayed focused. People faced Jerusalem and by staying focused, you can overcome challenges through perseverance,” Ben Moshe said. “Also, I have the support of a wonderful wife.”

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