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A Farewell From Rabbi Dr. Michael Hecht (’57)

July 8th, 2014 by mta

As told by Rabbi Hecht at a farewell dinner in his and Rabbi Borenstein’s honor.
As printed in The Academy News

Rabbi Dr. Michael Hecht - From Elchanite, 1957

Rabbi Dr. Michael Hecht – From Elchanite, 1957

Rabosai,

You may recall that several years ago we were visited by a Rosh Yeshiva from Eretz Yisrael who asked each of us—what unique contribution do you bring to the Yeshiva? I replied אני גשר. I’m a bridge. I didn’t elaborate then and I am not sure he knew what I meant, but I will elaborate to you, because I think it’s very important.

I remember well my first visit to this building – it was in the spring of 1952 I was an 8th grader in Salanter (the S in SAR) coming for our entrance Bechina. Our Rebbe took us. We loved him, despite the fact that he barely spoke English and most of us didn’t speak Yiddish very well. He was a “Mirrer” who spent the war years in Shanghai. His name Rav Gershon Yankelovitz. (Yes the same Rav Yankelovitz still presently on the faculty of RIETS). He ushered us into a room on this floor, presently occupied by Dr. Seth Taylor. An elderly man, with a nicotine stained wispy beard sat behind the desk, a carton of Camel cigarettes to his right, the “Bochen”.

We vaguely knew he was important because of the respect Rav Yankelovitz had for him. His name was Rav Mendel Saks, the Chofetz Chaim’s son-in-law. It might be apocryphal, but I had heard years later that the final redaction of the Mishna Brora was done by Rav Mendel at that very desk, in that very room in this very building. Our Talmidim should know that. Perhaps the most important Sefer of the 20th century and one that I am confident will be studied a thousand years from now might have been completed in this building. I was told by a former Rebbe of mine in YU, Rav Yerucham Gorelick, one of the Brisker Rav’s closest talmidim that Rav Mendel was a Baki in Yerusalmi and knew every Ramban on Chumash virtually by heart. Can you imagine a Gadol Hador giving Bechinos to 13 year old kids? It says much about how that generation of immigrants struggled to survive.

I would like to speak about another Bechina of mine with Rav Mendel almost a decade later because it reflects both my own Derech Halimud and, far more important, Rav Mendel’s. I was then a semicha student and the procedure was that two or three students would spend an hour or so talking with him in learning. There was a difficult Rashi, with a famous Brisker analysis. Rav Mendel started to discuss the Sugya with me and I was ready with the Torah. I started to raise the difficulty in the Rashi – and he said “nein lez der rashi - read the rashi”- I quickly read and again he said “lez der Rashi” before I could impress him with the Torah. When the same give and take occurred a third time I realized I was in trouble and I reread the Rashi very slowly putting a comma in a different place. He smiled and said “Nu Vas sagt Rav Velvel“ - and I sheepishly replied “yetz dart min night Rav Velvel.” He was a Melamed par excellence, he knew all the yeshivishe Torah but first and foremost he was a “pashtan.” He was meticulous with the text. The truth is so was the Rav, but this creativity made it easy to overlook his concentration on the text. It is not accidental that the Rav loved the Baal Hamaor and Ramban on the Rif. The words of the Ramban are so cryptic that the Rav could say about a chidush es ligt in the words of the Ramban.

“Es chatoay ani mazkir hayom.”

Hecht-297x300When I first began teaching I had a very bright freshman class and fresh from the Kolel I would say over the Rav’s Torah. It’s very tempting – bright kids can spit back on a bechina the most complicated stuff, but they don’t appreciate it. But after a brief period I remember saying to myself – come on who are you fooling; you’re just showing off, I’m also a “Lamdan”. Rabosai, in high school we are “Melamdim”, not Roshei Yeshiva. Avoid the temptation teach your students how to read a Rashi, a Tosfos, a Rosh, a Rashba. Years ago I had to speak in KBY as a dean in YC and I was introduced by one of their most respected “Ramim,” as the person who taught him how to read and analyze a Rishon. Rabbi Taubes, also a former talmid always made the same point the first time he came to the shiur each year.

Back to my role as a bridge – We don’t hear much any longer at the Yeshiva the name Dr.Samuel Belkin. He was a remarkable human being who came to the US as a 17 year old Yeshiva bochur, granted that he was known as the Slonimer illui, and by the age of 33 had received a PhD from Brown University, was a professor of Greek at Yeshiva College, a beloved Rosh Yeshiva and was appointed the president of YU. He did not have an easy personal life; his first wife was not well and he didn’t have much nachas from his children. He was a visionary, a dreamer, a courtly European gentleman, an extraordinary people person. He lived for the Yeshiva and its talmidim. The whole academic world tried to get Albert Einstein to allow his name to be used and only Dr. Belkin succeeded. AECOM was started not as a source of income for YU but as a place where an orthodox Jew could become a doctor. We don’t have the time for more than one personal story but it shows how much things remain the same. I was teaching part time while still in the Kolel when I was approached by Mr. Abrams the administrator of RIETS that the Rav had suggested my name to Dr. Belkin as a promising Mechanech and he wanted to meet with me. I felt I had to meet with him out of respect but I was going to refuse since my life-long expectation was that I would go to law school. I went to see him and he was so charming and he said to me you are married with a baby how are you going to support yourself? I answered my wife is working, I’ll teach in a Talmud Torah. “So teaching in a Talmud Torah is better than saying a shiur in yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan after Rav Yosher Ber suggested you for it. Finally I consent and he says O.K. and your salary will be $4,000. For the one and only time with all the different positions I have had at YU I discussed salary. I said, “Rebbe now I’m getting $2,500 for the Kollel and $2,000 for the part-time teaching, YOSHER! He thought for a moment and said “gerecht” and “you’re right $4,500 it is.” “But don’t tell anybody.” Remarkable that the president is so involved.

It is clear that the focus of my remarks today is my role as a bridge between generations with the emphasis on personalities and yet I have only mentioned the Rav tangentially. Although I have much to say, great stories –the Rav in the Yichud Room with me on my wedding day as we wait for the Chupah, (Rabbi Tani Cohen knows it), the aftermath of the Rav’s famous ghosts speech after the charter change, which separated RIETS from the University and which resulted in a 5 member committee , chaired by the Rav, with Rav Aharon Lichtenstein and Yehuda Parnes representing college Rebbeim and myself and I think one other HS Rebbe representing the high school. These stories would be very interesting, but unnecessary. All of you speak enough about the Rav. I would just add that during the week of the yahrtzeit drasha the excitement and electricity on campus was awe inspiring. People would come to the campus from Boston and Bnei Brak, Baltimore and Yerushalayim, and, yes, Borough Park, Flatbush and Monsey – all for a three hour speech that felt like 30 minutes. Standing room only in Lamport, balcony included, the aisles jammed as if it were the NYC subway during rush hour.

Let me close with one last vignette. One morning I was on the 11 bus going to the Yeshiva when Rav Noach Borenstein alav hashalom sat down next to me and asks “vas vet zein mit mein Shmuel” -  what will be of my son Shmuel – “er shpielt bashkitball a gantze tag” – he plays basketball a whole day. And I said to him, “Don’t worry, he doesn’t play that much and he learns very well.” (By the way he was a very good ball player, rough under the boards, maybe even occasionally dirty). How did he turn out? He’s a very fine Talmid Chochum, thinks clearly with tremendous Yedios, a trade with outstanding middos. There is a chassidic tradition of the lamed vuvniks, 36 extremely righteous tzadikim whose disarm are mechaper for our Avon’s and allows the kiyum of the world. Shmuel has had yisurin, the fire, his lung problems as a result of that fire, Malka’s health issues and yet never once have I heard him complain. And despite this Shmuel is a very rich man. The respect his children have for him and Malka is very special and very rare.

A Farewell from Rabbi Shmuel Borenstein (’60)

July 8th, 2014 by mta

As printed in The Academy News

Rabbi Shmuel Borenstein - From Elchanite, 1960.

Rabbi Shmuel Borenstein – From Elchanite, 1960.

I have been told by some retired friends that retirement is one long vacation where you can take cruise ships around the world, spend the winter in Florida, and relax on some fancy resort. However, the Torah has a different definition of retirement. In the beginning of Parshas Vayeshev, Rashi brings down the Midrash of, בקש יעקב לישב בשלוה “that Yaakov wanted to dwell in peace and tranquility.” As Rabbi Nisim Alpert Z”L explained, Yaakov felt that it was time to retire. Hashem answered that it is wrong to retire in the classical sense. Retirement isn’t the end of Torah learning; it is a new beginning in order to go “Malah Malah BaTorah” and elevate oneself much further in the learning of Torah.

In the beginning of Parshas Bechukosai, the Torah says Im Bechukosai Telechu, to which Rashi says shetihyu ameilim batorah, that we should be working hard, toiling and becoming inspired by the study of the Torah. But the obvious question is how learning Torah is a chok, a law with no apparent reason or satisfactory explanation. The Or Hachaim explains that learning Torah is a chok because one must learn Torah even if he mastered the material. The gemara (Makos 10b) states that “I learned much from my Rabbeim, I learned more from my friends, but I learned most from my students.” I owe deep gratitude to my talmidim for inspiring me to grow in learning and challenging me to new deeper levels of understanding with their thought provoking questions, and insights.

Borenstein-298x300The Seforno explains Im Bechukosai Telechu that we should conduct our lives by the standards of the Torah, in the way that we talk, dress, act, and behave in our everyday endeavors. The Baal Haturim adds that the acronym אבת is a remez that we should go in the path of the avos. [Shetelchu bederchei avos.] We should follow the example that our Rabbeim set for us. Baruch Hashem, when I look back at the many talmidim that I had over the years, I see many fine people who characters shine and whose ameilim batorah, effort in Torah, is clearly evident.

I would like to thank the administration, my fellow rabbeim, and especially my talmidim, for making my years here at MTA so meaningful. Now, I feel ready to retire in the sense that I can look back at my years here at MTA and feel that I accomplished something important. As Rabbi Hecht put it in his retirement speech, I truly hope that I served as a “bridge” to connect my own children, and my own students, to the ethics and teaching of the Torah tradition handed down to us by our parents and our rabbeim. I give everyone the berachah that you should continue to grow in Torah and avodas Hashem and achieve your utmost potential.

Sincerely,
Rabbi Shmuel Borenstein (’60)

Students and Faculty “Race to Save Lives”

July 3rd, 2014 by mta

 

On Sunday, June 8th, over 20 MTA students and alumni, joined by General Studies Principal Dr. Seth Taylor, Dean of Students Mr. Adam Dobrick, Chemistry instructor Mr. Chayim Goldberg and Marketing/Recruitment Advisor Shuey Jacoby (who served on the race’s board) participated in the Race to Save Lives, raising over $1,000 for the annual event, which is coordinated by MTA alumni Alex Goldberg (’10), son of YUHS Board of Directors Chair Mrs. Miriam Goldberg and board member Mr. Alan Goldberg, and Aharon Watson (’10). The race, which raises money to support United Hatzalah of Israel, was founded by the two alums, who credit the lessons they learned at MTA as a guiding force, while they were both studying in Israel for their year post-high school – Goldberg at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh and Watson at Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh. The race initially took place at Gan Sacher in Jerusalem, but was moved last year to Roosevelt Island in NYC when the two came back to study at Yeshiva University. This is the second year that MTA has sent a contingent of runners, who ran under the mantra of “Lions Run as One,” supporting both a great cause and their fellow community members; once again, MTA had the largest contingent at the race.

Congratulations to Alex Golderg who was named one of the Jewish Week’s 36 under 36 for his leadership in regards to this great initiative.

Class of 2018 Comes to MTA

July 3rd, 2014 by mta

On Thursday, June 19th, the incoming YUHSB class of 2018 converged on MTA for Freshman Orientation, a one-day “crash course” in many of the things that make MTA awesome. The day kicked off with brief words from Rabbi Taubes and Dr. Taylor, as well as a dynamic shiur by Rabbi Eli Cohn.

Afterward, the boys made their way to the gym, where they engaged in awesome team-building exercises, and where they learned a bit about more about one another. The boys were thrilled to bond with guys from all over the region – Teaneck/Bergenfield, Queens, Edison, West Hempstead, Philadelphia, NYC, and more – and to look forward to the four years ahead.

After a delicious lunch of Carlos & Gabby’s, the guys had an amazing afternoon with three competitive activities: Basketball, Archery Tag, and Bubble Soccer. The boys played three-on-three in the MAX, competing against basketball legend (and MTA Rebbe) Rabbi Kessel. They also engaged in Hunger Games-style combat, thanks to exhilarating rounds of Archery Tag. Lastly, they honed their World Cup qualifications in fast-paced – and bouncy – Bubble Soccer. And in this round, the US won all the games.

An amazing time was had by all, and the class of 2018 is certainly psyched for the fall!

Study Night 2014

July 3rd, 2014 by mta

This past Wednesday evening, students swarmed into the library initially for pizza, but ultimately for much, much more, as MTA hosted another successful Study Night in advance of Finals. Arista members were there to register the students and channel them into various sessions with specific teachers. Students chose where to go and how long to say with each teacher they wished to meet with.
There were three separate sessions so that a student could study History, Math, English, Biology, Chemisty or learn Gemara with Rabbi Pearl. Mr. Shatzer helped students in the library for three hours, answering any and all questions, while Mr. Rosner had a constant group of 10 to 15 students.  Ms. H-L Zacks and Mr. Fein, in opposite rooms, fielded questions in Biology. Mr. Goldberg had a large, committed group to learn Chemistry. Mr Semach held a History lass in the Rebbes’ room around the large table with a steady group, and Mr. Berenson was bombarded with Biology questions.

Mr. Sragow’s History group did not leave and stayed all three sessions. Math questions from many students were answered by Mr. Segall, and Mrs. Siegfried could not leave her room due to the large number of freshmen who were there for English.  Ms. Lewis stayed in the library to individually tutor students.

Many thanks to all of the above faculty members for giving so much of their time and going beyond the call  of duty to help the students. A special thanks as well to Mr. Dobrick for arranging 9:00 buses,  affording so many students the opportunity to stay for Study Night.

Even the Rangers playoff game was part of the evening, viewed in the library right after davening by those who wished to stay.

Joseph Gitler (’92) Among JPost Top 50 Most Influential Jews

July 3rd, 2014 by mta

  

Joseph Gitler, MTA class of 1992, founder of Leket Israel, is featured in the Jerusalem Post as one of the fifty most influential Jews of 2014.

Click here for the list

Click here for an interview

Former Captain in Israeli Army Speaks to Hebrew Class

July 3rd, 2014 by mta
by Gabi Bean (’15)

  

Morah Haibi’s Hebrew class has been learning about the lsraeli Army. Last week, Mr. Dov Rosenberg, a former Captain in the Israeli Army came to our class and spoke to us about his service and answered our questions. This session was an enjoyable and educational culmination to our unit.
The adventures that he told us about and the extreme pride that he displayed served as an inspiration to all of us, especially since some students are considering eventually serving in the Israeli army themselves.

Honors College Discusses “The Long Way Home”

July 3rd, 2014 by mta
by Dr. Edward Berliner
 
This past week, the Honors College students were shown the film “The Long Way Home” which documents the “path” between the 1945 liberation and the creation of the State of Israel. From my vantage, the students were transfixed by the film and seemed to “soak in” the history. Aside from their being moved by the beracha and the acts of heroism committed by ordinary people, what was most amazing to them was that these events took place in 3 short years.
Perhaps that is not so surprising as we similarly lost our sovereignty in three short years. But for the students, the idea that such earth-shaking events happened so recently and so quickly was truly mind blowing.

 

Parents who get a chance over the next few days might wish to discuss this period with their sons and also emphasize the importance of knowing history in general.
Our students are among the best the Jewish nation has; we need them to be educated so that they can assume their leadership role.

Philip Meyer Offers CPR Course to Students and Teachers

July 3rd, 2014 by mta

 

During the month of May, students and faculty of Yeshiva University High School for Boys, (MTA) were offered training in CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation), AED (Automated external defibrillator) use, and in the Heimlich maneuver. The course was given by senior Philip Meyer through the Arista National Honor Society.  Philip, co-president of the MTA Arista chapter, is a certified and Licensed EMT (Emergency Medical Technician), a Facilitator of Family and Friends and Heartsaver Bloodborne Pathogens with the American Heart Association, and a BLS (Basic Life Support) instructor with the American Heart Association.  He is an active member of the Bogota, NJ First Aid squad.

 

The training was taught through the Heartsaver®  CPR AED course. Heartsaver®  CPR AED is a classroom, video-based, instructor-led course that teaches adult CPR and AED use, as well as how to relieve choking on an adult.  This course teaches skills with AHA’s research-proven Practice-While-Watching (PWW) technique, which allows instructors to observe the students, provide feedback and guide the students’ learning of skills. Students that passed the test at the conclusion of the course received certification by the AHA.

The course covered chest compressions, breathing through mouth-to-mouth, and through an intermediary device, and the use of an automated external defibrillator. Over 100 students and faculty members participated in the program. In order to enable Philip to work closely with each student, the course was repeated many times over the month, each time with no more than 5 or 6 students.

The students and faculty who attended the course gained skills and confidence in their ability to make a difference in a life threatening situation.

According to Mr. Murray Sragow, Director of College Guidance at MTA, it is reasonable to argue that failure to be prepared for a life threatening situation would, if one occurs, cause the unprepared person to violate the mitzvah of “lo taamod al dam re’echa” (Don’t stand idly by your neighbor’s blood).  Thanks to Philip Meyer, a large group of MTA students and faculty can now be confident that they will not violate this mitzvah if the case arises.

After attending yeshiva in Israel, Philip will be attending the Jay and Jennie Schottenstein Honors Program at Yeshiva University.

YUHSB Teachers Earn Prestigious Commendations

July 3rd, 2014 by mta

Congratulations to Morah Liora Haibi, member of the YUHSB Hebrew Language Faculty, for being chosen as a Regional Recipient of the prestigious Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. Morah Haibi has also been selected as a Finalist for the 6 North American Awardees for 2014.  In her role at MTA, she experiments with new, different and exciting methods of delivering course content and brings emerging technologies into our Hebrew classroom.  Two of the most unique and innovative contributions to YUHSB’s Hebrew Language Department are the “Ulpan” and “Meet the Israeli Author” courses – both taught by Morah Haibi. Her devotion and commitment to her discipline found its culmination in her co-authoring (together with Mrs. Tova Rosenberg, MTA Hebrew Department Chair) a textbook and accompanying Power Points for the Ulpan class entitled Darkon L’Yisrael.


Congratulations to Ms. Megan H-L Zacks, Chair of the MTA Science Department, who was elected from a very highly qualified pool of candidates to serve as a member-at-large on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Teachers NYC board. The board members include other science department chairs and top-veteran teachers in the field of science education. The Board meets at Teachers College at Columbia University. Ms. H-L already attended a three week workshop through STEM Teachers NYC last summer and plans to attend another this coming summer. Additionally, she has attended several Sunday workshops throughout the school year, including one which she co-led on the Arduino Microcontroller that she uses with her students in the Scientific Engineering Program.