They got a taste of Yeshiva University’s (YU) vibrant beit midrash (study hall) experience when they visited YU’s uptown Wilf Campus and midtown Israel Henry Beren Campus just before Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) for an evening of chaburah learning (small group discussion of Jewish texts) suffused with the university’s singular brand of ruach (spirit).
The chaburah learning was followed by shiurim (lectures) led by some of YU’s most learned and inspiring rabbis and teachers. The experience is part of the Torah Leadership Network (TLN), a program coordinated by the Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future (CJF).
The Long Island students, from the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County (HANC), the Rambam Mesivta High School in Lawrence, and the Davis Renov Stahler (DRS) Yeshiva High School for Boys in Woodmere, joined high school students from all over the tri-state area, who had to apply to take part in the program. They are part of a high school Torah leadership movement designed “to bring them in contact with role models who can help them grow as confident Jewish teenagers,” said Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, interim director of Community Initiatives at CJF. ““High school students have the unique opportunity to experience the energy and vibrancy of YU. The camaraderie that is fostered here helps to nurture them as committed Jews,” said Rabbi Leibowitz. This is just one of several programs that take place throughout the year that revolve around Torah and personal leadership growth.
Each high school student learned in a small group with a YU undergraduate or student from the YU affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) in preparation for Yom Kippur.
“Chaburah learning is a very special experience,” said Raffi Rosenzweig, a 2007 Yeshiva College (YC) graduate. “Learning with a small group of peers allows you to challenge yourself intellectually in a way that doesn’t always work in the more general setting of a classroom. It’s more focused, more nuanced – it makes you push yourself to a higher level.”
As a way to enhance this exceptional experience, each participant received a copy of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s makhzor (prayer book for Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur with commentary adapted from the teachings of Rabbi Soloveitchik). Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903-1993), known as the Rav, was a world-renowned scholar at RIETS. He served as an advisor, decisor, guide, mentor, and role model for the Jewish community, both as a Talmudic scholar and as a religious leader. “It’s a special way to celebrate the history and wisdom of YU and to pass on the Rav’s insights to the next generation,” said Philip Moskowitz of CJF, who coordinated the program.
The TLN boys’ evening shiurim were led by Rabbi Daniel Rapp, assistant visiting professor of Talmud at RIETS and assistant dean of undergraduate Judaic studies at YU and Rabbi Andi Yudin, Talmud instructor at the Marsha Stern Talmudic Academy – Yeshiva University High School for Boys (MSTA) and rosh kollel (principal) at DRS.
The TLN girls’ evening shiurim were led by Rabbi Josh Blass, mashgiach ruchani (spiritual advisor) at RIETS, and Mrs. Shira Schiowitz, a noted Tanakh (the Five books of the Torah plus the books of the Prophets and Additional Writings) instructor. All are noted for their abilities to illuminate and make accessible even the most complex texts.
Founded in 1886, Yeshiva University brings together the heritage of Western civilization and the ancient traditions of Jewish law and life. More than 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students study at YU’s four New York City campuses: the Wilf Campus, Israel Henry Beren Campus, Brookdale Center, and Jack and Pearl Resnick Campus. YU’s three undergraduate schools –– Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women, and Sy Syms School of Business ––– offer a unique dual program comprised of Jewish studies and liberal arts courses. Its graduate and affiliate schools include Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. YU is ranked among the nation’s leading academic research institutions.