Showing Their Appreciation, RIETS Alumni Sponsor Day of Learning
Every year, Rabbi Jonathan Gross and a few fellow graduates of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) get together to catch up, share their experiences as community leaders across the country and exchange ideas about how to best serve their congregations. At their last gathering, however, Gross started thinking.
“That we were able to learn at RIETS for free, with world-class rabbis who I can still call up today—not to mention the network of relationships we built with other rabbis and colleagues while we were there—is truly incredible,” he said. “My degree is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and I don’t owe a penny. I thought, ‘How can I in some way show my gratitude and acknowledge the value of my degree?’”
When he learned about RIETS’ parnas hayom program, which offers the chance to sponsor a day, week or even a month of learning, Gross shared it with the group. He wanted to sponsor a day of learning in recognition of the education he’d received. Everyone wanted to pitch in.
“There’s a lot about RIETS that I’m very appreciative of,” said Rabbi Yonah Gross (no relation). “The education and the background there really prepared me for the challenges I face in my daily work, and we covered a lot of things, like practical halachos (laws), which don’t get covered in many yeshivas.” Like Rabbi Jonathan Gross, he felt the friendships created in RIETS were critical, noting that it created a system of support for rabbis just starting out in communities across America. “Yesterday, a rabbi from South Carolina threw out a question about minyan, and I happened to have a book he didn’t have,” he said. “In some places, your library is the only thing you’ve got. But I could scan a couple pages and send it to him.”
The group of alumni hopes the sponsorship will set a precedent for other students and alumni to follow. “It would be great if it inspired students in Yeshiva right now to see a bunch of rabbis, not much older than they are, so appreciative of the education they received,” said Rabbi Yonah Gross.
Every RIETS student is provided with a full academic scholarship and many receive other benefits, such as living and housing stipends, which are made possible with the financial support of alumni and affiliates of the institution. This investment allows the Yeshiva to continue its tradition of providing tuition-free semikhah [rabbinic ordination] and post-semikhah kollel [advanced learning] study programs to attract quality candidates for rabbinical training.
“The truth is that all of our supporters have a cherished chelek [share] in the constant and vibrant Torah learning that takes place at our Yeshiva,” said Rabbi Yonah Reiss, the Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS. “The notion of dedicating a day of learning has in its origins the famous statement of our Rabbis that the words of Torah should constantly be viewed as new and fresh each day, as if the Torah was given to us on that day (Rashi, Shemot 19:1). Likewise, the fire of Torah in our batei midrashot [study halls] is rekindled each day through the parnas hayon program and the committed benefactors who help sustain our students one day at a time.”
To sponsor a day of learning, contact Genene Kaye, associate director of institutional advancement at RIETS, at email@example.com.