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Yeshiva University Summer Programs Emphasize Professional and Religious Leadership in Communities Nationwide

This summer Yeshiva University is hosting an assortment of learning and internship programs in cities across the United States, including Kansas City, MO; Denver, CO; Los Angeles, CA; Teaneck, NJ; Chicago, IL; Stamford, CT; and Atlanta, GA. These summer internship programs and kollels (intensive Torah and Talmud study programs) are sponsored by Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), in partnership with local congregations in participating cities. The programs range in length from two to six weeks.

Students on the Kansas City Summer Experience help with disaster clean-up efforts in Joplin, MO.

Students on the Kansas City Summer Experience and members of the local Jewish community help with disaster clean-up efforts in Joplin, MO.

Students participating in the summer kollels have the opportunity to grow in their personal Torah study through rigorous Torah learning and daily shiurim [lectures] as well as to share their knowledge of Torah with their host communities in order to gain confidence and experience. Students will take part in formal and informal workshops with top educators, physicians, psychologists and other professionals on a wide variety of topics with which rabbis and communal professionals are confronted. These programs aim to help students develop skills in public speaking, as well as prompt shiur and drasha [sermon] development, and to experience Jewish life outside of the tri-state area.

Students participating in the Chicago and Kansas City kollel programs will complete internships in a variety of professions for local firms including Kenilworth Asset Management and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. Additionally, participating students will lead numerous community-wide social, cultural and educational activities, interacting with the local community.

“Such opportunities allow our students multiple experiences as interns in professions they wish to pursue as careers and to realize how their knowledge and passion as lay leaders can empower communities around the world,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, David Mitzner Dean of the CJF.

  • The YU Atlanta Beit Midrash Program: July 13-24 in Atlanta, GA
    • Hosted by Congregation Young Israel of Toco Hills (YITH), 2074 LaVista Road NE, in Atlanta for men and women of Yeshiva University
    • Led by YITH Rabbi Adam Starr, with RIETS Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Jeremy Wieder and Rabbi Michael Broide, professor of law at Emory University, serving as co-roshei beit midrash [heads of school]
    • Features instruction on the halakhic [Jewish law], social and political issues surrounding conversion and community
    • Shabbat meals and panel discussions dealing with contemporary religious and halakhic issues
    • Includes numerous community-wide social, cultural and educational activities
  • YU Kansas City Summer Experience: May 31-June 26 in Kansas City, MO
    • Hosted by Congregation Beth Israel Avraham Voliner, 9900 Antioch in Overland Park for men and women of Yeshiva University
    • Led by BIAV Rabbi Daniel Rockoff, a Yeshiva University and RIETS graduate
    • Includes community wide social, cultural and educational activities; divrei Torah; nightly Beit Midrash program; Shabbat meals; and panel discussions dealing with contemporary religious and halakhic issues
    • Organizes full day internships at local businesses including MRI Global — Midwest Research Institute, Children Mercy Hospital, Teva, Jewish Family Services of Greater Kansas City, Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, Kansas City JCC, and Metro Title Services
    • On June 12, Tuvia Brander, a RIETS student currently serving as rabbinic intern at BIAV, led YU students and community members on a Red Cross-sponsored Disaster Relief Mission to Joplin, MO to help residents there rebuild their city and their lives following a devastating tornado in May
    • Provides host families and professional mentors for students
  • Yeshiva University’s Denver Summer Kollel: June 29-August 1 in Denver, CO
    • Hosted jointly by the East Denver Orthodox Synagogue (EDOS), 98 S. Holly Street, Denver CO and the DAT Minyan, 6825 E Alameda Avenue, Denver CO
    • Rabbi Daniel Rapp, Assistant Dean of YU’s Stone Beit Midrash Program and Isaac Breuer College, will serve as community scholar-in-residence from June 29-July 21. Wexner Kollel Elyon Fellow Rabbi Etan Schnall will serve as community scholar-in-residence from July 21 to August 1.
    • EDOS Rabbi Marc Gitler, DAT Rabbi Daniel Alter, and Rabbi Asher Klein of the DAT Minyan will also participate
    • Features community Shabbat meals, a community-wide Kollel Yom Rishon, and panel discussions dealing with contemporary religious and Halakhic (Jewish law) issues, as well as social activities for students to interact with the local community

  • YU Beth Jacob Summer Learning Program: June 28 to August 2 in Los Angeles, CA
    • Hosted by Congregation Beth Jacob, 9030 W. Olympic Blvd. in Beverly Hills for men and women of Yeshiva University
    • Rabbi Dr. Alex Mondrow will serve as Rosh Beit Midrash of the program
    • Features study in Talmud and practical subjects of Halakhah (Jewish law); morning and afternoon study sessions; Lunch and Learns; small group learning; shiurim; and chavruta (one-on-one learning) with the Beth Jacob community each evenings

  • YU Chicago Lay Leadership Summer Program and Kollel: May 31-July 17 in Chicago, IL
    • The men’s learning program is hosted by the Hebrew Theological College, Skokie, Il. The women’s learning program is hosted by Congregation Or Torah, 3800 Dempster Street in Skokie. Both are part of the summer programming of the YU Torah MiTzion Kollel of Chicago
    • Led by Rabbi Reuven Brand, Rosh Kollel of the Yeshiva University Chicago Kollel and a YU graduate who received his ordination from RIETS
    • Features daily programs on practical subjects of Halakhah led by local Torah scholars, as well as chavruta (one-on-one learning), shiurim (lectures), and special Shabbat activities
    • Participants will complete internships in a variety of professions and local businesses including Kenilworth Asset Management, Strauss and Malk LLP, architect Dan Coffey, Office of State Representative Daniel Biss, Special Care Inc., Robinson Financial Group, Hadassah, and Moshe Klein & Associates

  • YU Stamford Community Kollel: August 1-13 in Stamford, CT
    • Hosted by the Young Israel of Stamford
    • Led by Rosh Kollel Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman, Rabbi of Congregation Etz Chaim of Teaneck, N.J., as well as instructor of Talmud and Jewish Studies at the Stone Beit Midrash program of YU.  Rabbi Elly Krimsky, Rav of the Young Israel of Stamford, will also participate
    • Program includes daily Rabbinic training from Rabbis and experts in the local community and offers morning/afternoon seders, Tisha B’Av programming and two Shabbatot in the local Stamford community
    • Includes youth programming and other community learning opportunities

  • YU Keter Torah Summer Kollel: July 5-August 12 in Teaneck, NJ
    • Hosted by Congregation Keter Torah, 600 Roemer Ave, in Teaneck
    • Led by Rosh Kollel Rabbi Eli Baruch Shulman, Rabbi of the Young Israel of Midwood in Brooklyn, Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS and lecturer for the Mazer School of Talmudic Studies (MYP)
    • Includes full days of learning Monday-Thursday, with daily chaburot (informal group classes) given by Kollel Elyon Fellows and Night Seder learning with the community
    • Students attend morning/afternoon seders, run daily youth programming and participate in two Shabbatot at Keter Torah
    • Open to male students only

  • YU Women’s Beit Midrash Program: July 5-29 in Teaneck, NJ
    • Hosted by Congregation Rinat Yisrael, 389 West Englewood Avenue, in Teaneck, NJ
    • Ms. Nechama Price, Rabbi Moshe Kahn and Rabbi Donnie Besser will lead daily, in-depth Torah learning open to all women of the community
    • Evening lecture series for men and women to feature Rabbi Jeremy Wieder, Mrs. CB Neugroschl, Mrs. Shani Taragin and Mrs. Yael Leibowitz

For more information on the CJF summer programs contact Rabbi Elie Mischel at


The Incredible Story of a Group of Nice Jewish Boys

The following article appeared in The New Jersey Jewish Standard’s parenting monthly, About Our Children.

Less than 24 hours after serenading President Barack Obama with a little barbershop tag, shaking his hand, and posing for a picture with the leader of the free world in the White House in Washington, D.C. Meir Shapiro was back in Washington Heights.

He was cramming for three finals scheduled for the next day.

“It’s hard to think of any sort of ‘celebrity thing,’” says a still awestruck Shapiro, one of 14 members of Yeshiva University’s a cappella group, the Maccabeats, who were invited to perform May 17 at the White House for a gala marking Jewish Heritage Month.“I’m just a regular college student studying for finals,” says Shapiro, a 22-year-old Passaic native who is graduating and hopes to pursue architecture in the fall.

No doubt it was a scene replayed by the 13 others. A return to the mundane, following a foray into the meta-life of the Maccabeats, who catapulted from Internet fame a mere six months ago with their infectious YouTube video, “Candlelight,” into the hallowed halls of the East Room of the White House where they got the chance to mingle with America’s bold-named Jewish leaders.

“It was a pretty immediate return to reality,” says Maccabeat Joshua Jay, 24, of Paramus, who was back in his classes at Albert Einstein School of Medicine the next day.

While his medical school responsibilities certainly have cut into the whirlwind scheduling of the Maccabeats, who will be in Europe and South Africa this summer on gigs, Jay says he still will try to juggle both as best he can.

“It’s hard to say what our success is bringing,” Jay says. “But I think our goal is to continue to portray Judaism in a positive way by using the music and having fun.”

So here they are. These clean-cut Yeshiva boys with the dulcet tones and the sometimes cheeky sense of humor, dressed in their signature pressed, white shirts and ties (think early Beatles), adorning their yarmulkes, and singing songs with plenty of Hebrew phrases for the now more than 5 million viewers of their “Candlelight” video, a delightful portrayal of Chanukah based on the Mike Tompkins video and Taio Cruz’s song “Dynamite.”

Through the power of technology (and perhaps a higher power?), the Maccabeats have blended the worlds of observant Judaism and the secular one.

“They are the perfect mix of simultaneously taking the best from the Orthodox Jewish world and the best from the modern world in creating their music,” says Rabbi Mordechai Besser, principal of Manhattan Day School, which hosted the group for a Chanukah concert at a performance that had elements of fan fever by the excited students.

Think the Jewish Jonas Brothers.

“Their appeal to young people is their ability to incorporate the Jewish element into cool singing. And,” he adds with a smile, “they’re cute, too.

Richard Joel can speak as both the proud president of Yeshiva University and as the proud parent of his son, Maccabeat Nachum Joel.

While at the White House (the senior Joel was invited separately from the Maccabeats) he could not help think of how far his own family and the greater Jewish family have come. While videotaping the group’s performance with his Blackberry, tears of joy streaming down his face, he thought about his own late father, who was born in 1901 in Vilna, Poland. As a youngster, his father was the victim of an anti-Semitic attack and was left bloody in the snow. And now, here was his son and the sons of 13 others Jewish parents, performing at a reception for Jewish leaders at the White House. They also joined the men in davening mincha there.

“This is the majesty of the Jewish story,” says Joel. “Not just surviving, but thriving, and of the goodness of this land. It was very striking.” Joel also called the Maccabeats, “the best publicity that YU can ever have.

“They are committed to their principles and a sense of joy in their life,” Joel says. “They are committed to their community and to wanting to make the world a better place. And there is a joy to living Jewishly.”

He adds, “They are such terrific kids. They are pursuing their lives, grounded in Torah.”

Says Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who caught the Maccabeats when they performed recently at the Lincoln Center concert for Birthright Taglit mega event, “Anyone who raises the profile of Judaism and does it as a Jew, and does so thoughtfully, is doing a great service.”

The group, which formed four years ago, struck gold through the now-famous “Candlelight” video. They became an overnight sensation with 2 million hits on YouTube after the video went viral Thanksgiving weekend.

Ellen Jay, mother of Maccabeat Joshua Jay, remembers that weekend. It was her youngest son Todd’s bar mitzvah.

“A few of the boys performed at Todd’s Bar Mitzvah,” she recalls. “After Shabbos, they told us to look on YouTube, and we saw the Candlelight video. A week later, there were a million hits.”

The fame landed them on the morning news shows including “Today,” and “The Early Show.” Major newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post ran stories about the obscure a capella group. And the Internet social network was filled with thousands of appreciative remarks about how the group has reinvigorated Chanukah and Jewish observance.

The impact still overwhelms.

“It was unbelievably emotional for us,” says Maccabeat Jeffrey Ritholtz of the reaction that poured in following the “Candlelight” video. “The fact that we were getting emails from people who said that they lit the menorah for the first time in years, it really blew us away. The fact that we were having this impact,was really something.”

In fact, for all the Maccabeats, the music is something they are doing “on the side.” They are pursuing careers in medicine, law, finance, the rabbinate and the like. The Maccabeats are, in alphabetical order, Chanina Abramowitz, David Block, Michael Greenberg, Julian Horowitz, Noah Jacobson, Joshua Jay, Nachum Joel, Ari Lewis, Mordechai Prus, Jeffrey Ritholtz, Buri Rosenberg, Immanuel Shalev, Meir Shapiro and Yonatan Shefa.

Actress Mayim Bialik, who says she’s their “number one fan,” is on her own religious path and has been raising the profile of observant Judaism with her involvement in Jew in the City, a website that produces videos aimed at answering questions and dispelling misconceptions about Orthodox Judaism. She sees the Maccabeats as a strengthening force for Judaism today.

“Although Orthodoxy varies greatly, the Maccabeats put themselves out there as immersed and ‘hip’ Jews, which is different from what a lot of people think of when they think of Orthodox Judaism. They are showing people that Modern Orthodoxy is ‘not your father’s’ Judaism.

“They have put Orthodoxy on the map in a great light. They have provided an image that observant Jews are proud of, and that non-observant Jews find appealing and exciting. As someone who was not raised religious but is on a path towards more observance, I find them inspiring, as they make me feel proud to be Jewish by emphasizing Torah living as the common denominator for life with style, grace and smiles that are melting hearts all over this world.

“What better role model is there for anyone seeking to pursue a life lived in accordance with Jewish values?”

Heidi Mae Bratt is the editor of  About Our Children, the parenting monthly of the Jewish Standard published by New Jersey/Rockland Jewish Media Group.