Jun 27, 2008 — For the third consecutive year, the Chicago area will be home to a special six-week program of Torah learning sponsored by Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future-Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), and Congregation Or Torah, July 6 to August 17. The kollel was established in memory of Joseph and Gwendolyn Straus.
The Chicago Summer Kollel (intensive Torah and Talmud study program), in memory of community leaders Joseph and Gwendolyn Straus, will be held at Congregation Or Torah, 3800 Dempster Street in Skokie.
The Kollel, attracting some of the most talented and dynamic students from the University and RIETS, will be led by Rabbi Dani Rapp, a Yeshiva University graduate who received his law degree from Columbia University School of Law and his ordination from RIETS. He is also a visiting assistant professor of Talmud at YU and a Dayan (judge) with the Beit Din (rabbinic court) of America.
Under Rabbi Rapp’s leadership, the members of the Kollel will spend their time in Chicago studying practical subjects of Halakhah (Jewish law). In addition, these future leaders of the Jewish community gain professional rabbinic training and mentoring under Rabbi Rapp, Rabbi Harvey Well, Rabbi Emeritus of Or Torah, and Rabbi Zvi Engel, the incoming spiritual leader at the synagogue.
The Kollel serves as a precursor to the new Yeshiva University Torah Mitzion Kollel in Chicago. To be officially launched in the Fall, it will consist of a permanent cadre of Torah scholars who will reside in Chicago and enrich the local Jewish community with exciting learning programs for men, women, and youth.
In so doing, “Yeshiva University partners with the Chicago community to be an incubator for klai kodesh, lay leaders, by attracting young couples to move to Chicago, seeding the community with educators and rabbis to lead and inspire local synagogues and day schools,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of the Center for the Jewish Future, which sponsors the Summer Kollel Series program in cities across North America and in Israel.
Rabbi Brander explained that the Summer Kollel in Chicago serves as a laboratory for students to grow in their own learning, and affords them the opportunity to gain confidence and enhance their public speaking skills, ability to develop lectures, sermons, and youth and educational programs, all under the supervision and mentorship of Rabbis Rapp, Well, and Engel.
In turn, Rabbi Brander said, “our Kollel members are empowered to share their knowledge with interested people of all ages, thereby creating a vibrant and energetic Torah community, one that fosters a caring and inspirational environment for adults and children alike to grow with our students and scholars.”
The Kollel will include Chavruta (traditional learning), shiurim (lectures), programs for youth, collegians, and special Shabbat activities. A highlight of the six-week program will be a community lecture series with Rabbi Rapp every Monday and Wednesday. Other special community programs include a Tisha B’Av (the Jewish commemoration the destruction of the biblical Temple) service, followed by a movie and discussion led by the Kollel members on Sunday, August 10; a Lunch and Learn series for local businesspeople; and a late night lecture on the text, stories, and themes of Sefer Shmuel for women in the community on Tuesdays during the six weeks.
For the first time, there will be a special program for high school girls every Wednesday at 7 pm from July 9 to August 20. Called MidweSTERN, the program will be run by students at YU’s Stern College for Women and will feature Torah lectures combined with social activities.
Rabbi Brander explained that “this Kollel, as with the many others we sponsor throughout the country, represent our continuing effort to shape the summer Kollel paradigm and create experiences that will serve as incubators for Jewish leaders. They also represent a vibrant initiative to enable communities to experience the wealth of resources and presence of Yeshiva University right in their backyard.”
This year, the YU Summer Kollel will also be in Los Angeles, Edmonton, Denver, Teaneck and Passaic, NJ, and Israel.
The multidisciplinary Center for the Jewish Future harnesses the educational resources, commitment to service, and intellectual capital of Yeshiva University, its array of undergraduate schools, its graduate and professional schools, including Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, and Wurzweiler School of Social Work, its affiliates, and its extended constituencies to articulate a vision for the future while working to make the vision a reality. To do so, the Center sponsors a comprehensive series of initiatives focusing on education, research, professional and lay leadership development and service to the community.