This Simchat Torah, 300 Yeshiva University students and alumni traveled to 60 communities across North America as part of the Center for the Jewish Future’s Aaron and Blanche Schreiber Torah Tours program.
Now in its fourth decade, the program sends hundreds of young men and women to synagogues all over the United States and Canada each year to infuse local holiday celebrations with renewed spirit and passion by offering shiurim and programming for congregants of all ages, leading singing and dancing and becoming a real part of their adopted communities.
“Through dance, song, the sharing of Torah and interacting with community members, students create a memorable holiday celebration for everyone,” said Aliza Abrams, director of the CJF’s Department of Jewish Service Learning. “Our students leave with a better understanding of the importance of community involvement and leadership because this program helps them find that leadership in themselves.”
Kesher Israel of Harrisburg, PA has welcomed Torah Tours groups for the last six years. According to the shul’s Rabbi Akiva Males, while their thoughtful divrei Torah and soulful leading of davening [prayers] added greatly to the shul’s festivities, the students’ embodiment of Torah Umadda ideals made the deepest impact on his community. “The volunteers serve as role models to the youth and adults of our congregation,” Males said. “They have shown our community that it’s possible to be a promising college student while simultaneously pursuing a serious Jewish education. Their excitement for Jewish observance is contagious and has warmed the hearts of many members of our shul.”
But many students find that they gain just as much if not more from their visits to communities. “We learn so much from each rabbi, congregant or teenager that we meet,” said Dovi Nadel, who traveled to Albany with his team this year after spending last Simchat Torah in Montreal with the program. “Each community has its own flavor and a crucial part of Torah Tours is experiencing the uniqueness of Jewish communities across the country.”
Nadel’s team member, Adi Cohen, decided to sign up for Torah Tours after witnessing the joy and inspiration it brought to her small community in Philadelphia, PA. “The chagim are a time to celebrate both our relationship with God and with other Jews and I think it is so special that Torah Tours gives Jews from so many different places the opportunity to celebrate together,” she said.