During Winter Break, Students Dive into Full-Time Torah Study
Finals were in the rear view and classes were out for the semester, but at Yeshiva University, Torah learning continued to light up campus during intersession. While most college students eagerly await the break between semesters, for undergraduates at YU, the window between classes offer an opportunity for a renewed focus on spiritual growth and Judaic studies in a relaxed and close-knit atmosphere.
On the Wilf Campus, a program called Yeshivas Bein HaSemesterim provided students with new avenues for Torah study and fun bonding activities throughout winter break. Each day featured a shiur in halacha, Jewish philosophy or mussar from YU roshei yeshiva, three seders of learning together and communal meals.
“What students love about Yeshivas Bein HaSemesterim is that it allows them to appreciate what YU can offer without the typical pressure of the dual curriculum—It allows them to take a breath and appreciate what’s here,” said Rabbi Etan Schnall, magid shiur in the Irving I. Stone Beit Medrash Program at YU. “It’s also a testament to their loyalty and commitment to learning that they’re spending their winter break immersed in Torah. And the meals and activities together enables them to develop an incredible camaraderie—the flexible schedule allows students to relax and enjoy their time together.”
“Yeshivas Bein Hasemesterim provides an excellent environment to continue learning Torah during the break, with great food, a great chevra [group], and great programming,” said Yisroel Ben-Porat, a junior majoring in history at Yeshiva College. “It enables me to maximize my productivity during the break while following the traditional yeshiva schedule. The ability to focus solely on learning gives me a lot of chizuk [inspiration] and renews my ahavas ha-Torah [love of Torah], which will have a healthy impact on the coming semester.”
He added, “Perhaps the most impressive aspect is the large number of talmidim who committed to the program, choosing to spend their breaks learning Torah all day, which really demonstrates the vibrancy of our yeshiva.”
For Meir Finklestein, a junior majoring in psychology, the program’s highlights included the opportunity to learn from roshei yeshiva in informal settings, such as a late night talk with Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger, I. Meier and Henrietta Segals Chair in Talmud, or a dinner with Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Nathan and Vivian Fink Distinguished Professorial Chair in Talmud, and his wife. “I feel that this program is essential for developing a connection with our Yeshiva,” said Finklestein. “Experiencing the Yeshiva without the pressures that exist during the semester is extremely uplifting and generates a lot of positive energy and momentum going forward.”
On the Israel Henry Beren Campus, a Yom Iyun organized by the Torah Activities Council and Office of Student Life on January 17 focused on living and learning through Tanach. The day featured speakers that included Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, vice president of university and community life at YU; Nechama Price, director of Stern College for Women’s Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Study; Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, the David Mitzner Dean of the Center for Jewish Future; Dr. Deena Rabinovich, director of the Legacy Heritage Fund Jewish Educators Project; and Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Weinberg, mashgiach ruchani.
“The Stern College Winter Break Yom Iyun was an opportunity for our women to focus on learning without the stresses of school and tests, completely l’shma [for the sake of Heaven],” said Rachel Ciment, director of spiritual guidance on the Beren Campus. “We are proud of the impressive group that came during their vacation time to be involved in our learning program. It was a day of high-level learning from our most sought after and inspiring speakers. Our women are always looking for more growth and for more Torah learning opportunities and we are always thrilled to bring more Torah learning to them.”
“I decided to attend the Yom Iyun because I saw it as a great opportunity to have a meaningful and productive day of Torah learning in the middle of my vacation,” said Shira Aharon, a senior majoring in biology. “The schedule included speakers that I was very excited to learn from and I especially was interested in the Tanach theme for the day. I think it’s incredible that Stern was offering such a great program and I wanted to take advantage of all that Stern has to offer in my short time left on campus.”
She added, “I found the variety of styles of shiurim throughout the day to be very rewarding—the speakers each had a very unique way of presenting their take on the overall Tanach theme, which kept the day exciting, stimulating and interesting until the end.”