Students Travel to 39 Communities Across North America to Enhance Simchat Torah Celebrations
This Simchat Torah, more than 160 Yeshiva University students traveled to 39 communities across North America to share their love of Torah and enliven holiday celebrations as part of the Aaron and Blanche Schreiber Torah Tours.
As they delivered shiurim [lectures], led engaging programming for children and community members, and brought their passion and enthusiasm to the holiday’s hallmark dancing with sifrei Torah, students gained insight into each community’s unique way of life, opportunities and challenges, making new friends and sharing eye-opening leadership experiences.
“Torah Tours is both an opportunity to share the richness of the YU education and spirit with communities as well as a chance for our students’ holiday experiences to be enriched by the breadth and depth of Jewish life in those communities,” said Talia Molotsky, student life coordinator. “For many students, this is a highlight of their YU experience. The widespread interest and capability of our student body to participate in a program like this is a truly a testimony to their dedication to Torah life and the Jewish community.”
Rivka Salhanick, a senior studying biology at Stern College for Women, decided to participate in Torah Tours because she remembered the impact the program had made on her own holiday celebrations growing up in New Haven, Connecticut. “I Ioved dancing them with them when I was younger on Simchat Torah; they brought so much ruach and spirit to our community,” she said. “They truly made a difference in my experience as a child and I wanted to do the same for other communities. My group had a wonderful experience in Livingston, New Jersey. The community is diverse and still maintains such a wonderful sense of achdut [unity]. After three days there, dancing and organizing programming for kids and young adults, we truly felt part of the community.”
Bella Adler, a sophomore from St. Louis, Missouri, studying Jewish education, traveled with her group to Ohawe Shalom Synagogue in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, for the holiday. “The people that volunteer their lives to keep the synagogue together taught me more about staying faithful to religion no matter what the circumstance,” she said. “I believe that we brought to the families of the shul a new dedication towards enhancing and making prayer exciting. We showed them not just what it means to be committed Orthodox Jews, but how to be Jews who are excited about religion and who embrace each and every opportunity to engage in avodat Hashem [service to God] with a smile.”
She added, “One of my favorite things about Yeshiva University is the large network of Jewish communities that it is connected to. I am personally interested is Jewish leadership and how to build successful Jewish communities. I also love to travel and meet new people of different cultures and lifestyles, so Torah Tours was the perfect opportunity to travel to a Jewish community and practice in a hands-on format being those influential religious leaders that Yeshiva University is creating.”
Benjamin Freund, a sophomore from Minneapolis, Minnesota, was moved by his interactions with community members at Congregation Shaar Hashamayim in Montreal, Quebec. “We were in a different country, but it felt like home—the shul is beautiful, the people were beautiful, the cantor and the choir were beautiful, and the whole experience was just beautiful,” he said. “This trip helped me realize that everyone can be an inspiration to anyone, and everything we do can be an inspiration. You don’t have to be an amazing public speaker—I was actually able to inspire someone so much just by dancing and showing love for the Torah and Judaism that they told me afterward they wanted to explore their own Judaism further. It showed me that every one of our actions can have a positive effect on someone else.”