From Jan. 12 to Jan. 19, 2020, the Center for the Jewish Future, in partnership with Kemp Mill Synagogue (KMS) in Silver Spring, Maryland, ran a one-week winter kollel [symposium] that served to infuse the KMS community with the unique Torah perspective of Yeshiva University as well as offer YU students the opportunity for a week of leadership training and development.
Rabbi Jeremy Wieder, Rosh Yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), served as the Rosh Kollel [leader of the symposium] and community scholar for the week. While there, he was joined by eight young men who are either students in RIETS or on track to enroll in RIETS in the near future. They all traveled down on Jan. 12 for this immersive and unforgettable one-week experience.
Each day of the program included daily study in the morning and afternoons followed by community programming in the evening. Each morning, the students studied topics to enhance and supplement their rabbinical training. In the afternoon, they continued their personal studies and prepared for other programs and events throughout the week.
Nearly every evening was filled with innovative and creative programming that sought to engage every age group in the community from children to seniors. In addition, select afternoons and evenings were peppered with other exciting opportunities such as trips to downtown Washington, D.C., where the students had the opportunity to tour the Capitol’s monuments as well as receive private access to some of the nation’s most visited sites.
The partnership between YU and KMS was an incredibly successful one. Rabbi Brahm Weinberg ’08R, rabbi of Kemp Mill Synagogue, said “KMS wanted to add a new dimension to its Torah learning and create a relationship with YU, and we could not be happier with the results. This has been an enriching week that I know has inspired future growth and opportunities that will carry us long into the future.”
From day one, the program was an immediate success. One community participant of the program, Shulamith Grauman, remarked, “The Sunday night kick-off event was an incredible way to set the tone for the week. Hearing from Rabbi Wieder and several members of our community, men and women, as they shared their Daf Yomi experiences demonstrated how vital Torah learning is to all of us and how making it a part of every day, while challenging, is intensely satisfying. That point was driven home by the nearly 200 community members who participated.” The packed schedule featured exceptional and relevant classes for community members on topics as diverse as “Theological Approaches to Anti-Semitism” and “Accomplishment in the Age of Instant Gratification.”
Moreover, the youth programs over the course of the week were second to none. On Monday, the program leaders created a Shabbat Fair where they each led interactive activities teaching about the 39 Melachot [work prohibitions on Shabbat]. Over 50 lower-school kids came and had a great time learning about Shabbat. On Thursday and Shabbat afternoon, the Kollel members convened mini-chaburot [study groups] for middle and high school students on topics such as “Self-Driving Cars,” “Gene Editing,” “Aliens” and “Can Your Teacher Take Away Your Phone In School?” “Overall, it was a great week of youth learning with the KMS/YU Winter Kollel,” said Rabbi Aaron Levitt ’05R, KMS youth director.
This week-long experience will not only have a long lasting impact on the Silver Spring community, but it can also serve as a model for future integration of the incredible talent and perspective of Yeshiva University’s faculty and students in communities around the country. Moreover, the kollel had a profound impact on the eight student participants. “The YU/KMS kollel provided a special opportunity for our students to learn and teach Torah in multiple settings and venues beyond the walls of our yeshiva, as well as learn from some of the extraordinary personalities in the KMS community,” said Rabbi Dov Winston ’17R, Community Programming Director of the Center for the Jewish Future.