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December 22, 1989 - Image 53

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I EDUCATION

Welcome Home,
Rabbi Akiva

the doors
open the cho-
cho-
rus begins. It
" is a chorus of
voices young
and old, of ex-
perts and be-
perts
ginners, -of every accent and
every religious perspective,
all discussing Torah.

Students scurry up and
down the halls of the
Yeshiva Gedolah Ateres
Mordechai of Greater
Detroit. In a library, they sit
with black hats and coats
and discuss for hours, even
days, the meaning of one
word.
Another group of students
— these older and often
wearing sport coats —also
are studying Torah. They
are participants in the
yeshiva's Tutorial Out-
Reach Activity (T.O.R.A.)
program, which allows them
to learn one-on-one or in a
group with an instructor.
Only their questions are
new. They ask about a
multitude of contemporary
issues.
"We are constantly
relating the text to modern-
day life," says Rabbi Eric
Krohner, the yeshiva's di-
rector of development and a
teacher for some of the
T.O.R.A. sessions. "We're
discussing Torah and then
all of a sudden we're talking
about something relating,
for example, to human
rights issues."
Yet, the method of study
and the text — the Torah --
remain unchanged; they are
just as they were thousands
of years ago. Were Rabbi
Akiva, Rashi or Maimonides
to come study for an after-
noon, he would feel right at
home, Rabbi Kroner says.
"They could all pick up
right where they left off," he
says. "That's because of
Torah. Nothing transcends
time like that. "
The T.O.R.A. program was
created one year ago in
response to the community's
increased interest in Jewish
education, Rabbi Krohner
says.
Session teachers "do not
pressure anyone to be
religious," he adds. "The
value is the Jewish learning.

People want to take a look at
what has captivated Jews for
thousands of years.
"Jewish knowledge is the
key and the cornerstone to
appreciating Judaism."

Through the T.O.R.A. pro-
gram, men and women may
study Jewish ethics,
philosophy, prayer, history
or Talmud with teachers
Rabbis Menachem Green-
field,Shlomo Kinzer
Yechiel Blitz and
Krohner. About
15 individuals
and two groups
now participate
in the program.
The sessions
are held at times
and locations
convenient for
the student and
teacher. Classes
meet at the
yeshiva, at the
instructor's
home, or at a
participant's
work place.
"Some people
say, 'I can only
meet on my
lunch break: so
that's what we
do," Rabbi
Krohner says.
low table rests in the
center of the room,
surrounded by a seem-
ingly endless supply of Jewish
books. Rabbi Menachem
Greenfield's children peek
around the corner and quiet-
ly watch their father as he
teaches a T.O.R.A. student.
Rabbi Greenfield was once
a student at Yeshiva Beth
Yehuda; he also studied in
Chicago and at a yeshiva in
Israel for three years before
coming to the Yeshiva
Gedolah, where he teaches
Talmud and serves as a
counselor.
Rabbi Greenfield says he
was attracted to the
T.O.R.A. program because it
offers opportunities for a
wide variety of students.
"It's terrible that no
bridge exists for all the
Jewish people," he says.
Rabbi Greenfield meets
once a week with eight
students, most of whom are
studying Pirke Avot, the
Sayings of the Fathers.
As one session begins,

A

The Yeshiva

Gedolah's T.O.R.A.

program links the

past, the present

and the future.

Rabbi Greenfield with a T.O.R.A.
participant: "It's terrible that no
bridge exists for all the Jewish
people."

ELIZABETH APPLEBAUM

Features Editor

Rabbi Greenfield opens
Pirke Avot.
"Do not engage in idle talk
with women," a verse ad-
vises.
Rabbi Greenfield says this
verse often is misinterpreted
as a negative comment
about women. In fact, he
says, the verse points to
women's keen understan-
ding of the world.

"A man who truly respects
his wife wants to discuss se-
rious concerns with her," he
says. "He respects her views
and doesn't bother her with
idle talk."
He turns to another verse,
which answers the question
"Who is rich?" with "He
who rejoices in his portion."
The rich man is an
honorable and a selfless per-
son who shys from recogni-
tion and publicity and
strives to know
A the Torah, Rabbi
Greenfield ex-
plains. But the
man whose goal
is wealth will
never be satis-
fied. After he
earns $1 million,
he will want
another million
and another and
will never feel
truly rich, the
rabbi says.
Through the
sessions, stu-
dents can learn
of their respon-
sibilities to their
fellow man, to
themselves and
to God, thus
enabling them to
Is N"N
reach their full
potentials, Rabbi Greenfield
says. And in the meantime,
Rabbi Greenfield himself
learns.
"I learn a lot from my
`teachers, from my partners
and friends even more, and
from my students most of
all," Rabbi Greenfield says.
Rabbi Krohner was raised
in a Reform home. A student
at Wayne State University, he
had little connection to
Judaism, he says. Then,
while studying for his
master's degree, he decided
to visit Israel.
After three weeks in
Israel, Rabbi Krohner
visited a yeshiva, where he
met for discussion with the
school's rabbi.
Rabbi Krohner was pleas-
ed the response. "He just
struck a chord with me," he
says. "He made me feel link-
ed to something."
Later, Rabbi Krohner felt
a similar feeling — "being
connected to a lineage of ge-
nerations" — when he heard

former Israeli Prime Min-
ister Menachem Begin speak
at a reunion for Holocaust
survivors.
"For years non-Jews
pointed out that something
was different about me as a
Jew, and I didn't know the
first thing about what it was
that made me unique.
Rabbi Krohner realized
the importance of studying
Judaism, he says. He made a
commitment to davening,
then to observing Shabbat
and keeping kosher.
Both Rabbis Krohner and
Greenfield believe strongly
in the value of one-on-one
study the T.O.R.A. program
offers.
"In a regular class, you
don't have the same give-
and-take," Rabbi Krohner

`What we discuss in
the sessions is
practical, relevant
to everyday
situations. This is
real meat and
potatoes.'

says. "The T.O.R.A. courses
allow for open dialogue and
a close relationship with the
instructor. It removes bar-
riers and people feel free to
express their innermost feel-
ings. They unmask them-
selves."
Rick Rosenhaus, who
learns with Rabbi Green-
field in the T.O.R.A. pro-
gram, says the courses pro-
vide participants not only
with lessons about Judaism,
but with information rel-
evant to everyday life.
"I've found the program
very enlightening,"
Rosenhaus says. "Though
the material was written
thousands of years ago, I
find it applies in many ways
to my life. It's surprising to
find out how pertinent and
timeless it is."
"The Torah is applicable
throughout all generations
and directed to all cir-
cumstances," Rabbi Green-
field agrees.
"What we discuss in the
sessions is practical, rel-
evant to everyday situa-
tions. This is real meat and
potatoes. This is life." ❑

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

53

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