Torah with local
rabbis often become
role models in support
of Jewish learning.
Norman D. Katz
of Bloomfield Hills
Rabbi David Shapero.
LYNNE MEREDITH SCHREIBER
Special to the Jewish News
ax attorney Barry Bess goes to work
early each morning, knowing he will
face his usual hectic day. The father of
two from Lake Angelus is always busy — yet
somehow manages to find time for three sessions of
Torah learning each week. That's something he does
Bess met his teacher, Rabbi Elazar Meisels, about
three years ago. They became friends and then started
studying together regularly.
"It's added a whole dimension to my life,". says Bess.
"Even though I have a busy schedule, I always make
That's the idea behind the rabbi's Executive Study
Program, an outgrowth of Rabbi Meisels' dedication to
' Torah learning. That's what drives him to sit down and
open a text with anyone who wants to learn.
After studying at the Oak Park-based Kollel
Institute of Greater Detroit, Rabbi Meisels started
doing outreach full-time through his work with the
nonprofit Dirshu International Institute of Torah
Education. He currently studies with 35 individuals on
a weekly basis, in addition to giving classes, lectures
and producing a series of Torah tapes.
Most of Rabbi Meisels' students "start off not know-
the words with understanding — that's the start of
ing where to start," he says. "I can teach a guy Hebrew
knowledge-filled Jewish living, Rabbi Meisels says.
in a couple of months. [Then] we come up with a per-
He also notes, "I have a certain ability to take con-
sonalized study program."
the ones that scare people off— Gehennum
Rabbi Meisels is not the only rabbi in town offering
(Hell), afterlife, intermarriage, assisted suicide — and
private learning sessions. In fact, quite a few Orthodox
them relevant, understandable."
rabbis make themselves available to individuals —
Rabbis who learn with people one-on-one often get
mostly, paying executives — to bring Torah to them
to know them very well — becoming acquainted with
and also encourage their support of Torah learning.
their students' families, personalities and concerns.
Most of the rabbis who learn with executives are dedi-
personal connection can help students grow in
cated kiruv (outreach) professionals.
and also to bond with the rabbi and his caus-
While hundreds of people might prefer to attend a
to future financial support.
class, a number of high-profile execs, learning individu-
"The kids look up to the father [studying Torah] as
ally with a rabbi, have become "key individuals who
a role model," says Rabbi Shapero. "Invariably, it has a
support important Jewish institutions that guide the
ripple effect in the family," influencing his kids' friends,
direction of the community, and are a role model for
people who come over to visit and others in their cir-
others watching what they do," says Rabbi David
Shapero, director of Ohr Somayach Detroit.
"Talmud is an ideal subject for somebody who is
"Their actions can set priorities for many others,"
a mover and shaker, [who is] used to making deci-
says the rabbi, who learns regularly with executives.
sions," says the rabbi. "They want to be in charge,
"It's a positive thing for [high-profile] people to be
they want to have some control over what they're
involved in Jewish learning."
For an individual with a limited Jewish education to
"It's incredibly empowering — it's not just ideas,
be able to open up a