Chicago yeshivah students visit Ann Arbor Chabad House
for a Shabbat of learning and sharing.
Tzvi Bronchtain, 22, a
yeshivah counselor from
Chicago, studies with Darren
King of Ann Arbor.
Chuck Keys of Northville, in
the midst of learning with
Shmuli Kafkah, a yeshivah
student from Chicago.
Special to the Jewish News
hen Ann Arbor resident Neal Elyakin
received a phone call inviting him to
Shabbat lunch with his friend Rabbi
Aharon Goldstein and the rabbi's family
at the Chabad House in Ann Arbor, he knew there
might be a crowd.
But he was not expecting the more than 20 yeshiv-
ah students who brought and arranged the meal.
The students, largely 15- and 16-year-olds, traveled
from their yeshivah, Lubavitch Mesivta of Chicago, to
spend a Shabbat learning with the Ann Arbor com-
They studied one-on-one with community mem-
bers, led services and shared their thoughts and Torah
In essence, they got a taste of what it was like to
lead a community — a job many of the students are
likely to take on after graduation in six or seven years.
For Elyakin, having "another nice lunch at the
Goldstein"' with yeshivah students also around the
table added to the scope of the conversation.
Participants shared stories, lessons and moving experi-
ences in an ongoing exchange throughout the day.
"I think what struck me, resonated with me, is that
we're sitting here with a table full of potential leaders of
a religious community," Elyakin said. And as such,
and being a teacher myself, I wanted them to know
about my belief in diversity. So I chose that opportuni-
ty to talk with them about valuing diversity."
Tzvi Bronchtain, 22, who studies and works part
time in the yeshivah, said the Chicago students were
motivated by the stories they heard from community
members and came away from the event enthusiastic.
"I can say that we came to get inspired and we left
very inspired," he said. "The students are all learning to
be Chabad shlichim (emissaries) when they get older, so
this was a chance to leave the yeshivah environment
and put what they're learning to practice."
Bronchtain added that the concept of unity was also
a central lesson of the weekend, as Ann Arbor partici-
pants came from a variety of Jewish backgrounds and
with different levels of knowledge about the tradition.
"It doesn't matter if one knows more or less, we can
all come together and spend a wonderful Shabbos
together," he said.
The students orchestrated the three Shabbat meals and
services as well as the weekly Torah reading — and the
annual Shabbat learning program keeps growing, said
Rabbi Goldstein, director of the Ann Arbor Chabad
House. The event, which started three years ago, has
gone from drawing about 20 community participants
as it did in its first year to attracting more than 40.
Rabbi Goldstein said he sees the program as a
chance for the yeshivah students to experience hands-
on how the Chabad in Ann Arbor functions and also
one of great benefit to community participants.
"I think it was a tremendous boost and tremendous
uplifting of the spirits to see these young, dedicated
boys doing such serious work in such a sincere way,"
One of the things that struck attendee Chuck Keys
of Northville was the high level of responsibility the stu-
dents took on and the knowledge they demonstrated.
"These kids know things we don't know. They were
teaching me. The typical role is the adult teaching the
child; here you have it reversed, and their depth of
knowledge — they have the depth and the under-
standing," he said.
He added that, for him, the students served as a
model for what it means to live Judaism.
The program left Yossi Denburg, 15, who studies at
the yeshivah, and his classmates with a lot to think
about, he said. He said they came to inspire the com-
munity and show participants how they conduct them-
selves; and, in return, local individuals shared experi-
ences with them.
His favorite moment was watching as an audience
was moved by one of his classmate's stories.
"It was just like you're coming here and you see
your classmate give over this very moving story and
you see your mission being fulfilled right there and
that's the best feeling you can get," he said. "We
came to bring light and we got ourselves some
encouragement as well." ❑