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August 08, 2003 - Image 56

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-08-08

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

Spirituality

41,1

Cover Story

HEART OF THE SPIRIT from page 55



'

-

\ • '

Agto
,

DIANA LIEBERMAN
staff Wier

rmed with a vision and a
two-Year grant, Chantlah
Schwab of Oak Park began
Toras Chaim Mesivta Vocational
School in September 2001 with 10
ninth-grade boys.
As the two years draw to a close,
Schwab has no idea if the grant
from an anonymous donor will be
renewed. But she knows this much
--- Toras Chaim will open its doors
once again'in September 2003.
"I'm looking through applications
as we speak," said Schwab, who
runs Toras Chaim Mesivta [Torah
of Life] under the auspices of the
Kollel Institute of Greater Detroit.
The mission of Toras Chaim is to
provide a less-intensive alternative
for young men whose learning
styles do not jibe with the structure
of a traditional yeshivah.
As Schwab put it, "Some boys just
don't have a Gemara [Talmud] brain."
Every school day includes two hours
of dasses at the Oakland Technical
Center in Troy (0-Tech), a program
of the Oaldand Schools. From carpen-
try to computer skills, the boys work
on skills that build their self-esteem as
well as their employability-.
While the amount of time spent
each morning on Torah and associ-
ated texts is shorter than in tradi-
tional yes_hivot, students .return to
school at 9 p.m. for another se
:.. of religious, stud' s ..
Last year, the high sc oo s t
rent had risen to 18 students itv
.,-. ninth and tentk grade, including o
from Los Angeles, four from New
York and
in f T rprogr
m T° rilt°; a A s1121'

A

e

Schwab is determined her boys wont
fall through the educational cracks.
"This year, we'll have grades 9-
. 11," she said, "but the level of the
learning doesn't always correspond
to the student's age."
To Schwab, the purpose of a school
is education, not intimidation. "The
kids who don't 'get' one area may be
on a higher level in another. And they
all love it at 0-Tech."
Despite its philosophy; Toras
Chaim doesn't accept all applicants.
"We want students who will suc-
ceed here," Schwab said. [21

8/ 8

2003

56

He likened their stipend — with a
national average of $25,000 — to a
university professor paid to do
research.
Occasionally, a student will stay on
beyond the three years. Three current-
ly have been in senior Seminary posi-
tions for nearly 20 years.

to the community, includes audiotapes
on subjects including Jewish law and
philosophy, weekly Torah portions and
Jewish holidays as well as Rabbi Irons'
Jewish Heritage Foundation Audio
Library collection of his community
lectures.

More Learning

While about 80-85 percent of those in
the community learning program are
Orthodox, the rest come from other
religious streams.
"The Kollel is the address for con-
tinuing Jewish learning for both the
Orthodox and the non-Orthodox,"
said Rabbi Alon Tolwin, executive
director of Birmingham-based Aish
HaTorah of Metro Detroit.
"The Kollel, as an institution global-
ly, sends the statement of how the

Who's Participating

"I got to the golf course and there
he was, wearing a yarmulke and a shirt
that said 'Golfing Rabbi,"' Yellen
recalled. Conversation during the
game led to a meeting at the Kollel.
"I was nervous; a lot of the men
there were wearing black hats," Yellen
said. "Then Rabbi Green asked what I
wanted to know and we started talking
about Jewish history and the conflict
in the Middle East today and about
how we are the chosen people.
"I learned a little more and a little
more each time. I started to take some
of what I learned home with me, to
my children. The rabbi told me I have
more to offer than I thought, and he
taught me to remember that whatever
else I am, I am Jewish first."

While the Kollel is a place for men to
study and teach, many of the wives of
Kollel faculty are teachers as well,
holding one-on-one or class study for
women in the community. The Kollel
also hosts lectures for women by com-
munity rabbis.
KLAL, the Kollel Ladies Auxiliary
League, headed by Channah Schwab,
Rabbi Schwab's wife, also organizes
Synagogue Attendance
classes, lectures and community social-
action program-
With daily prayer
ming.
services taking
In addition to
place at the Kollel
evening communi-
right from the
ty programming,
start, it was only
Kollel teachers also
natural for them
reach adult stu-
to evolve into a
dents during the
structured syna-
daytime, either at
gogue.
the Kollel or, more
While the 170
often, in the stu-
attendees of daily
dent's place of
services are men,
business.
the crowd of 200
A regular lunch
who come to syn-
and learn program
agogue on
is held in an Oak
Shabbat also
N**,01010;01TV"Ir atigN;b>
Park business and
includes women
monthly study
and children. For
groups run by
some, the only
Rabbi Green are
Kollel connection
held in homes in
is that it is their
Huntington Woods
Shabbat syna-
Tzvi Shlomo Fordonski, 16, learns with his uncle Rabbi Dovid Apt, both of
and Franklin.
gogue.
Oak Park.
Once a month, a
"When the
Sunday brunch at
Kollel opened in
the Kollel includes a discussion by
Orthodox are not living in an ivory
1974, it was one of the only shuls in
community rabbis on contemporary
tower. The doors to the Kollel are
north Oak Park, so people started to
issues, such as evolution, anti-
open on all sides, like Abraham's tent." daven here," Rabbi Green said. "One
Semitism or raising children.
For some, the welcome comes from
of the major reasons there is such a
Five days a wee*, after their normal
far beyond the Kollel doors. For
strong Jewish presence in north Oak
teaching hours end, a group of 13
Sheldon Yellen, a Temple Israel mem-
Park today is the Kollel."
educators from area Orthodox schools
ber of Bloomfield Hills, that introduc-
are paid a stipend to spend part of
tion came on a golf course. Having
Funding
their afternoons at the Kollel enhanc-
grown up without a synagogue affilia-
ing their own knowledge.
tion, Hebrew school background or
"The nature of the Kollel is that it is
"This is a chance for teachers who
significant connection to the Jewish
not run as a business with forecasts
teach every day to also learn," Rabbi
community, Yellen said, "My children
of what's viable and what's not
Green said. "And a chance for kids to
were going to the Temple Israel
viable," Rabbi Irons said. "In the
know that their teachers are continu-
Hebrew school, and I was starting to
Kollel, we work on miracles — and
ing to learn and taking that knowledge think about how I didn't know my
thank God, we've had a series of
back to them."
Jewish heritage."
many miracles."
For Rabbi Spolter, the Kollel is also
Agreeing to be the golf partner of a
While the Kollel relies largely on
a place for quiet daytime learning or
new rabbi in town a few years ago was donations from the community in
writing.
the beginning of a friendship with
addition to miracles, fund-raising
The Kollel's tape library, accessible
Rabbi Green.
efforts include an annual dinner and

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