Editor’s Note: The following was written by Rebecca Levy with contributions by Chava Maimon; The photos are by Rabbi Dovid Asher
As Jews around the world observe the High Holiday season, reflection is at the forefront of our minds. One way to reflect, about yourself and others, is through learning, particularly during the Nine Days.
The first through ninth days of the month of Av are called the Nine Days, culminating in the fast of Tisha B’Av (the ninth of Av), one of the most mournful days in the Jewish calendar.
Many disasters fell on Tisha B’Av in Jewish history, namely the destruction of the first two Temples. The nine days leading up to this fast are considered a time of mourning, when many Jews have a custom not to eat meat, among others.
For many years, Keneseth Beth Israel (KBI) has hosted students of Ner Israel Rabbinical College, out of Baltimore, to partner with members and enhance their Nine Days experience.
From July 29-Aug. 8, some KBI members participated in the Nine Days Kollel (gathering) program to experience learning in a different, meaningful way. We sat down with some of the participants to learn more about their experience with the program.
Tom Buehler and Mitchell Ragone have both previously participated in the Kollel and always enjoy it. Similarly, Rudlin Torah Academy and Yeshiva of Virginia graduate Tzvi Plotnick has “learned with them every year they come, [because] the guys are very nice and open to the Richmond way.”
He looked forward to the learning because it was a “bright spot in [his] day.” Other current and former RTA and YVA students chose to participate as a productive way to spend part of their summer vacation and get a more personalized learning experience.
The topics varied across partnerships by interest. Tom and Mitchell learned the weekly Torah portion, together with Ner Israel partner Avrumie Stieglitz.
Mitchell appreciates that the sessions encourage full participation, where all participants ask questions and discuss their own thoughts.
Tzvi grew from the experience and learned technicalities of property laws with his partner Eli Steingroot, who is “smart and patient, even after a bunch of questions.”
Brothers and YVA students Dovid and Eliyahu Aronowitz each learned with Eli, as well, appreciating the ability to learn in the summer. Dovid and Eli learned a gemara about the prayer for rain, while Eliyahu and Eli focused on a gemara and sefer (book) about laws and customs of Tisha B’Av.
Dovid and Eliyahu’s brother and current RTA student, Yehoshua, feels this program is “a good way to learn.” He learned mishnah sukkah, particularly the laws of schach (roof material), with Avrumi.
Tzvi and others hope to see the program continue for many years and recommend that more people take advantage of the Nine Days Kollel. Keneseth Beth Israel sends their thanks to the Ner Israel students and wants them to know they always have a place to go when they drive down I-95!
Wishing everyone a hearty Chag Sameach (happy holidays) and a meaningful fast!