Rabbi Dov Zinger is serving as a visiting scholar at Yeshiva University for a little over two weeks, from February 6th to the 22nd. Rabbi Zinger is the Rosh Yeshiva of Makor Chiam, a boys high school located in Kibbutz Kfar Etzion in Gush Etzion known for its innovative approach to Torah education. According to YU’s bio of Rabbi Zinger, his “unique educational approach involves trusting and empowering the student and developing his inner spiritual consciousness in a way that opens him to the outside world (rather than isolating himself as is often the case).” While Mekor Chaim is known for its Neo-Chassidic ideology, the school’s teachers encourage students to find their own means of connecting to Hashem and Torah learning and do not attempt to impose a singular ideology on them. YU’s connection to Makor Chiam goes back a number of years, as Yeshiva University High School for Boys (MTA), has an annual exchange program with the school in which they send tenth grade students to Makor Chaim and host eleventh grade students for a semester.
Rabbi Zinger also helped establish two successful kiruv programs, “Beit Midrash L’Hitchadshut,” a nationwide outreach program that helps individuals in their personal spiritual development, as well as “Lifnei V’Llifnim.”
Rabbi Zinger is spending his time on campus meeting with students, teaching Torah in various settings, and, as President Berman tweeted on the day before Rabbi Zinger’s arrival, “bringing the ruach of Eretz Yisrael to [YU].” Over the course of his stay Rabbi Zinger will be participating in a wide array of programming. He will be giving a three part lecture series, a shiur on “Rebbe Nachman’s Significance Today”, and a shicas mussar.He will also lead a Farbrengen with the Mashpia and spend a lunch speaking with Semicha students.
Rabbanit Iris Zinger, an elementary school teacher, will also be spending these few weeks in the Stern Beit Midrash, connecting to students and giving small chaburot. Rabbanit Zinger told The Observer that she has so far enjoyed her time in the Stern Biet Midrash, which she praised for its “wide-open layout and windows [that make the room] full of light. “It influences me in my learning, in my prayer, and in my writing,” she said. “I wish there were more books on Chassidut here,” she noted, but was quick to temper this one critique. “I bring some of my own books and I am very happy with what is here.” Rabbanit Zinger said she has enjoyed meeting Stern students who have “all been very nice and pleasant–all meir panim [bright faced]–to me” and learning the Sefat Emet with a few students.
Rabbi and Rabbanit Zinger are spending a shabbat on both the Wilf and Beren campuses. Rabbi Zinger will also be giving a club hour shuir at Stern on “Recipes for Prayer: Accessing Our Inner Voice”.
Rabbi Zinger’s trip is funded by REITS, which explains why the majority of his programming will take place on the Wilf campus. Dean of REITS Rabbi Menachem Penner told The Observer that the idea to bring Rabbi Zinger to YU for an extended stay was “a joint [effort] of World Mizrachi, Yeshivat Makor Chaim, and YU.” The idea in a nutshell, according to Rabbi Penner, was to “expose students to Rav Zinger’s fascinating approaches to yiddishkeit, avodat Hashem and chinuch while exposing Rav Zinger to the American Jewish community.”
When asked about the unique nature of this extended scholar in residence type program, Rabbi Penner responded that although “the program is somewhat unique, it is working very well, [and so] it seems to be a model worth investigating for the future.”
According to Yehuda Fogel, a Yeshiva College student who has been helping Rabbi and Rabbanit Zinger get acquainted with YU, the trip has “been great so far.” “There have been shiurim, chaburot, as well as many meetings with students,” Fogel reported. “We are looking forward to a strong few weeks.”
When asked what Rabbi Zinger can add to the conversation at YU and how his visit can benefit students, Rabbi Penner explained that “Rav Zinger teaches a unique approach to connecting with Hashem. We hope that exposure to Rav Zinger will inspire students and get them to think more deeply about their relationships with G-d and their fellow man.”
Fogel agrees that Rabbi Zinger’s visit will bring new perspectives to the conversation at YU. “At times, the religious conversation in YU is limited by the assumptions and boundaries of what religious Judaism means in America,” Fogel said. “The Zingers bring a taste of the vibrant spirituality of Israel to an institution full of students thirsting for more.”
What’s more, Fogel believes students will benefit from “the breath of freshness” that Rabbi Zinger brings. “It can be challenging to feel the vibrancy of religious life and ideas when [a student is] in one institution for years,” and this visit provides students a chance to revitalize their religious experience. For Fogel, Rabbi Zinger is the perfect person to help students on this mission as “the Torah [he] brings is intimate, powerful, and real.”