By Mila Krugman
One of the greatest and most unique components of Yeshiva University is, undoubtedly, its dual curriculum allowing students to learn advanced Judaic Studies alongside their secular classes. While the expansive list of levels and classes offered is quite the feat, I believe that YU’s greatest and most notable aspect of Jewish education is the Mechina Program. Coming from a completely non-religious background, I arrived at YU nervous about my lack of Jewish knowledge and exposure to the Jewish community. Even after a year in seminary, I still felt a drastic difference between other YU students and myself.
When I was contacted by Dean Shoshana Schechter and informed about the Mechina Program, which allows students from public school to learn Torah together at an introductory level, I was relieved. Being in a class with girls like me and learning from incredible teachers like Dean Schechter made me feel like part of a very tight-knit community. In fact, Dean Schechter often says that while YU is your family, the Mechina Program is your immediate family. That sentence could not be truer.
Part of being in the Mechina Program, besides the classes and Shabbatons, is a newly added Chavruta Program in which Mechina and non-Mechina girls are paired up to learn a sefer or Jewish topic of their choice. At first, I was hesitant about the idea, as I worried that I wouldn’t have as much to contribute to the learning as my chavruta [Torah studies learning partner] would. After meeting with my chavruta, I realized that I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I was paired up with Lieba Weiss, and after discussing our interests, we decided to learn Shemirat HaLashon [guarding one’s words] by the Chofetz Chaim. Throughout the semester, we would meet weekly in the Beit Midrash [Torah learning space] and work our way through the book. As time went on, my worries about a solely “teacher-student” dynamic faded, and I could feel a mutual desire to learn and gain inspiration. Our weekly chavruta certainly brought us closer together, and I always looked forward to meeting, catching up, and continuing to make progress in our book. I quickly began seeing my partner as a role model and friend. This semester, Lieba and I have decided to study a new topic. Because of our mutual hope of being frum women in business, we will begin learning a new book called Making it All Work by Ari and Miryam Wasserman, which offers insight to hashkafa [outlook] and halacha [Jewish law] surrounding women in the workplace.
Coming to Beren for the first time, I feared that I wouldn’t be able to befriend–let alone learn with–students from religious backgrounds. I worried that we would find nothing in common and that my learning as a Mechina student would never come close to theirs. Needless to say, my experience with my chavruta has shown me quite the opposite. In my opinion, the Mechina Chavruta Program is an incredible means of bringing girls from various backgrounds together to learn from each other, exchange ideas, and form lasting relationships. I highly recommend participating to anyone–Mechina student or not.