By Raquel Leifer, Features Editor
Elul Torah on Beren
The start of the school year on the Beren campus serves to usher in the fall semester with exciting events, just in time for the Yamim Noraim [Days of Awe]. The Torah Activities Council (TAC) has been hard at work, both behind the scenes as well as on the front lines, planning many Elul-inspired events. The committee began to organize and strategize with weekly planning meetings over the course of the summer. The ruach [spirit] was palpable as ideas circulated, and objectives were laid out.
The focus of the meetings was determining how the Office of Torah and Spiritual Life could best serve the interests of the student body, with a particular emphasis on bringing meaning to Elul through various Torah opportunities. Considering all their goals, the committee brainstormed and categorized both short and long term aims. Their first goal was to have the very first Shabbos on the Beren campus be the largest there ever was. TAC exceeded this goal with over 400 participants this past month. The Shabbos featured President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, Dean Shoshana Schechter, Mrs. Rachel Ciment, and both Rabbinic couples, as guests. For all involved, it was critical that Shabbos be viewed from a holistic lens, focusing on the kedusha [spiritual importance] of the day, and not merely about getting from hadlakas neiros [candle lighting] to havdalah [lit. seperation- the end of shabbos] in a linear fashion. The hope is that excitement will continue to be generated through cooperative activities such as brownie baking with both Rebbetzins Ellie Fine and Michal Schonbrun, and future kumzitzes [nights of inspiration].
The hallmark of the Elul programming were the “Teshuva Talks” guest speakers. The leaders who came to speak shared their personal experiences in a way that made it easy to connect with them. The insightful conversations allowed those participating to contextualize the topics discussed. Thus far, speakers have included Rav Aryeh Lebowitz, Rav Hershel Schachter, and Rav Eytan and Rebbetzin Aviva Feiner. The talks will conclude next Wednesday with Mrs. Elisheva Kaminetsky, and recordings can be found on the Stern Torah Spotify profile.
In addition to new programming, TAC, in connection with the Beit Midrash committee, have discussed ways to revitalize and revamp the Beren Bekius Program. This year, the program has done away with tests, and is instead focused on building a community space of weekly learning in the beis. In this fashion, students are excited to contribute to the community at large while they learn subjects such as Hilchos Brachos, Shnayim Mikra, and Maseches Brachos, which can be helpful in their daily lives. Thursday night Mishmar was also reimagined with a focus on learning in a non-pressured environment, where those present could derive meaning from various seforim [Torah books] and speakers alongside their peers. Another great opportunity offered this Elul were the “Elul Chaburot: Teshuva Texts” with the Rabbinic couples. Students had the opportunity to choose from chaburot ranging from, Pachad Yitzchak by Rav Yitzchak Hutner with Rabbi Fine, Rav Pinchas on Elul and Yomim Noraim with Ellie Fine, Rabbeinu Yonah’s Shaarei Teshuva with Michal Schonbrun, and Rambam’s Hilchos Teshuva with Rabbi Schonbrun on Monday and Wednesday nights. Another avenue that TAC is playing an active role in are Chessed opportunities on campus such as Friendship Circle events and many more.
Elul is the time for personal introspection, as we each conduct our own cheshbon hanefesh [accounting of the soul]. The Torah opportunities offered at Stern during this zman have been incredible vehicles of inspiration for all involved, and there is no question that we are all better ovdei HaShem [servants of God] because of it.