By Emily Goldberg, Publication Manager and Layout Editor
From Shabbat on campus, to nightly shiurim, to teaching classes, Rabbi Fine is looking forward to the Torah activities on Beren this semester.
As Rabbi Fine walked into the Beren Beit Midrash for this interview with the YU Observer, numerous students approached him with questions or simply waved hello. Rabbi Fine, Yeshiva University Beren Campus Rabbi, joined Yeshiva University along with his wife Rebbetzin Ellie Fine in Fall 2022. They currently work alongside Rabbi Avrumi and Rebbetzin Michal Schonbrun, who serve as Resident Scholars.
As Rabbi Fine arrived, the sounds of students learning Torah could be heard across the Beit Midrash. He reflected on the past semester, relaying that, “we had, thank God, an amazing Elul…and then obviously since Simchas Torah, it’s been very very different, definitely not a typical semester,” because of the impact of the Israel-Hamas war. Yet, “looking back at it, just to think of some of the powerful moments that we had” was very impactful.
Looking towards the future, Rabbi Fine is hopeful that the Torah programming planned for this semester will be meaningful for students as well. The Torah activities this semester will include many classics as well first time events.
The War in Israel’s Impact on Torah Programming
The war in Israel has been hard for many living in the US who are not in close proximity to Israel. “The more that we can connect to [Israel] and hear from people” actually living there “the more powerful we will be able to experience everything that is going on and to help in the ways that we can,” said Rabbi Fine. For example, students will have the opportunity to hear from Roi Assaraf, who survived the Re’im Supernova Music Festival and at a separate event, from Jennifer Airley, whose son Benjamin Airley was killed fighting in Gaza.
Shabbat on Campus
Many of the Shabbat guest speakers that were canceled because of the war in Israel have been rescheduled for this upcoming semester. Students will also have the opportunity to hear speakers from Israel at seminary alumni Shabbatons. “Every single Shabbos is going to be something, which is really really exciting, definitely after a very not usual semester this past semester as far as Shabbos goes.”
In addition, Shabbat programming for this semester will include the coed Sy Syms School of Business Shabbaton, the Stern College Dramatics Society Dramaton with Leah Gottfried and her husband Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein. Other Shabbatot will host guest speakers from the Beren campus and from outside YU.
Rabbi Fine also confirmed that there will be a minyan every Shabbat this semester after unclear circumstances prevented this multiple times last semester.
Rabbi Fine appreciates Shabbat at YU because “it’s a great opportunity to hear from different voices, to learn from people in a more informal setting” and “to spend real quality time with the community.” His upbeat announcements regarding Shabbat scheduling and the best-tasting dipping sauces are famous and appreciated by those who stay in for Shabbat often.
Along with speakers who give regular shiurim on the Beren campus, including Rabbi Mordechai Willig, Rav Moshe Tzvi Weinberg, and Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz, who are all scheduled to come to the Beren campus this semester, Rabbi Fine is also working to bring “new voices” to Beren’s Beit Midrash.
Torah Activities Committee President Gaby Rahmanfar initiated two new series for seniors: a workplace halacha series, and senior seminars, which will address issues students might face once they leave college. “Having a consistent rabbinic [presence] is huge for our campus,” said Gaby. “Their efforts and presences really gels the community on campus.” She continued, “Whether that’s through the late night schmoozes in the beis or hanging out at a Shabbos oneg, they bring so much to our campus.”
The first week back from the break will also include an event for the yahrzeit of Rabbi Moshe Kahn zt”l, with Beren alumni, the Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies, Dr. Nechama Price, Rabbi David Nachbar, and Rabbi Gedalyah Burger.
“There is, thank God, a ton going on, and hopefully it will be a really powerful semester,” relayed Rabbi Fine. “The reason why we are able to have so much programming is because [of the students] who are interested in it.”
Weekly Chaburot with the Campus Couples
Chaburot with the campus couples will also resume this semester after some inconsistency last semester caused by programming for the Israel-Hamas war. Chaburot will include Nesivos Shalom on the Parsha with Rebbetzin Fine, Rav Hirsch on Sefer Tehillim with Rebbetzin Schonbrun, Mussar on the Parsha with Rabbi Fine, and Ramban on the Parsha with Rabbi Schonbrun. Additionally, Rabbi Fine will be giving his daily chaburot on Alei Shur, Shearim Bi’Tefillah and Sefer Ayekah (Where Are You).
“We highly encourage everyone to stay in for Purim on campus because it will really be, b’ezrat Hashem, a very powerful experience,” said Rabbi Fine. He is “hoping to have an amazing Shabbos Zachor on campus,” along with megillah reading and a chagigah Motzei Shabbat. On Purim day there will be “a really amazing mishloach manos event” with different breakfast foods in the lobby of each dorm building.
For Pesach, Rabbi Fine plans to once again hold a mock seder where students will hear Divrei Torah on the Haggadah.
Nancy Alexander, Judaic Representative on the Torah Activities Committee and Student Council, appreciates “all of the Torah programming going on [that] has made Stern a place of honest and genuine spiritual growth.” She continued, “Rabbi Fine invests so much in making sure that the yiddishkeit of all the women at Stern is thriving and alive!”
Rabbi Fine also expressed deep gratitude towards Dean Shoshana Schechter, Associate Dean of Office of Torah and Spiritual Life, Haviva Tirschwell, Program Coordinator, Rachel Ciment, Director of Spiritual Guidance, Gaby Rahmanfar, Torah Activities Committee President, and the entire Torah Activities Committee board, who all work immensely hard behind the scenes to enhance Torah life on the Beren campus.
Rabbi Fine finds “all of the aspects of [his] job incredibly meaningful…even just to see people in the morning and say hello; even something as small as that is incredibly meaningful, just to give someone a smile at the beginning of the day.”
At the same time, looking towards the future, Rabbi Fine emphasized how “every institution and furthermore each faculty member, student, and member of this community always has to be thinking about…how do we improve? How do we get better?” He continued, “Each member of our Beren campus community is important and helps create the special and unique place that we are.”