Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Arielle and Chavi Cohen - mother/daughter learners. (Credit: Ruth Hartstein)

Mother/daughter pair from Brooklyn, Saritte Wolkenstein and Dina Weiss. (Credit: Ruth Hartstein)

Traveling from Monsey, Danielle Bloom, husband Dr. Akiva Bloom and her mother Simmi Brodie. (Credit: Ruth Hartstein)

Lamdeinu’s dean, Rachel Friedman, together with Ruth Hartstein, program coordinator, recently noticed a remarkable trend in their classes: Quite a number of students were coming in pairs. Mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, siblings and sometimes even three generations were regularly attending classes and learning together. On display in the classroom was the amazing, beautiful connection that is forged between two people when they learn Torah together. Even more, Friedman and Hartstein were witnessing the evolving relationship of those who are already close but have now introduced this new aspect of Torah into their relationship, allowing it to flourish more than they thought possible. Friedman described learning together as “a wonderful thing for deepening relationships with others and your Judaism.”

Lamdeinu is the premier spot in Bergen County for intellectual, high-level learning catering to women, although men are welcome in many classes. And it’s not just a Bergen County thing, as Hartstein noted: “We tend to draw students from many different communities.” Indeed, from as far as Brooklyn and Monsey, Lamdeinu has created a community of learners that are contributing to the spread of yahadut by deepening their connection to God—and they’re making it a family affair.

“Lamdeinu can lead you to all kinds of places,” said Friedman. Imagine if Lamdeinu led us to deeper relationships with our loved ones through shared pursuits. Imagine if instead of saying “Let’s catch a movie today,” we said “Let’s catch a class today.” Learning together with a loved one positively impacts that relationship, broadening its scope and depth, in addition to the inevitable deepening of the link with God.

Estelle Glass, a Teaneck resident, has been attending classes at Lamdeinu since its inception in the summer of 2014. Her comments reflect her appreciation of her experiences there: “Following my retirement 10 years ago as an educator at Bruriah High School, I’ve been on the constant lookout for fulfilling courses taught on an intellectual level in a welcoming atmosphere. I love to learn things that are new to me as well as to revisit books of the Torah on a more in-depth and mature level. I even had the zechus to have a former student, Rebbetzin Shira Schiowitz, become my excellent Navi teacher! My husband, Lenny, is still working, but after listening to my excited reports about my classes, he has decided to take a day (or a few hours) off a week to join me. He is so happy he has made this decision. My kids tell us that we are the only people they know ‘who go to school when they don’t have to.’ That’s certainly not true at Lamdeinu. Ask any of us. We all love it.”

Danielle Bloom, who travels from Monsey with her mother to learn at Lamdeinu, is a student at Azrieli Graduate School and a teacher. Not only does she still make time for classes at Lamdeinu but she arranges her teaching schedule to accommodate them. Bloom “loves the level of learning in the classroom. As far as I can see, I don’t think this exists outside of Israel…[The learning] has become a big part of my life.” Lamdeinu provides “a refreshing sense of community, of women who are really committed. Even though everyone is so different, from different places and backgrounds, there is a real like-mindedness.” Bloom’s mother attended Stern College but always wanted to continue the pursuit of Judaic studies learning and this is filling that void. Bloom said the classes have “deepened their relationship and [they] have so much to discuss. When do you go to school with your mother?” She expressed a tremendous feeling of gratitude to Friedman for creating this program that has so enriched her life and, by extension, her relationships.

Friedman and Hartstein, along with all the faculty at Lamdeinu, have created a community of learners through their intensive classes and pursuit of Torah knowledge. They are also bringing families closer—a perhaps unintended, but very meaningful, side effect.