The Semichat Chaver Program (SCP), one of the newest initiatives sponsored by the Orthodox Union, began a mere 18 months ago in two locations in Israel. The program was so popular that it has seen tremendous growth, and is now set to expand to over 20 locations, in Israel and along the U.S. East Coast.
Similar to other learning programs, SCP is a halacha program, teaching specific topics within halacha on a regular basis. What sets it apart, however, is that “our goal is not just to know halacha, but to bring it home,” explained Rav Elyada Goldwicht, who founded and spearheads the program. “We want to celebrate accomplishments in Torah learning and bring that excitement home.”
“Each week the participants are emailed the notes summarizing what was learned, and given points to discuss with their family over the Shabbos table,” Rav Goldwicht continued.
“Rav Elyada Goldwicht shlita has come up with an amazingly innovative approach to further serious Torah learning that will impact entire families,” commented Rabbi Chaim Marcus, spiritual leader of Congregation Israel of Springfield. “Congregation Israel is honored to host the SCP Greater MetroWest Program.”
“I don’t remember the last time I was this proud of my husband,” noted the wife of a participant. “This is the first time in my life my children are seeing me taking learning seriously.”
“We’ve been married for 11 years and this is the best thing that has happened to our marriage,” noted participant Avi C.
Another unique feature of this program is that it goes beyond halacha. Each session begins with a philosophy or ethics discussion regarding the particular halacha that will be learned that week, followed by an in-depth shiur on that halacha.
“We give participants the reasons why for each halacha,” Rav Goldwicht stated. “This way fathers are armed with an arsenal of reasons” when their children ask questions about halacha. SCP provides a variety of explanations for each halacha, with the goal being to offer “something that speaks to every Jew.”
The program is ongoing, and every six months there is a comprehensive exam given, along with a siyum celebrating completion of the halachot that were learned. Wives, children and families are included in the siyum, making the program truly a family experience. The next siyum will be held on Sunday, May 5, with all the tri-state locations’ families participating. The siyum will be attended by Rav Schachter and Rav Shlomo Amar. As the program expands, there will be an option of joining the main siyum in New York or making smaller ones in individual locations.
Yet another feature that sets SCP apart from other learning programs is that it is “100% in person. You cannot join online or remotely. The reason is that we are not just trying to teach halacha...we are trying to create an environment of learning, which can only happen if you show up in person,” commented Rav Goldwicht.
Classes meet once a week, so the commitment is not overwhelming, and at the end of each six-month period, those who pass the exam are given a certificate of achievement. “Just like lawyers and doctors have plaques from Columbia or Harvard, people can display the certificate… We want them to be proud of their accomplishments in Torah learning,” said Rav Goldwicht.
“This is a halacha program where participants are mini masters of specific halachot by the end of the six months,” he remarked.
“Since I started working full time (to be honest, since I started dental school...a long time ago) I had a tough time keeping a consistent seder limud. SCP provided structure and motivation to get me back into it. I can’t thank you enough,” added participant Adam M.
There are no formal prerequisites, but the majority of participants have anywhere from minimal yeshiva training to rabbinic degrees. All are welcome.
Rav Goldwicht would like to extend a mazal tov to Rabbi Jonathan Schachter and his chabura upon their completion of the first SCP semester in Teaneck. The chabura was held at Bnai Yeshurun during the winter.
Two of the newest shiurim will be in local communities. Rabbi Marcus will offer a class on Tuesday nights, at Congregation Israel of Springfield, beginning May 7, at 8 p.m. Please email the shul at [email protected] for additional information. Rabbi Daniel Feldman will also offer a class on Tuesday nights, beginning May 7 as well, at Ohr Saadya in Teaneck. Please email [email protected] for more information.
For more information about the Semichat Chaver Program, email [email protected].
By Jill Kirsch