It’s the students themselves, in middle school yeshivot and day schools in the NJ/NY area and beyond, who have created an exciting and very successful new paradigm for promoting elective Torah study.
As the Orthodox Union was gearing up to make a special effort to promote the 14th cycle of Mishnah Yomi, which started on December 25, they strategized on how to encourage many more people to enlist to study two mishnayot each day. In the Mishnah Yomi program, participants can spend as little as 10 minutes reviewing the two mishnayot of the day and complete all of Mishnah in under six years.
In mid December the OU released the All Mishnah app, designed to make learning the two daily mishnayot easier and more accessible. And they’d built a strong partnership with ArtScroll Mesorah Publications, to help promote the new cycle of Mishnah Yomi.
On the advice of one pioneering preteen, Charlie Breda of Yeshivat Noam in Paramus, who teaches his own Daf Yomi shiur, they decided to add one more initiative to their plans: a largely youth-led program, entitled Mishnah Yomi Jr., that would empower sixth, seventh and eighth graders to enlist their friends, to study alone or participate in short peer-led shiurim on the daily mishnayot.
Working initially with Breda, Rabbi Simon Taylor (the OU’s national director of community projects and partnerships) and Rabbi Asher Tesser (the OU’s project manager of the All Torah series of apps) gathered a list of eighth graders at different yeshivot and day schools in the area in the fall, both girls and boys, and enlisted 40 student ambassadors to spearhead the promotion effort.
Tesser held two training sessions on Zoom for the student ambassadors and provided them with swag (branded hoodies), free ArtScroll Mesorah Mishnayot booklets to distribute, and a tailored website where participants could learn more about Mishnah Yomi and download the All Mishnah app.
Rabbis Tesser and Taylor also enlisted private donors, which allowed them to hold weekly contests with great prizes (like an Apple Watch and an Apple iPad) to encourage participants to sign up and to create promotions for Mishnah Yomi Jr. The first week’s contest was for the number of sign-ups in a school (Yeshivat Noam was the winner), the second week’s contest recognized the best social media video to promote Mishnah Yomi Jr. (Yeshivat Ben Porat Yosef was the winner), and the third week’s contest offered an award for the best flier (Yeshivat HALB was the winner).
Watching only a sample of the many energetic, enthusiastic and creative social media videos created by sixth, seventh and eighth graders can give an observer a taste of the remarkable excitement for learning that the Mishnah Yomi Jr. program has unleashed.
In less than one month’s time, the ambassadors have helped create a “cool” factor for learning two daily mishnayot that has resulted in over 1,000 students in eight schools signing up to participate. Participants from the following schools have signed up: Yeshivat Noam (Paramus), Yavneh Academy (Paramus), Ben Porat Yosef (Paramus), HAFTR (Cedarhurst, NY), HALB (Woodmere, NY), HANC (Uniondale, NY), Katz Hillel Day School (Boca Raton, FL) and Yeshivat He’Atid (Teaneck).
The Mishnah Yomi Jr. programs appear poised to spread to other areas as well, with Rabbi Tesser reporting that he has received inquiries from as far as Virginia and England.
Participants regularly share the excitement the Mishnah Yomi Jr. program has created amongst their peers, with students reporting that they learn their mishnayot in carpool, at recess and in chavruta groups at school. As a result of the enthusiasm this program has inspired, many of the schools have begun to embrace it and offer short shiurim on the daily mishnayot during lunch break.
Reactions received by The Jewish Link reflect the growing excitement for the Mishnah Yomi Jr. program.
“I learn the two mishnayot on the way to school, with my mom,” said Sarah from Yavneh Academy. “It’s great to start off the school day with Torah!”
“Learning Mishnayot has suddenly become very cool,” said Rabbi Dr. Aaron Ross, assistant principal of the Middle School at Yavneh Academy.
“We have students walking the halls, sitting in small clusters, and even waiting for the bus learning Mishnah,” said Rabbi Chaim Hagler, head of school of Yeshivat Noam.
“I really enjoy participating in All-Mishnah Jr.,” said Eli Appel, a seventh grader at HAFTR yeshiva. “It allows me to set a time to learn every day.”
For more information on the Mishnah Yomi Jr. program, and to sign up your school, send an email to [email protected].