Like many parents, Rabbi Yehoshua Hess of the Young Israel of East Brunswick spent Yeshiva Week in January visiting his son, who is spending a gap year in Israel. Unlike other parents, he also visited with other East Brunswick natives learning in Israel when he took about 11 of them to dinner.
“The students are members of the congregation as much as their parents are,” said Rabbi Hess, “and they deserve the opportunity to get together.” He noted that there is a different relationship with young people in Israel and there is quite an opportunity for spiritual as well as personal growth.
With the local youth attending a variety of out-of-town high schools and furthering their education at yeshivas all around Israel, the rabbi said it was nice to see young people maintaining contact with each other with the Young Israel serving as the “glue that keeps them together,” noting that it is important to keep the lines of communication open and give the students a chance to ask questions and advance their growth.
A similar evening was planned for the young women from the community, but scheduling difficulties could not be overcome.
Rabbi Hess recalled that when his rabbi visited him during his year in Israel, it made such an impression that a tradition was born. He visited his young congregants last year, and plans to visit next year as well in order to form a chazaka.