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Tuesday, September 29, 2020
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(Courtesy of TheLearnathon) When Simcha Shron, 20, was in the middle of his second year of study at Yeshivat Sha’arei Mevasseret Tzion in Israel, he was disappointed to learn that a number of his fellow yeshiva students were not planning to participate in the annual Jerusalem Marathon.

“I’d run in the marathon during high school,” Shron said, “and really enjoyed the experience. It was great to reunite with friends from around the world, all joining together to raise money for amazing Jewish charities.”

That gave him an idea.

For yeshiva students not participating in the Jerusalem Marathon, could he organize an all-night “learn-a-thon” fundraiser instead?

Many discussions later, Shron’s Learn-a-thon was born: a gala event in Jerusalem with nearly 300 people in attendance, raising over $150,000 for tzedakah.

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Upon returning home to East Brunswick, Shron wanted to replicate his success on the other side of the Atlantic. He created a new business entity, Torat Chessed LLC, and began planning a similar event to be held in Bergen County around the time of the High Holidays. The 20-year-old Yeshiva University student contacted caterers, banquet halls, Jewish entertainers, well-known Jewish charities and prominent rabbis and educators from throughout the New York/New Jersey area, and began planning a gala event.

Then the coronavirus hit.

“I held out for as long as I could,” Shron said.” But as time went on, it became clear that an in-person event was impossible. So I had to switch to Plan B.”

His new plan is to hold an all-night learning program to be held online, throughout the night of September 24-25—just three days before Yom Kippur. (If possible under CDC guidelines, Shron is still committed to holding an in-person event for tri-state area residents.)

While a virtual event was only Plan B, it’s given the Learn-a-thon a whole new meaning. Now, participants can be a part of a movement of Jews around the world, learning Torah together throughout the night to benefit chesed organizations: “An incredible zechus for Klal Yisrael going into Yom Kippur,” Shron said.

Participants will experience nearly 10 hours of education and inspiration, with shiurim delivered by some of the most well-known rebbeim, mechanchot, teachers and speakers in the Jewish world.

The event will conclude with a sunrise kumzitz starring popular Jewish entertainers Simcha Leiner, Baruch Levine and Dovid Pearlman.

Shron says he’s working hard to ensure his Learn-a-thon offers much more than just another Zoom meeting. In place of the catered dinner Shron envisioned, he’s delivering pre-packaged gourmet meals to participants’ homes around the world. He’s also sending along exclusive Learn-a-thon swag and other goodies that are the hallmark of any successful event targeting young people.

All for a good cause…four of them, to be exact.

Participants will raise funds for some of the most prominent charities in the Jewish world: Camp HASC, the premier summer program for children and adults with special needs; NCSY, which connects, inspires and empowers Jewish teens and encourages passionate Judaism through Torah and tradition; Our Place, an organization dedicated to facilitating transformative personal growth in at-risk Jewish teens and young adults and; Yachad, dedicated to enhancing the life opportunities of Jewish individuals with developmental disabilities or other learning challenges.

“This has been a difficult year for the nonprofit world,“ Shron said. “Many charities have lost up to 40% of their fundraising dollars due to coronavirus. It would mean so much to me to raise funds for these world-class organizations.” In the days leading up to Yom Kippur, a time traditionally associated with tzedakah, Shron expects participants’ fundraising to be easier than usual—making a big difference for his partner charities.

The college student promises an event that will leave attendees inspired, invigorated, entertained and well fed. “Even though we’ve gone virtual, the Learn-a-thon will still be the event of the year,” Shron said. “And since this is virtual, participants can experience all the excitement from the comfort of their own home!”

“I’m so excited to create a global movement of Jews learning Torah to benefit chesed organizations, going into Yom Kippur.”

For more information or to register, visit www.TheLearnathon.com.

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