Participating in the Hillside siyum on two masechtos this past Tuesday night was truly uplifting. Led by JEC’s Rabbi Avi Rosenbaum, ninth and tenth graders finished Maseches Makos, and 11th and 12th graders finished Maseches Ta’anis. Over 80 community members gathered together to celebrate these important accomplishments. The students received a certificate and sefer as they were congratulated on this great milestone. Hillside’s very own Rabbi Schwartz and Rav Teitz shared divrei bracha with the mesayamim and expressed how fortunate they are to have parents who support and encourage their Torah learning. Reflecting on the past two years in the community, Rabbi Schwartz discussed how privileged we are to have Rabbi Rosenbaum filling the role of teen director. This siyum is a fulfillment of so many Hillside parents’ dreams: to have their son learn Torah in his spare time voluntarily, be influenced by the Torah he is learning, and have a beloved role model to look up to for growth.
Rabbi Teitz shared so poignantly that although this day was just like a Yom Tov because of the great happiness of finishing a masechta, like Yom Tov, the siyum also had a Yizkor. The community of Hillside is newly bereaved of a pillar of our community, Alex Krause. Alex’s influence was so integral, yet his involvement was always behind the scenes without any fanfare. Everyone he met would enjoy his effusive simcha and respect for others. The event was fittingly dedicated in his memory. Josh Krause, the 12th grade mesayem who just lost his father, recited the special Kaddish following the siyum, l’ilui nishmaso. The legacy Alex left will surely continue to inspire people to more learning and involvement in Torah and mitzvos.
The distinguished presence of Rabbi Yaakov Bender, widely renowned chinuch expert and principal of Yeshivas Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway, made the event extremely special. Rabbi Bender was not merely a guest speaker; having lost his own father at a very young age, he spoke as a friend who had gone through the same tragic situation. Stories from the challenges of his own personal life empowered listeners to get through times of distress by taking positive action, even when it is so tempting to let feelings of self-pity take over.
How did 12 boys and their rebbe begin this incredible journey to finding greatness in Torah? This well-loved rebbe made available optional learning for high school boys in the community. When COVID reared its ugly head and teenagers were stuck at home with nothing to do (and no sports to watch!) they turned to Rabbi Rosenbaum to inspire them during challenging times. They spent time together on Zoom every night learning Torah and discussing how everyone was coping and getting through. Rabbi Rosenbaum praised his students for their commitment in coming to learn consistently every night and the hard work they put into reaching a true havana—deep understanding—of what each Gemara meant.
The mesayemim and their families enjoyed a well-deserved evening of chizuk, congratulations, and Chickies in honor of the special occasion. The event marked the first Adath Israel indoor event where those who are vaccinated could enjoy the company of friends and families without the barriers of masking and social distancing. It is a time of finishing. Twelve boys have completed a limud and some parts of the difficulties of the past year have lifted. May Hashem grant everyone strength and beautiful new beginnings.
By Esther Rosenbaum