Since the passing of Rabbi Adin Even-Yisrael (Steinsaltz), z”l this past summer, his students residing in Israel and in the United States have been working on realizing his vision of Let My People Know through the Shalhevet program.
The Shalhevet program is a virtual chevruta Torah study program, presenting an opportunity to share in Rabbi Steinsaltz’s wisdom and inspiration, and honor his memory. The program is designed to answer Rabbi Steinsaltz’s call to promote deep Torah learning and meet the desire of many Jews to connect and know our heritage, with an emphasis on acquiring tools for independent study. The program strives to build a community comprising men and women from diverse backgrounds and across the globe, brought together through Torah learning.
For the past few months, current students and alumni of the Steinsaltz Hesder Yeshiva in Tekoa, founded and headed by Rabbi Steinsaltz, have been paired with Torah study partners of all ages and backgrounds in the United States that have been coordinated with students of Rabbi Steinsaltz working in Jewish communities in the United States. Those US-based coordinators include myself and Rabbi Pinchas Allouche, rabbi of Congregation Beth Tefillah in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Before the launch of the program, the organizers did not know what to expect regarding the potential quantitative or qualitative impact of the program. It seems that the impact, in both those areas, has exceeded all expectations.
“We have been astonished by the responsiveness,” says the rosh yeshiva of the Steinsaltz Yeshiva, Rabbi Michel Falk. “We have heard stories of people that have waited all their lives for such an opportunity, and that this type of learning, is not with a great and knowledgeable rabbi, per se, rather with a simple Jew that shares the desire for connection with another Jew and to learn Torah together. This fills them up in a way that has been lacking up until now.”
Over 60 Torah study partners have been established and the feedback is tremendous. The diversity of the different Torah study partners is remarkable and stays true to the vision of Rabbi Steinsaltz that the Torah belongs to all types of Jews. “I was shocked when I saw that my chevruta is a young medical student,” exclaims Ariella Ruderman from Denver, Colorado. “I myself am a mother of five working full time. Neither my chavruta nor I have time for anything, but we are making time for a little bit of learning and are accountable to one another in true chevruta spirit. Rabbi Steinsalz’s essays give us a lot to contemplate over the week (and something to share at the Shabbat table). I think adding more Torah to a busy life is an appropriate way to honor the rabbi’s legacy.”
The Torah partners choose together to study one of the four tracks offered in either chasidut, parsha (Torah portion of the week), tefillah (prayer) or Talmud. “Praying, davening, is an activity I have done three times a day, every day of my adult life,” explains Michael Garber from Highland Park, New Jersey. “Yet, I felt that I needed to strengthen my understanding of the prayers. Shlomo, my Israeli Torah partner, and I have discussed the definition of the tefillot and we both have gained a deeper comprehension and appreciation of the prayers. Our conversations have given me an attachment to the tefillah that I am not sure I ever had, certainly not in a long time. When I say Shema and Modeh Ani I am reminded of our conversations. I look forward to continuing to discuss tefillah with Shlomo.”
Please email me at [email protected] or 973-214-8577 to learn more about the Shalhevet program, how to become a participant and about Rabbi Steinsaltz’s different ongoing projects. For more information about the Steinsaltz Yeshiva please visit www.steinsaltzyeshiva.com.
Rabbi Shmuel Greene made aliyah to Israel with his family before high school. He served as an Israeli paratrooper and studied Jewish History and Thought at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Under the guidance of Rabbi Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz) he received rabbinic ordination and set out to work in Jewish informal education in North America since 2001. Rabbi Greene is the NCSY director of Central and Southern New Jersey and previously served the Jewish community as director of education at Rutgers Hillel, director of teen initiatives at The Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life at The Greater MetroWest Jewish Federation and director of The Steinsaltz Ambassadors program.