April 16, 2024
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MTA Leverages YU Connection to Provide One-of-a-Kind Mentor Experience

Every Thursday night, talmidim at MTA end their week on a high note with a special chaburah during Thursday night mishmar. In 2012, Rabbi Netanel Danto, Yeshiva fellowship coordinator as well as 11th grade maggid shiur and dean, designed a special mishmar for ninth graders. Instead of a shiur with their regular shiur rebbeim, these talmidim spend the time in small personal groups with YU undergraduate and semicha students.

Immediately upon arrival to the MTA and YU campus, ninth graders have the opportunity to experience the Yeshiva University atmosphere. MTA talmidim pair with the semicha and college mentors, and these ninth graders begin to feel the energy of the YU Beit Midrash that fills the MTA campus.

They also develop a personal connection with an older role model who continues to devote time to Torah learning. Thus, the extra time each week these ninth graders spend learning and developing their own Torah passions happens alongside a mentor just a few years older, sharing and igniting these passions. Rabbi Danto noted that what is most exceptional about this program “is that they see each other and interact throughout the week, not just the one day. This builds a real bona-fide kesher and allows them to be true role models, not just acquaintances.”

Though originally the program had a set curriculum, the college mentors requested to choose their own topics, and this new format has found great success. As Rabbi Shimon Schenker, associate principal of MTA, explained, “Any rebbe teaches better when they feel greater personal attachment to the material. It also allows the college students to tailor the material towards what interests their particular ninth graders, connecting to them on their level.” Rabbi Schenker further noted that the biggest success of this program is the strong relationships it forges between the mentors and students, and allowing the college students to choose their curriculum has only increased these strong relationships.

Currently in its fifth year, the program has already seen immense success with these relationships, which is further enhanced since most of the mentors remain on campus for a year or two after participating in the program. Rabbi Schenker pointed to two important members of the MTA family, alumnus Akiva Gottlieb and Moshe Dechter, who became more involved in the yeshiva after excelling in this mishmar program. In their new roles, as night seder supervisor and dorm av bayit/shiur assistant respectively, they have continued many of their previous relationships.

Yehoshua Szafranski, an MTA alumnus and current YU student teaching in this mishmar program, similarly pointed to the strong connections this program forges between students and mentors. He explained, “This mishmar program really highlights one of the things that makes MTA truly great: the MTA-YU relationship. Here I am, an undergrad at YU, given the immense opportunity to learn and teach Torah in a unique and exciting way, while simultaneously developing deep and meaningful relationships with the freshmen of my alma mater. What’s even better is that the Torah learning doesn’t only stay in the classroom. Being that we are on the same campus, our chabura continues throughout the week over our “Shoof” WhatsApp group, group lunches in the café, and even chavrutas in the Beit Midrash. It’s definitely an honor to be a part of such a remarkable and revolutionary program; I look forward to continuing my chabura iy”H over the next couple of years I have on campus.”

Moshe Loew, a current MTA ninth grader from Highland Park, New Jersey, noted that from his perspective as well, the relationships are the strongest success of this program. He explained that “learning with an older guy in a less formal environment than the shiur room is a great opportunity for us to develop relationships with great role models.”

Clearly the program has been a great success at forging these relationships from both sides.

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