June 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Boys of Our Past, the Leaders of Our Future

Fair Lawn—Mendy Aron, head of Torah Tuesday, a learning program primarily for retirees, sponsored by Congregation Shomrei Torah of Fair Lawn, shared that there’s something special about living in a place where Torah is learned on all levels, with love, joy, and respect. More than 20 men, regular attendees of the Torah Tuesday program, were formally presented with a copy of Art Scroll’s Pirkei Avos with interlinear translation, as a recognition of their hard work over the course of the year. “Torah Tuesday is one of the very special feathers in our communal cap,” said Rabbi Benjamin Yudin, the community’s mara d’asra.

The community’s focus on learning has led to a curious thing: a disproportionate number of boys who grew up in the Shomrei Torah community have become rabbis. Therefore, Torah Tuesday’s ninth annual breakfast honored 26 rabbis who grew up in the congregation. While there was never a push for anyone to go into the rabbinate, one thing always present in the community was learning opportunities. The focus on the ease of learning in the community is something that was noted to be special about the shul. “You go from davening to learning and your day is a different day. Your perspective is different,” said Rabbi Yudin. “There is no greater bond than with those studying Torah together,” he added.

Two keynote speakers at the breakfast were Rabbi Larry Rothwachs and Rabbi Shlomo Weissmann, who both returned to the shul they grew up in to accept the honor personally. Both acknowledged the special chinuch that Rabbi Yudin and his rebbetzin provided to them as formative in their decisions to go into avodat hakodesh.

Rabbi Shlomo Weissmann, who serves as director of the Beth Din of America, said that while he was growing up, it was true that no one urged him into the rabbinate, but Rabbi Yudin was attentive to his learning and he grew up comfortable in the shul’s environment of love and care. He said that he later found out that it was not usual or expected for community rabbeim to spend hours upon hours teaching a bar mitzvah boy how to give a speech, helping him write it, answering his questions, and making sure he knows everything he needs to know. He realized only after he left Fair Lawn that he had come from someplace truly unique.

Weissmann relayed a story of several times he engaged in what he called “forced mitzvot,” where it was simply impossible to not do a particular mitzvah when asked, notably when he was asked by Rabbi Yudin to give a d’var Torah “on the spot” between mincha and maariv at the age of 14 or 15. “You don’t have to do it, it’s no problem, but if you don’t, no one will be learning between mincha and maariv,” Weissman recalled Yudin saying. “And I got out my mishna, made my way to the front, and went through what I was learning. And today, I am comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.” Weissmann said.

Another instance was when Weissmann was in college and it was his job to come back to check the eruv on Friday afternoons, thus giving him the opportunity to learn Eruvin. This was in the era before cell phones, so he sometimes had to go to Rabbi Yudin’s house to speak to him about the eruv. “When I got there, the rebbetzin would always give me a tin container to deliver to a shut-in, or flowers to give to someone. It was just expected that I would do this chesed, and I did. I learned that this is what we do,” he said.

Rabbi Larry Rothwachs, of Teaneck’s Congregation Beth Aaron, who also grew up in Fair Lawn and became Rabbi Yudin’s son-in-law, explained that on daily commutes to MTA while Rothwachs was in high school, Yudin had the boys riding in the car with him read to him. Yudin would stop them every so often and ask questions, and it was difficult. “I was tired, I was a little nauseous, I didn’t want to do it,” Rothwachs said. But after a while, he realized he knew the material better than he could ever have imagined. And he realized that it was within the confines of this loving education, without pressure or great intensity, but with pure joy of learning, where he learned and thrived.

By Elizabeth Kratz

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