May 9, 2024
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May 9, 2024
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YUHSB Class of 1985 Maintains a Strong Connection Almost 40 Years Later

Avi Lauer

(Courtesy of MTA) “There’s nothing like original old friends that know you in a way that is without pretense and those are friendships that stand the test of time,” said Ron Offer of Silver Spring, Maryland YUHSB class of ’85. Offer’s feelings for his old friends are not unique but what is unique is the way his class has rekindled their old friendships in a meaningful and impactful way over the last few years.

During COVID a few graduates from the class lost their fathers. When a number of classmates were unable to pay a shiva visit to three friends that were sitting shiva, the guys arranged for a Zoom shiva call. On that call, the group was enjoying catching up and schmoozing with one another and no one wanted to get off. Offer thought that if the group enjoyed spending time together so much, they shouldn’t limit themselves to getting together for sad occasions, but should make their interactions more frequent.

Offer decided to invite a group of friends to a Zoom get together on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2021. On that call, Jonathan (Jon) Ehrman from Passaic expressed that his niece was in need of a refuah sheleima and he suggested that at the next virtual meeting they could learn for the merit of his niece getting well. Also, on that initial Zoom Yudi Teichman from Suffern, New York challenged Offer and Ehrman to make the class’s Zoom get together a weekly gathering’ the rest, as they say, is history.

Rabbi Yisrael

Rabbi Yisroel Kaminetsky, menahel of DRS and graduate of the class of ’85, explained that “the weekly Torah Zoom sessions have been a vehicle for strengthening our class’ religious identity, Torah study and connections with each other. The fact that our friend’s niece is in remission since we started learning together has also been a powerful force for our group to keep learning together.”

Beginning on a Sunday in November of 2021 and continuing every week until today, the YUHSB class of ’85 has a standing Zoom meeting where they schmooze and learn Torah together. Various guests have addressed the group, from past YUHSB rebbeim to current YUHSB leadership, and many within the class have also led the learning portion of the weekly program.

The Zoom meeting takes place at noon so that classmates from all over the world, including Israel, can join. (Noon on a Sunday isn’t the most convenient time for the East Coasters in the group, but it enables their 25 friends living in Israel to join; inclusion is the priority.) On any given week the Zoom includes around 15 participants and lasts about 45 minutes. Rabbi Mark Wildes of New York added, “It’s a testament to MTA that after all of these years we are still connected and want to express our connection through a weekly Torah class.”

Many members of the class of 1985 at a recent get together.

The class of ’85 not only meets on Zoom every week but has also created a WhatsApp group where 100 messages pop up in the chat daily — 100 messages from 90 classmates. Offer and Ehrman may have started the weekly Zoom get-togethers, but it was the effort of the entire class that made it grow and flourish. Offer said, “It definitely would not have happened if so many people would not have pitched in.” Two alumni alone, Gary Berger and Stephen Slamowitz, connected 50 classmates within the group. As the number of participants grew, the impact of the group grew organically, with various speakers addressing the classmates during the weekly sessions, in person get togethers, celebrating simchas together, helping each other with job searches, giving advice on places to visit in Israel, and mourning together when classmates were grieving.

Jason Greenblatt, a former White House Middle East special envoy and current senior director of Arab-Israel diplomacy at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said, “The WhatsApp group enables us to connect with one another in this fast-paced world. The group is used for various mitzvot, such as raising funds for the IDF during these very difficult times, but it also allows us a glimpse into one another’s lives and to share messages of chizuk, simcha and, at times, condolences. The Zoom shiurim are a big plus for those who are able to make it and shows the deep connection to Torah instilled into this remarkable group. Kudos to those who created it and who keep it going.”

Most recently, classmates with children serving in the IDF reached out to the group because their children’s units needed protective gear. With one of their own serving as a captain in the IDF, the cause was extremely close to the group’s heart and they worked together to purchase the much-needed equipment, including phones, drones and tablets. A couple of weeks ago, a terrorist shot at two buses and one of the drones that the class purchased was used to find and help eliminate that threat. In addition, the tablets are used to direct helicopters as they airlift injured soldiers out of harm’s way.

Avi Lauer, a member of the class and Yeshiva University’s vice president for legal affairs, secretary and general counsel, added, “Some of my closest friendships began in Yeshiva University High School (MTA) and continue until today. The fact that so many former classmates take time from their busy schedules to get on the weekly Zoom to learn Torah together is a testament to the educational and religious foundation we received in high school. This group is truly something special — perhaps other YUHS/MTA classes will read this and do the same.”

While the class of ’85 has made their individual mark and now collective contributions to the Jewish community and world at large, perhaps the most special part of the class is the simplest: the fact that everyone is accepted for who they are with no judgments passed. The bonds formed once one walks through those heavy brass doors are not only for life, but are also unbreakable.

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