2018-09-12 / Local News

Cherry Hill’s Foxman Torah Institute sets up shop in Arizona for 3 weeks

By JAYNE JACOVA FELD Voice staff


The Cherry Hill yeshiva in Arizona included (front, from left), Chayim Glantz, Yitzchok Meyer Frenkel, Yaniv Levi, Mishael Keller and Moshe Schwartzberg; with (rear, from left), Rabbi Yisroel Becker, Rabbi Shimon Max, Dovid Max, Yaakov Horwitz, Stanley Greenblum, Brian Singer, Tzvi Max, Jonny Harris and Aryeh Max. The Cherry Hill yeshiva in Arizona included (front, from left), Chayim Glantz, Yitzchok Meyer Frenkel, Yaniv Levi, Mishael Keller and Moshe Schwartzberg; with (rear, from left), Rabbi Yisroel Becker, Rabbi Shimon Max, Dovid Max, Yaakov Horwitz, Stanley Greenblum, Brian Singer, Tzvi Max, Jonny Harris and Aryeh Max. For three weeks over the summer, Cherry Hill’s Foxman Torah Institute-Mesivta Bais Dovid all but moved operations to Tucson, AZ, where 12 postgraduate students and two rabbis shared their love of Torah with this Southwestern community.

“It shook the town,” said FTI Rosh Yeshiva and Dean Rabbi Shimon Max of the yeshiva’s first major road trip in its 19- year existence. “It was such a great experience for our boys to work with kids and adults who are not as exposed to Torah, but want to be exposed. Our students were in top form and we were very proud of them.”

Max, his students, and Rabbi Chaim Juni, Rosh Mesivta and principal of the high school, arrived in Tucson on June 26 toting suitcases full of kosher meats and cheeses. Rabbi Yisroel Becker of Tucson’s Congregation Chofetz Chayim were eagerly awaiting their arrival. For three weeks, Becker’s shul hosted the Cherry Hill yeshiva and integrated them into the community through “The Connection,” free daily programs designed to engage people of all ages and varying levels of Jewish education in learning. Other sponsors included the city’s Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Center.

With the average temperatures hovering over 100 degrees each day, the weather was ideal for indoor study, Max noted. The students held court at three shiurim daily, with the later evening session often bringing large crowds.

For Becker, who has previously hosted rabbinic students to Tucson over the summer, Connections brought the learning to a whole new level. “It was a very different program where an actual school self transported and became an integral part of our community,” he said. “The spirit of the community was uplifted and respect for learning uplifted.”

Stanley Greenblum, who participated as a post-graduate student, said it exceeded his expectations as well.

“We all went into this thinking we were going there to help them, but we ended up leaving thinking we gained a tremendous amount,” observed Greenblum.

He noted that the multi-faceted program included classes for men only, women only, mixed groups and family-friendly events. Among the most enthusiastic learners were college students and young professors who were on break and able to focus on Torah learning, perhaps for the first time, Greenblum said.

“Our group has been together for five or six years and they became part of us,” he said, noting that the connection went beyond studying. The younger guys joined the yeshiva students on hiking and sightseeing excursions to the Grand Canyon and Sedona and even during daily study breaks at the JCC gym and swimming pool.

Rabbi Becker agreed. “What happened here was numerous young people in Tucson became so involved in learning. The students and rabbis worked with them to really get into the excitement of Judaic learning and Talmudic learning in depth.”

FTI and Chofetz Chayim are affiliated with the same Lithuanian-style Orthodox movement. FTI, which serves the greater Philadelphia area, is housed in Cherry Hill, but many of its students are boarders who live with local families.

“It felt like home to us,” FTI’s Rabbi Max said. “Rabbi Becker is a scholar of tremendous dedication, and for our students to see him in his community was unbelievable. Our students were already post-high school graduates and we are hoping many will go out to in their own communities and teach Torah and enrich the lives of countless Jews.”

Rabbi Juni noted that one of the most touching moments for him was when the yeshiva students visited a residential home for seniors, many of whom were Northeast transplants now living in the Southwest.

“It was meaningful and touching how interested and excited people were for the opportunity to learn with the students,” he said. “It was great of our students as well to see the older generation, people in their 80s and 90s.”

Given the name of the program, it should be only natural that strong connections were made. Greenblum has already attended the wedding of one of the guys he studied with in Arizona that happened to take place in New Jersey. He is also going to be engaging in weekly long-distance study sessions with another one of the guys after the High Holidays.

Speaking of the High Holidays, two other FTI students just returned to Arizona to join that community for Rosh Hashanah to help lead services. Other connections in Arizona formed as well, said Becker, including a new program in which children learn about the holidays and then spend an afternoon with the seniors. “Power Talmud” is also a direct result of Connections. Now, following daily prayer service, people stay at the synagogue for a half hour of intense, in-depth, interactive Talmud session.

Becker said he was impressed with the FTI students.

“The enthusiasm of the boys from Cherry Hill, their maturity, ability to interact with people of all ages so well and so successfully. They obviously are getting really, really great training in character development, selflessness, and giving of themselves.” s

Return to top