Chanukah Celebration! Chanukah 5775 at Rambam Mesivta was a meaningful, action-packed celebration featuring impromptu singing and dancing, a surprise school-wide trip to Aviator, the annual Rambam for Chai Lifeline Toy Drive and the annual Chanukah Chagigah featuring a Tzedakah Chinese Auction. Additionally, many talmidim shared meals at the homes of their rebbeim and at local restaurants. At the center of the fun was an emphasis on giving back. To that end, the Chesed Committee, led by seniors Hudi Rosenfeld and Shlomo Sandler, organized a Chinese Auction where rebbeim and teachers offered up goods and services with the proceeds benefiting Afikim, an organization that helps fight poverty in Israel. The items up-for-grabs included: lunch at Cho-sen Island with Rabbi Eliach; a game of Settlers of Catan with legendary player Mr. Goldman; a mystery board game from Mr. Jerushalmy: latkes and doughnuts from Mr. Ganeles; lunch at Upper Crust with Rabbi Haar; a trip to Dunkin Donuts with Rabbi Friedman; Rabbi Singer’s famous blondies cake; a delicious cake from Shirley, and so much more! The auction raised over $1,000! Additionally, the Chesed Committee spearheaded another successful toy drive in conjunction with Chai Lifeline in which hundreds of toys were donated by Rambam students to children in need. Learning, ruach, singing, dancing…the light shining from the past was illuminating the present, and the spirit of Chanukah of years past was personified by the talmidim of today.
Remembering the Kedoshim of Har Nof. Talmidim commemorated the victims of the recent massacre in Har Nof by making a siyum on Shishah Sidrei Mishnah and Masechet Makkos. Senior Zachary Schechter finished the last Mishnah in Uktzin, junior Cameron Broder concluded Makkos, and sophomore Gabe Greenbaum recited the Kaddish.
Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, rosh mesivta of Rambam, introduced Rabbi Billet, who spoke about the importance of demonstrating unity with our Jewish brethren across the world wherever they are. He mentioned that after the tragedy occurred, he made an 18-hour round-trip just to be there to show support to the families sitting shivah. Unfortunately, this was not the first time that this special gesture was made. In order to emphasize to the students the importance of these visits, Rabbi Billet related that he made a similar trip to the homes of the Frenkel, Yifrach, and Sha’ar families after their sons were kidnapped and brutally murdered this past summer. He emphasized: “It makes no difference about the size or the color of the yarmulke or lack thereof,” when it comes to sharing in the pain and suffering of our people.
Rabbi Billet’s remarks were followed by those of Rabbi Yotav Eliach, principal of Rambam, who spoke about the fact that despite the recent terror attacks, “Israel is still a safe place to travel to and learn Torah in and baruch Hashem we have an army and Jewish police force that does a tremendous job protecting our citizens. Every day there are potential threats against us, and the overwhelming threats against us are thwarted by the intelligence and efforts of these men and women.”
A talmid of Rav Moshe Twersky, zt’l, Rabbi Zev Aeder, Rambam class of 2002, who recently received semichah from REITS, spoke about the years he spent learning at Rav Moshe Twersky. Rabbi Aeder told the current Rambam talmidim that what he learned transcended the shiur experience and that he learned so much from simply observing his rebbe after shiur and as a frequent guest for Shabbos meals in his rebbe’s house. He explained that everything that his rebbe did “was done in a quiet, unassuming manner…he never spoke an unnecessary word,” being that everything he said was chochmah and enabled his students to learn from him.
Leon Mayer, Rambam class of 2005, also had the privilege of learning from Rav Twersky during his years at Toras Moshe. Leon reemphasized some of the same points about his rebbe’s amazing humility, sensitivity, and caring for all of his talmidim. He spoke about Rav Twersky’s single-minded focus on learning and teaching Torah, recalling how on one occasion he and other talmidim found that the room where the morning shiur was to take place was flooded with two inches of water on the floor. When Rav Twersky came, he noticed them outside and inquired why they were waiting outside. When they told him that the room was flooded, he simply headed into the room and sat down to begin the shiur. Leon and the others followed and sat with their feet immersed in water, having learned a valuable lesson about the importance of the prioritization of limud Torah.
Rav Twersky and the others will be sorely missed but the lessons they imparted clearly left their mark on those who knew them…and the talmidim in Rambam, thousands of miles away.
When Asarah B’Tevet Falls Out on January 1. For over two decades, Rambam has hosted a special learning program on January 1. Being that most people have the day off, it is an opportunity for grandfathers, fathers, and all the siblings to join with Rambam talmidim for a meaningful and important day of learning and bonding. Typically, the day begins with everyone davening together and is followed by a sumptuous breakfast prepared by the Rambam Women’s League, before the shiur begins.
This year, since it was Asarah B’Tevet on January 1, parents and students had to settle for food for thought only. The program was introduced by Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, rosh mesivta of Rambam, who spoke about the importance of learning Torah on January 1. “While many people think that as Jews in America we live in two worlds, the first one being the secular world which recognizes January 1 and additionally as Jews remembering that it is Asarah B’Tevet, the truth is that we live in one world—one whose framework is Torah, with everything else fitting into that. In order to help emphasize that point, what better way is there than to have grandfathers, fathers, and sons learning Torah together.” Rabbi Friedman concluded by saying, “Let’s remember, for those in the secular world that today is a day of levity and celebration; however, for us as Torah Jews, today is a fast day which commemorates the beginning of the destruction of our Temple and the exile of our people.”
He then introduced the keynote speaker, Rabbi Moshe Taragin, as a marbitz Torah par excellence, who has inspired countless students for over two decades. Rav Taragin spoke about the three events that are commemorated on the 10th day of Tevet. “First and foremost, the reason most are familiar with is a surrounding of Yerushalayim by the Babylonian army; however, today also commemorates the forced writing of the Septuagint, the translation of the Torah into Greek, and the death of Ezra the Scribe,” said Rabbi Taragin.
He explained how all three events impacted Jewish history and continue to be relevant today. “According to the Rambam, the mitzvah of a fast day is to cry out to Hashem and sound the trumpets. We are required to take the bimah with the Torah to the center of town. The point was to get the whole community united in avodas Hashem and doing teshuvah.” He explained that, “while prayer is a personal affair, a fast day requires ‘ze’akah’—a public outcry in order to wake up and inspire the community.” He told the talmidim that this past summer, during the kidnapping and murder of the three boys and the ensuing war in Gaza, there was a tremendous sense of achdus that existed as we faced those difficult events.
“Hopefully, if we unite as a people, in order to improve ourselves and serve Hashem, we will be zocheh to Mashiach and the ultimate redemption in our days,” concluded Rav Taragin. It was clear that the davening and chavrusah learning and Rabbi Taragin’s shiur helped reinforce the Torah character and message of the day.
Rambam Mesivta Nominated for Blue Ribbon Award. Torah. Middos. Excellence. The motto of Rambam Mesivta and ideals that the faculty and talmidim strive to exemplify. With over a third of the school participating in Rambam’s Masmidim/Extra Night Learning Program, and with countless acts of chesed being performed by the student body—most recently numerous papers published articles about Rambam’s fundraising efforts on behalf of the victims of the Har Nof Massacre—the values of limud Torah and middos are being nurtured in the halls of the mesivta. In terms of “academic excellence,” Rambam Mesivta was singled out by an objective association, the Blue Ribbon Schools Program, for their commitment and realization of academic excellence. At last count, there were only four Blue Ribbon schools in the entire State of New York, and Rambam Mesivta, which has long had a reputation as a top-tier yeshiva with a number of AP Scholars graduating every year, is poised to be part of this honored few.
Since 1982, the U.S. Department of Education has sought out and recognized schools where students achieve and maintain high academic goals, especially schools that are consistently at the top of academic success in terms of SAT and ACT scores. The goal is to recognize schools like Rambam and share with the larger population best school leadership and teaching practices. In other words, Rambam’s success will inspire and help others.
In a typical year, about 40 graduates of Rambam Mesivta students earn, in total, over one-million dollars in academic scholarships. There are a number of students every year who earn spots in the prestigious Macaulay Honors College and/or scholarships to Yeshiva University, as well as students who go on to Cooper Union, Cornell, and the like.
A Blue Ribbon nomination is another feather in the cap of an institution that prides itself on preparing students for the world and creating, along with the parents, a ben Torah who will go out into the workforce, keep a learning schedule, and make a Kiddush Hashem.