Keeping the kesher. The hallmark of Rambam Mesivta is the meaningful kesher that exists between rebbeim and talmidim. Being that Rambam is a small school by design, Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, the rosh mesivta, Rabbi Yotav Eliach, the principal, Rabbi Avi Haar, the assistant principal of limudei kodesh, and Mr. Hillel Goldman, the assistant principal, know every talmid. The relationship is an ongoing one which continues long after graduation. Be it engagements, weddings, or simply phone calls, the Rambam rebbeim are always there with the boys.
One of the unique highlights for Rambam graduates is the annual Israel Shabbaton with the shanah aleph and shanah bet talmidim continuing their learning in Eretz Yisrael. All the boys look forward to this special Shabbos and virtually all attend to join Rabbi Friedman, who flies in for this event.
Additionally, during his trip to Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi Friedman takes the time to visit each talmid in the yeshiva he is learning at, to monitor the student’s progress and make himself available to discuss the learning experience, one on one. In visiting the yeshivot, he also has the opportunity to assess any new developments and changes that may have taken place in staffing, shiur offerings, facilities, etc. During the last week of November, Rabbi Friedman visited 12 different yeshivot and gave shiurim to the broad spectrum of American talmidim learning at Shaalavim, Torat Sharaga, Mevasseret Tzion, and Har Etzion (Gush).
“Having the opportunity to learn with a group of boys in the various yeshivot helps one get a clear picture of the level of that program and the boys they attract. Sharing this information with the seniors and their parents at Rambam will enable them to choose the yeshiva where they will gain the most on an individual level,” said Rabbi Friedman. Based on this information, coupled with the expertise of Rabbi Haar, who is also the director of Israel guidance, the graduates of Rambam are invariably happy with their choice of yeshivot in Israel.
This year’s Shabbaton was held in the Old City, at Yeshivat HaKotel, where a number of Rambam boys are learning. Shabbos was ushered in with Minchah and Kabbalat Shabbat. Before Maariv, Rabbi Friedman spoke about kedushat Yerushalayim and the great opportunities afforded the Jewish people since 1948. The Friday-night meal, provided by Yeshivat HaKotel and enhanced with some catered delicacies, was permeated by divrei Torah, zemirot, and a warm sense of “chevrah.” After the conclusion of the seudah, the boys were treated to a multi-hour tisch with Rabbi Friedman which featured divrei Torah and a lively question-and-answer session.
After davening vasikin at the Kotel or at the Yeshivat HaKotel minyan, the talmidim regrouped for a parashah shiur with Rabbi Friedman, followed by Kiddush and lunch. Once again, the talmidim eagerly shared their divrei Torah and created a beautiful ruach with the zemirot they sang. Afterwards the chevrah davened Minchah at the Kotel and had the opportunity to analyze the sugya of “Huktza l’mitzvota” and Ner Chanukah with Rabbi Friedman.
Seudat Shlishit featured more divrei Torah, singing, and camaraderie, which made the parting of Shabbos more difficult to bear. The boys could take comfort, however, in the fact that the kesher, although briefly interrupted, will continue for many years to come.
A difficult shivah visit. Boris Yarmolnik was a 28-year-old oleh from the Ukraine who was called up from the reserves to protect his beloved new homeland, Eretz Yisrael. While stationed near the border of Gaza, a siren went off, signaling yet another Grad missile attack from Hamas terrorists. Seconds later, the missile struck, mortally wounding Boris. He was evacuated to Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva, but died of traumatic head injuries a few days later. His levayah took place on Friday, the 16th day of Kislev, and shivah ensued.
Graduates from Rambam Mesivta, accompanied by their rosh mesivta, Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, felt an obligation to attempt to provide some solace to the family by expressing their support during this very difficult time. Hiring two vans to transport them from Yerushalayim to Netanya, the group arrived at the working-class neighborhood, home to the Yarmolnik family.
The clotheslines of the adjacent buildings were filled with hanging garments. The group slowly ascended the four flights of steps and entered the small two-room apartment. Sitting on the coach were a number of Boris’s friends from Tel Aviv University. Boris had been pursuing an advanced degree in astrophysics when his life was snuffed out. Sensing that the Rambam group were strangers, Boris’s friends made room for the American group. The boys sat silently, watching the faces of the heartbroken father and distraught brother. Boris’s grief-stricken mother remained in the bedroom, unable to confront those who came to offer condolences.
A group of officials from the Israeli Army entered the room and attempted to explain to the father exactly how the injuries resulted. Neither they nor the father were clear if Boris was already in the shelter with a window open or if he was attempting to close the window when he was hit by the rocket. The father dejectedly commented in Hebrew, “Lo mishaneh . . . it doesn’t really matter.” The soldiers questioned the Rambam boys as to why they were there. The talmidim replied that they were learning in Israel and felt the need to express a sense of achdut with those who had sacrificed so much. The soldiers were clearly moved by the sentiments expressed.
A group of professors arrived from Tel Aviv University. They spoke highly of Boris’s diligence and aptitude. They too turned to the Rambam boys and asked, “Are you family?” The boys answered, “We are one big family . . . religious, secular, American, Russian, Israeli . . . we are all Am Yisrael.”
Boris’s father told those present that he felt that the constant flow of visitors, especially from the army, was taxing and that he was exhausted from everyone coming and going. It seemed clear that he preferred to be alone with his thoughts. He said that in the Ukraine they would only observe one day of mourning, and was not used to this prolonged period of aveilut. Rabbi Friedman and the boys sensed it was time to leave. Upon their departure, they hugged the mourning brother and reiterated that they are “am echad” and that Boris paid the ultimate price in order to help protect our nation.
The teachers from Tel Aviv University met the Rambam boys outside of the house and remarked how amazing it was that strangers would take the time and travel hours to express their solidarity with someone they did not know . . . simply because the Torah says “V’ahavta le’reiacha kamocha.”
3rd Annual Dodgeball Tournament benefits Yachad. Four teams. Four balls. For tzedakah. For the third year in a row, over 50 students participated in Rambam Mesivta’s one-of-a-kind 4-Corner-Dodgeball Tournament of Champions. In doing so, they raised almost $1,000 to benefit Yachad.
The tournament consisted of four teams: Blue, Green, White, and Red. What makes this tournament unique is that all four teams are sectioned off in different corners of the gym and are given one ball to start a round. They are then allowed to throw to any of the other three teams, and points are scored by how many players remain after each round is over after 1 minute and 30 seconds. 18 rounds are played, with rounds 4, 8, 12, 16 marked off as “bonus” rounds since one player on each team becomes an extra valuable target. That player is given a jersey that sets him apart from his teammates because it is a different color; that player, if he evades an out for that round, scores an additional 10 points for his team. Needless to say, all four balls are often flying at these brave “bonus” players.
After 17 rounds, with all teams at over 100 points each, the White, Red, and Green teams all had a chance to win in the final round. As the final round began with chants of “Get Red!” drowned out by screams of “Get White!!” only to be overshadowed by roars of “Get Green!!!” it was obvious that everyone had an amazing time! In the end, with only seconds left, the White team held on to their lead and Mendy Duftler was named the Al Hecht Memorial MVP.
A player from each team earned the All-Star Award for outstanding play, and everyone from the White team won a medal. The student organizers of this event, Yaakov Nussbaum, Yarden Sokol, and Yosef Septimus, were then thanked, as was scorekeeper Max Hersh and refs Brian Fine, Eli Chesner, and Benny Besalel.
Rambam Mesivta is proud to find unique ways to raise awareness and funds for noble institutions. In addition to its fundraisers involving soccer tournaments and basketball tournaments, Rambam also raised hundreds of dollars running Jungle Speed tournaments and Taboo tournaments. “We are not afraid to go the untraditional route in an effort to get every talmid involved,” explained Assistant Principal Hillel Goldman, the faculty organizer of the 4-Corner-Dodgeball Tournament. “After all, our student activities motto is ‘A Team for Every Talent. A Club for Every Curiosity. A Place for Every Person.’” With a motto like that, it was fitting that this tournament benefited an organization with the name “Yachad.” v