YLX: The Yid Learning Experience is an exciting new program in the Five Towns/Far Rockaway community. Every Thursday night, a number of local yeshiva students converge in the basement at Bais Medrash Heichal Dovid in Lawrence to experience some good learning and good food and to get together with good people, all in a relaxed and inviting atmosphere. “The idea is to provide something a little different,” says founder Rabbi Aryeh Dachs, “an exciting learning experience [where] the boys can explore interesting topics, allowing them to experience Torah learning that is especially compelling and thought provoking.”
The night begins around an hour before the boys arrive. A few bachurim from Yeshivas Zichron Aryeh get together with Rabbi Elchonon Kuritsky to prepare the topic for the night. “The idea is to pick a short topic which we can cover in one night. It has to be interesting to really challenge the guys . . . get them excited about what they’re learning, excited about the Torah itself,” explains Rabbi Kuritsky. They have so far covered a wide array of topics and pieces ranging from lomdus to hashkafah/Yahadus as well as some real thinkers or Mishmar sh’eilos. As the bachurim/mentors complete their preparation for the program, the boys start trickling in, grab some cholent and other food, and huddle together with their friends. Rabbi Dachs points out, “This is another beneficial part of this whole program; the guys have a place to go just to hang out and enjoy. Regular on-the-derech kids also deserve to chill.”
After some time, the guys break up into smaller groups, and they join their chavrusos from Zichron Aryeh to begin learning the topic of the night. There’s a lot of laughing and munching, but as the night progresses the shmoozing, laughing, and eating ebb and give way to animated learning, furrowed brows, heated arguments, and passionate discussion. At around 11:00 the program ends, tables are cleared, cars are filled, and the place is quiet.
Rabbi Dachs explains how this program developed: “It really all just came together,” he says. This past summer Rabbi Dachs and Rabbi Kuritsky brought a small group of bachurim to Baltimore for what was called BLX: the Baltimore Learning Experience, a nightly learning program for boys home for the summer. “It was structured similarly to what we’re doing here—good food followed by stimulating learning, all in a relaxed environment. The response was enormous. The kids really appreciated it. They loved the learning and the discussion, and we felt we made a serious impact. A donor heard about what we were doing there and asked if we could start something local here. He felt that a lot of the mainstream kids today could become more passionate about Yiddishkeit and learning and that a program like this could provide them with some of the excitement that they’re lacking.”
Rabbi Dachs and Rabbi Kuritsky explain that the philosophy of their program is simple. “We believe very strongly in the dictum from Chazal, ‘hameor sheba machzir lemutav’—the “light” in it will cause a return for the better. We feel that exciting learning and conversation in a relaxed atmosphere can do a lot for guys. It can help them appreciate what we have and relate to the Torah and to its lifestyle.”
The YLX program is slated to continue until the summer, and is open every Thursday night from 9:30 to 11:00 for high-school boys in tenth through twelfth grades. v