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Stone Beit Midrash Program Relocates to Glueck Beit Midrash

This year’s Irving I. Stone Beit Midrash Program (widely referred to as “SBMP”)--a morning program that features daily shiurim in halakha, navi, and gemara from a single Rebbe, as well as chavrusa learning—is offering a nearly identical curriculum to what has been offered in previous semesters. But changes to the program—including the hiring of Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Weinberg as SBMP Mashgiach Ruchani and chavrusa learning taking place in the Glueck Beit Midrash—reflect an effort by the administration to rejuvenate and strengthen the program.

Rabbi Weinberg—who, according to Rabbi Reiss, has “earned a reputation as a warm, dynamic and effective Rebbe”—joins the SBMP program after five years of teaching at Torah Academy of Bergen County, where he was extremely popular among the student body and formed many close relationships with students, and after many summers spent as a Rebbe in sleep away camps, most recently as the head of the Girls Beit Midrash program at Camp Morasha. Just a few weeks into the semester, Ephraim Botwinick (Syms ’15) is already benefiting from what Rabbi Weinberg brings to the table. Impressed with “Rabi Weinberg’s warm and friendly personality along with his knowledge of Torah and everyday issues,” Botwinick feels confident that Rabbi Weinberg is “the perfect rabbi for the Mashgiach position.”

Both Rabbis Reiss and Weinberg are extremely excited about integrating SBMP students, who have previously spent their mornings learning in their own Beit Midrash in Furst Hall, into the Glueck Beit Midrash, emphasizing the unifying effect that they hope this move will have on the Yeshiva. “Our goal is to create an atmosphere of one united yeshiva, k’ish echad b’lev echad, and the more we can bring more students together in the batei medrashot on campus, the better,” said Rabbi Reiss. Rabbi Weinberg, echoing that same aspiration, added that “the decision to include the SBMP in Glueck was, and is, a major step towards further unifying our Yeshiva”.  Rabbi Weinberg felt so strongly about this point that he felt comfortable speaking up on the issue even as a new member of the faculty.

For the most part, both SBMP and MYP students who learn together on the second floor of the Glueck Beit Midrash are welcoming the integration as a step in the right direction. Elliot Teichman (YC ’13), shiur assistant to Rav Hirsch’s MYP shiur, believes that having both programs learn in the same Beit Midrash will result in more inspired and unified learning for all. “I think that both programs are benefitting in that SBMP guys get to be inspired by the atmosphere of a vibrant Beis Midrash while the MYP students are able to feel more connected to other programs of the broader Yeshiva,” said Teichman.

BJ Litwin (Syms ’13), a SBMP student, is also optimistic that learning in the Glueck Beit Midrash will lead to enhanced learning and a more enriching Beit Midrash experience. “Adding the SBMP students to the Glueck Beis Medresh has given SBMP the opportunity to learn in an environment that promotes Torah growth as well as an opportunity to learn from those students around.”

But other MYP students, while acknowledging some of the positives of the initiative, also expressed some reservations.  One MYP student, who asked to be quoted anonymously due to the critical nature of his comments, asserted that “the logic of placing SBMP students in a setting where their learning can be inspired,” but is concerned that a SBMP presence may have an undesired effect on the atmosphere of the Glueck Beit Midrash. “The learning of YP students would be best if they were surrounded by equally motivated and strong Torah learners,” he submitted.

Some students are also concerned about other changes to the program, but for entirely different reasons. In the past, SBMP students, like MYP students, did not fulfill any of their Bible, Hebrew, or Jewish History requirements through their morning learning. This semester though, SBMP seniors have the option of enrolling in IBC bible courses that meet twice a week during morning seder. Some fear that interrupting morning seder twice a week to take classes detracts from the seriousness of the program and, given the decision to situate SBMP students in the Glueck Beit Midrash, sends mixed messages regarding the administration’s vision for SBMP.

Asked about this concern, Rabbi Reiss did not acknowledge any conflicting messages, maintaining instead that the revamped schedule is “a step in the right direction” and part of broader efforts “to create a more streamlined schedule for the students that will more easily enable them to satisfy their requirements while receiving the optimal education in all areas of undergraduate Jewish studies.”

Mr. Litwin, who has taken advantage of the opportunity to fulfill his bible requirement in the morning, completely agrees with Rabbi Reiss. “As an SBMP senior,” he said, “the new morning structure, which allows for seniors to take a Bible class in the morning, allows for students to allocate their morning studies more efficiently, making the most of their time both in the Beis Medresh and in the classroom.”