By: Mike Hirt  | 

Yeshivas Ben HaSemesterim a Mid-Year Success

Although Yeshivas Ben HaSemesterim’s official dates went from January 15th to January 23rd, its excitement began months before and its impact will last for even longer. Yeshiva Ben HaSemesterim, better known as YBH, is a program for Yeshiva University male undergraduate students who devote their semester break to studying Judaic texts in the Beis Midrash on the Wilf Campus.

This year’s program effectively began on November 9th when Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Mayer Twersky, with the accompaniment of a YBH-sponsored lunch, spoke about the importance of spending vacation in a productive religious environment, such as YBH. Since that time, the program’s momentum kept building, with over 50 students ultimately signing up. Avrumi Schonbrun, a current junior who has participated in YBH for the past two years described the excitement: “as finals came around, what kept me pushing and staying upbeat was the memory of last year’s Ben Hasemesterim and the great experience I had there.”

Almost all credit for the success of YBH goes to Rabbis Etan Schnall and Yosef Kalinsky, who coordinated nearly all the programming, shiurim, gym hours, and food orders.

YBH provided for three daily meals. Additionally, a snack corner was stocked up in Zysman Hall so students could get a quick bite to eat and then go back to the learning in the Beis Midrash.  Reflecting on YBH, Schonbrun stated, “YBH definitely met my expectations this year– with all of the learning and programming that were set up, it was guaranteed.”

The programming included late night Cholent, a question-and-answer session with Rabbi Twersky, participation in a wedding that took place in Klein Hall, and much more. Moshe Lonner, another YBH participant, said that the most memorable moment of the program for him was YBH’s Chinese dinner with Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Herschel Schachter and his wife. As Mr. Lonner, a student of Rabbi Schachter explained, “The dinner with Rav Schachter was a great opportunity to connect with him not only inside the Beis Midrash and shiur, but also outside.” Mr. Lonner reports that the dinner setting was so informal that night that it concluded with a very special Kumzitz, with Rebetzin Schachter impressively playing classic Jewish songs on the piano.

Ezra Teichman’s YBH highlight took place in a different setting, and a different zip code: the trip to Riverdale with Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Mordechai Willig. As Teichman recounted, “We had lunch with Rav Willig and were able ask him a few questions,” but the trip didn’t end there. Afterwards the students went across town to the Telshe Yeshiva, to hear from their Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Avrohom Ausband. Mr. Teichman reported, “Rav Ausband is a great Torah personality, and being able to hear his inspiring words on Talmud Torah is something I’ll keep with me for a long time.”

On its last day, YBH ended with a bang in a lunch freaturing the two things it does best: spiritual inspiration and good food. Menachem Freedman made a Siyum on Tractate Bava Metzia with the YBH participants as they celebrated with a delicious Carlos and Gabby’s lunch.

Understandably, the students who took part in YBH had a great time. But why is it so important? Another YBH participant, Yoni Rabinovitch, said that, “being able to spend a week in the YU Beis Midrash, only needing to think about learning Torah, is what will enable me to recharge and get ready to have a great semester both in my classes and my learning here.” Rabinovitch added, “it is programs like these that make YU unique. I mean, how many universities have this many students devoted to Torah learning during their break? It’s really true when people say ‘Nowhere but Here.’”