By Liba Lieberman
The power to mold a nation begins with one person at a time. Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv’s legendary founder and rosh yeshiva, Rav Shlomo Freifeld, zt’l, deeply understood the implication of that truth, and opened Sh’or Yoshuv using the principle from Proverbs 22:6–“Educate a young man according to his way, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
At the time of its opening, the yeshiva was a haven for unconventional yeshiva students and assimilated youths, both of whom were drawn to the rosh yeshiva’s warmth and vast Torah erudition. That compelling combination of being warm as well as being a talmid chacham became the trademark of Sh’or Yoshuv’s rebbeim, and continues to this day as one of the great hallmarks of the yeshiva. The upcoming 49th annual dinner for Sh’or Yoshuv Institute, to be held on June 6 on the yeshiva campus, celebrates the yeshiva’s continuity of purpose with the theme, “The Legacy Lives On,” as well as commemorating the 25th yahrzeit of its beloved founder and rosh yeshiva.
All those decades ago, Rav Freifeld came to Far Rockaway as a rebbe of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin, which for a short period of time relocated to the peninsula. When Chaim Berlin decided to return to Brooklyn, Rav Freifeld discussed with his rosh yeshiva and mentor, Rav Yitzchok Hutner, zt’l, the idea of forming a new yeshiva with a number of his students, who he felt would benefit from a smaller and more personal approach to limud haTorah. Rav Freifeld opened Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv with 18 of his own students whose spiritual needs were embedded in his own heart. It became known that a new kind of yeshiva had opened in Far Rockaway, and soon assimilated as well as disaffected yeshiva youth began showing up on the yeshiva’s doorstep. Following the educational philosophies of his own rebbe, Rav Hutner, Rav Freifeld set in motion an example of reaching out by reaching in, which has been copied many times throughout the world. It worked then, and it works now.
Today’s bachurim of Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv speak with the same fondness and appreciation for the yeshiva that characterized its earliest talmidim. Ariel Sonnenblick explains, “The closeness and varmtkeit of the yeshiva allows for growth. Even though he is a huge talmid chacham, the rosh yeshiva makes himself available to the bachurim of the yeshiva.”
The respect for each bachur’s individuality is reflected in this yeshiva member’s reflections. Binyamin Safrin points out, “Sh’or Yoshuv is very open. You are led in the right direction, but you can be who you are. There are guys here from all over the world, from Brazil, from France. You’re learning with guys who are often more advanced than you are in learning. It’s both challenging and inspirational. That’s what Sh’or Yoshuv is. People who want to learn are here because they want to learn, not because they are part of a system.”
The biggest draw are the rebbeim themselves, who are the living embodiments of the philosophy of inclusion and warmth to be celebrated at the upcoming dinner. Yeshiva member Leon Mayer shares, “There are great rebbeim in the yeshiva. The warmth that was always the trademark of Sh’or Yoshuv is the main draw to go here as opposed to anywhere else.” As is the learning itself, so poignantly expressed by another member of the yeshiva community, Andy Stimmel. “The learning is so deep. Having a yeshiva which is friendly and warm is a plus, but we’re here to learn Torah. That’s the ikur. When you join the shiurim and speak with the rebbeim, that‘s even better than the warmth. That’s the real warmth.”
Mesores HaTorah Award: Rabbi and Mrs. Avraham Mordechai Freifeld. Rabbi Freifeld is upholding his esteemed father’s vision as rosh kollel of Yeshiva Cheshek Shlomo in Yerushalayim, spiritually guiding members of his beis midrash with the same warmth and respect for each bachur’s individuality that characterizes Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv.
Kesser Shem Tov Award: Mr. and Mrs. Andy Gladstone. Andy is a valued alumnus who has served as the yeshiva’s loyal gabbai for many years.
Harbotzas Torah Award: Rabbi and Mrs. Zev Bald. The Balds are loyal kehillah members, not only deeply valued within the yeshiva, but also well known for their caring efforts for all of Klal Yisrael.
The dual values of honoring Torah while also honoring individuality were the yeshiva’s original raison d’Ãªtre, and have remained its guiding principles throughout decades of growth and expansion. The types of students have changed, and will continue to change, as the needs of Klal Yisrael grow in an ever challenging world. What has remained constant throughout the years, however, are the open doors of Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv, ready and willing to teach to anyone ready to commit himself to limud haTorah. The range continues to include seasoned yeshiva bachurim as well as newly minted ba’alei teshuvah, all of whom merge into a single unit of committed bnei Torah within the walls of the yeshiva’s beis midrash. They come to be molded into new and better Yidden in the expert hands of Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv’s rebbeim, and remain with these rebbeim, some for decades. And as they evolve, so too does Am Yisrael, for whom these rebbeim toil, to create a holy nation dedicated to give its heart and soul to the Ribbono shel Olam through the timeless pursuit of limud haTorah.
The yeshiva invites its extended community of families, supporters, and friends to attend this year’s 49th annual dinner commemorating the yahrzeit of Rav Shlomo Freifeld, as well as celebrating the new generations of Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv, as they work further into the 21st century, carrying the yeshiva’s time-honored mission to include and uplift the hearts and souls of Klal Yisrael.
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