by Mussi Sharfstein – Lubavitch.com
Yehuda Guberman, a retiree in North Miami Beach, Florida, enjoyed attending weekly study sessions at United Jewish Generations, a Chabad center for seniors in South Florida. Then COVID hit, and the elderly began to isolate and limit social interactions. Classes were suspended.
But not for long. UJG seized the opportunity to open a virtual Torah academy, a kollel, for seniors. The kollel gives retirees, men and women, the opportunity for daily Torah study and discussion from home while receiving a monthly stipend, thanks to donations raised over the summer. And Guberman says it’s improved his daily life.
“It’s one of the good things that happened because of COVID,” he says. “The classes are so accessible, and I now learn so much more than I ever did before.” For the technologically-challenged, the kollel provided computers, training, and troubleshooting.
The morning and afternoon classes are mainly taught by Rabbi Menachem Smith, director of UJG, among other teachers. Topics include Jewish mysticism, history, philosophy, law, and Chasidic stories. Guberman says he looks forward to the morning Talmud class. “I used to study Daf Yomi, a page of Talmud a day,” he says. “After a brain aneurysm in 2015, I was no longer able to keep it up. Now I can once again delve into Talmud and enjoy the experience every day.”
Not all the approximately thirty participants, who hail from all over the U.S. but primarily from Florida, have the prior skills or knowledge Guberman does. “My fellow classmates come from a wide gamut of backgrounds—some have never opened a Hebrew text before and some are yeshivah graduates. And we are each able to follow and gain from every class. The teachers somehow make it relevant, understandable, and intellectually challenging for all of us.”
Rabbi Smith says it’s because every class comes with hours of preparation. “There is so much insight added to the classes that anyone and everyone will find them intriguing, educational, and informative, even those who’ve already studied the topic.” Guberman says all the participants, regardless of background, keep the instructors on their toes with thought-provoking questions that take the classes to a level deeper. “Everyone has something to add.”
So far, the group has covered two chapters of Talmud in depth, ten chapters of Tanya, the biblical book of Judges, over twenty Chasidic discourses, and many chapters of Jewish law in the Shulchan Aruch. They plan to break for the summer and continue in the next semester.
Guberman is thankful for the opportunity to study every day and for the social interactions the kollel provides. “I got a friend of mine to join and I made many new friends. It’s stimulating, enjoyable, and fulfilling. It’s given me so much meaning.”
Learn more and apply to join here.