Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gainful Gathering Galvanizes Graduates

It is not my habit to attend High School graduations, but familial obligations found me last night in the heart of Midwood, at Yeshiva Chaim Berlin to attend commencement exercises for my nephew.

I was in for somewhat of a surprise. There were no rows of chairs, no organ playing Pomp and Circumstance, and no processional of the graduates. Rather, there were tables set up Chasunah style, and participants were treated to a complementary full course dinner. The entire festive occasion was re-titled Siyum HaChaburah, as many of the boys completed the Masechta Baba Metzia during the course of the year.

The Yeshiva building is worthy of a post of its own. No longer is the stereotypical picture of dilapidated quarters a true picture of the modern day Yeshiva. The beautiful, spacious and immaculate edifice is truly worthy of accolade. If I had to relive my Yeshiva career, this would be my choice. Now I understand why Artscroll mentions Yeshiva’s president Avrohom Fruchthandler for placing learning on a higher plateau.

The Menahel spoke about Gadlus HaAdam. This is a legacy that the former Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yitzchak Hutner ZTL learned from the Alter of Slabodka, and instilled in his students. The Menahel explained that out of the sixty plus graduates, some will be attending Beis HaMedrash in institutions other than Chaim Berlin. As long as they go for the correct reason, that is fine. Yet if they are going to another Yeshiva just to conform, to be like everyone else – in “cookie-cutter” fashion, that would be incorrect. Rav Hutner was a master in finding the unique qualities of each person, and nurturing their potential to the fullest. This helped me understand why so many graduates of this Yeshiva have gone on to become famous in their own right.

The highlight of the evening was when Avrohom Fruchthandler, who had been invited up to the stage to bestow the awards (several of his relatives were graduating), gave a brief, off-the-cuff, highly inspiring speech. He championed the time that one spends in Yeshiva. He mentioned that he spends “seven days a week” in Yeshiva. He cautioned the graduates not to leave the hallowed halls of the Yeshiva until they are absolutely forced to. I find this very notable. Imagine Donald Trump telling graduates to pursue higher education rather that jump into the business world.

I imagine this is why Chaim Berlin is so successful, where the lay leadership is so strongly subservient to the Roshei Yeshiva. AF described himself as a “Junior Partner” in the Yeshiva. I am proud of my nephew, proud of his choice of Yeshiva and proud as a member of the People of the Book.


  1. those who fled to the cookie cutter yeshivas have better shidduch and employment opportunities and generally easier lives. So don't be so judgmental of them.

    As to conforming and herd mentality BMG has evolved into the only legitimate Yeshiva Gedolah for Bochurim 22+ in America. Over the years there have been atttempts made to break the monopoly (notably Stamford with Rav Moshe Shapiro and the abortive attempt at Mir-Jerusalem-Sloatsburg) buty the sad truth is that any Bokhur returning from Israel today who does NOT enroll in BMG has a huge question mark hanging like Damocles sword over his head. he is autiomatically branded "modneh" and "out-of-the-mainstream"

    If BMG were a corporation instead of a yeshiva an antitrust suit could be brought against it.

  2. It is a simple matter to join a conformist Yeshiva and run with the crowd. Some years ago I perused the centenial yearbook produced by CB and was amazed at the amount of alumni who founded institutions, are prominent Poskim, etc. I imagine that this is primarily an outgrowth of the input fostered upon them by RYH.

    BMG, monopoly or not, still has countless Chaburas, learning a myriad of topics. You can't be the "best Bachur in Lakewood" if you don't attend.

  3. Not to get into a spitting contest but how do you know that other Yeshivas, with more cookie cutter approached could not / will not be able to assemble as impressive, or even more impressive list of accomplished alumni by the time that they are over 100 years old?

  4. Is this the current style for Yeshiva graduations all over, or a Chaimberlin innovation?

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