"Happy" doesn’t begin to describe how Rabbi Benjamin Yudin felt when Mendy Aron approached him last year about instituting a learning program at the synagogue on a weekday.
"It was like a dream," said Yudin, religious leader of Cong. Shomrei Torah, noting that Torah Tuesday, the outgrowth of Aron’s proposal, has been going strong since its inception, "and we haven’t missed a Tuesday."
"It’s an exciting opportunity for the people who come," he said of the group, composed mostly of retirees in their 60s and 70s. "It keeps them vibrant and lets them wrestle with texts they may have studied years ago, or never studied."
What Yudin called "the highlight of my week" is a three-and-a-half-hour Tuesday morning study session, held after morning services.
"The first hour we do something from halacha," said the rabbi, noting that the second hour, led by Rabbi Yitzchok Weinberger of the Gesher Program in Lakewood, is devoted to Talmud and is "always with a text."
Aron, who came up with the idea in ‘005 when looking toward retirement, pitched the concept to fellow retirees and others in the community through synagogue bulletins and the TeaneckShuls Website. When he was satisfied that that there was a "core group committed to the idea," he worked with Yudin to get the program started.
Between 13 to 16 people attend each week, said Aron, former acting commissioner of the New York City pension system. He noted that each week’s study program is dedicated in honor of a special occasion or to commemorate a yahrzeit.
Aron, who with wife Honny provides the breakfast each week, is eager to dedicate a Tuesday in honor of his new grandchild, he said, but he will have to wait because there’s a "long line" of dedications ahead of his.
According to the founder of the group, the level of Jewish learning varies throughout the class, and, in general, "it is not very advanced."
"But Rabbi Yudin makes it so everyone can understand," he said. "He brings it to a level where everyone is learning something." The group has been so successful that it is "spilling over" onto Thursday mornings, from 9 to 10:30 a.m., when it will focus solely on Gemara.
At the completion of one year of learning, participants receive certificates acknowledging their achievement. In addition, said Aron, the shul recently honored one of the founding members of the program, Norbert Schloss, who is a regular attendee.
"[The Tuesday program] is free and it’s open to everyone," said Aron, adding that the program fills an important niche in the community. "You don’t want to get too old to learn," he said. "It’s important to find time for everything and it’s great to be active, but you need to learn as well." He noted that retirees, in particular, have time to engage in study.
Aron said that since beginning his Tuesday studies, "I’ve started to understand why we do certain things. It ties it together."
"We have a treasure here," he said. "Everyone should come. The worst that will happen is that we’ll have more mouths to feed."
For additional information, e-mail TorahTuesday@yahoo.com