White Plains–More than 50 parents and children came to Young Israel of White Plains on Saturday night, November 28 to inaugurate the 10th season of the pioneering and wildly successful YIWP Family Learning Night program. The shul’s social hall was converted into a boisterous study hall as children–as young as 3, up to teenagers–learned about the topics of their choice with their parents.
As has become a YIWP tradition, the evening was topped off with dinner, ice cream and prizes for all the under-age participants. The program will continue on scheduled Saturday nights throughout the fall and winter.
“The premise of YIWP Family Learning Night is simple,” says Sim Shapiro, who founded the program at the shul. “We want to encourage parents to learn Torah with their children on an informal basis. And the program is hugely popular both with members and non-members–everyone is welcome. Every year, we keep adding tables and chairs to accommodate the participants.”
Part of the appeal of YIWP Family Learning Night is the customized nature of the learning–participants bring their own materials, from parsha coloring books and picture books for the youngest children, to standard chumashim, Torah commentaries, Midrash, Mishna, Gemara and other texts.
For example, at the most recent program, Gary Rozenshteyn and his 10-year-old daughter, Ellie, sat together to learn her Bat Mitzvah parsha from the commentaries of Rashi and Onkelos. Nearby, Baruch Seff read from Tell Me the Story of the Parshah to his children Ari, Avraham, Gedalya and Itai.
“Everyone can learn, regardless of their background, knowledge or level of observance,” says Jessica Rozenshetyn, the third member of the Rozenshetyn family in attendance, and co-chair of the program for the past four years. “YIWP is probably Westchester’s most diverse orthodox shul–we have Modern Orthodox, yeshivish, those learning to be observant, even Chasidish. There’s room for everyone here, everyone is accepting of everyone else, and Family Learning Night is a great example of that.”
Another important aspect of the program is that parents learn directly with their children, according to Yael Rosenberg, the other program co-chair, who was learning parsha with her boys, Ari and Jonathan. “When children see their parents taking time to learn with them, it drives home the importance of Jewish learning in a powerful way,” she says.
YIWP Family Learning Night is sponsored by an anonymous donor. “We can’t name him–but we can thank him,” says Shapiro. “And we can’t do that enough.”
For the schedule of future YIWP Family Learning Nights, visit the website at www.yiwp.org.
By Mark Levenson