Talmidim and Rabbeim of Mesivta of Eatontown Share Their Perspectives on Poignant Topics at “Koolulam” Dinner

Talmidim and Rabbeim of Mesivta of Eatontown Share Their Perspectives on Poignant Topics at “Koolalam” Dinner  

On Tuesday, June 13th, a large crowd of current and former talmidim of Mesivta of Eatontown gathered together with rabbeim, supporters and friends of the yeshiva for an uplifting evening of inspiration and music.

The “Koolulam” event was a time for the Eatontown family to connect and enjoy the yeshiva’s trademark warmth, love and camaraderie that defines Mesivta of Eatontown. The huge crowd thoroughly enjoyed the music provided by Joey Newcombe and the Boys, but, even more than that, the highlight of the evening was uniting with the Rosh Yeshiva, rabbeim and friends to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of this one-of-a-kind yeshiva.

A moving part of the packed program was a panel discussion, moderated by Rabbi Yitzchok Hisiger, in which hanhallah members, talmidim and alumni shared their insights on a variety of important and extremely relevant topics. The fascinating discussion is presented below:

Moderator: Rabbi Yitzchok Hisiger 

Panel: Rabbi Sender Kaszirer Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Mordche Kaszirer, Rabbi Avrohom Yeshaya Mermelstein, Rabbi Yehuda Neuwirth, Rabbi Binyomin Meisels, Rabbi Shmuly Green, Rabbi Klein, Rabbi Boruch Perlowitz, Rebbeim. Eli Aboud, Avromi Krug, Eliezer Hisiger, Yeruchum Zuckerman, Current Talmidim. Avrohom Yeshaya Konigsberg Asher Toledano, (alumnus).  

Rabbi Hisiger: This question is directed to Eli. One of the unique things that I have seen in Mesivta of Eatontown is the enthusiastic davening. There are some boys who struggle with connecting to davening. What is special about the davening in Mesivta of Eatontown that enables boys to come, participate and really feel that unique feeling?

Eli Aboud: When we come to daven, the hanhallah don’t make us do anything. They allow you to work on everything slowly, at your own pace, from the bottom up. You also get to personally see how the rabbeim daven in such a real way.

The bottom line is that the davening in Mesivta of Eatontown its real. When you see videos of the davening, you can see how genuine it is.

Rabbi Hisiger: Asher, let me ask you something. Thinking back to your time in Mesivta of Eatontown, what would you say was your favorite part of coming to yeshiva every day?

Asher Toledano: I lived in the dorm when I was in Mesivta of Eatontown and one of things about dorm life was that every morning, for better or for worse, you’re going to be subjected to the mood and attitude of those around you. When dealing with teenagers of any kind, it’s going to be a wild card. There was, however, one thing that was always consistent. No matter what happened in the morning, no matter if the mood was good or bad, when you got to yeshiva, the warmth of rabbeim was always there. There was no such thing as a rebbi not being in the mood today. A rebbi never told you, “I’m not feeling great right now. Come back around Minchah time and I’ll give you a hug.”

That just didn’t happen. The consistency and warmth of the rabbeim was unbelievable and I’m proud to be a part of that.

Rabbi Hisiger: Rabbi Meisels, very often the growth process of a bochur is slow and steady. You don’t always see growth right away but you always put in so much effort. Sometimes it takes a significant amount of time to see the fruits of your labors.  What keeps you going? What keeps you motivated to keep investing the time and effort.

Rabbi Binyomin Meisels: With apologies to whomever asked the question, it simply is not really a question.

Every day that a boy comes to yeshiva is a day of growth. If he showed up, that means that he is in yeshiva and he is growing. And we see that.

Growth is not defined by what other people can see. Growth means that he showed up in yeshiva that day, he davened that day, he learnt that day, and he grew that day.

Rabbi Hisiger: R’ Mordche, what’s your favorite part of the day as a 10th Grade rebbi?

Rabbi Mordche Kaszirer: The entire day is a favorite.

Rabbi Hisiger: One of the many things R’ Mordche does for the boys is that he drops everything and drives 20 or 30 minutes across town to pick up a bochur when he is ready to come to yeshiva at any time of day.

Rabbi Mordche Kaszirer: That really is one of my favorite parts of the day. When I get to drive over to pick up a bochur so we can daven together, learn together and play some ball – that really is a favorite of mine!

Of course, another favorite part of the day is the limud haTorah. It’s a real privilege to be part of a shiur in the Kodesh Hakodashim of the shiur room. As my talmidim hear me saying all the time, the shiur room is really a bechina of Maamid Har Sinai, with us all sitting together and learning Hashem’s Torah. What could be better?

Rabbi Hisiger: One thing that Eatontown famous for is the extravagant trips, which the talmidim enjoy and are so enriched from. Avrumi Krug, please tell us what yeshiva trips mean to you.

Avrumi Krug: Besides for the enjoyment of the trip itself, being together with olam, either on a coach bus, in a bunch of vans or chilling in your rebbi’s car, all vibing together as one olam, is great. Spending the whole day with your class and rebbi outside of the home or yeshiva environment, and chilling in a good spot is something else. I’ve been on a lot of trips and I love them. In addition to loving the trips, I love the whole atmosphere that comes along with the trips.

Rabbi Hisiger: We know how much time, effort and money go into every trip. Rabbi Neuwirth, one of your responsibilities is organizing trips that you know the boys will love. From a rebbi’s standpoint, what does it mean to step out of the classroom and connect with the bochurim in other environments?

Rabbi Yehuda Neuwirth: When I think about a trip, I don’t see it as all that much different than sitting in the classroom.

Chinuch doesn’t end in the classroom. A trip is an opportunity to help a bochur to be prepared for everywhere he will go in life. We want to prepare him for every situation that may come up for the rest of his life.

A Rebbe – Talmid relationship is not just about teaching the Gemara. It’s about seeing how rabbeim interact with each other and with other people. It’s about how we go on a trip, how we go on a bus, and how go on a ride together. There’s so much more then being in a classroom. That’s one big thing about a trip.

Additionally, to develop a relationship with a talmid, a rebbi needs to fully understand the talmid. Sometimes, I can come to understand a talmid more on a trip than I can from weeks in the classroom setting. The connection that is developed outside the classroom can create an understanding that otherwise never would have been created.

When man first stepped foot on the moon, the Satmar Rebbe said that the real truth is that no man can survive in space. The only way the astronauts were able to survive was because they were in their spacesuits, which was a way for them to remain connected to earth. They brought planet earth with them into outer space. Similarly, a trip is a lesson that wherever we go, wherever we are, we are always connected and always part of the yeshiva. The trip is not just about having a great time skiing down a mountain – which really is a great time – it’s more about how we ski on the mountain. It’s about how he daven Shacharis on the trip, how we have seder on the trip and how we interact while on the trip. We bring the yeshiva with us on every single trip. It really is part of the same chinuch that we teach in the classroom.

Rabbi Sender Kaszirer: I would like to publicly thank our close chaverim and the board of the yeshiva who help pay for the trips. I would add that the cost of many trips are covered by the rabbeim themselves, who pay from their own pocket or raise money for the trips as a way to incentivize the talmidim. I would like to express my personal hakaras hatov to the amazing group of rabbeim that I’m zoche to be part of.

Rabbi Hisiger:  The next question, which I would like to ask to Eliezer Hisiger, is a bit sensitive, but I’ve been given the green light to ask it. When you courageously walk into a shul to daven Minchah or Maariv and notice people staring at you and giving you all types of looks as you are just trying to do the right thing, what is it like to be put under that kind of scrutiny?

Eliezer Hisiger: It’s annoying because you pull up to shul trying to do the right thing and daven and there are people with their eyes glued to your face the whole davening. But, at the end of the day, for me personally, when I’m davening, it’s me and Hashem, it’s me and my siddur. That’s all that matters. I couldn’t care less about those around me.

Rabbi Hisiger: The rabbeim and rebbitzens of Mesivta of Eatontown have open homes on Shabbos. It’s incredible to witness how they prepare from early in the week to host bochurim and clean up afterward. The amount of time and effort that goes into is truly remarkable. Rabbi Mermelstein, what is it like to give up your Shabbos table for talmidim, which may take away attention and time from your own children.

Rabbi Avrohom Yeshaya Mermelstein: I would like to clarify that we don’t have bochurim over as guests for Shabbos; rather the bochurim become part of our family.

When our talmidim are part of our family, they are part of everything we do. When a family makes a simcha or for any monumental occasion in our lives, the bochurim are part of it – not as invitees but, rather, as part of the family.

One week, my daughter saw me extending the table and asked, “Are we having guests this week?”

I answered that we were having over some bochurim, and she replied, “No, I don’t mean the bochurim. I was asking if we’re having anyone besides for the bochurim. They aren’t guests.”

I have to pay tribute to the rebbitzens of the yeshiva. They never look to see what they can get away with serving. They don’t just try to stretch the chicken soup a little. For them, it’s about: How can we make the seudah as good as it can be when our extended family is over for Shabbos or participating in any event in our lives?

Rabbi Hisiger: Rabbi shmuly Green runs an incredible Shabbos program, weak in weak out. Rabbi Green, please talk about what the boys gain over Shabbos and the devotion and dedication that you and your rebbitzen show on a week basis.

Rabbi Shmuly Greem: As Rabbi Mermelstein said, it’s really the rebbitzen that makes it happen.

For my part, before I got involved with the yeshiva and started making these Shabbosim, Shabbos was like my day off after a long week. After the Friday night meal, I would go to sleep early.

Since I started the Shabbos program, I’ve been staying up until 2 or 3am on Friday night and, to be honest, my weeks have gotten much better. I see the boys coming and asking to come, and I see their energy and how much chizuk it gives them, which last into the week.

Rabbi Hisiger: Yeruchim Zuckerman, I’d like to ask you an important question: What gets you to stay in yeshiva when some of your friends are perhaps living a lifestyle that seem more exciting than yours? How do you remain grounded and come to daven and learn in Mesivta of Eatontown, when there always is that little voice telling you that there’s something more exciting outside?

Yeruchim Zuckerman: Honestly, I would say that there’s nothing better for me to be doing every day right now than coming to yeshiva. Being in yeshiva, I feel that I have a reason to wake up early and a reason to make it to yeshiva on time. Any time I miss a day in yeshiva, it’s very depressing. It feels like you’re not doing anything with your day. It feels like something is missing. Even if I could have a job, money is not enough motivation to give up what you get in Mesivta of Eatontown.

Rabbi Hisiger: I will throw this question out to any boy: Many boys struggle with Shabbos. It’s a hard day. What do you find is the hardest and most challenging part of Shabbos and what suggestions do you have for those struggling with this challenge?

 Yeuchim Zuckerman: The biggest struggle is probably nicotine. For someone trying to start keeping Shabbos, I would advise finding for yourself an Eatontown program.

Asher Toledano: I think that the hardest part of Shabbos is often the boredom. As you get older, you get more bored on Shabbos. Shabbos parties and Pirchei are no longer options for 15-year-olds…

I think one thing every rebbi in Eatontown does phenomenally is that they put a huge emphasis on the “zachor” part of Shabbos, as opposed to focusing solely on the “shamor” part. They don’t spend a lot of time telling you what not to do; rather, it’s all about: “This is what we do on Shabbos. Come to me for shalosh seudos. Let’s have some beers. Let’s appreciate Shabbos for what it has to offer us.”

Once you do that, there’s no more boredom and you have a beautiful Shabbos.

Rabbi Hisiger: Rabbi Klein, I’m sure that you get pushback from certain people in the mainstream chinuch system who don’t understand what it takes to reach certain neshamos. How do you deal with the flack?

Rabbi Klein: That’s a hard question.

When I first joined MOE, I was a young guy. That zeman, they started a new program to have 2nd Seder rabbeim, and I started coming to 2nd Seder for half-an-hour or so.

When I first came, I looked around and said to myself, “What are these guys doing here?”

One night, I was with the rabbeim and saw the friendship they share. I saw how they all go out of their way for each other. I was the new guy, so they decided to treat me and the other new 2nd Seder rebbi to dinner in a restaurant. When we went out to eat, I asked, “What are we doing? What’s the plan? Should I focus on Minchah? Shacharis? Learning? What are we trying to accomplish?”

I didn’t get an answer at that moment but now I know that the answer is very simple: Look at Asher Toledano! Look at Avrohom Yeshaya Konigsberg! Look at the many alumni sitting in the crowd! That is your answer. It’s the long run. And we know that’s what we’re doing best because the proof is in the pudding!

Rabbi Hisiger: This question is for any rebbi. What’s the most painful thing that a talmid every told you?

Rabbi Mordche Kaszirer: The most painful thing a talmid ever told me was, “Rebbi, I don’t want to come to yeshiva. I want to leave yeshiva.”

Any bochur who has been in my class and any parent who has spoken to me knows that the one and only thing we ask is for a boy to come to yeshiva. When a boy feels that he doesn’t want to come to yeshiva anymore, it’s a very bad sign.

Let’s be very clear: Nobody gives up on life at the age of 15. But a boy might have given up on his rebbi. He might have given up on the system. So, that means that we weren’t able to teach him. Why couldn’t we get through to him? Why couldn’t we get through to his neshama? The most painful thing is when you realize you weren’t able to warm him with Torah. The Torah tells us that if the menuval, i.e., the yeitzer hara, attacks you, the only eitzah is to drag him into the bais medrash. When a boy leaves yeshiva, there can be no greater pain than that.

Rabbi Hisiger: So, what do you answer a boy who says he’s not coming anymore?

Rabbi Mordche Kaszirer: We try not to accept it and try to get in through the back door. We try to do what we can but we are in a very difficult situation.

Rabbi Hisiger: Avrohom Yeshaya Konigsberg, with the benefit of hindsight, looking back on your years in Mesivta of Eatontown, what was the most profound and impactful thing from your time in this incredible yeshiva?

Avrohom Yeshaya Konigsberg: I’ve been looking around at these fires tonight. Everyone can interpret them in different ways. But I look at the fires and see the warmth coming out. That’s greatest thing anyone can ever give to you – warmth and love. And that’s what everyone on the hanhallah of Eatontown gives to you. Every single person is warmed and loved and that’s all you need to grow. If you feel like someone is there for you, someone is validating you, and someone is giving you warmth, that’s all you need to have the self-confidence to move on. That’s what the yeshiva really gave me – a place that just gives you love and warmth.

Rabbi Hisiger: Many boys went through a journey making several stops along the way until arriving at home. How is Mesivta of Eatontown different? What did you first notice when you came here that made you realize that this place is different than anything you’d ever experienced before?

Avrohom Yeshaya Konigsberg: I think was struck me the very first time I ever walked into 1300 New Hampshire was that every face I saw was either someone I already knew or someone I was going to know. Everyone was like, “Hi. How ya’ doing?” Everyone came over to say hello and give me a smile.

I’ll be honest, I did look like bum. And it was the first time in a while that every single face I saw was a smile.

Avrumi Krug: When I first time came to the yeshiva, I was greeted by someone I didn’t know yet and I got biggest hug. I literally couldn’t see anything. I was a little 10th Grader a 12th Grader gave me a fat hug and just squished me with love. It was amazing. I just felt that this was the place where I wanted to be. I walked around and met more guys and everyone was like: “What’s up? You’re new here, what grade are you in?” I could see that this was just an amazing place in every way. Everyone was talking to me. No one was like, “You’re new here. What’s up with you?” It was just a nice place where everyone is friends and everyone is like family.

Eli Aboud: They let you dress and act like who you want to be. They don’t say, “You’re coming to this school, so you’ll to be this type of person.” They let you be you. I think that’s a big thing.

Eliezer Hisiger: They give you a lot of space. I was coming off of a big low from a lot of yeshivas where I was having things stuffed down my throat and where people were all over my back all day. I came here and had space. I had friends whom I didn’t even know were my friends. On the first day, guys were just coming over to say, “What’s up? How are you? What’s your name?” It’s a very warm and loving place.

Rabbi Hisiger: Rabbi Perlowitz, we are all amazed by what Mesivta of Eatontown accomplishes. You don’t have to convince us how remarkable this place is. But not everyone has seen it. What message would you like to give to members of the community who not interact with Eatontown boys on a regular basis and lack awareness and knowledge about what they do here?

Rabbi Perlowitz: It seems like you and I hang out in very different places. Wherever I go, my first introduction is that I’m a rebbi in Eatontown and, as soon as I say that, no matter crowd and venue it is, the response is, “Wow! Eatontown! They do amazing work!”

Rabbi Mermelstein, who is one of my amazing mentors, told me that one his children asked him why a bochur has to be in Mesivta of Eatontown to have a rebbi who really loves him. Why can’t boys in regular, mainstream yeshivas have rabbeim who really love them?

My message to others is: Look at our yeshiva. Look at the amazing rabbeim, staff and bochurim hugging each other. If you want to learn something from MOE, learn from the warmth and love amongst the talmidim, faculty, rabbeim, Mashgiach and Rosh Yeshiva. Take that and pass it on so that even to people not in MOE can benefit form it.

Rabbi Hisiger: I’d like to ask the Rosh Yeshiva for a final message of chizuk.

Rabbi Sender Kaszirer: First of all, in the name of the rabbeim and bochurim, I’d like to say thank you to R’ Yitzchok and to all those who participated.

My message of chizuk is: Hashem look at this evening and at all those who came out. We have talmidim of the yeshiva, alumni, rabbeim, friends of the yeshiva, neighbors, supporters, parents and grandparents. We all are here. Kulom ahuvim, kulam kedoshim.

Tonight should be a chizuk for us all. Hashem should bentch us all. Tonight should change our perspective on how we are mechanech our children and we all should be zoche to nachas d’kedusha.


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