Devorah Talia Gordon
About one year ago, Jill Kahn started to look around for post-high school options for her son, who wanted to live at home and develop his academic skills, yet also wanted to continue learning Torah. Mrs. Kahn spent two months looking for possibilities, but could not find a program that fit his needs. “He felt he needed to learn with a chevra, not just a chevrusa or class.” Mrs. Kahn, a longtime resident of Pico-Robertson, had noticed that boys who stay home post-high school often feel alone, as most of their friends have gone out of town.
Mrs. Kahn approached Rabbi Asher Brander, Rav of LINK shul and kollel in Pico-Robertson, with the idea of creating a part-time morning yeshiva program. Rabbi Brander’s response was one of complete support; he’d been wanting to do something like this for years. Rabbi Brander provided a space at the kollel, the use of rabbaim for the program, and helped find a program director, Rabbi Aryeh Steinman.
Rabbi Steinman, a LINKer himself, was raised in Toronto and moved here two and a half years ago. Steinman learned in the Rochester Yeshiva and Chofetz Chaim (Queens), always with the goal of getting into chinuch. Rabbi Brander felt Steinman would fill the role perfectly, and the idea resonated with Rabbi Steinman. Steinman and Kahn began networking and recruiting their first students, about ten young men ages 17-22, and YPLA was born in August 2015.
The yeshiva begins daily at 8:15 am with shacharis, followed by breakfast and learning until 12:15 pm. The seder halimud includes gemara (bekiyus and iyun), halacha, mussar, and a Thursday morning parashah shiur with Rabbi Brander. Rabbi Yisroel Casen, an avreich in the kollel, teaches the gemara iyun shiur. Rabbi Steinman also regularly brings in special speakers from across the gamut, including a chaplain in the Marine Corps and a sofer who demonstrated sofrus for the bachurim.
In addition to the learning, Rabbi Steinman organizes various events for the bachurim, such as gatherings on chol hamoed and Chanukah, shabbatons, and trips – the biggest one so far being to Catalina Island.
These “extras,” plus the day-to-day learning, have created achdus for the YPLA boys. Recently, when one bachur was recovering from a serious car accident, Rabbi Steinman felt great satisfaction upon witnessing how the boys related to each other as a unified group of support as they visited the young man in his home. Another student, who lives in the Sunland/Tujunga desert area (also a desert of Torah learning), drives all the way to YPLA three times a week, and relishes each shabbaton and extra event.
Steinman mentioned that Doniel Dimont, a more advanced bachur, comes to help out every day. Dimont is “very dedicated. He’s always involved with the guys. He’s there for them like a mentor, offering a dynamic that no one else does.”
On the cusp of the culmination of YPLA’s first year, with endorsements from Rabbi Nachum Sauer and Rabbi Avrohom Stulberger, Mrs. Kahn and Rabbis Brander and Steinman have much to be proud of. Not only have the boys improved their gemara skills and found a chevra, but, as Kahn explains, “They walk into a kollel, where everyone is learning, where there’s great energy…and they have Rabbi Steinman, who is passionate about what he’s doing. This isn’t the traditional route; some boys can’t or don’t want to learn for twelve hours a day, or want to develop academic or work skills, or need to help out their families financially. They appreciate that this program gives them a way to plug into Torah every morning.”
Another parent, Robert Miller, had this to share about YPLA: “YPLA gives my son a sense of belonging to a community. It gives him direction in his learning and his life. And the wonderful chevra serves as an anchor.”
For more information contact Rabbi Aryeh Steinman at 213-425-5992 or firstname.lastname@example.org