Thursday Night Live: A Mishmar Program at YPLA
Every Thursday night, the Yeshiva Program of Los Angeles (YPLA) hosts a Thursday Night Live event, open to young men, ages 18-30, of all Jewish backgrounds. The program takes place at the LINK Kollel in the Pico area. Rabbi Aryeh Steinman, Programming Director of YPLA, explains that the program attracts a truly diverse audience – Ashkenazim and Sephardim, residents of the city and the Valley, beginners in Torah learning as well as yeshiva graduates. “Everyone comes together,” says Rabbi Steinman. “That’s the beauty of it.”
On a typical Thursday night, between 10 to 25 men attend the program, where they learn b’chavrusah for an hour or attend Rabbi Steinman’s Pirkei Avos shiur. Then a guest speaker addresses the young men, speaking on a subject of interest to them. The guest speakers run the gamut, explains Rabbi Steinman, ranging from scholarly rabbis to frum professionals in various industries. A frequent speaker is Rabbi Tzvi Rubin, a LINK Kollel member, who speaks about the mysteries of creation. Other speakers included Rabbi Elchonon Tauber of Congregation Bais Yehuda, who spoke about what holds us back from happiness; Steven Spira, President, Worldwide Business Affairs, Warner Brothers, whose talk was about “how he got to be where he is and what we can learn;” and Dr. Arnold Ross, a local podiatrist, whose talk was entitled, “How I came to be frum from my profession.” The goal, says Rabbi Steinman, is to connect the attendees with different community members who can serve as role models, especially for those of them who are currently choosing a career.
The formal part of the program is followed by a kumzits, where the young men enjoy cholent, chicken wings, and live music, sometimes provided by Moshe Storch of the Funky Kumzitser band. “It’s a real energizing event,” says Rabbi Steinman.
The attendees enjoy the program. Aaron Kosman, a young man who occasionally leads the kumzits, says, “The Thursday Night Live completely takes a person temporarily away from all the distraction of L.A. into an atmosphere of feeling connected to Hashem. No better way to bring yourself into Shabbos.” Amiel Taban adds, “After coming back from yeshiva I felt a lack of connection to yiddishkeit in Los Angeles. Thankfully, [on] the Thursday night mishmar I can once again rekindle that fire.”
YPLA, which is currently offering a morning yeshiva program, is looking to expand its operation to a full scale part time yeshiva with a dormitory. Rabbi Steinman also hopes to expand the Thursday Night Live program into a “Big Brother Mishmar Event,” where the frum professionals will come not only to speak, but to learn one-on-one with the attendees.