Talent. Dedication. Love for Torah.
Those who learn Torah at Yesodei HaTorah are fortunate to have relationships with an outstanding and caring group of educators. We are both proud and fond of our faculty who generously share both their Torah wisdom and insight with their talmidim (students). Like the student body itself, our instructors come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some spend their days in the business world, some are teachers, some are doctors, and some are full-time Torah scholars. Many of our educators have acquired their grounding in Torah at Baltimore’s Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, while others have gained their Torah knowledge and skills in such Yeshivos as Gateshead (England), the Mirrer Yeshiva, or Yeshivas Ohr Somayach (Jerusalem). What they all have in common is a love for sharing Torah with fellow Jews.
A long-time Yesodei HaTorah instructor, Rabbi Barer’s Torah studies began many years ago at the Philadelphia Yeshiva (High School). Upon graduation, he moved to Baltimore to join the Beis Medrash (and later the Kollel) at Yeshivas Ner Yisroel (where he spent 10 years). According to Rabbi Barer, the rebbe-talmid (teacher-student) relationships he had with Rabbi Yissachar Frand and Rabbi Shraga Neuberger were particularly influential in shaping his approach to learning. He continues to grow in Torah daily as a member of Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer’s early morning "Advanced Halacha" shiur. Rabbi Barer believes that Yesodei HaTorah’s programs in Gemora are cornerstones for vibrant learning and dveikus HaShem (closeness to G-d): A proper understanding of Gemora and Rashi, the bedrock of Torah Sh’Be’al Pe (the oral tradition), will enrich a talmid’s (student’s) grasp of all areas of Torah. "Immersing oneself in Torah is like immersing oneself in the words of HaShem." Being able to contribute "in some small way" to his students growth in Torah learning is what motivates Rabbi Barer’s long-time dedication to Yesodei HaTorah. He feels that his years as a Rebbe in Yesodei HaTorah have contributed greatly to his own growth in learning as well.
Since 1980, Rabbi Cooper has been steadily enhancing his learning technique. His love of Torah and many years of experience enable him to provide a highly dynamic shiur in which Chazal (the Rabbis of the Talmud and Mishna) literally come to life. Rabbi Cooper stresses that it is especially important in our era, (where we are so far in many ways from the time and circumstances of the Gemora) to try "to bring the Talmud home," to relate it to things that are familiar in our own lives. Further, one should appreciate and marvel at the wisdom of our sages whose insights into the human psyche are timeless. Regarding his love of teaching for Yesodei HaTorah, Rabbi Cooper says, "I don’t think anyone gets one millionth of the pleasure that I get from the shiur." Anyone attending his shiur knows that he puts in 110%.
At a young age, Rabbi Englander was already acquiring skills which would serve him well as a master Torah educator. While attending Hebrew Academy of Washington during the 1960’s, he picked up a strong grounding in Hebrew reading and grammar (key features of his "Gateways to Learning" Chumash program). Rabbi Englander continued his own training with 11 years at Yeshivas Ner Yisroel [H.S., Beis Medrash, and Kollel] and 3 years of study at the Mirrer Yeshiva in Yerushalayim. Along the way, he was chevrusos (learning partners) with our menahel (director) Rabbi Goode. Rabbi Englander started teaching as a member of the San Diego Kollel. While there, he spent 5 years focused on Torah education for adults (especially learning skills), and also served as a 9th Grade Rebbe for the San Diego Kollel High School. Rabbi Englander continued with adult education and high school teaching in Memphis, TN, where he spent 2 years. Since returning to Baltimore, he has taught a variety of shiurim (classes) for Yesodei HaTorah, as well as the Talmudic Academy High School.
When it comes to learning Tanach (Bible), Rabbi Englander feels that Pshat (basic understanding of a verse) is critical. His general philosophy for learning the Torah Sh’B’Ksav (the written Torah) is that "the words themselves are mischochmos (they contain their own wisdom and insights). . . . If you look and analyze the words well and thoughtfully, you can gain a tremendous amount of insight." Rabbi Englander’s students especially appreciate his boundless enthusiasm and encouragement. As he says about Yesodei HaTorah, "It turns me on when I see my students begin to catch on, and I see that they can start picking it up on their own. I get a thrill when I see that where before, a student struggled through a verse, now they can go through it on their own."
From high school through kollel, Rabbi Friedman learned Torah right here in Baltimore at Yeshivas Ner Yisroel. A veteran Torah instructor since 1975, Rabbi Friedman continues to educate both adults at Yesodei HaTorah and 9th grade boys at Ner Yisroel High School. Regarding his Gemora shiur for Yesodei HaTorah, Rabbi Friedman explains, "My main goal is to make every class enjoyable and relevant to my students."
As an educator, Rabbi Friedman has special feelings for Yesodei HaTorah because of the way his students "come every week eager to learn."
Rabbi Zvi Goldberg brings to YHT a special combination of Torah knowledge, teaching experience, and interpersonal skills. His Torah knowledge and style of learning were built over a period of 13 years while at Baltimore’s Yeshivas Ner Yisroel and Ner Yisroel Kollel. Rabbi Goldberg later moved to Silicon Valley, CA where he guided Jews from all backgrounds in his work as a pulpit Rabbi. Upon returning to Baltimore, he joined Baltimore’s Vaad HaKashrus, the "Star-K". In this role, he is heavily involved in teaching and reaching out to the Jewish public: He writes policy for the Star-K "hotline", answers difficult questions from callers to the Star-K "hotline", and plans Star-K kashrus training classes. Despite his busy schedule, Rabbi Goldberg makes time to teach for Yesodei HaTorah. Rabbi Goldberg says, "I am awed by the dedication of people who have not had the opportunity to learn and in later years dedicate time to it, plugging away at the Gemara."
When teaching Torah, Rabbi Goldberg shows how words can be dissected to their roots, thus building valuable translation skills. He also stresses that students of Torah "need to review in order to grow in understanding and learning ability."
Our esteemed Menahel, Rabbi Goode directs the development of the Yesodei HaTorah curriculum and methodology, guides its implementation, and sees to the many fund-raising and non-curricular necessities of running an educational institution. His mission for Yesodei HaTorah is to make the beauty and excitement of Torah study available to any Jew regardless of background. Rabbi Goode, is a musmach (ordained Rabbi) of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel. A talmid of both the Yeshiva’s founder, Rav Ruderman z"tl, and the late Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Weinberg z"tl, he learned in both the Beis Medrash and the Kollel for a total of 15 years. Through his work as director of Yesodei HaTorah, he continues the Torah-mission of his mentors. Says Rabbi Goode, "The whole process of learning . . . creates a special bond between the student and the Torah. My goal as both Menahel and instructor is to be ‘a catalyst’ for the students’ enjoyment of learning, to help them forge that bond with the Torah." "When I see my talmidim understanding the Gemora, enjoying it, becoming excited, trying to find ways to make more time to learn, and making Torah more central in their lives; then I am energized and fulfilled."
Rabbi Horowitz began his advanced Torah education as a student at Yeshiva Beis Moshe of Scranton, PA. He continued his learning in both Beis Medrash and Kollel at Yeshivas Ner Yisroel of Baltimore, MD. For Rabbi Horowitz, the key to dynamic Torah study is learn how to "think like the Gemora," master its viewpoint and logic, and thus understand how the Talmud approaches the world and draws its conclusions. He values his work with Yesodei HaTorah because this unique program is the only one that enables Jews to learn how to learn on their own.
It is one thing to be a talented Torah Scholar with a wide breadth and depth of knowledge. It is another thing to be a dynamic teacher, and a third to be a role model of accomplishment for others. Rabbi Tuvia Meister combines all of these assets in one person. Author of Artscroll’s The Meister Plan, Rabbi Meister is a model of what can be accomplished with a carefully set plan of study. Having first started Torah study during medical school vacations (under the guidance of Rabbi Moshe Dov Stein of Yeshivas Shaar Yashuv in Far Rockaway), Rabbi Meister continued on to learn at the Yeshivas Ohr Somaych and Yeshivas Kol Yaakov in Monsey, NY. When not learning full time, Rabbi Meister set a strong pace of learning with chevrusos while he worked in his profession as a Radiologist. With his disciplined 20 year plan of study, he was able to learn the entirety of Talmuds Bavli and Yerushalmi, as well as Tur-Shulchan Aruch. Eventually, he was able to attain rabbinical "smicha" (ordination) from Rabbi Moshe Heineman of Baltimore. In 2004, he felt it was time for him to "start giving something back," so he became the founder and head of the Kollel Beis Yosef at Yesodei HaTorah (named for the Beis Yosef, an ancestor of Rabbi Meister’s first Torah instructor, Rabbi Moshe Dov Stein).
When it comes to learning Torah, Rabbi Meister stresses breadth first and then depth: "I try to take a broad approach. . . . Not to just know a topic in depth but to know the breadth of the topic." He says that one needs to get the overall picture so that one doesn’t lose perspective. "Having wide knowledge is very important especially in Yesodei HaTorah. A guy has to have a feeling that he’s accomplished, and he’s succeeded. . . . He’ll have more of a sense of accomplishment if he really has a whole bunch of pages under his belt, as opposed to only having a few pages under his belt and not really feeling that he has the whole picture." After all, he says, "You’d feel wacky if you specialized in the liver and never learned anything about the kidney."
As far as Yesodei HaTorah is concerned, Rabbi Meister is a big fan: "I love Yesodei HaTorah. If Yesodei HaTorah didn’t exist, I’d have to invent it. . . . Its a real honor to be there."
A vibrant master of verbal communication, Rabbi Pollack’s solid grounding in Torah stems from the 9 years he spent in Baltimore’s Yeshivas Ner Yisroel (high school, Beis Medrash, & Kollel). When it comes to learning, Rabbi Pollack advises that the most critical factor is to " . . . understand . . . the question that the Gemora is asking. . . . Why is this particular comment placed here?" Only with mastery of the "kasha" (question) can one truly comprehend the teretz (answer). Rabbi Pollack enjoys helping students grow: "I love seeing the progress. When someone really understands, all of a sudden, his face will light up: ‘Ooh, wow! That’s really a good question!’" An enthusiastic booster of Yesodei HaTorah’s educational mission, he feels that Yesodei HaTorah is "a very valuable commodity"; such a program to build Torah study among working people "just didn’t exist when I was growing up."
A true embodiment of the Yesodei HaTorah ideal of the Baal HaBayis (working man) who is strongly invested in Torah learning, Dr. Ring was first introduced to Torah learning at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim in 1980-81. After moving to Baltimore and establishing his medical practice, he continued for many years to learn part-time at Yeshivas Ner Yisroel. Dr. Ring’s Torah learning advice is, "Even if you don’t understand all of the words, try to anticipate what the Gemora should probably say." This can help you work backwards to figure out the unfamiliar vocabulary. Dr. Ring says that teaching for Yesodei HaTorah enriches his own life greatly: "Yesodei HaTorah is a chance for me to give something [to others]; it's a ‘mechaya’ (a tremendous lift) for my own learning; and I enjoy the interaction with the people in the shiur very much."
This faculty bio under construction. More coming soon.
Rabbi Skulnick has had a wonderful preparation for his instructional role at Yesodei HaTorah. After 2 years of Beis Medrash in Kerem b’Yavneh, he arrived at Yeshivas Ner Yisroel in 1990. Since then, he has continued to deepen and enrich his Torah scholarship as a member of the Ner Yisroel Kollel. At Yesodei HaTorah, Rabbi Skulnick particularly enjoys teaching halacha to people who push themselves to grow and improve: "they’re not giving up . . . . They’re interested in finding out the right thing to do."
Besides waking up the earliest of all the Yesodei HaTorah instructors, Rabbi Stern brings to Yesodei HaTorah a solid background in Torah scholarship. He spent his formative high school and early Beis Medrash years at the Philadelphia Yeshiva, later moving to the Mirrer Yeshiva in Yerushalayim. Rabbi Stern then returned to America to learn at Ner Yisroel, eventually joining the Kollel, where he continues to grow in Torah. According to Rabbi Stern, involvement with Yesodei HaTorah's Morning Beis Medrash is especially rewarding because he enjoys sharing Torah with people who are "eager to learn" everyday.
Over twenty years ago, Rabbi Topas began his growth in Torah as a student of Rav Simcha Wasserman zt"l. Living at that time in Los Angeles, Rabbi Topas learned with Rav Simcha at every available moment and absorbed all that he could. Upon leaving L.A., Rabbi Topas started four years of full-time learning at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim. There he became close with HaRav Aharon Feldman (just recently appointed Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Yisroel). In 1983, Rabbi Topas returned to the U.S. to become a three year member of the Kollel of Minneapolis. It was during his time in Minnesota that he began teaching Torah to adults. He has been involved in Torah education ever since. His specialty for many years has been helping talmidim (students) to learn how to learn. In reference to his role as a Gemora instructor for Yesodei HaTorah, Rabbi Topas explains, (in the name of his rebbe, Rav Simcha Wasserman zt"l) "The rebbe (instructor) is not there to tell over his own chidushim (insights). Rather, the rebbe exists for the sake of the talmid (student). The object is to raise the talmid." Indeed, Rabbi Topas is very optimistic about what students with little Torah learning background can achieve: "Every Jew can accomplish it [learning on his/her own]. He doesn’t have to feel that he is an audience who just sits and is spoon-fed. He can open up a sefer (book) and open up a whole world of understanding."
It was at the Yeshiva of Scranton (PA) High School and Beis Medrash that Mr. Willner acquired his base in Torah. He went on to continue his studies at Baltimore’s own Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, both in Beis Medrash and in Kollel. For Mr. Willner, Torah learning is its own joy, and he enjoys every moment of it. This especially applies to his Torah teaching where the added dimension of giving to others makes the learning even sweeter.
Anyone who has spoken with Rabbi Zinnes will quickly discover that he loves to share Torah. He works hard to help students become "enchanted by the Gemora process." A product of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, Rabbi Zinnes also studied in the Yeshiva of Philadelphia, as well as Yeshivas Mir in Jerusalem. Currently, he resides in Baltimore, continuing his Torah study at Ner Yisroel and serving as a professional Torah tutor for people throughout the Baltimore area. On teaching for Yesodei HaTorah, Rabbi Zinnes says, "I love being a part of my students' Torah growth--it's something I really enjoy."