By Regan Treewater-Lipes
(AJNews) – The landscape of Edmonton’s Jewish community has changed dramatically over the past two years. Many of these developments have arisen out of necessity, while others have been innovations born of recognized new opportunities. Chabad Lubavitch of Edmonton, with the generous support of the Ghermezian family, is proud to be able to announce its first cohort of rabbinical candidates at the Yeshivas Lubavitch of Edmonton. Rabbi Ari Drelich now supervises three young rabbis in training as they visit Edmonton for a one-year stay of study and community outreach.
“When Menorah Academy and the Kollel closed, we knew that there would be an immediate void to fill and a need for access to Torah study within the community,” explained Rabbi Drelich. “Of course, we have resources in Edmonton, and we are in no way trying to compete with what already exists but add to it. With the arrival of our young rabbinical candidates, we are able to offer something unique.”
Every evening, Sunday through Thursday, from 7 to 8:30 pm these young Yeshivah scholars are on site at the Chabad House for one-on-one face-to-face Torah learning sessions, studying with boys and men from the age of 7 and up: “7 to 120, and beyond!” added Rabbi Drelich with exuberance. “
What people need to know is that our visiting young Torah scholars can facilitate learning surrounding any subject, any topic, for all age groups, and for any level of learner – and this is completely free of charge.”
Rabbi Drelich is scheduling those interested in this exciting opportunity for individual learning sessions of 45 minutes. “This allows for some focused instruction and discussion, and each of our Yeshivah students will be able to see two people a night and engage a larger portion of the community.”
Although Edmonton only welcomed these three inaugural Yeshivah boys in early October, Rabbi Drelich is already beginning to identify their areas of strength. “These young men are just out of high school, so they are still finding their footing. But yes, I can already see where their individual talents are developing.”
Those interested in availing themselves of this unprecedented opportunity for one-on-one face-to-face spiritual enrichment should contact Rabbi Drelich to be matched with one of Yeshivas Lubavitch of Edmonton’s new rabbinical candidates for an intellectually stimulating evening of meaningful Torah study.
Housed by the hospitality of the Ghermezian family, furnished in a lovely home with their own personal chef, these three young gentlemen live together in Old Glenora and help to ensure a daily minyan Downtown.
“Edmonton has had a steady minyan Downtown for the last 30 years,” explained Rabbi Drelich. “We hope in the future to be able to welcome 10 yeshivah students per year, but the work being done by these three boys now is such a contribution to our community and to keeping Yiddishkeit active in Edmonton,” he concluded.
All three new arrivals come from Chabad families – two from Toronto, and one all the way from France!
“Our boys can converse with the community in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, and French,” explained Rabbi Drelich. “Having Russian too would have been a huge asset, but these students are extremely knowledgeable, and really can dive into any topic. In future years we hope to grow the program and invite at least 10 rabbinical candidates.”
In different times Rabbi Drelich would dispatch the students to visit those recovering in hospital. “We can’t do hospital visits right now except for the most unfortunate and dire of cases. It is a little easier with old age homes. But, needless to say, the boys will go where they are needed, restrictions permitting.”
Rabbi Drelich is sensitive to the varying levels of COVID-era social contact comfort. “We know that everyone is finding their own balance and what feels safe for them,” he said sympathetically. “We have a lot of online resources in Edmonton at the moment, and there is no shortage of access to our local Rabbis through Zoom and all that, but that is why what we are offering here every night, Sunday through Thursday, is really unique.”
With a limited number of people inside the building during sessions there is an ability to social distance while maintaining a much-needed sense of human contact while learning. “I understand that people have been reluctant and scared to start coming out in general, but there is also a huge need to reconnect with Torah learning in a non-virtual form,” he emphasized.
The greater Edmonton Jewish community sends a great big Mazel Tov to Yeshivas Lubavitch of Edmonton and the innovators of this monumental new initiative, as well as a hearty welcome to the first group of rabbinical student visitors! What is taking form at the Chabad House is inspiring, and the potential for breathing new energy into face-to-face Torah study after so many months separated by computer screens is refreshing and plants seeds of hope looking forward. Please contact Rabbi Drelich directly to set up your learning session, or one for your son, and begin an exciting journey of discovery and investigation through Torah. Rabbi Ari Drelich can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone six days a week at 780.993.1818.
Regan Treewater-Lipes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Alberta Jewish News.