This past שבת, I went to Kew Garden Hills for a reunion of where I went to spend my first stint of learning in Israel (see my education page for more) - Derech. Aside from sleeping, the whole shabbaton was held at Yesvhiva Chofetz Chaim. It was the third annual reunion of Derech, the first having been in Far Rockaway two years ago, which I attended, and the second being also in Kew Garden Hills, which I missed as I went back to Columbus for a bat mizvah.
Let me say at the outset that it was a fine time. One thing that struck me the first time was that the group is somewhat self-selecting in that it's largely yeshivish, whether people are learning in yeshivos now or are in YU, and it was also true this time, as well (though I heard that last year's group was a bit more diverse). In any event, it was interesting to respond to people about which yeshiva I attend and pretty much nobody had heard of it, which was kind of interesting.
Of course, the best thing about reunions is seeing people one knew from years back and I did, indeed, enjoy that. Also, Rabbi Nachy Brickman, who runs the program (okay, so he's probably the only one there who knew anything about my yeshiva) was enjoyable the whole time. Among the things that went on was (just like at the first reunion (don't get me wrong, it's a good idea)) there were different breakout sessions Shabbas afternoon - one for married men, one for dating guys, one for single guys who aren't dating, and one for the wives. Rabbi Brickman ran the one for dating guys and had some pretty good tips to give, including that when guys get engaged, other guys often seek the newly-engaged guy on tips - but, what Rabbi Brickman said, was that one should really be asking people who've been married for years about these things, not recently-engaged guys. There were other good things, but I'll leave it at that for now.
An interesting thing that Rabbi Brickman said towards the end of shabbas was that us people learning in yeshivos, or even who have learned in yeshivos, are somewhat at the top as far as being learned Jews. I don't think he meant it any sort of we're-better-than-you-are sort of way, but rather a recognizing of oneself, such as, for example, how one conducts oneself. He also mentioned about שנאת חינם (commonly translated as 'baseless hatred') and that Jews, especially frum Jews, shouldn't needlessly look down upon one another, as we are all Jews, and lead an observant lifestyle, etc. As we was speaking this point, I was thinking about being a Modern Orthodox Jew among this crowd and hoping that a lot of the yeshivishe guys would get this message about not looking down upon their fellow observant brethren.
Lastly, it occurred to me that, as I was there for only four months (a half-year) rather than being there for the full one or more, my experience was rather different than a lot of others', in addition to my having been in college for a year already, rather than having come straight out of high school. So, my connection with the program and the guys might not have been as strong as most of the other guys'. I reflected somewhat on this during the shabbas, and may eventually write up about my experience.
Tags: Derech, Derech Institute, Rabbi Brickman, Derech reunion