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The Program

Learning Program

What does Hakotel believe the balance ought to be between the learning of gemara and the learning of other areas of Torah?

Our program aims to develop knowledge and skills of what we consider to be the four basic areas of Torah learning- Tanach, Gemara, Jewish Philosophy, and Halacha.

Because of the amount of time and effort required to attain the high level of proficiency necessary for properly study Gemara, the bulk of the daily schedule focuses on Gemara.

Despite the time focus on gemara, our program includes a thought out curriculum that aims to develop knowledge and skills in Tanach, Jewish Philosophy, and Halacha as well. At three points during the day, boys are offered a variety of shiurim in these areas of learning. The shiurim include both basic shiurim meant to teach central knowledge and skills (ex.- Literary Analysis of Parashat Hashavua, Nevi'im Rishonim, Nevi'im Achronim, Ketuvim, Survey of Classical Jewish Philosophy, Issues in Contemporary Jewish Philosophy, Hashkafa 101, Basic Practical Halacha) and a wide variety of 'electives' for those interested in further/broader study. Overall we offer well over 50 weekly shiurim in these other areas.

We believe that Hebrew knowledge is important for both Torah learning and in general. In addition to roommates and chavrutot with Israelis, our talmidim learn Hebrew through the daily Ulpan program offered as part of the regular (as opposed to during the break) schedule. The ulpan consists of three levels divided based on level of Hebrew proficiency.

What does Hakotel do to develop gemara skills?

Hakotel believes that proper gemara learning hinges on developing both advanced textual skills and incisive conceptual skills.

Morning seder aims to develop analytical skills. This is done by training talmidim to independently analyze sources and the conceptual issues inferred by them.

The part of Afternoon Seder devoted to Gemara study aims to develop reading skills. This is done by giving talmidim a chance to independently prepare a piece which they then read for a rebbe/faculty member who is able to correct their mistakes and point out unnoticed textual nuances.

The part of Night Seder devoted to Gemara study is done with an older talmid. This session gives younger talmidim a concentrated period of time in which they can benefit from the higher level of an older/more advanced talmid.

Is there flexibility in what one learns or is one expected to learn particular things at particular times?

Hakotel believes that each talmid is different and that no program of learning will be exactly appropriate for all (most) talmidim. This is why we offer a wide variety of options throughout the day.

In addition, we believe that talmidim succeed best when learning what they choose to learn.

For these reasons, we build the program we feel best for most of our talmidim, but we leave decisions over what to learn when to each talmid.

We expect that a talmid completely maximize the times meant for learning (at least), but leave the decision of what to learn to him. That having been said, we are actively involved in advising talmidim.

Relationship with Rebbeim

Why is a ‘kesher' (relationship) with a rebbe important?

Shiurim and sichot are given to groups. The only way an individual can get the help and guidance appropriate particularly to him is if he has a personal relationship with a rebbe who gets to know him well enough to earn the talmid's respect and to give him such personal advice.

The relationship with a rebbe is also a significant part of continuing to grow after one's time in yeshiva.

In what ways do the Hakotel rebbeim build relationships with talmidim?

Many rebbeim see their job as teaching Torah. Our rebbeim see the goal as teaching talmidim. Their central goal is to use the learning connection as a basis for forging a kind of relationship that can help a talmid maximize his yeshiva experience and continue growing after yeshiva. For this reason, Hakotel rebbeim are present in the Beit Midrash atleast nine sedarim a week (all mornings, three afternoons, and one night- there is an overseas rebbe in the BM each night) and spend about 90% of their time speaking personally to individuals. Each rebbe makes sure to have a meaningful conversation with each of his talmidim at least once a week.

In addition to a talmid's rebbe, each talmid has a madrich and three shoelim meshivim (one for each seder) who work with him personally. The mashgiach (Rav Cutler), Dean (Rav Taragin), and many other staff members also build personal relationships with individual talmdim.

Do the Rebbeim live in the Old City?

Most of the rebbeim and other staff live in the Old City. A number of others live within walking distance. A number of staff live in the yeshiva building itself. This gives the talmidim the opportunity to be consistent guests at the homes of rebbeim and staff. Those not within walking distance have boys over for shabbatonim and off shabbatot.

How does the yeshiva/rebbeim maintain relationships with talmidim after yeshiva?

Hakotel rebbeim keep up by consistent email and phone calls with each (interested) talmid. This communication is reinforced by multiple yearly alumni events around the world.

Hakotel has active alumni organizations in Israel, the US, and the UK.

The relationships remain strong for many years after yeshiva.

Integration

How does Hakotel facilitate integration with Israelis?

Hakotel sees connecting to Eretz Yisrael by (also) connecting to Israelis as a central part of the Israel Yeshiva Experience. Beyond roommates, chavrutot, and joint shiurim and programs, Hakotel facilitates integration by having overseas talmidim as part of a broader Israeli yeshiva and not as part of a separate program.

What is the attitude of Israeli talmidim toward those from aboard?

Most Israeli talmidim are eager to build a kesher with overseas talmidim. Israelis who prefer to be in a yeshiva without overseas talmidim, chose to attend one of the many (most) Israeli yeshivot without overseas talmidim.

When do talmidim go into Israeli shiurim?

When they feel they are ready. Readiness hinges on a high proficiency in Hebrew language and Gemara skills which we help talmidim develop in advance of entry.