Baltimore’s New Mesivta: Where Every Talmid Matters

In time for the 5782-83 school year, a new mesivta will be opening in Baltimore’s upscale Greenspring neighborhood. Anash.org sat down with the founders to find out their vision, their goals, and who the yeshiva is geared to.

By Anash.org reporter

In time for the 5782-83 school year, a new mesivta will be opening in Baltimore’s upscale Greenspring neighborhood. The yeshiva, which is being established under the auspices of Chabad Lubavitch of Maryland and Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan, will serve both local and out-of-town bochurim.

As has been reported on Anash.org, Baltimore’s vibrant Anash community – within a well-established frum neighborhood – has experienced remarkable growth over the past few years.  With approximately 200 Anash families and 400 children blah”r in its thriving Cheder, the community has begun seeking communal solutions for higher education. Baltimore is home to a popular Lubavitch Yeshiva Gedola, but until now, Cheder graduates needed to find solutions far from home.

We sat down with Rabbi Mendel Kaminker, founding maggid shiur and menahel of Baltimore’s new Lubavitch Mesivta, and Baltimore shliach Rabbi Velvel Gopin, a member of the Vaad overseeing the development of the new yeshiva, to hear about this new project.

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Anash.org: Establishing a yeshiva is a daunting undertaking. What motivated you to take this on?

Rabbi Velvel Gopin: My family was one of the founding families of the Cheder Chabad fourteen years ago – my child was one of ten students in the first founding class. It has been beautiful to watch this school grow from a dream—one classroom in the basement of a home, into the thriving moisad in a 55,000 sq. ft. building that it is today. Baruch Hashem, with all of the growth happening here, there is an obvious need for a mesivta for our boys, and it’s the same vision we had back then that is driving us today.

Rabbi Mendel Kaminker: The Rebbe always spoke about chinuch in terms of ‘b’makom sh’ein ish’ – every person should feel as if it’s up to him to make it happen. Looking around, it’s clear that there is a great need for more Lubavitch mainstream moisdos. The yeshivas are packed and catering to too many bochurim at once, and still, our system is not big enough to accommodate all of our bochurim. So when I was approached by anash and shluchim in the Baltimore community, I seized the opportunity.

Anash.org: What are your goals for the Mesivta?

Rabbi Kaminker: First and foremost, we want to create a yeshiva with a warm and comfortable atmosphere for the bochurim, both b’gashmius and b’ruchnius. Our goal is to build positive and personal relationships with each talmid so they can grow and develop to their full potential. Each bochur is gifted with unique skills and talents, and it is based on their individual capabilities that we will encourage them to strive to reach their fullest potential, each according to what they can master.

The Rebbe spoke about this nekudah at the Purim farbrengen of 5732 and suggested that there should be different levels within a class. This allows teachers to cater to each bochur’s individual abilities and chushim so a talmid can maximize his skills to his fullest potential. More importantly, it encourages the bochurim to rise above what they think their limits are. When they see that no matter what level they’re at, they are capable of accomplishing so much, they are motivated to strive and succeed. For one bochur, that might mean encouraging him to complete a mesechta or more in one year; for another, it may mean encouraging him to complete a few blatt while developing his primaryskills.

Anash.org: Who will this yeshiva cater to?

Rabbi Gopin: We are modeling other yeshivos that successfully cater to both local and out-of-town talmidim. In fact, the development of our yeshiva is being guided and advised by these yeshivas. Like most Lubavitcher yeshivos, we are working with shluchim and members of anash in other cities who want to send their boys. Parents are attracted to Baltimore, which has a wonderful kehilla and is known as a makom Torah—a place conducive for spiritual growth. Baltimore B’H lacks the materialistic trappings found in other places. As opposed to some other mesivta options, our new mesivta and talmidim stand to greatly benefit by being part of a large kehilla of Anash, in the vicinity of the Yeshiva Gedola, and located within the frum community of Baltimore. 

Anash.org: Can you tell us about some of the unique opportunities the yeshiva will be offering?

Rabbi Kaminker: In addition to, as mentioned before, helping talmidim grow to their individual capacities in learning, we also plan to help them develop their talents. If a bochur has a chush in, say, kesiva, publishing chidushei Torah or negina, we will encourage these opportunities. Along with community outreach and mivtzoim, extra-curricular and other hands-on skills, we envision the mesivta to be a place where every talmid can blossom to their fullest. This will be a focus
in our hiring as well—we want maggidei shiurim who value and will guide the bochurim in these areas.

Anash.org: How many bochurim are expected for the upcoming year, and what is the growth projection for the years that follow?  

Rabbi Kaminker: We’re are IYH starting with a first class this year, and plan to grow the yeshiva one shiur at a time, so the following year we’ll add a shiur bais, and after that, shiur gimmel. We want the yeshiva to grow, but keeping the classes small is a priority for us.  We want to maintain a teacher/talmid ratio that will allow the maggidei shiurim to have a meaningful relationship with each bochur.

Anash.org: Who is in charge of the gashmius of the yeshiva, and what will that look like?

Rabbi Gopin: The yeshiva is located in Greenspring, an upscale neighborhood in Baltimore. We have a newly renovated and beautifully furnished Bais Medrash, complete with a well-stocked library of brand new sifrei nigleh and chassidus. There’s also a newly built state of the art mikvah.

The development of the mesivta is being overseen by myself and two other shluchim – Rabbi Mendy Schapiro, who previously was the menahel gashmi of Baltimore’s Yeshiva Gedola, and Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sufrin, senior educator in Baltimore’s Cheder. The boys will be well looked after, will be provided nourishing meals and comfortable dorm facilities, and will be in the care of a dedicated team of staff and eltere bochurim. In recent months, tremendous effort and energy has been invested to prepare all aspects of the yeshiva to create a place where every bochur can grow and succeed, both b’gashmius and b’ruchnius.

Anash.org: Who is being consulted with educational and spiritual concerns? How do you plan to deal with some of the specific challenges of today—cell phones, internet, and other such issues?

Rabbi Kaminker: Today’s challenges with technology are tough ones, and naturally a lot of thought and planning has been devoted to navigating them. We are consulting with experienced mechanchim and menehalim of yeshivos around the world, and BH we have a proper model in place for our yeshiva and our bochurim.

Rabbi Gopin: We have an advisory board that is guiding the development of the yeshiva: Rabbi Hershel Lustig of Oholei Torah, Rabbi Sholom Halberstam of the Lubavitch Mesivta in Chicago, Rabbi Amram Farkash of Ohr Elchonon in Los Angeles, and Rabbi Yossi Rosenblum of Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh. They have vast knowledge on a wide range of chinuch matters, and that includes many years of experience in working with bochurim who are entering the mesivta stage.

Anash.org: What do you hope to see in every bochur at the end of his three years with you?

Rabbi Kaminker: B’ezras Hashem, a bochur should leave mesivta with a geshmak in serving the Aibershter.

There are three parts to this: ahavas Hashem, ahavas yisroel, and ahavas hatorah, but they are really one.  We envision our talmidim having joy in serving Hashem through limud hatorah and avodas hatefillah, properly understanding and broadening their knowledge in toras hanigleh and toras hachassidus, and growing in their darkei hachassidus and hiskashrus to the Rebbe.

Anash.org: Thank you for giving us an inside look into this exciting project. We look forward to watching this develop!

Limited space is still available at Mesivta Lubavitch of Baltimore. Apply today at www.MesivtaBaltimore.org

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