Students from Sacramento Jewish Academy finished an entire mesechta in Gemara at fourteen years old. The reason they surprised the Roshei Kollel and Roshei Yeshiva that tested them, though, was not due to their young age alone.
By Anash.org reporter
Finishing a mesechta of Gemara is an admirable feat for any eighth grader to accomplish. But for one bright-eyed group of eighth-grade graduates from Northern California, it was an astonishing feat that left Rabbis and Kollel members agape. You see, some of these aidel and quick-witted boys from Sacramento Jewish Academy did not even grow up in frum families
The Sacramento Jewish Academy started out as a home school by Shliach Rabbi Yossi Korik from Chabad of Roseville, California. At that time, ten years ago, he was teaching his own children at home and some of the nearby shluchim asked if their children could join. The school grew slowly with the addition of the nearby shluchim’s children, but changed to a day school when local community families joined the school as well.
“The eighth-grade class graduated this past school year with five students,” says Rabbi Korik. “As a graduation trip, we decided to take the boys six hours down south to Los Angeles and treat them out to the attractions that we don’t have here. It was very exciting for the graduates to be in a frum neighborhood and enjoy kosher pizza and ice cream, but the highlight of the trip was our visits to the yeshivos and kollelim.”
The students were accompanied by their teacher Rabbi Chaim Zaklos, who had invested so much energy to teach them at a high level over the year.
This graduating class of day school students had not only learned at the level of regular Yeshiva boys, but they also mastered the entire mesechtas Makos over the year. They even memorized the whole masechta by heart.
“We realized it was a golden opportunity to show our graduates how amazing their accomplishment was by letting them view it through the eyes of others. So we organized visits to the yeshivos and kollelim in L.A. so that our young bochurim could be tested by those learning in the ‘major leagues’,” says Rabbi Korik.
“First we had a private meeting with Harav Ezra Schochet, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad, and he tested the boys on what they learned. We then went to Harav Yosef Yitzchok Shusterman, rov of Anash in California, and he also tested them. Wherever we went, the boys amazed the rabbonim. They couldn’t believe how fluent they were in the mesechta, and how young they were. The most amazing and shocking part was always that these boys were from a day school,” Rabbi Korik shares proudly.
From there, the group went on to the Litvishe Kollel, where Harav Boruch Yehuda Gradon, the Rosh Kollel, who studied both at the Yeshiva in Gateshead and the Beis Midrash Gevoha in Lakewood, watched on as one of the Kollel members, Rabbi Peretz Biron, who is a baki in Makos, tested the eighth graders.
They were both blown away by the bochurim. They couldn’t fathom that boys from some Hicksville town in Northern California were sitting there rattling off an entire masechta. Rabbi Gradon was amazed that limud hatorah was flourishing in places he didn’t even know existed. He was so proud of the boys that he gave them fifty dollars to spend on local treats.
“The kollel yungerman was going out of his keilim, he was poshut blown away, honestly blown away,” Rabbi Shusterman, who had watched the farher shared with Rabbi Korik after the boys left already.
The next stop for the accomplished and exhilarated group was another kollel, this time a chassidishe kollel. There, rosh kollel Harav Yochanon Henig, along with Harav Shlomo Luria, and Harav Menachem Krybus were the ones farhering. Their eyes lit up and their faces got red with excitement- they were so excited, they were almost jumping for joy. It was a real kiddush Lubavitch.
Rabbi Levi Raichik, who organized the meetings with the rabbanim for the group, watched the bechinos and gave the group forty dollars as well, to spend at the ice cream store.
“This is one of the nicest kiddush Lubavitch I’ve seen in years,” he said.
It was a real highlight for Rabbi Korik to watch his students accomplishments so impress the roshei yeshiva, roshei kollel, and rabbonim wherever they went.
“For me personally, it was a very special moment in my shlichus,” he said. “I’ve been here for eighteen years and we can so clearly see how the Rebbe takes achrayus for the chinuch of our children.
“When people were moving out on slichus to far places and worried about the chinuch of their children, the Rebbe took responsibility and we can see here and now, decades after Gimmel Tammuz, how this is a huge testament to that statement.”
“We are not only speaking about the chinuch of the shluchim’s kids- it’s even the children of the baa’lei batim. This was such a powerful thing for me to witness, and it was a real highlight of my years on shlichus.”
The Sacramento Jewish Academy started out as a cheder for the shluchim’s kids and has now evolved into a day school with more and more local families joining. The student body is approximately half and half between shluchim’s kids and local children.
When the cheder opened up to local students, the shluchim decided to keep the standards and upheld the limudei kodesh to the level of a regular Yeshiva. They provide lots of extra support for incoming students and in that way, gently guide the students up to the learning level of a regular cheder, and beyond.
This graduating class of eighth graders learned Gemara like their counterparts in Oholei Torah and Lubavitcher Yeshiva and even surpassed them, with their completion and memorization of the entire mesechta.
“Now in America, there’s a huge opportunity for us to reach out to local families and offer them the highest chinuch level,” explains Rabbi Korik, who now directs SJA. “Many parents are raising concerns about the public school systems, and are more open to sending their children to try out other options.
“If the idea is presented well, and the students and their parents are guided every step of the way and provided with the right amount of support, it is possible to create an environment where we can fulfill the Frierdiker Rebbe’s vision of opening yeshivos all over for American Jewish children.”