Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman puts down the phone, leans across his desk in Peabody, Massachusetts, and smiles. “The Alter Rebbe said men darf lebben mit der tzeit. I think we’re taking that from catchphrase to reality.”
The past few weeks have been busy ones for him. As a member of the newly formed Shluchim advisory board of Torah Studies, together with Rabbis Yaakov Halperin and Ari Sollish, he has been working on overhauling the program and taking it in a new direction.
Torah Studies is a division of the JLI multiplex of educational offerings. In its original incarnation, Torah Studies provided Shluchim with classes and materials relating to the weekly parshah, easing the load of preparation while at the same time significantly upgrading the quality of the educational program the Shliach is able to provide.
But, says Schusterman, that wasn’t enough. “We wanted to expand beyond the weekly parshah, and move into the world of all things contemporary. Current events, upcoming Yomim Tovim, topical studies like Pirkei Avos: these things each hold a wealth of learning opportunity.”
So it was for this reason that earlier this month Rabbi Yosef Gansburg (who serves as the chairman of Torah Studies) and Rabbi Avrohom Sternberg, both of the JLI Executive Committee, met with the newly formed committee for Torah Studies, to hear their on-the-ground perspective and advice as to what Shluchim need and want from Torah Studies.
They hammered out the final details before the unveiling of the revamped and new-look Torah Studies. After the meeting, Torah Studies director Rabbi Meir Hecht said he was excited by the changes put in place. “When we decided to rethink the focus of the program we offer,” he said, “we understood the need to improve the overall quality. The best way of doing this is to have the Shluchim work with us from the outset, steering us in the direction that is needed.”
The executives of JLI threw their weight behind this new effort and have already appointed a new administrator for Torah Studies. “We have wonderful content, true, but we also need to make sure that the people who use it can depend on it, and will get it when and how they need it,” Rabbi Dubi Rabinowitz, the COO of JLI, said from the JLI offices in New York. “We’ve already started putting all the pieces in place so that next year will be on an entirely new level.”
Also joining the Torah Studies team will be renowned lecturer and author Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Jacobson, who will author the new courses for the coming year.