By MYRON LOVE, Canadian Jewish News
WINNIPEG — For the past 10 years, the Chabad Movement in Winnipeg has offered an annual summer yeshiva program in August, staffed by yeshiva students from out of town, that’s open to the entire community.
Now, for the first time, Chabad will be offering formalized Jewish study all year round through its newly established Jewish Learning Institute (JLI).
“We have put together three six-week courses to be offered in the fall, winter and spring, respectively,” said Rabbi Shmuly Altein, Chabad Lubavitch of Winnipeg’s new 25-year-old director of adult education. “Each course will focus on different topics. The idea is to make Torah learning accessible to contemporary Jews.”
The first course – which begins Nov. 11, is titled Soul Maps and will explore Kabbalah and how it can be used to foster psychological well-being.
The winter session will concentrate on Talmud and Halachah, while in spring, students will study stories from the Torah and see what lessons can be applied to contemporary society, Rabbi Altein said.
The Altein name is well known in Winnipeg’s Jewish community. Rabbi Avrohom Altein, Shmuly Altein’s father, has been this city’s Lubavitch Rabbi for close to 40 years. Shmuly left here at 13 to attend an Orthodox high school in Detroit. After high school, he went on to attend Chabad’s Rabbinical Educational Institute in New York.
Upon graduation, he was dispatched to Australia for further education and training. In Australia, he taught at a rabbinical college as well as in the community, organizing children’s programs and retreats and travelling to distant outposts of that island continent in search of Jewish residents.
In 2006, he returned to New York, where he received his smichah from Rabbi Shnear Zalmon Labkovsky, the dean of the Central Yeshiva. In the summer of 2006 and 2007, he served as a Chabad camp director in the Catskills.
Altein and his equally accomplished wife, Adina, returned to Winnipeg with their baby daughter on Sept. 1 to take up his new posting. (The couple welcomed a son to the family in mid-October.)
They spent part of the summer at a worldwide conference of Jewish Learning Institute teachers, held in the Catskills.
“There were over 250 rabbis at the conference,” he said.
Rabbi Altein said the response to the new learning institute has been tremendous. “There is a thirst for Jewish learning here.”
He said he would like to keep class sizes to between 30 and 35 people. If registration is higher, he would offer a second class on another evening during the week.
He points out that JLI courses can be used as credits toward medical or psychology degrees.