For over 50 years Rabbi Brovender has taught thousands of students from all around the world. This week we introduce you to pollster, strategic communicator, and procreator Mitchell Barak.
Throughout his 30-year career living in Israel, Mitchell has worked at the highest and lowest levels of the Israeli Government. Today, through his KEEVOON: Research Strategy & Communications, he helps clients develop effective, survey research based messaging which they use to communicate with their customers or constituents. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and eight children.
How did you meet Rabbi Brovender?
I first met Rabbi Brovender in 1987 during my second year at George Washington University. I was planning to study in a Yeshiva for my junior year abroad and was familiar with Yeshivat Hamivtar because my high school Gemara teacher at Ramaz, Rabbi Jay Miller, was one of the co- founders of the yeshiva and had inspired me to strive to learn Torah for the sake of learning.
Upon meeting Rabbi Brovender in New York, I immediately connected with his laid back and modest attitude. For instance, when asking him why I should attend Hamivtar as opposed to other yeshivot, his only answer was “come learn Torah with us.”
There was no marketing pitch and he didn’t criticize or compare Hamivtar to any other Yeshiva. I thought it was really unique that he wasn’t trying to sell me on attending Hamivtar nor was he promoting himself in any way.
What do you find most important or striking about the “Brovender Method” -his unique way of teaching?
What I find most striking about the “Brovender Method” of teaching is its elusiveness. Everyone talks about it, but everyone has a different definition. Yes, he has a very straight forward approach to learning Gemara and cares deeply about understanding the main text before moving on, but when I think of the “Brovender Method,” it is kind of like the Manna from Israel’s sojourn in the desert – it tasted like whatever you needed it to be.
Rabbi Brovender is able to speak to each student on his or her own level, where they are at, and bring out the best in that person, helping them realize what it is they might need. So, the Brovender Method really depends on the person, their learning ability and commitment.
When it comes to Torah learning, what were you most drawn to after learning with Rabbi Brovender?
Rabbi Brovender helped me refine and define how I approached learning. To understand “how” I approach learning it is important to recognize Rabbi Brovender’s great sense of humor and healthy cynicism with which he himself approaches learning, and so many other things in life.
There is great genius behind his humorous comments and an excellent analytical ability which makes his cynicism so real, crisp, and constructive to learning. Laughing should be part of learning.
What lesson or specific Torah that you learned from Rabbi Brovender, do you keep coming back to or carry with you wherever you go?
Rabbi Brovender has been a great positive influence on my religious, personal, and professional life for more than three decades. The older I get the more I appreciate him.
As we were studying in Elazar in 1987 the first Intifada was raging and I was somewhat shocked that Rabbi Brovender, the Rosh Yeshiva of a Yeshiva in Judea and Samaria was not a card carrying member of the national religious ideological politburo – in fact some of his views were quite opposite.
Many years later I came to the realization that Rabbi Brovender is very much a man way ahead of his time.
He is a maverick in politics, a maverick in Torah, and someone who is bestowed with great wisdom. Equally important, he has always been fearless and courageous when it comes to speaking his mind and teaching according to his beliefs.