For over 50 years Rabbi Brovender has taught thousands of students from all around the world. This week we introduce you to Jeffrey Schrager, a Jewish educator who teaches with several different organizations around the world. He lives in Efrat with his wife and four children.
How did you meet Rabbi Brovender?
I first “met” Rabbi Brovender on the phone. I applied for the Yeshiva very late in the year and my acceptance was contingent on an interview. I was nervous and expected a lot of questions, but Rabbi Brovender asked about my background and then said, “I think we have room for you.” My first year at yeshiva he was teaching in London most of the year, so I really wasn’t around him much. Shana Bet, however, I was in his shiur and, in many ways, I’ve never left.
What do you find most important or striking about the “Brovender Method” -his unique way of teaching?
Whenever I heard anyone ask him to define the “Brovender Method,” he would say some version of, “we learn Gemara.” Of course, the emphasis on skills and independent learning were important, but the basic concept of the importance of “just learning” is what changed me.
It seems to me the Brovender Method, in some ways, is about attitude. Learning, and learning Gemara in particular, could be compared to breathing. I learned innumerable skills from Rabbi Brovender, but I also learned that learning and the desire to learn must be a fact of life, not something “extra.”
When it comes to Torah learning, what were you most drawn to after learning with Rabbi Brovender?
I’ve become primarily a teacher of Tanakh, and I spend most of my time learning Tanakh and related subjects. I’ve also dabbled in other subjects, but Gemara still holds a special place in my heart and mind. The thrill of participating in the “symposium of generations,” as Rav Soloveitchik termed it, enchants me.
What lesson or specific Torah that you learned from Rabbi Brovender, do you keep coming back to or carry with you wherever you go?
It’s funny: I can think of many ideas I learned with Rabbi Brovender, but what I took away with me more than anything was an attitude towards learning Torah. It is the foundation of a Jewish life.
Outside of my family, Rabbi Brovender has done more than anyone to shape the person and Jew that I am. It wasn’t through any specific moment or epiphany. It was his
dedication to learning Torah and his dedication to my learning Torah that continues to inspire me.