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Lubavitch Expands In Amherst
-Mesivta Menachem-

On a cool autumn afternoon in Cheshvan, 5759, Mesivta Menachem was born, bringing the warmth of Torah to Amherst, NY.

Amherst, New York is home to a small, yet enthusiastic Lubavitch community committed to growth. Though Lubavitch is still among the smaller groups in this city of 25,000 Jews, their presence is strongly felt. Just five years ago it proudly opened the doors of the new Jewish Heritage Day School. Boruch Hashem, the school has met with much success and is growing rapidly. Encouraged by this achievement, a few active Baalei Batim dared to entertain the notion of starting a new Yeshiva. This may be considered a tremendous undertaking, especially in Amherst, which boasts a relatively small observant community. As such, the proposal was greeted with reluctance and reservations. However, with positive answers from the Rebbe’s Igros Kodesh the dream began to materialize.

Various members of the community, who courageously took on the challenge, formulated the current form of the idea just two years ago. Their objective: to enhance the religious atmosphere currently being fed into the city’s lifeline. The man to be the head of this bold attempt would have to be a man as strong in his belief in chinuch as he is in his attachment to the Rebbe, and the job was placed easily over the responsible shoulders of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Munitz. Rabbi Munitz, with a quarter century of teaching experience, has been known for his influence on bochrim from any and every background.

With the help of local philanthropists, a house - uniquely built, seemingly with the Mesivta in mind - was acquired in the suburb of Amherst. Located just across the street from the Jewish Discovery Center, run by the renowned shliach and lecturer Rabbi Heschel Greenberg, it further allows for easy interaction between shliach and future shluchim. On a cool autumn afternoon in Cheshvan, 5759, Mesivta Menachem was born, bringing the warmth of Torah to Amherst, NY.

Amherst is a picture-perfect American community, in fact rated as the safest city in the US. With parks and recreational facilities just around the corner, Gashmiyus was dealt with effortlessly. And, with able direction by Rabbi Munitz, it seems that Ruchniyus, too, just develops naturally here. Individual attention soon became his hallmark, and Hiskashrus to the Rebbe MH”M becomes a matter of simple progression as soon as any boy walks through the doors of the Mesivta. With kind encouragement, balanced with strong discipline, the boys are guided in the proper direction. At farbrengens and private one-on-ones the bochrim are instilled with the true sense of what it means to be a chossid, and are inspired to conduct themselves accordingly. They are also motivated to collectively learn Maamarim and Sichos in preparation for the Mesivta trip to the Rebbe for Yud Shvat, as well as the Mesivta’s birthday present in honor of Yud Alef Nissan.

Five staff members assist Rabbi Munitz in his goal, each with his own abilities well advanced: Rabbi Yehuda Lipskier, Yanky Majeski, Mendel Munitz, Elie Estrin and Dr. Zev Zelenko. Each of them performs his job with a skill truly inspiring for such young men. In addition, Rabbi Heschel Greenberg gives a shiur klali once a week, and Rabbi Avrohom Meir Shuman treats the boys to instruction in Seider Birkas ha’Nehenin. A truly special experience is shared by students and staff alike, as twice every month they attend an advanced shiur given by Rabbi Meir Greenberg. One of the first Tmimim in America, he is the former Chief Rabbi of Paterson, Rosh Yeshiva of the Rabbinical College in Morristown, NJ, and a foremost Torah scholar.

Seder begins Daily at 7:30am and ends at 9:15pm with breaks for wholesome meals and relaxation from the rigorous learning. Twice a week the boys enjoy an hour of swim and gym in well-equipped facilities. Of course, following the Rebbe’s example, Chassidim never rest, many bochrim spend their spare time learning with the dorm counselors and shluchim. Another popular form of “relaxation” here is learning Tanya by heart; to which rewards are distributed on a general and individual basis. Incentives include trips such as to Niagara Falls, and a Skiing Shabbaton, as well as monetary prizes. One boy has already earned $360 for learning the first twelve chapters by heart! The Mesivta plans on reaching a collective goal for this year to learn 5,760 lines by heart!

Illustrating            the Mesivta’s remarkable success, Mr. Moshe Chodorow, the Menahel Gashmi, commented at a recent board meeting, “Last year the difficulty was putting together a group of fourteen boys. This year the problem was choosing just nineteen boys from seventy applicants!”

The community benefits ad infinitum from the presence of Mesivta. Mivtzoim on Fridays reach the not-yet-religious, and those already in the fold gain immeasurably by hosting the bochrim to Shabbos meals once a month. Besides, many times members of the community join Mesivta’s farbrengens to inspire and to be inspired.

A unique addition to the yeshiva is the video library. Every Motzaei Shabbos the boys watch videos of the Rebbe, and every other week, a video is shown about the wonders of the Aibershter, whether it be in human, animal or mineral life. The response from the bochrim is very strong, for they have the keys to fulfill the instructive of the Rebbeim to think about Hashem’s wonders of the world before davening every day.

The S’farim library, a basic necessity in every yeshiva, was enhanced considerably due to this year’s Torah-thon fundraiser, in which the boys were able to purchase more than a thousand new S’farim! It seems as though every day there is a new world of S’farim to go through as they arrive, and the bochrim jump at the opportunities eagerly.

If Rabbi Munitz is farbrenging, you may be certain that it’s revolving around the topic of Moshiach. As the bochrim listen intensely, drinking up every word, one cannot help but feel the genuine excitement of someone truly living with Moshiach. Addressing the bochrim, Rabbi Munitz speaks gently, yet with the force of truth. “You know that Moshiach will soon be here. When he comes, we, his front line soldiers, will be placed on stage in front of everyone. All the Yidden alive now, and all those from the past, will be there. They will be looking at us in awe, saying to each other ‘Wow! Look how lucky these soldiers are to be part of Moshiach’s army! They are the ones who brought about Moshiach’s revelation!’ Now just imagine if you are standing there with a clean pressed uniform, buttons polished, covered with many medals: how proud the Rebbe MH”M would be! Or, you could be standing there with out any medals, no clean uniform, or… let’s not speak about even worse. How would you feel then? You would want to run and hide, but you will have to stand in front of everyone! Chevre, chapt arein! Now is the time to make sure you are prepared befittingly. Every thing you think, say or do has to be permeated with preparing to greet Moshiach. If you work on yourselves during these remaining seconds, you can give yourself a facelift! Your entire appearance will be different! You will have the right to stand there, gazed upon by everyone since Avrohom Avinu…” This in fact is the underlying theme of Mesivta Menachem; placing constant emphasis on the Rebbe’s Nevua that Moshiach will be revealed imminently. Being that this is reality, we must start living with it!

The stress placed on the subject of Moshiach is well taken. Here, Moshiach is removed from the abstract. Through his knowledgeable and thorough explanations, Rabbi Munitz scrubs off the layers of Galus mentality that sometimes cover the youth of our generation. As the yeshiva finished the Seifer “B’suras HaGeula” together the first time this year, Rabbi Munitz gave a short, yet rousing, speech. “The Rebbe MH”M’s words speak for themselves. The Rebbe kindly shared with us the good news that the time of our geula has arrived, the work of Galus is completed and we now stand in the days of Moshiach. We in turn must share this precious knowledge with the rest of the world! Why hold back the exciting news? Is it better to hear about school shootings?! Let them know that there is a future; a future much greater than anyone’s wildest expectations! People would rather hear the wonderful things, which are in store. The Rebbe said they’re ready, so tell them all!” The message rings loud and strong. Inspired, every day takes on new meaning with this outlook, and the boys’ learning and characters shape accordingly.

Indeed, the boys themselves prove that their teacher stands on solid ground: As the Rebbe passes by this group, he will definitely be able to smile, and say, “See the seedlings whom my shluchim have nurtured! A Yeshiva truly fit for its name”



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