Learning for Life at Lander College for Men Beis Medrash L’Talmud
Up Close with Rosh HaYeshiva Rav Yonason Sacks—How He Prepares Students to Fuse Torah Study and Professional Success
Students who spend a year or two learning in Israel post high school often feel that is where they grow to become their best selves. Many are concerned they will lose their momentum when they return to begin what their parents may call “real life.” Rabbi Yonason Sacks, Rosh HaYeshiva of Touro’s Lander College for Men Beis Medrash L’Talmud is passionate about helping his talmidim continue their personal and spiritual growth trajectory once they touch down in the States.
A Rosh Yeshiva, rebbe, leading posek, rav and author of over 40 seforim, Rabbi Sacks shares his thoughts on preparing students for a real life that fuses Torah study, professional success, ethical conduct and family and communal responsibilities. He talks about varied programming to serve a diverse student population and new initiatives designed to meet the needs of students who wish to devote more time to Torah learning while still pursuing college studies.
What are your goals for the students at Lander College for Men Beis Medrash L’Talmud?
First and foremost, we know our students are looking for a continuation of their Israel experience. They seek high-level learning, a connection with rebbeim, and an immersive yeshiva environment. When a student says “I feel like I’m in Eretz Yisrael,” that is the biggest compliment. We work to offer this full-service one-stop yeshiva, combined with college and professional tracks. The students at Lander get a fully integrated experience. Premed and bio students start the first day of class learning the Rambam’s thoughts on key medical issues.
I believe integration is vital—we don’t create walls between the Torah learning and college classes. The Lander dean, Dr. Moshe Sokol, and I communicate daily and work to create a holistic environment where our values are reflected in all secular studies. The curriculum and extracurricular activities are all conducive to growth as a ben Torah.
What are the defining features and unique offerings students can find at Lander College for Men Beis Medrash L’Talmud?
We are deeply committed to enabling students to pursue professions al taharas hakadosh, through our convergence of the Yeshiva and the career track.
One of the unique requirements at Lander College is for all students to take a full semester of shiurim where they learn the halachos of their major and future career, whether it be business and finance, psychology or medicine.
We also offer a broad range of shiurim so students can learn at a level that’s right for them. We have nine different shiurim, so everyone finds the right fit. Personal relationships with our rebbeim is another hallmark of Lander College for Men Beis Medrash L’Talmid. Each rebbe is creative and talented and most important, they all want to forge those meaningful connections that will outlast the students’ time at the Yeshiva. Our talmidim have constant face time with their Rebbeim.
What do you view as your most important role at the Yeshiva?
Our talmidim are at a crossroads in their lives. They are poised to get married and embark on professional careers. These are likely the most significant decisions they will ever make, with far-reaching ramifications. My key role is to guide them as they make these choices and to prepare them for life as a Ben Torah and all that entails—from interacting with their wives to anticipating challenges in the workplace and balancing personal and communal responsibilities. I and the other Lander Rebbeim are not just teaching Gemara, we are showing them how to live a life where Torah values inform all they do.
My talmidim are like my children. When they leave, we still consider them a part of the Yeshiva family and we stay in touch for years. More than 400 alumni come back to daven at the yeshiva for the Yomim Noraim and our annual alumni family events draw nearly 800 people.
What new programs and initiatives are you launching for those seeking to spend more time learning, even as they pursue college studies and career preparation?
This year, we launched a new Masmidim Program, headed by veteran mechanech Rabbi Yosef Sonnenschein who is our menahel. This program is for those who want to dedicate more time to serious learning beyond their regular daily learning schedule. It is structured to enable these talmidim to build in additional sedorim into their schedule without interfering with their college studies. The Masmidim meet for an afternoon seder on Sundays, Tuesday and Thursdays when they learn a set limud of gemara bekiyus of the Yeshiva’s Masechta. Additionally, they have a special mishmar seder once a week as well as a machshava chabura given by rotating Masmidim to develop their speaking skills and ability to present on topics in Torah and Machshava.
In addition to Masmidim, we now offer the College 2nd Seder Program, which offers students the opportunity to learn an optional 2nd seder, in addition to morning and night sedarim. The 2nd Seder Program runs throughout the week during the first period of college classes, and students work their college courseload into different time slots.
For students who choose to spend additional time learning after graduating college, we offer a Beis Medrash gap year that enables non-semicha students to learn full time after college, before entering the workforce or pursuing graduate and professional studies.
At Lander College for Men, our Semicha Program attracts future congregational rabbis and rebbeim as well as future dentists, doctors and business professionals who seek to attain this knowledge and proficiency for themselves and their future families.
The students finish their college studies and enter the workforce. How do you prepare them to incorporate Torah study into their professional lives, once they are no longer in the Yeshiva?
Part of what we teach is how to balance and integrate the different aspects of our lives. We talk to students about what may arise and how to handle these challenges from halachic and hashkafic perspectives. We give shiurim that cover shidduchim, marriage and chinuch. We focus on the Torah’s perspective on these issues so they gain clarity and understand where it differs from norms of today’s society.
We talk often about their future lives as husbands, professionals, baalei batim and bnei torah, and how to manage all those roles. One of my talmidim shared that being at Lander College for Men and juggling college, learning, lab and night seder was the best preparation for life as it taught him how to balance multiple responsibilities and was truly a model for what he encountered later on in life.