This summer, a handful of Chabad-Lubavitch yeshiva students dedicated a good portion of their vacation to helping others learn the intricate beauty of Judaism, its texts and philosophy. In two locations – Winnipeg, Canada, and Toledo, Ohio – the bochurim brought their yeshiva, so to speak, directly to the communities there.

According to those who benefited from the students' involvement – children and adults alike took advantage of the one-on-one learning – the effort paid off. Now, they're hungry for more.

"They came from all over with an offer to study anything we would like, and whenever we would like," reported Darren Kuropatwa, a teacher by profession, who came to the Lubavitch Centre of Winnipeg because of the individual attention promised by the yeshiva students. That was "the nice thing about the program. As the learner, you set the agenda. When going to a lecture, the lecturer has a point that he wants to make and a wider audience to appeal to. Here, you chose what you wanted to learn."

Both programs lasted for three weeks and gave anyone who wanted the opportunity to learn about any Jewish topic.

"If people couldn't come here, we went to their offices during their lunch breaks," said Bentzion Shemtov, son of Rabbi Yosef and Raizel Shemtov, the co-directors of the Chabad House-Lubavitch of Greater Toledo who organized the program. "For the elderly who wanted to learn, we went to their homes."

All told, the students, most of whom came from the Menachem Mendel-Lubavitch yeshiva in Oak Park, Mich., participated in more than 580 one-on-one sessions that covered everything from Kaballah to Talmud, prayer, Hebrew comprehension and medical ethics.

"I gave them a list and asked them if they could help me walk through different subjects," said Mike Morris, who learned with students in Toledo. "They provided for the yeshivah to come to me."

In Winnipeg, two Spanish-speaking students came to give lessons to the growing Spanish-speaking community, most of whose members are recent immigrants from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.

Teens also benefited from the Tulsa sessions, and in Winnipeg, students made a special effort to learn with younger kids.

Kass Kuropatwa, 10, said that he thought that his father was trying to pry him out of the house with another excuse, but then found himself thoroughly enjoying the lessons. "It was lots of fun," he said.

Challenging the Students

Learning with kids and adults in Winnipeg, Canada
Learning with kids and adults in Winnipeg, Canada
"The experience was great for us. We were challenged, because the people came up with the most intriguing questions," said Bentzion Shemtov. "Many times, we had to do research in order to get back to the study partners."

On the other side of the exchange, Morris was equally impressed.

"They were well-versed and well-educated," he said of the students. "And if they didn't know the answer, they didn't try to [make one up]. They knew their limits and they didn't want to misquote anything, which I found very nice."

According to Tzvi Hirsh Altein, one of the students and the son of Lubavitch Centre co-directors Rabbi Avrohom and Brocha Altein, the experience was eminently worthwhile.

"You gain something every time you are learning with them," he said of the community members. "It is different than learning in yeshiva. Here we needed to explain things to someone not well-versed on the subject, so it really challenged you and tested just how well you knew what you were trying to teach."

Kuropadwa, the professional teacher, said he's looking forward to next year.

"Education should never stop," he said. "I can't say enough of what these boys did during their stay here; we are very lucky to have such a group."