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A “Bourbon On The Balcony" shiur.

Rabbi Yehuda Wechsler can easily identify his inspiration for starting a new yeshiva located just blocks from the sandy boardwalks of Manhattan Beach in South Brooklyn: his very own brother-in-law.

“My brother-in-law, Nathaniel Orgel, is my inspiration,” Wechsler told The Jewish Press. While his brother-in-law had managed to commit to learning each day for an hour and a half or more, he struggled to find good mentorship to help him navigate the more complex gemaras and take his learning to the next level. To be sure, Orgel had the desire, but there simply weren’t many options for someone who wanted to learn but also had a busy work life.


Other factors inspired Wechsler as well. “We were involved with the amazing kollel at the Shteibel here in Manhattan Beach, and we noticed a lot of young people gravitating around us, and it was obvious we were having a positive effect on them,” Wechsler said. So with the help of his partner, Dovi Herzog, whom he met and became friends with nine years earlier as students in Chaim Berlin in Flatbush, The College and Working Yeshiva (CWY) was born.

With over 275 yeshivas, New York City is not lacking amazing places to learn. What makes the College and Working Yeshiva unique is revealed in its very name. “We welcome everyone,” Wechsler said, “but we are not focusing on kiruv or on those who have the option to learn in a yeshiva 10 hours a day. We want to provide a yeshiva level of education to those who attend traditional centers of higher learning – pursuing occupational degrees at local colleges and universities – in environments where the influences of yiddishkeit are not readily present, and it can be tempting to neglect learning Torah completely. For the Jewish neshama, this can be devastating.”

The yeshiva is also designed for those who have a desire for yeshiva-level learning, but are maintaining busy careers in the secular world and have longed for a yeshiva environment that understands their challenges and can accommodate them.

Amazingly, many of the students at CWY are juggling both school and work. Daniel Lilevman, 22, became frum four years ago after a close friend challenged him to become more shomer Shabbos. Lilevman committed completely to the challenge and it proved to be life-changing. “My friend encouraged me to get back into Shabbos and it felt amazing – I would wake up each day with this amazing feeling in my chest,” Lilevman told The Jewish Press. “It was a total reset.”

Lilevman then set out to connect with the frum community and to commit to a learning routine, but his busy life occupation as a paraprofessional meant he could not commit to a full-time yeshiva. To complicate things even more, Lilevman starts school this year online at Sarah Schenirer Seminary. For him, the College and Working Yeshiva is ideal for his needs. “I am both working and in college,” he said. “CW Yeshiva sets up a schedule so you can be successful and integrate your daily life and your learning. It’s a place that gives people strength and encouragement but allows them to still be themselves.”

CW Yeshiva also hosts regular events such as Bourbon On The Balcony, a BYOB gemara shiur that takes place each week on the yeshiva balcony.

The amenities provided by CWY are extensive. Along with the beis midrash and access to some of New York’s finest rabbanim who commit to teaching at the yeshiva, its partnership with the Manhattan Beach Community Center, located next door, means its students have access to both a full-sized gymnasium and swimming pool. Housing is also provided; the yeshiva maintains apartments nearby exclusive for its students. What also makes it special is the level of relationship and community it provides.

“We hope to offer a close relationship between the students of our kollel, the yeshiva, our instructors and the rabbis and members of the community,” Wechsler said. “We are a yeshiva where you can feel comfortable to learn and to grow and to pursue goals even beyond learning, such as careers, dating and growing in observance. And we want our students to feel comfortable being themselves.”

Lilevman agrees. “The vibe is definitely a place where you can be yourself. If you are in Lakewood and you don’t conform you could feel out of place. But here, there is so much diversity; everyone doesn’t look the same. Everyone is on their own special path.”

Shabbos meals are provided by families in the community that invite the students to their homes. The connection between the Manhattan Beach community and its newest yeshiva is not lost on its students.

“It’s a growing community,” Lilevman said, “which means that if you come now you’re part of the foundation, and you feel like you’re actually helping build it. Every time you come to minyan you matter. Each person’s contribution here seems small, but it’s huge here.”

A couple weeks ago, a memo went out to all the students at CWY. “The [members] in the shul want to thank you all for the hard work and great programming in our community. A bunch of us would like to take you out for a thank you dinner. Would you all be able to make it?”

Relationships, community, acceptance. The new College and Working Yeshiva is truly a special place.

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Baruch Lytle is a Jewish Press staff writer.