Three years ago, in the middle of Matan’s first year in high school, he tried to explain to his clueless parents that the “Gemarathon” was starting and that it would be nice for us to come to learn with him and to bring some treats. We had very little idea what he was talking about, but we headed down to the school with ice cream for him and his 50 classmates.
What we found then was a Beit Midrash (Torah learning hall) overflowing with energy and enthusiasm. The high school yeshiva, Sussya, carves out one week a year to which they dedicate full and complete Gemara learning. Each morning, the entire school meets in the large, central Beit Midrash and receives the work for the day. They leave their phones at the door and their job is to work through the incredibly intricate and detailed texts. They do so in small peer learning groups, in larger groups with their teachers, with their parents and with peers who have been flagged as experts and are at the ready to help at all times.
Now, three years later, the Gemarathon is in full swing again and Thursday we arrived around 5:30 in the evening. This time we had ice cream for 100 boys, since two of our sons go to the school, and we brought a few little brothers along to enjoy the magic.
And magical it is.
When you walk into the Beit Midrash, there is a palpable energy. The place is abuzz with learning, discussion, argument and excitement. There is a quest to get through the papers by the end of the day and to tackle the pages in front of them. On top of that, there is a constantly changing energy, as parents drop in to learn, encourage and enjoy. And of course they bring food with them.
That brings us back to the ice cream. After bringing ice cream for 50 that first year, we’ve now been officially tagged as the ice cream providers. There I was on Thursday afternoon in our neighborhood grocery, discussing ice cream prices with the store owner and debating exactly how many tubs of ice cream were needed to feed 100 boys.
With the 12 tubs, 100 cones and two scoopers in tow, we arrived at Sussya. The room was bursting with happy boys learning Gemara and wrestling with complicated issues. We love how they stop everything for the week to give the Gemara the focus it deserves above and beyond the focus that they give to it each and every day. And while not everyone will become a Gemara master, everyone can achieve a love for learning and great memories of those days they spent with their teachers and peers in the Beit Midrash of their high school.
And this, really, is the goal of the school. They are building learners, of course, but they are also building thoughtful thinkers; men with the self confidence to tackle issues; men who work together, learn from each other and listen to those around them. It’s no wonder that Sussya is found, every single year, to have the highest rate of boys who go into fighting units in the army of any boys’ high school in the country. Their rate of boys in “kravi” or fighting units is close to 99%, while the next closest school in the country has a 91 or 92% rate.
They are raising the next generation of Israel’s leaders; leaders who love the country, who know how to listen and command and who have a thirst for knowledge and a quest for truth.
The Gemarathon is just one example of the building blocks that they use towards success, and we are thrilled each year to bring the sweet taste of ice cream to mingle with the even sweeter taste of academic success and personal growth at Sussya.