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Torah Homework Hotline Set Up by Students at Yeshiva U. and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminar

January 6, 1983
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“Torah Homework Hotline,” a pilot project established early in December to help yeshiva and day school students in their Jewish studies, has been averaging 150 calls a week from students with questions about their homework.

The “hotline” was established by the Student Organization of Yeshiva (S.O.Y.), a group made up of students at Yeshiva University and the university’s affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS). Approximately 12 students a week work with the “hotline,” answering questions from callers.

“The program has attracted the very best students we have, “Rabbi Aharon Kahn, head of the yeshiva at RIETS, said.” The students already have a strong sense of responsibility toward the community. This is just one more approach to improving the spiritual welfare of the community.”

The “hotline” is open to both elementary and high school students in the New York City area from 7 to 9 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, High School students may call 960-5450. Elementary students may call 960-5350.

Whenever possible, the college students try to help the callers work out the solutions to their questions themselves. “Our students are teachers for a minute,” Kahn said.

Calls usually take from 20 seconds to two minutes, and the college students know most of the answers. Rabbi Jeffrey Abel, a Fellow in the Caroline and Joseph S. Gruss Post-Graduate Kollel at RIETS, who supervises the effort, also is available to help with the answers. A full set of references’ forum (books) also is available in the room where calls are taken.

The “hotline” program was the inspiration of Dr. Norman Lamm, president of Yeshiva University. It was implemented by Kahn, who is also director of the Gruss Post-Graduate Kollel.

Students who call with questions range from third and fourth graders to high school students, although the “hotline” did receive one call from a six-year-old girl with a question regarding the blessing over fragrant spices.

The callers are almost evenly divided between girls and boys, Amie Kanarek of Brooklyn, one of the student coordinators, said. “And the callers run the entire range of Orthodox affiliations,” he added, “from Hasidim in Williamsburg to students from modern day schools in Westchester County and New Jersey.”

The questions cover a wide range too, from sophisticated inquiries about the Talmud to requests for help with letters of the Hebrew alphabet. “So far, we have had very few crank calls,” Kanarek said.

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