Gemara Bifnim, a unique project of Crown Heights-based Igud Hamelamdim, garnered an enthusiastic response during its programming for the two school years of – 5778 and 5779 (2017-2019). Following its success in sixth grades across the USA and Canada, the program has now expanded to seventh grade.
“While being able to read the Gemara inside is assumed to be basic to learning Gemara,” explains Rabbi Avrohom Bluming, director of Igud Hamelamdim, “the reality is that it is becoming a growing challenge. Children nowadays are finding it ever more challenging to focus on words on a page, and it really hits them hard when they enter yeshiva.”
It’s not a memory game, it’s not about remembering the conversation or storyline – “It’s about looking inside the Gemara to see which words mean this, and who is this referring to, and how do you know that. These skills are the key to knowing how to learn Gemara independently anywhere in the world, at any time.”
The current chinuch landscape is inundated with extracurricular programming, encouraging students to excel in baal peh, in mivtzoyim, in Darkei Hachassidus. The achievements gained in these areas are astounding.
To match that enthusiasm within the classroom itself, Igud Hamelamdim came up with a revolutionary way to give children these fundamental skills in an exciting manner. Gemara Bifnim was created as a positive program that would not only encourage proper Gemara study, but also make it tantalizing.
Following his involvement and success in last year’s program, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Aronson was recruited to direct the program.
Appreciation has poured in from teachers and students alike, for the reinforcement of this fundamental learning skill.
So, how does it work?
To assess their knowledge of the text, students take a bi-weekly quiz using open Gemaras. The quiz also trains their minds in how to decipher and read the text.
Besides for prizes that students receive at a year-end program, raffles are held after each test as an extra incentive. Participating classes from around the world tune in to a live global broadcast for extra encouragement and the raffle.
A fantastic feature of the program is a special phone system that allows students to record themselves reading and explaining the Gemara they learned in class. The system is so successful that some are even asking for more opportunities to record.
Another hit is the Shabbos-review program that rewards those who review the Gemara with their father (or any adult) at home over Shabbos. Fathers have welcomed this opportunity to bond with their sons over a blatt Gemara.
With chinuch being one of our highest priorities and the foundation of our future, we can all hope that this program will continue to aid teachers in educating children with the skills and knowledge they need to lead a life filled with a true love for Torah study.