Yeshivat Frisch students Eitan Dukas ’20, Eli Nat ’22 and Emily Gul ’20 achieved outstanding results on the latest exam in the Bronka Weintraub High School Bekiut Program, run by Yeshiva University. Dukas and Nat were two of four students—out of hundreds nationwide—who scored 100 in the Boys Daf Program and are tied for first place. Gul achieved fifth place in the country in the Girls Daf Program. As part of the program, students learn one daf of Gemara a week of Masechet Makkot—previous years have included Moed Katan, Ta’anit and Megillah—and take a series of five tests over the course of the year until completing the tractate.
Over 530 students nationwide are participating in the Bekiut Program this year, including over 30 from Frisch. The program includes both Daf-A-Week and Amud-A-Week options.
“The program doesn’t just allow you to learn Gemara, it gives you the ability to develop a love for Gemara,” says Dukas. “When you sit there every day trying to figure out what the Gemara is saying, and then finally understand it, there is no greater feeling. You feel like you’re on a high and your love for Gemara becomes so strong.”
Nat also noted the social aspect of the program. “YU Bekiut creates a sense of community in the beis because we’re all learning the same masecheta,” he says.
Frisch’s Bekiut Program faculty adviser, Rabbi Jonathan Feldman, gives shiurim and quizzes to students to help them prepare, but most of the study is done b’chavruta. Rabbi Feldman is careful to note that the competition is still anyone’s game. The recent exam was the third of the year, out of five total; the fourth took place this past week, and the results are still pending. “That being said, Frisch does have a lot to be proud of,” says Feldman. “Most of the participants have very high scores so far and everyone is gaining a lot from the experience.”
Gul has found the program’s structure particularly effective. “What I really love about this program is that it gives me the chance to learn both in a classroom setting and b’chavruta,” she says. “My chavruta and I get to challenge ourselves each week to learn as much as we can on our own but also get to benefit from shiurim in which our rabbi gives us helpful background information to a topic or expands on a story we found interesting. It truly is the best of both worlds.”
Quarantine and the transition to remote instruction has not hindered the learning. “We have been able to continue at our regular daf a week pace during quarantine, as students facetime their chavrusa, and take quizzes and [will take] even the test online,” Feldman explained. “The program is an excellent opportunity for students to develop their independent Gemara skills, and to challenge themselves to review and retain the material at a high level.”
“Frisch is so proud of our students who participate in the Bronka Weintraub Bekiut Program, and of Eitan, Eli and Emily for their remarkable, recent achievements,” said Frisch Principal Rabbi Eli Ciner. “Even more so, we are inspired by their profound dedication and time commitment to talmud Torah.”
The benefits of the Bekiut Program are multifold, according to Program Coordinator Rabbi Jonah Steinmetz. “Students gain a mastery of large amounts of Gemara over the course of a year,” notes Steinmetz. “They also have an opportunity to enjoy their learning and enjoy real, tangible rewards for their progress in learning. They earn money for seforim, not to mention thousands of dollar grand prizes for doing well on the exams.”
Steinmetz recommends “learning the Gemara well, reviewing the material and remaining calm” as the keys to success in the program. “Students who put in effort usually see results,” said Steinmetz. “We are looking to help them succeed, to ease and excite their learning experience—not to add more challenges and roadblocks.”