On Thursday, June 29, at 7:15, despite the fact that it is usually closed at that hour, the Lazy Bean Cafe was bustling with friends reuniting, the purchase of delicious milkshakes and girls grabbing a booklet of combined Torah sources that would make up Dr. Aliza Frohlich’s shiur for that night. The buzzing and bustling can be attributed to the NCSY Summer Girls’ Learning Initiative. SGLI is a program run by Dr. Frohlich for girls from high schools such as Bruriah, Ma’ayanot and Frisch, and they are open as well to public-school students.
This is the sixth year of SGLI, which was started by Dr. Frohlich who was a madricha (counselor) at Michlelet NCSY, a learning-based program in Israel for teenage girls. Dr. Frohlich told The Jewish Link that she felt strongly that there needed to be some learning opportunities for girls in the U.S. as well over the summer.
The weekly shiurim bring in different speakers each week, with the first week’s shiur led by Dr. Frohlich herself. Among the attendees of the shiur are high school girls who are home for the summer, most of them working as counselors in day camps; some are returnees, but there are some newbies as well. One of the returnees, Atara Pietruszka, described SGLI as “a fun opportunity to learn with friends, hear from inspiring speakers, schmooze and, of course, eat good food!”
When asked why she enjoys heading this program, Dr. Frohlich responded: “I have always enjoyed sharing Torah with young women, and the best part about the summer program is that those who attend are super-motivated and interested in Torah learning. Without school and grades they still want to learn. What better audience can there be?”
This program is important in preventing the infamous “summer slide,” in which a loss of knowledge can occur to students with a dearth of educational activities. Rivka Moskowitz, another attendee of this program, explained that she thinks this program is important for this very reason. “This program is important because during the summer we are not in our regular mode of learning every day like we are with school,” she said.
The shiur given by Dr. Frohlich focused on the timely topic of peer pressure. Dr. Frohlich opened with different psychological studies that describe the power of peer pressure and said how really these studies “are uncovering that which the Torah has known for generations.” There are many examples of negative peer pressure from the Torah. Included among them are the negative effect of Lot on Avraham, the spies spying out the Land of Israel on Caleb, and Korach on the whole tribe of Reuven.
However, the Torah does not only talk about negative peer pressure; it discusses positive peer pressure as well. For example, in Sefer Devarim it writes: “את ה’ אלוקיך תירא... ובו תדבק,” “And Hashem your God you should fear and stick to Him.” How can we stick to Hashem and fulfill “ובו תדבק”? The Rambam answers that we can “stick to” and surround ourselves with talmidei chachamim in hopes of having their great level of spirituality rub off on us.
The Torah not only gives examples of peer pressure; it gives solutions as well. Rabbi Lazer Gurkow applies the halachot of kashering utensils that became non-kosher because they were used with hot non-kosher food to solutions regarding peer pressure: the best defense against peer pressure is a strong offense. Strengthening our Torah learning and growth and emitting that toward others will help us withstand the negative effects of peer pressure. To view Rabbi Lazer Gurkow’s dvar Torah in full, see: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/13501.
The SGLI occurs every Thursday evening at 7:15 and will be continuing at Congregation Beth Abraham at 396 New Bridge Rd., Bergenfield, NJ. Anyone with questions may contact Dr. Frohlich at [email protected].
By Chani Shulman
Chani Shulman, a rising sophomore at Manhattan High School for Girls, is currently a summer intern at The Jewish Link.