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Northwestern University

Three Brothers, One Class

Classroom discussions spill over at the dinner table for three brothers enrolled in Professor Barry Wimpfheimer's "Reading the Talmud" seminar

It is generally thought that Talmud is best learned with a havruta (partner).

For Iszy, Aitan, and Yadid Hirschtritt Licht, make that two partners. The three brothers took Professor Barry Wimpfheimer’s Reading the Talmud seminar together during the spring quarter of 2015.

Majors in different subjects — Iszy ’15 in political science, Aitan ’17 in Spanish and economics, and Yadid ’18 in radio/television/film — they realized that Iszy’s final quarter of college would likely be their last chance to take a course together.

“We thought about how much fun it would be to take a course as a ‘brothers class,’” Iszy said. And since they all “relished our Jewish education,” he said, some aspect of Judaism seemed to be the logical subject. The Talmud course built on their studies at Chicagoland Jewish High School in Deerfield and the Jewish day schools they attended in New Jersey and, after the family’s move to suburban Chicago in 2006, in Illinois.

It wasn’t surprising that the brothers attended the same university. When Iszy made his choice, he wanted to stay near home in Northbrook. Northwestern was the “natural choice” for him, Aitan said: “Iszy was there already. I thought it would have been strange to go to any other school.” By the time Yadid made his decision, it was almost a foregone conclusion: “I immediately would have my two best friends on campus.” Because his desired major isn’t as common as those of his brothers, it was lucky for him that Northwestern offers a well-regarded film program.

Despite their togetherness, Talmud was their first shared course.

"A new way of sharing"

“We’ve always enjoyed talking with one another about national news, but taking a course together was a new way of sharing,” Iszy said. “Material from the course would spill into out-of-class interactions. At meals with friends or our parents, we shared in conversations and jokes about false witnesses, rabbinic scholars and the phrase ‘quid pro quo.’”

“We spent a lot of time discussing the content outside of class,” Yadid agreed. “We would often joke around about some of the more ridiculous premises in the Talmudic text, like the one where the possibility of superhuman vision or flying must be ruled out in a legal decision.”

Iszy and Yadid took to studying at Iszy’s apartment on mornings before class, with Iszy preparing breakfast. Aitan, usually inclined to study alone, embraced more togetherness as the quarter progressed. For three straight days he and Iszy worked alongside one another on their final papers, staying in the library until 2 in the morning. “While our topics were different — his paper focused on the treatment of Jewish sects in the Talmud and I focused on the place of Jesus in Rabbinic literature — we would pause to check up on one another, bounce ideas off each other, present our progress to one another and eat!,” Aitan said.

Aitan even admitted to some sibling competitiveness: “It made me nervous if my brothers participated in class discussions and I did not; I felt like I was lagging behind them. I drove myself to participate actively and to work carefully on assignments not just for my grade but to demonstrate my academic potential to my brothers.”

There was no need for concern; all three Lichts did extremely well in the course. As he prepared for Commencement, Iszy, who’s now pursuing a career in public policy research, said that his last quarter of college was the best because of how much he was around his brothers.

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