Interested in being featured? Please send us a message with a short introduction!
This installment we will meet Aaron Cywiak of Flatbush, Brooklyn:
Koren Publishers: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Aaron: I was born in a DP [Displaced Persons] camp in Ulm, Germany (birthplace of Albert Einstein – no osmosis to me). I came to the US when I was 2.5 years old. I went to a Lubavitcher Yeshiva until the 7th grade when I then transferred to Yeshiva Torah Vodaas and eventually got my smicha (rabbinic ordination) from there. I graduated from Brooklyn College in 1971 with a B.S. in Accounting. I got my CPA and ten years later started my own firm.
I am now the managing partner of Cywiak & Company LLP. My two brothers and my son are my partners.
I was married in 1970 to Debbie Snow and lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan for almost ten years. We then moved to Flatbush, Brooklyn. I have, ken ayneh hora, 8 beautiful married children and not enough grandchildren.
Koren Publishers: How long have you been learning Gemara?
Aaron: I have been learning Gemara since I was 10 years old in the fifth grade, 59 years ago!
Koren Publishers: Do you have a chavruta or do you learn by yourself?
Aaron: I have attended Rabbi Shlomo Teichman’s daf yomi shiur at Khal Sasregen in Brooklyn for the last 37+ years. I am on my 6th daf yomi cycle. Before the last Siyum HaShas I heard that Koren was doing an English translation of the Steinsaltz Hebrew edition. At the Agudath Israel Siyum HaShas at Metlife Stadium, I heard Rabbi Frand’s speech in which he challenged us to come up with a learning plan. I decided that I would purchase the Koren printed edition (to learn on Shabbos) and the digital PDF version, and I would prepare each daf in advance on the subway on my way to work and at home when I didn’t go to work. My wife bought me an iPad so that I could put my plan into action, which I kept by learning from the PDF of each Masekhet [tractate]. This plan and the Koren edition have been invaluable in my understanding of the daf shiur.
Koren Publishers: What do you enjoy about learning Talmud?
Aaron: I enjoy the intellectual aspect of learning Gemara and the hidushim [revelations] of the commentaries. I enjoy an intellectual answer to a problem or contradiction. I also enjoy the practical aspect of learning – how Halakha is developed from the Gemara and how poskim [Jewish legal scholar] have different ways of learning and interpreting different Halakhot. The Notes and Halakha sections of the Steinsaltz and Koren Gemaras make learning extra enjoyable and fulfilling for me. I also tell people that this is the main reason that I use these editions almost exclusively in my learning.
Koren Publishers: We hear you have been in contact with our editors over the years. What about? Were our editors helpful to you and responsive to your suggestions? Explain your relationship to Koren Publishers.
Aaron: When I first started using the Koren English Talmud, I was reading the Hebrew side only. If I didn’t understand the Hebrew, I would consult the English side. Learning this way went relatively smoothly and easily. As I was reading the English I had some feedback and comments, and decided to contact Koren about them. I got the name and contact information for Project Manager Rabbi Avishai Magence. I then started corresponding with Rabbi Magence offering my comments and corrections. Rabbi Magence was always very responsive, he answered all my emails almost immediately. I am now in contact with the feedback section of Koren Publishers.