The Gift of Learning Partners
Submitted by Yehuda Zimberg
Hello, My name is Yehuda Zimberg. I’m from New York, I am 26 years old, and I have a stutter.
I have been stuttering since I was eight years old. There wasn’t any traumatic experience that caused it; it just popped up out of the blue. I would not consider it a terrible stutter, but a stutter nonetheless. The fear and humiliation of stuttering made me very self-conscious and I became shy, quiet, and reserved. This was not the person I wanted to be, but rather the person I became due to my stutter. My parents took me to get speech therapy and constantly reassured me that everything would be fine. I met with wonderful people who helped along the way (Deirdre Casey, Uri, and Phil Schneider, Yanky Kaufman to name a few), but my ego was at a point where I was too stubborn and proud to get help or let people help me. Over the years, I learned to deal with my stutter – I wasn’t happy about it but I learned how to live with it.
Fast forward a few years later… I am in Israel learning in Yeshiva. I was in Jerusalem one day and went into Mannys Book Store. As I was browsing the shelves, a title jumped out at me: “The Gift of Stuttering.” I thought to myself: “who is this sick guy calling stuttering a gift?! Stuttering is a curse!”…
Of course, I picked up a copy, skimmed through the pages, became intrigued, and purchased the book. Moe Mernick is the author’s name, and the book is about his personal journey confronting life challenges, i.e., Stuttering.
While reading through the book, I could not help but that Moe and I have a lot in common. I have a stutter; Moe has a stutter. I am a Kohen; Moe is a Kohen. I use Preparation H… Never mind the last part, but you get the idea.
The way that Moe was describing his struggles made me feel like I was meeting an old friend who understood everything that I was going through. Even the little things that were easy for someone else, such as being asked your name, ordering food, or talking on the phone, Moe and I found extremely difficult.
However, I think the point that spoke to me most is that Moe has this confidence to embrace his stutter; to be open and forthcoming about it. He writes that when he would meet new people, he would often say, “I would like to introduce you to my stutter; he might pop up soon to say hi.” He showed that a stutter is not something to hold you back from accomplishing your goals. It is not something to be afraid of. It is just another piece of the puzzle, making up the larger picture of one’s life. To me, the very idea of being forthcoming and open about stuttering was taboo. The very thought that I could introduce myself to someone and say I have a stutter was something I never dared to do until I read Moe’s story.
My time in Israel came to a close, and I returned to New York to begin dating. Using Moe’s openness technique, I started the dates off by introducing myself and my stutter. People were so taken aback that I was comfortable with my speech! They saw this as a plus in my personality. Long story short, I got married to a wonderful girl, and we now have a child! I work as a Concierge in a nursing home, which forces me to meet and talk with people and their families every day. A job your typical stuttering person wouldn’t be signing up for! I do not believe I would’ve had the confidence to pursue this job or get married if I hadn’t read The Gift of Stuttering.
Another thing that happened during my time in Israel is that I got hooked to the teachings of Reb Noach Weinberg. Since then, I have invested a lot into buying his books and other similar reading material to help deepen my connection to Judaism and hopefully some else’s.
My sister joined Partners in Torah almost 2 years ago, and she says it has changed her life. We speak on the phone pretty often, and I offer books or reading material that may help her and her partner deepen their connection to Judaism. She has been telling me for the past year: “Yehuda, you’ve got to join Partners in Torah!” I kept pushing her off saying I do not think I am ready to take on such an undertaking.
Then, a few weeks ago, she sent me an email showing how the Shabbat Project and Partners in Torah were teaming up for a “get your feet wet 3-week learning experience.” She said the material is given to you by Partners in Torah, and all you have to do is read off a paper 30 minutes a week for 3 weeks. I told her I would think about it. After debating in my head for a few days, I hesitantly agreed, but only this one time! She was very excited and sent me a link to sign up. The form asked what the best time available to learn is; I filled out from 5-8 AM, not really thinking someone is available at those times because A: it would be too early, and B: people are on their way to work.
After I submitted it, I was told it might take a few days until they find someone compatible. They said to be on the lookout for a text or an email to notify me if they found me a partner.
A few days later, I got a text saying they found me a partner and that I should check my email for more information. I logged onto my email nervously and saw they partnered me up to learn with someone from Israel at 5:00 AM on Tuesdays. What was my partner’s name? None other than… Mr. Moe Mernick. I did a double-take, and I reread the email slowly to make sure my eyes were working properly. I quickly called my sister to tell her they found me a partner, and his name is Moe Mernick. She got very excited over the phone and asked, “Do you know who that is?!” I said, “Unless there are two Moe Mernick’s, the one I am thinking about is the one who wrote the book The Gift of Stuttering.” She replied, “I know, but do you know who that is?!” Now I know that I have a stutter, but I did not know she also has one! So I told her again, “Yes, he is the author of the book that has influenced me in a great way!” She said, “Not only that… Moe Mernick is also in charge of Partners in Torah!”
When Moe and I started on that first Tuesday at 5 am, just to be sure, I asked him if he is the one who wrote the book, and he responded yes! I then proceeded to tell him all that you have just read and said, “What are the odds that the algorithm set us up?!”
The three weeks of learning ended, and so did our official learning partnership. But I finally took the plunge and signed up to be a participant for Partners in Torah!
Looking back at the 3-week learning experience, I am still so awed at the amazing “coincidence” that I was paired up with Moe Mernick!
This why I truly believe our partnership is truly A Match Made in Heaven.