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Thursday, August 16, 2018

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Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a speech given by a parent at this year’s MTA open house.

Exactly 10 years ago today, my husband and I were running from open house to open house, listening to rebbeim, heads of schools and students preach the praises of each of their high schools. We had to decide what was important in a high school. Are we as parents supposed to make the decision for our sons, or do we let our boys make this important decision? What are the important factors? Is proximity really important? Do we pay attention to where his closest friends might be going? How important are extracurriculars? An intense Torah education? Top tier academics? A great athletic program?

I don’t know about all of you, but I was confused. Choosing a high school will probably be one of the most important decisions as a parent that you will have to make, since the next four years are the most impressionable ones in your son’s life and you want to be sure they are in the right environment to shape and mold them into fine young men.

My oldest son is the typical oldest child. He is an overachiever, a leader, always in the honors track, popular and an excellent athlete. Son number two, who is exactly a year younger, is an amazing child, but not so much the overachiever. More like the procrastinator and the charmer, the kid who couldn’t sit still in class and was forgetful with books, homeworks, knapsacks, lunches and even tefillin. We chose MTA for our eldest and he thrived in the honors track.

When I came back to revisit the school for my next son, and to sit in on some of the classes, I asked the admissions office not to give me any honors classes. I wanted to see the middle and lower tracks to observe the teachers and the students. Much to my surprise, many of the same teachers who taught in the honors tracks taught the middle and lower tracks as well. I was pleased with what I observed, and my son eventually became a truly serious student who grew academically, socially and spiritually throughout his four years in MTA.

My youngest son is currently a senior at MTA. Being the youngest, this child is by far my most mischievous, manipulative and argumentative child. He’s extremely bright, popular, full of enthusiasm and charisma. He tries to get away with doing the least amount of work possible. He made it very clear coming into ninth grade that he did not want to be in any honors courses. However, after meeting with the school leadership, we decided that honors was exactly where he should be.

The bond between the rebbeim and students at MTA is clearly incredibly strong. So much so that one of the rebbes, Rabbi Cement, made a tremendous effort and traveled to Montreal for our son’s wedding to be able to share in our simcha and to read the ketubah under his chuppah. Rabbi Beitler gave a bracha under our other son’s chuppah and at his wedding we had an entire table of MTA rebbeim. Both boys sought out Rabbi Cement to learn with them for their chattan classes as well. Our youngest has built the same relationship with his rebbeim, Rabbis Beitler, Axelrod, Pearl and Danto, over the years. It is truly unique that these students and rebbeim continue their learning and close bond even past their high school years.

For us, seeing the results of the excellent education that all three of our boys received, which challenged them to their highest ability, and molded them into the fine bnei Torah they have become, was priceless. Observing the rebbe/student relationships each of my children has formed and continues to have, is priceless. And spending time with all of their wonderful friends, who have become a part of our family over the years, again: priceless. These to me were the most important factors in choosing a high school. I hope they are to each of you as well.

Reshi Isaacs

Teaneck