Monday, November 11, 2019

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The writer of “Is Israel Yeshiva Overcrowding a Drawback of Communal Growth?” (March 7, 2019) wrote about a challenging issue. In a recent Jewish Link article, Rabbi Larry Rothwachs wrote about a similar issue affecting families of eighth graders whose children are applying to yeshiva high schools (“The High School Admissions Process: A Plea on Behalf of Our Children,” January 31, 2019). Both writers suggested that the yeshivas institute better and more effective collaboration to ensure that students are accepted to a yeshiva high school, or to an Israeli yeshiva or seminary.

As for this writer’s suggestion to “adopt a matching system,” the idea is a good one, but unlike yeshiva day schools which are known to forecast possible applicants from the time they are born, so that they can, as accurately as possible, predict the need for growth of their physical space, Israeli yeshivas cannot do that. Even when they know the approximate number of high school seniors several years before they apply, they are more restricted by the possible inability to build more classrooms and dorms in their present locations, due to both financial and space challenges. Even with a matching system, the pool of applicants is growing faster than the number of spots available in Israel’s yeshivas. Since the time most high school graduates spend in Israel for their gap year is one or two years (ok, some very generous parents allow their children shana gimmel), most Israeli yeshivas want to maintain a manageable number of students to provide the best experience for the year they are there.

Some forward thinking people (both professional educators and those able to provide financial support) have opened up new yeshivas and seminaries. True, not all students and their parents want to be the first to try a new yeshiva or seminary, but as far as I know, the newly opened ones are doing just fine. Maybe the collaboration needs to be between the more established yeshivas and seminaries and the day schools to see where the need is, and if not to open a new school, maybe open a branch of the established school in another location. Full disclosure: my children attended yeshivas and seminaries many years ago, so I am commenting here simply as an outsider looking in. As the writer wrote, “I know that the situation will change. It has to.”

William Hochman
Fair Lawn