Apr 27, 2010
Whereas, there can be no question that studying in Israel in a Torah institution for one, two or more years between high school graduation and the beginning of university studies is a seminal and far-reaching positive experience for the typical Jewish adolescent’s religious and personal development. The opportunity to study Torah in-depth, to establish relationships with important and influential Torah personalities, to experience life in the Jewish State first-hand and to establish life-long friendships is simply incomparable and could be considered even indispensable; and,
Whereas it has come to the North American Orthodox Jewish community’s attention via anecdotal evidence supplemented recently by discussion in the media, that there are students, albeit a relatively small percentage, who not only are unable to take advantage of the tremendous spiritual opportunities that such an experience offers for various personal reasons, but, because of a lack of responsible institutional supervision, may actually engage in destructive behaviors during their time in Israel; and,
Whereas every young person is absolutely precious and has so much potential, that it behooves families, day schools and Israeli educational institutions to all strive to assure that the experience that these students will have during their Torah study years will be as beneficial and appropriate at possible;
Therefore, the Rabbinical Council of America resolves:
• That parents should try to be personally involved in determining based upon maturity levels and past history whether their particular child will be well-served by travelling far from home to study at this point in their lives, as well as the ultimate choice of Israeli Torah institution that their children decide to attend. Some students are clearly better off travelling to Israel for long-term study several years after their high school graduations. Parents should participate in events where representatives of the various institutions describe their schools, they should avail themselves of information that has been gathered about the Yeshivot such as is available at Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future’s website dedicated to describing these programs
, if possible visit yeshivot and seminaries while they are in session to obtain a sense of the ethos of the various options and stay in careful touch with their children and the schools they are attending over the course of the time that they are in Israel.
• That day schools in general and the advisors for these programs in particular should strive to be honest and realistic with respect to what is in their students’ best interests when making recommendations for post-high school study. For students to succeed in their studies in Israel, it is crucial that a good match is made between institution and student. Ideally, the range of Yeshivot and Seminaries as well as what each has to offer will be well-known in depth beyond brochures and representations that visitors to the day schools regularly make. The day schools should engage in intensive follow-up with their graduates, visiting them and showing interest in them throughout their time in Israel. It would also be appropriate for schools to have representatives in Israel who could maintain contact with students to see how they are getting along as well as be available to address any problems that may arise.
• To urge Israeli yeshivot and seminaries themselves to be as pro-active as possible to assist the young people who have come to them for one or two years of learning to go from strength to strength in their religious and personal development during this extremely impressionable time in their lives. They should be made to realize that whether students will continue to be sent to their institutions depends upon their level of personal concern and supervision. Clear and regular communication with parents and day schools with respect to how their children and students are doing would go far in reassuring everyone involved that the needs of Torah study year students are properly being addressed.
• That community rabbis who know well the students and their families should take it upon themselves to offer advice with respect to where to study in Israel as well as follow-up with as many of these students as possible when they have the opportunity to visit Israel themselves. In this way, an additional perspective will be brought to bear on these young people who find themselves far from home, and can thereby hopefully contribute to making these Torah study years truly meaningful and memorable.