Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Av 5761 - July 25, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











"Ohr Chodosh" -- A New Yeshiva Combining Yeshiva Studies With Vocational Training
by M. Samsonowitz

The religious community has a number of youths who are intelligent and capable but for various reasons find it difficult to maintain an all-day learning program. These youths often drop out of yeshiva and then, for lack of choice, reluctantly and unwillingly gravitate toward the street with all its attractions.

If a program were available which would combine yeshiva studies and vocational work, these youths would never have reached the street in the first place. Once these youths have hit the street, it is much more difficult to reclaim them.

Ohr Chodosh is a new attempt to deal with the problem of Anglo-Saxon religious youth in Israel who do not fit into regular yeshivos by addressing the root of the problem. Ohr Chodosh offers a comprehensive morning yeshiva studies program, with vocational training in the afternoon encompassing carpentry, electrical work, construction and plumbing.

After graduating the two-year program, students are able to apprentice with professionals in their respective fields and eventually have a skill in a lucrative trade.

The founder of the program, Rabbi Aaron Zimmer, is a man of extensive qualifications and experience in both the yeshiva and secular world. After spending his youth in New York, Copenhagen and London, Rabbi Zimmer earned a degree in Architecture and Business Administration. He learned in the Mirrer Yeshiva for a number of years, and has been learning for the past 16 years in a kollel in Telshe Stone affiliated with a yeshiva that caters to American youth. He is also involved in local communal affairs.

Eleven years ago Rabbi Zimmer was asked to help initiate a carpentry training program for Anglo-Saxon yungerleit who found it necessary to support their families. Over the years, approximately 100 avreichim took part in this high caliber carpentry course which operates on a farm in Motza under the instruction of Reb Yitzchok Kitay, a ben Torah and carpenter with 20 years experience. The furniture which the avreichim made during their training in the program is donated to poor families.

The graduates of the course are now working bnei Torah. Eighty percent are living in Israel today. They successfully support their families with their acquired skills as, contractors, carpenters and handymen, while maintaining at least one seder of Torah study a day.

Seeing this success, parents of youth who couldn't adapt to regular yeshiva programs approached Rabbi Zimmer and asked him to devise a program for their sons. These parents were concerned that unless an alternative was found, their sons would flounder without direction. With Rabbi Zimmer's experience with youth, he realized that they were missing a sense of satisfaction and productivity in their life. All day learning was too much for them, but taking a piece of wood and turning it into an object of value would give them a sense of accomplishment.

"From my experience," Rabbi Zimmer explains, "once a person feels accomplishment in one aspect of their lives, it radiates to other aspects as well. I saw that there was a real need for a combined yeshiva and vocational training program."

Rabbi Zimmer first sought the approval and guidance of his mentor, Rav Mordechai Friedlander, as well as receiving the backing of other gedolim.

A pilot program was implemented for the last three months of the 1999 school year. Using the carpentry facility in Motza and employing Reb Yitzchok Kitay's assistance, he trained 8 boys ages 17-18 in basic carpentry skills. The boys were from Anglo-Saxon families from various neighborhoods in Jerusalem and Bet Shemesh. They studied in their own yeshivos in the morning and attended the carpentry course in the afternoon.

It should be stressed that all the teachers of the program are bnei Torah who teach the boys a way of life in addition to simple work skills. For instance, the boys see how their instructors close up shop to go daven mincha. They demonstrate that despite working for their living, Jewish obligations are paramount in their lives.

The program completely fulfilled its expectations. As soon as the youths began working with their hands and creating useful furniture, their productivity had a profound impact on their morning seder and their sense of fulfillment from it also grew.

One 18 year old student said at the end of the course, "This is the first time that I started a project and completed it from beginning to end! This sense of accomplishment made me realize that I have the potential of completing Shas as well!"

The success of the pilot group revealed what tremendous potential the program had.

The first full-year program of Ohr Chodosh opened on Rosh Chodesh Elul, 2000. The youths study in the morning at their respective yeshivos, and attend the training course in the afternoon.

The beginning of the course focused on professional carpentry skills. They were taught how to use carpentry tools and machinery safely and responsibly. They built various projects, gaining knowledge of power tools as well as learning how to lacquer, stain and sand.

One of their projects was a collective endeavor in which each of the boys had to design a cabinet to the specifications of a client's order. Each boy had to calculate as if he were running his own carpentry shop, how much material was needed, the overhead on the project, final cost of producing the cabinet, cost of a worker, and time spent on the project including measuring and installation. Then the group compared their notes, and built the project jointly.

During the second semester, the program covered a fundamental electrical course. At the end of the course the group had an outing to the electrical power plant in Hadera.

For the remaining months of the school year the group studied basic masonry skills as well as construction including building materials, cement, plastering, window and door installation.

The first year program is right now at completion. The youths who attended the program not only exhibited a tremendous sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, but their achievements in their Torah learning also significantly improved.

Efraim, 19, from England now living in Rechovot, explains, "I needed to do something, as I couldn't concentrate on learning all day. I was about to leave yeshiva with nothing to do until someone suggested that I join this program. Since I like using my hands, I agreed. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and I'm planning to stay on for a while."

Eli, 19: "Before I took this course, I felt like a kid. But this program is building me, and making me a person. I feel its putting me together and I enjoy my morning learning seder much more."

Gershon, 17, from Long Beach, California, now living in suburban Jerusalem: "I was in yeshiva before, but didn't find my place. My parents told me about the program and I joined. I met new friends, and learned skills in the areas of woodworking and electricity and just physical work in general. The teachers help you and are there for you. I feel very good about the program."

After this successful year, Ohr Chodosh is expanding its program for the 2001-2002 school year to include a full day schedule, all on its own premises. There will be a morning beis midrash program geared to the needs of the students including small shiurim delivered by English speaking mechanchim as well as learning halacha and hashkofo. The beis hamedrash program will be led by Rav Friedlander.

The vocational program will include a computer course in addition to the carpentry and electrical courses. The program also offers recreational activities and preparation for GED diplomas. The atmosphere will continue to be individualized and caring.

Rav Zev Leff, the rav of Moshav Matisyahu, has given his enthusiastic endorsement to the program. In addition to sending several boys to study there whose progress he has watched with satisfaction, he has issued a warm approbation in which he writes: "I strongly endorse this project and efforts such as these will strengthen the upcoming generation of Jewish youth to Torah living and will thus strengthen the future of the Jewish people."

For more information on the program, phone Rabbi Aaron Zimmer at: 02-533-4833, fax:02-534-4540, or send


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