Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Yeshiva that Teaches Torah, Mada, and Midos

Although my alma mater has taken some right turns in recent years. It is light years ahead of its Charedi competition in the matter of tolerance of different Hashkafos.

Is it the same Yeshiva I attended? No. I would love to see a faculty that included the same people I learned from back in my day. The faculty then included Torah giants as well as giants in the fields of Jewish philosophy and Jewish History.

Imagine a faculty that included Rav Ahron Soloveichik as Rosh HaYeshiva. Imagine having on board such revered Gedolim as the Ateres Mordechai (Rav Mordechai Rogov), Rabbi Yaakov Perlow (The Novominsker Rebbe) and Rav Moshe Wernick who learned in pre Holocaust Slabodka. Imagine a faculty filled with European trained Rebbeim - one of whom who had a masters degree from the University of Chicago in the field of history (Rav Selig Starr).

Imagine the high level of learning that took place then. Mir Rosh HaYeshiva, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, was a student there. So too were many others who have gone on to become great people in their own right.

This was a Yeshiva that said Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut and promoted the ideals of Torah U’Mada and Torah Im Derech Eretz instead of denigrating the former and dismissing the latter as secondary at best.

Imagine having on faculty brilliant thinkers like Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Berkovits who in his day was considered one of only two Orthodox Jewish philosophers in the world (the other one being the Rav); Rabbi Dr. Leonard C. Mishkin, whose expertise in Jewish history had few peers; and Rabbi Dr. Joseph Babad who was the dean of students and who was fluent in seven different foreign languages. Imagine a teacher who was an expert in Tanach and has published many in depth scholarly volumes on the subject, Rabbi Dr. Abraham Lipshutz. (He is still on faculty there.)

This is the school that I attended for many years back in the sixties and seventies. It no longer exists in that form. All the great people I just mentioned with the exception of Dr. Lipshutz have either left or passed on.

Although the faculty of my day cannot be matched, HTC today has a brilliant faculty in both Limudei Kodesh and Limudei Chol that is led by a new Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Avraham Friedman. And it still says Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut and not only sees studying Mada in a positive light - it has an accredited college on campus offering a growing number of programs and degrees.

This has come to light recently in an article by Rabbi Hillel Goldberg the Charedi oriented publisher of the Intermountain Jewish News. His son just graduated high school there (Fasman). What he wrote about my alma mater makes me proud.

Here are some excerpts:

First, academically. A rosh yeshiva (dean) in Israel says that he visited 27 schools this year while recruiting, and found the senior level in the Skokie 12th grade to be the most advanced in the country.

In Torah study, these kids have goaded each other, motivated each other, pushed their teachers, and certainly were pushed throughout their four years; for instance, by our son’s rebbe this year, Rabbi Meir Segal. He has tremendous focus, a truly remarkable concentration on Talmud study, utterly impervious to the usual admixtures and distractions of our culture, with the ability to engage and elevate his students.

Then, too, this class won more than its share of full-ride and other major college scholarships.

Second, socially. Here are 34 graduates, absent any cliques, mutually supportive, each happy for the achievements of the others. A cohesive group with a healthy competitiveness, each student genuinely exuberant when the other succeeds or wins. Now, a class like that is luck. And that’s a blessing.

One of the things most lacking in today’s Yeshiva world is tolerance. If there is a predominant Hashkafa of one type, it is promoted to the exclusion of others. So if a Yeshiva will invite the Novominsker Rebbe to address the Bachurim, they would not likely invite Rav Hershel Shachter. And if a yeshiva would invite Rav Shachter to address the Bachurim, they would likely not invite the Novominsker.

Not so HTC. Describing his son’s experiences there Rabbi Goldberg says the following:

During their years at Skokie, the class had the privilege of periodic visits and addresses from the likes of Rabbi Yaakov Perlow (the Novominsker Rebbe), Rabbi Herschel Schacter, Israel’s Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbis, and many other rabbinic eminences, not to mention their own rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Avraham Friedman.

As I said I am truly proud of my alma mater. If anyone wants their child to receive an excellent education in both Limudei Kodesh and Limudei Chol - with great Rebbeim as role models and exposure to more than one Hashkafa, let them consider HTC’s Fasman Yeshiva High School. They will not be disappointed.