Searching for high school for ds13

Exactly two weeks ago, dh and I met with ds13’s teacher for our PTA conference.  Last year dh attended these alone and I dealt with all of the other kids’ teachers, but I felt that this year I wanted to be more involved regarding ds.

His teacher is a wonderful man, very learned in Torah and a very experienced teacher.  And he has a very positive opinion of ds.  I’m very appreciative that ds has been able to have such a special teacher.

He told us, ds is a great student, picks material up quickly, gets along with other students very well, respectful, good character, etc.  There wouldn’t seem to be much left to talk about, but dh and I agreed that we wanted to get his feedback on high school options for ds. As soon as we asked, he emphatically told us that ds should go to a regular yeshiva, not an American yeshiva.  We asked what he meant by that, and he told us that ds has integrated well and would be able to do well at any typical Israeli charedi yeshiva ketana (high school but with no secular subjects).

We then reassured him we had no intention to send ds to an American yeshiva.  After all, I continued, we moved to the north of Israel because of our desire for our children to acclimate to life in Israel rather than raise them in an Anglo bubble neighborhood.  He was glad to hear me say this… until I continued, “We don’t want an American yeshiva – we want a yeshiva in which he’ll get a bagrut (Israeli matriculation certificate).”

Although it was clear that this wasn’t something he was happy to hear, I appreciate that we were able to speak openly with him.  I prefer being direct and open in my communication, and know that many teachers would make negative judgments about our religious commitment for saying something like this.  Afterward I only half jokingly told dh, when the teacher tells the school administration about this conversation, they’ll feel justified in having denied admission to our younger kids.

The teacher warned us against doing this – he said if we want to sent to a school like Maarava, we’re going to pay a price for that decision.  I asked him what the price was, and he said religiously we’ll pay the price, that the kids attending there won’t be a positive influence. I asked him what the price would be if ds attended a typical charedi yeshiva for high school, and he told me there was no price, that there were only positives.  And he’s right, when your child is a good fit for the framework you choose for them, the negatives of that choice aren’t a negative for you so you don’t pay any price.  In our discussion, he  strongly advocated for this framework.  His statement shows his integrity, that his choices are fully in line with his values. But for us and for ds, there would be a downside since our emphasis and goals in education are somewhat different.

Now, though the teacher didn’t know this when he made his statement, Maarava happens to be just the school we have in mind.  (For those who are wondering if we’re pushing our agenda on ds, he himself doesn’t want a typical charedi yeshiva.)  There are only a small number of charedi high schools that teach secular subjects in Israel, and this is considered the best of them.  It’s difficult to get into, and is known to be selective, accepting only about 35 of the two hundred applicants annually.  It has a very good reputation.  We would view him getting accepted there as a definite accomplishment – we don’t have ‘pull’ to get him in, so it would have to be on his own merits.   (However, it’s very expensive – the price I was told was something like 32,000 + shekels yearly, and a few hundred shekels monthly for him to come home for Shabbos – and no scholarships are available.  No, I have no idea how we could afford it and this would be one of two reasons that he wouldn’t attend if he gets accepted.  Actually, because of this we’re not sure it’s even worth our while to have him interview there, except I think it would be a confidence booster for him to know that he was accepted.)

But in the Israeli charedi world, this isn’t looked at positively.  This is an example of the divide between how Anglos and Israelis in the charedi world think – Anglos think this is a great school, Israelis think it’s ‘less than’.  An Israeli charedi friend has warned me against sending him, just as the teacher has, and I understand where they’re coming from.  I realize that by sending ds to a school like this we’re setting him up to be seen as second rate in the charedi world, and maybe that’s not fair of us to do to a him, particularly since he really could be a ‘top’ boy in Israeli terms.  (Please understand I’m not judging anyone as better or worse, just trying to explain how things are viewed.)

But we’re trying to go beyond our egos and find a framework that he wants to be in, that he will feel supported in. The typical yeshiva ketana schedule of only Torah study from the morning until late at night, with just a two hour break in the middle of the day, would be really hard for him.  Not because he couldn’t handle it academically – he could.  But there’s no sports, no outside activities, and his friends have told him that they spend their free time sleeping since the schedule is so grueling.  While this is a good choice for some boys and they’ll thrive there, ds is very clear that he doesn’t want this.

We thought we had a few more months until the application process begins, but just learned yesterday that the applications for next year are due in the next two weeks.  I don’t know if this includes arranging for his entrance interviews or if that is a later step in the application process.  We were told to start applying to Maarava now, but I don’t yet know if this is true of other similar schools; I’ll have to find out this week.

Fortunately, I’ve been looking into high school choices for over a year (remember, we skipped ds into eighth grade when we moved, and didn’t decide to leave him in that class for a second year until around December) so at least I feel I know what’s out there and I don’t have to rush to evaluate the different schools.  But we don’t have a lot of options.  There are about five or six schools in the entire country that fit what we’re looking for, Maarava being considered the best.  Unfortunately, all of them would mean that ds would have to dorm.  I really don’t want to send ds away for high school, even if almost everyone in the country considers this normal and even positive.  I consider it highly problematic.

There’s one new option, a yeshiva high school that will be opening this coming year in Karmiel just a few minutes from our home.  It’s the same kind of school as the others we’re considering, charedi but with a bagrut offered.  If he were to attend this school, ds would be be able to  live at home, which is a HUGE value to us.  I’m not majorly concerned if the academics are as high a level at Maarava, since I have confidence in one’s ability to supplement.  However, it’s almost impossible to know what kind of students will be attending since it’s a new school.  We and ds want for him to have a peer group of like-minded friends, and we can’t be assured of that upfront.  Ds isn’t interested in considering this, but dh and I are keeping our eyes open to it as a possibility.

Ds has an answer for all of this: in all seriousness, he told us that he wants to go back to America for high school, and already has a family who is willing to host him for the year.  We said no.


17 thoughts on “Searching for high school for ds13

  1. I know this goes back to one of your previous posts/other people comments… but really on many many subject, you are more chardal/dati torani than charedi. There are many many very good high school for kids where the Torah level is very high, yet the kids do a full bagrut. Others are yeshiva ketana but give the option to “cram” a bagrut in the last year. Most (if not all) have time set for “non-learning” (but not sleeping either…) activities.
    You would have to deal with the ideological issues. But then again, if you;re planning to have your boys being bnei torah who also work, I hope you do realize that in this country they will have to do their army service (or at least some national service) to be able to get a job in the first place.
    I know you wrote about affiliating to the charedi group already, and knowing you it was well thought, but the number of times I read your posts and tell myself that you really belong in the chardal /dati torani group so much more (again, political affiliation put aside), is just growing…

  2. I was the one who wrote the question about why Americans affiliate with Chareidi and not with Dati/Torani (and thanks for answering!). One of my main reasons for asking was that (as Nathalie wrote), you seem to be a better fit for the Dati/Torani society (which I belong to, also). I second Nathalie about there being many more options for education in the Dati/Torani society that have what you seem to be looking for.

    Good luck in finding a school that you can all be happy with, however you choose to affiliate!

    (And I am in amazement and complete admiration that you can arrange a bat-mitzvah, visit your mother in the hospital, take care of a new-born and deal with high school decisions simultaneously! I have much fewer things on my plate and am constantly stressed out.)

    1. Nathalie and Sara, you’re bringing up a very good point. I’m very conscious of living with cognitive dissonance in my life in a couple of major areas. One of them is affiliating as charedi, the other is sending my kids to school.

      I also believe that we’re a better fit for the chardal community, but that isn’t represented where I live. I had reason to believe when moving here that we would find others like us in the community. The local Torani community is very young and isn’t a fit for us, despite the many similarities in perspective, though they have been very warn toward us and are lovely people. I’ve been married over 20 years and my children have been raised in a certain religious framework, and I can’t change that for them so suddenly.

      So while it probably would be better for us to live in a different kind of community with others who *think* like us – not look like us, as we look pretty much the same as everyone around us – right now we are where we are. And I really feel that you need to make the best of every situation you find yourself in, to find ways to make it work. Where I am, we’re finding the path that best fits us, which means affiliating as charedi and making choices that put us on the fringe.

  3. Hi!
    If he is meant to be in that school, Hashem will send you the money, wherever he is meant to be will work itself out. Finances, shouldn’t be a reason not to apply.
    As far as your Ds coming out at the end according to societal standards, as “top” or “second” he will always be top for himself, and to his parents and family he will always be amazing. What are you concerned about? If it is shidduchim, Hashem will send him his girl wherever he is, wherever she is, and on whatever scale society sees them as, this is irrelevant, they will find each other. Besides, I can’t imaging that you and your husband would even let him date with a girl whose priorities are for the boy to be societal rated as “top”. Send him to climb Mnt Everest. He will be top. That was a joke. Not at you, at society.
    I, a measly, young, inexperienced, mother, feel a bit awkward saying these things to you, my dear blogger, mentor, admiration, who is more experienced, more knowledgeable, more wise. Of course these ideas have naturally filtered through your thoughts, but since you hadn’t mentioned it above, I want to note it below, just as a gentle reminder. This isn’t any new mind blowing epiphany, I’m only reiterating back to you what you have been saying to us, your dear readers.
    I remember reading about maybe 2 years ago, or so, when you were planning the trip to visit your daughter in Israel and you were concerned about how you would finance the trip. Then you happened upon an old notebook with a lost check or some cash that you found between the pages. And the rest worked itself out.

    1. Tnank you for being a reminder that I’ve let myself accept limitations that I shouldn’t give power to. I needed that! Don’t worry about telling me something I might already know; there’s no such thing as too many positive thoughts and we can benefit from reminders to keep a positive perspective! It’s easy to get lost in one’s thoughts sometimes, and the thoughts you’re sharing are valuable for everyone reading.

      I agree with you that if things are meant to be, then the finances won’t stand in the way. This is something my husband and I were just discussing regarding another area – moving to Israel meant embracing this concept in a big way, since it didn’t look possible at all for us to move here but we kept holding on to the mental picture of it working out. But the first step is being clear about what you want, and with this school situation, I have ambivalence and now I’m recognizing that’s something I need to work through so I can release it.

      And I also agree about the shidduchim – I don’t worry about this, Hashem will work things out as they’re meant to be.

      Just one thing – don’t refer to yourself as measly!

  4. How sad, how very, very sad that learning secular subjects and taking bagrut exams is seen as such a negative by many charedim in Israel. Why can’t they see that this is harmful to their children- limiting their future?

    1. Every choice we makes limits us in some ways, it’s just the nature of life. Those who spend more time on secular studies will be more limited in the time available for Torah study.

  5. Hi Avivah, Just wanted to suggest (I don’t know if this is done in Israel), but to counter one of the lesser options that would require dorming due to the distance, perhaps you could find a family that your son could board with in Israel that you would feel comfortable with. I’m guessing it’s better than a dorming option, if it comes to one. Just a thought. B’hatzlacha. You are doing amazing!

  6. It’s my first time commenting on this blog, but I feel like it’s important that I share with you that my younger brother (now 26) went to Maarava, my parents are American and raised us in a very chareidi neighborhood in Yerushalayim. I don’t believe that my brother or the Yeshiva was seen as second class or second best by any of our neighbors. If that was indeed the case, we were oblivious to it and focused on what is best for our family. He is now very happily married to the most wonderful girl and they have two children. He is still learning in kollel and plans on going into chinuch. He has the most amazing well rounded, accepting personality. Loves and really cares about every single Jew. He is a walking kiddush Hashem! I give my parents a lot of credit for being able to focus on what was good for him even if it was different than what was accepted in our neighborhood. Him not wearing black n white in high school was a non-issue, even if that was how my father and our neighbors dressed.
    All his friends also turned out great, worse thing that happened is that they are able to support their families!

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience, Miriam! Your brother sounds like a wonderful person, and I always love hearing about parents who do what is right for their children even if that means being different from those around them.

      It sounds like your brother’s experience was different, but it has been communicated to me that Maarava is considered a less desirable choice in the charedi community. I spoke to someone who had two boys there, and she said something about it being considered religiously to the left, which lines up with what people are telling me (not that it is to the left, but that it’s seen as such since there is a bagrut). This doesn’t matter that much to me, because we have to do what is right for us, but there is still that reality.

      1. I know this remark is coming late but I wanted to echo Miriam and say that my nephew attended Maarava and was accepted to the yeshiva of his choice in Yerushalayim. He was considered an excellent bochur and a top shidduch choice. The only caveat here is that my nephew is European and he wasn’t looking for an Israeli chareidi wife. In addition, the very decision to send him to Maarava was made with employment prospects in Europe in mind. (There is no secular education available for boys in a frum framework in my city after 8th grade.) The considerations are of course different for a bochur living in Israel, who would perhaps ideally be expecting to remain in Israel and to raise Israeli chareidi children.

  7. My son LOVES learning Torah, but feels he would suffocate from it if he was forced to learn 12 hours a day in Yeshiva katana – he’s already witnessing what’s happening with classmates as they “prepare” for the next step – Masmidim, yes. Enjoying it, maybe.

    If I hear one more time that a child cannot be “tops” if he learns math and science I will vomit. Its just not true. I’ve seen baalei tshuva start learning from square one after college and end up in the “top shiur” at the Mir and become Roshe Kollilim.

    In my opinion, challenging secular studies help refine the students and improve their capacity to think and analyze, which ultimately helps their Torah learning and avodat haShem. And at these yeshivot, we’re only talking a few hours a day of secular studies – with full morning, partial afternoon, and full evening sedarim!

    We are looking at Marava, Nehora, and Mesivta. Hopefully, he’ll get into one of these, or, sadly, we might have no choice but to return to the US.

    Hatzlaha – we’re in the same boat, so if you ever want to speak, let us know!

    1. Definitely sounds like we’re on the same page!

      We’re getting applications for Maarava, Nehora, and Nehardea. I also looked into the Torani yeshivos in the north, but decided not to pursue those for him, at least not now.

  8. I’d love to read a follow up to all of these comments now that it’s 3 years later. I can give you a 15 year follow up. Ma’arava has a LOT of graduates who are no longer religious & I don’t blame Ma’arava. Americans bring a certain worldview that exists MAYBE in one Israeli “school/yeshiva” (& even THERE there is someone pushing to “save” the poor Americans to make them “Israeli,” which means following the Israeli Lithuanian model). American parents openly disapprove of certain things in Israeli education TO THEIR CHILDREN & their children themselves become less than 100% committed & justify possibly abandoning the Israeli system altogether.

    My sons say we should NOT HAVE COME TO ISRAEL & that there is a TREMENDOUS dropout rate among the children of American parents. BTW, I’ve seen some Israel-raised children of American parents return to America, but some of them are not able to make it there either because they have just enough of an Israeli world-view that they don’t value going to college/university so they bum around doing odd jobs, remaining at the very edge American Jewry at best.

    Yeshiva high schools in Israel are NOT offering 5 point bagruyot (the equivalent needed to enter an American university). They offer a mere 3 point bagrut which is the equivalent of an Israeli high school (the exception is a 5 point English bagrut for native English speakers). This means that yeshiva high school graduates must MAKE UP 4 & 5 point bagruyot to get into college. You really need to put under a microscope what Israeli yeshiva high schools are offering.

    You also need to know where you want your son to go AFTER yeshiva high school. If he wants to WORK, he’ll have to do some type of army service. If he wants to learn in a yeshiva gevoha, he has to find one that will accept him & yeshiva high schools are a STIGMA so Yeshivath Chevron (not the gas station) has a policy of NOT accepting from yeshiva high schools (the work around is to learn a year at a different yeshiva gevoha & THEN transfer to Chevron).

    But what do all these different tracks give? Secular learning can give future salary earnings. Talmudic learning gives a knowledge anchor of direction. Is it possible to get secular learning without sacrificing Talmudic learning? No. I know people who sent their kids to Zilberman’s which is probably the ultimate in Jewish learning (learning TaNaKh by heart in the trop), at 10 they start mishna, at 15 (later than everyone else) they start gemara. These certain parents supplemented their kids’ learning w/tutors in secular subjects. Educational computer games are EXCELLENT, maybe better than tutors, for enjoyable lessons that repeat w/positive feedback until mastery is achieved (though it might be good to have a tutor somewhat oversee the child’s progress). These work arounds will give you better results than yeshiva high schools. I see what’s out there.

    Besides that, there are now CHAREDI COLLEGES that offer degrees when young men are ready to leave yeshiva/kollel even on a part-time basis. In such cases, students have to DEEPLY CONSIDER what degrees to pursue because there are certain job markets that are over-saturated & they will find it very difficult to get hired. Some such charedi college students GRIPE that they resent not having ANY exposure to secular studies until they’ve reached college & I’m talking about resentment. Again, chugim or tutors & educational computer programs (probably better NOT online & w/o internet access) are a good way to address this in advance, but you really don’t need yeshiva high schools for that.

    I’m now watching my SON, a yeshiva high school graduate, heavily debating w/my other son on where they want to send their children in the future. They’ve both think that their yeshiva high school experience was TERRIBLE. Oh, there’s also a “class” issue where Israeli nouveau riche mistakenly think they’re the cat’s meow & they show up at yeshiva high school & spill their new conceit over to their children, very ugly, especially since it’s undeserved, but that’s another story & I don’t know how long that behaviour lasted.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience, Simon! You’ve made a lot of good points and I’ll respond briefly with our experience to date.

      (I asked my son for feedback on your comments because he’s much more in the know about the technical specifics than I am.)

      There’s no question that in Israel this is a very sensitive issue and you’re walking a tightrope if you want your son to get a good secular education in the charedi school system. I am acutely aware of the stresses of this path.

      Bagrut – My son said Maarava offers 4 point bagruyot (maybe 5 but he isn’t sure); his yeshiva offers 4 and this coming year will offer 5 points; he’s already doing 5 point math this year. What many people choose it to do the bagruyot later on when they need it (at the five point level), which takes six months to a year. I believe this is standard for those entering college without having done the bagrut, charedi or not.

      Not getting into yeshiva gedolas – this may have been an issue in past years but at this time is no longer an issue except in a very few yeshivas that my son says the average yeshiva tichoni graduate wouldn’t want to attend because they’re so closed. My son’s rebbeim are recommending he go to Chevron in a couple of years and as graduates themselves feel this is realistic for him; ds told me that Maarava has a few boys that go to Chevron every year.

      Resentment – it would be nice if it were possible for every parent to raise every child without resentment but that’s pretty much impossible. You do the best you can and daven for siyata dishmaya. Plenty of kids from all backgrounds have resentment with their parents for not directing them more/less/differently.

      Charedi colleges – these are a great option.

      Preparing kids on your own – you’re talking to a long term homeschooler and you’ll get no disagreement from me that a parent can do a great job preparing his child. What I do wonder is, if your son is in a typical yeshiva ketana, when they would have time for this supplementing? Their days start early, around 7:30 and go to 10 pm or so. They have short three or four week vacations three times a year. It doesn’t leave much time and they deserve to use their vacations for recharging. It would be a lot to ask of a child and parent in that situation to take this route.

      I’m once again considering potential high schools for my next son so this is an issue that I’m actively living with. I won’t send him to the yeshiva where ds16 is at because it’s a dorming school and for other reasons I don’t think it’s a fit for him.

      As I said above, this is a very hard balance and sometimes I think it’s an impossible balance. It’s certainly easier to go the Israeli charedi route of no secular subjects and let them make it up later on when they’re ready to enter a targeted college program. You have to know your family and your child, and try to give him the education that is most congruent with your goals.

      1. Caveat regarding charedi colleges (or ANY college), RESEARCH your field of choice to make sure that particular job market sector is NOT oversaturated!!! Last time I checked, that WAS the case w/attorneys & accountants. IF your son goes to the army, ‘atuda-ee (academic track where the army pays for his college tuition) is a possible option along w/being an officer. I have one son who went that way, two others spend most of their time learning 3 sedarim a day (for now). The biggest surprise for us was one of our son’s deciding to leave yeshiva gedola & to go to college & army, we were totally unprepared for that. The key was to be flexible & insist on some type of framework (that’s the best we could do).

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