This year, HAFTR plans to restructure its Torah studies curriculum in an attempt to make it more focused to better accommodate the needs of the students.
“We want to really make sure that when kids graduate, they are proficient in textual skills, basic hashkafa and the core of Torah knowledge that one needs,” said Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, rosh yeshiva of Machon.
To make that goal a reality, the school will expand its “Ask the Rabbi” program, whereby Rabbi Friedman and Rabbi Yotav Eliach, HAFTR’s principal, visit each class and are available to answer any questions the students pose.
The school will also be enhancing its chesed program under the guidance of Rabbi Steven Moskowitz, who implemented a successful series of programs last year, including tzedaka fundraisers and blood drives. The entire high school will be participating in a special project on teshuva this year, and students will be building sukkahs for others with the monetary proceeds designated for tzedaka. They are also expanding their Tomchei Shabbos program, delivering food to the needy each week.
HAFTR’s incoming freshmen have much to look forward to as well, with a Freshman Retreat planned at the Nevele Hotel, “which will be a special seminar to help them get acclimated to the school,” Rabbi Friedman explained. They will also benefit from a big sibling program, in which seniors act as their mentors to help them adjust to their new environment.
All students at HAFTR can enjoy the Adult Education Program, which invites parents to join their children in hearing local guest lecturers. Rambam has a similar program in which fathers are invited to learn with their sons and enjoy a shiur or lecture from a rotation of speakers.
New SMART Boards have been installed at both HAFTR and Rambam, as part of Machon’s “education through technology” philosophy. Rambam, which received additional boards through a grant from the Legacy Heritage Foundation, also hosted special training sessions this summer for Machon’s teachers, to educate them in how best to use the equipment and “how to plan lessons for classroom use and enhance the use of technology in the classes,” explained Rabbi Peretz Hochbaum, principal at the Mesivta.
This year, Rambam is excited to add a new tefilah course to their Judaic studies curriculum, which will be taught during Mishmar on Thursday nights, an idea which was spearheaded by Rabbi Avrum Haar and Rabbi Gidon Rothstein.
“The concept is that each year, the yeshiva will cover a different unit in tefilah, such as halachos, deeper insights into issues such as kavana and understanding the text, as part of a four year cycle,” Rabbi Hochbaum elaborated. “The idea is that it will hopefully pay dividends in enhancing the Mishmar program and making davening more meaningful.”
Thursday night learning will also be enhanced by the presence of Rambam alumni, who come back to learn with the students as part of a mentoring program which also exists at HAFTR.
Looking to improve on its general studies as well, Rambam has expanded its science department to include Mr. Steven Panitz, who will be focusing on enhancing the physics departments and the award-winning robotics program, which he will coach.
One new course being offered will be a business elective for Rambam’s 11th and 12th graders, which will be taught by John Nicero, a college instructor.
“It is a very exciting undertaking where students will be opening up mock businesses, make investments, learn how to manage a business and do hands on business practices,” said Rabbi Hochbaum.
As has been the case in the past, Israel advocacy and activism remains a priority at Rambam, where students often attend rallies, organize protests and campaign on behalf of Israel. Similarly, Rabbi Eliach works with students at HAFTR as part of the Israel Awareness Commission, to educate them and inspire them to act.
Though Shalhevet is only launching its inaugural class this year, the 15 students enrolled are prepared for an exciting year.
Based upon student request, the school is offering a course in Arabic, in an effort “to accommodate all the students’ interests,” said Renee Hochhauser, administrator at Shalhevet.
“We are asking all the girls to chip in their talents in different ways,” she added.
One way that is being accomplished is through the music and choir class that is being given, and the opportunity to design a mural, “to balance it out,” Hochhauser explained.
At Shalhevet, the girls will be able to “learn and actively prepare for class b’chavrusa, to hone their skills and do research to prepare them for the post high-school level,” said Rabbi Friedman.
One theme at the new school will be integration between the different disciplines being studied. For example, the students will learn a unit on Robert Frost in preparation for their trip to his museum in Massachusetts. While reading about Julius Caesar in English, they will study ancient Rome in history class.
Another program will bring professional Orthodox women to the school to address the students on a monthly basis, “to talk about challenges faced in the workplace as a person committed to Torah, halacha and values,” Rabbi Friedman said.
“It’s really exciting to be on the ground level of starting the school,” said Hochhauser. “We really have a mission to make these girls realize they are important for themselves, their self esteem and career choices.”