How To Choose An Israeli Seminary or Yeshiva
by Rabbi Perry Tirschwell
It's the best of times and the worst of times in Israel Guidance- so many options, but SO many options! What criteria should seniors and their parents use to choose the school at which they will flourish most in their all-important gap year?
From most important to least important, I believe the following are the yardsticks our perplexed twelfth graders should use to make this decision;
1) Academic Level & Rigor- You are choosing a school, not a camp. Is the school above, below or on your level of ability and skills. Where do the people who know both you and the schools think that you will be challenged, but not in over your head?
2) What Inspires You- Gemara, Chesed, Tanach, Philosophy, Halacha, Art, etc. Teachers who you are close to, or world-renown Talmidei Chachamim? Straight study or occasional singing and dancing? Chavrusa or classes?
3) How Far Along Are You in Your Spiritual Journey- Different yeshivot and seminaries are geared to students who enter at different points in their religious development.
4) Do You Need a Hockey Jacket?- Are there kids like you? Despite variations in student population each year, do you identify with the type of student who traditionally goes to that school?
5) One Size Doesn't Fit All- Would you like to be in a place where everyone knows your name, or do you look forward to a larger school where you can develop your own group of friends.
6) Do You Wear Sandals? Do you want a school where the classes are in Hebrew? Is daily interaction with Israeli peers important to you?
7) Hashkafa- Some schools have a homogeneous faculty (avowedly "kippah seuga" OR "yeshivish"). Other schools have broad range of teachers by design. Is this important to you?
8) Location, Location- Pick a school based on where you will learn better. You know yourself- do you need to be in the shadow of the Kotel? Will being outside of Jerusalem enable you to focus better?
9) Where Your Friends Are Going?- Unless making friends is a huge challenge for you, this should play the smallest role in choosing a school. You'll see them when you have free time (see #7).
I believe that a yeshiva high school needs to invest time and money in Boys and Girls Israel Guidance trips each year because it must take its responsibility seriously to help students identify the best school(s) for you.
Rabbi Perry Tirschwell