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Built to Last

Barbara Bensoussan

How to keep students whose strengths lie outside academics motivated within the framework of yeshivah life? How to make sure bochurim who don‘t excel at memorizing and sitting for hours still succeed instead of muddling through? That was Rabbi Yaakov Bender’s question, and the vocational track his school created is one answer.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The sleek, gray stone façade of the Weiss Vocational Center at Yeshiva Darchei Torah suggests a library, or perhaps a secondary beis medrash. That impression is only strengthened when you enter the elegant lobby, with its modern chandelier and framed black-and-white photos of gedolim. But suddenly the nose picks up the scents of wood and metal, and the ears are jarred by the grinding sounds of machinery. Is the building still under construction? A peek at the room on the right shows a small exposed bathroom with most of the tilework and plumbing complete; a peek at the room on the left reveals workmen soldering copper pipe fittings together. But these workmen look awfully young, and they’re not wearing coveralls or uniforms. Instead, they’re in the “uniform” of the average yeshivah bochur: white shirts, black pants, black velvet yarmulkes. What’s wrong with this picture? Well, the picture isn’t wrong at all. On the contrary, it’s very right for the 35 bochurim participating in Darchei Torah’s Weiss Vocational Program, in which a group of boys enjoy a couple of hours of daily vocational training in addition to their limudei kodesh and secular studies. Rabbi Yaakov Bender, Darchei Torah’s rosh yeshivah, is immensely proud of this small but highly successful program, which allows talmidim whose strengths lie in nonacademic areas to thrive in a mainstream yeshivah. 

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