MA'OR YESHIVA HIGH SCHOOL of the Jersey Shore Celebrating 10 Years of Educational Excellence
By: Leon Sakkal
After eight long years of difficult schoolwork, routine homework assignments, a few displeasing report cards, and hours spent by the nurse’s office, you and your child have finally made it. Grade school is officially over and you’re more than ready to take the next step. It’s time for high school!
If you’re like most parents, then you’re probably busy doing all the proper research to determine a suitable high school for your teen. After all, finding the high school thatis the right fit for your child will help to enhance his social and academic performance in high school, which willlikely determine the career path he or she may choose to take in life.
When researching different schools, it is imperative to consider the many different aspects and factors that will surely your child on school campus. Be sure to ask questions, like:
· Does the school have upstanding religious ideals and values?
· Are the proper steps taken if a student is struggling or failing a class?
· Does the school offer proper academic and social support?
· Are teachers available for individual help before, during and/or after school?
· Do they have a college-preparatory curriculum that meets state college and university requirements for core subjects like math, science, history, and English?
· Do they offer your child’s favorite sport or activity?
If you fail to receive the responses you had hoped for, know that there is one team of educators that have formed a school so impressive that it passes this small quiz with flying colors. It is Ma’or Yeshiva of the Jersey Shore, a premier college preparatory yeshiva high school.
Filling the Void
The cycle is all too common. While sending our children for a more advanced religious education is both important and correct, it can sometimes mean sacrificing the necessary secular education we so hope they acquire. At the same time, when finding a school with extensive secular curriculums, religious studies are often not up to our standards. Let us analyze how the highly-credentialed staff at Ma’or so perfectly balance the elements of an advanced religious education, with an impressive college-preparatory secular curriculum.
Under the guidance of the Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Reuven Semah, Ma’or Yeshiva is administered by a team of professional, caring educators whose goal is to provide a balanced religious and secular education while meeting the needs of each student. In Ma’or’s beautiful home on Park Avenue, in the heart of the Jersey Shore, a dedicated faculty works diligently together to realize the school’s very precise mission: To provide each student with the tools they need to make their life an edifice worthy of the potential Gd has given them.
The High School offers a full four-year program, focusing on growth in Torah and offering a demanding and comprehensive secular education. Its curriculum boasts impressive Regular and Honors tracks in both Limudei Kodesh and secular courses, complemented with complete A.P. offerings, an in-house SAT prep class, as well as college and Israel programs guidance. The Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Middle College program gives the Yeshiva’s juniors and seniors the opportunity to experience university-style learning before they even graduate high school! Offering all this and more, Ma’or is certainly of the finest in preparing students for life beyond the schoolyard.
“Without Limudei Kodesh,” says Rabbi Semah, “we cannot acquire the proper knowledge to truly comprehend what Hashem wants of us, and the understanding in how we can best serve Him. Limudei hol (secular studies), however, whether as a means of preparing to earn a livelihood, or enhancing the world in which we live, serves as an essential complement to the study of Torah.”
Forming the Right Environment
It is no secret that smaller classrooms make for a better learning experience, and at Ma’or, the faculty capitalizes on exactly that. With a student body of approximately fifty (and growing) undergraduates, a high level of personalized attention is the faculty’s highest concern.
Small classrooms, individualized attention, and single-gender classrooms make for a more focused learning environment at the School. In fact, a recent study by the National Education Association proves single-gender education makes it easier for teachers to match their instructional style to the behavioral characteristics of the students. Boys, as those in the student body at Ma’or, tend to favor a setting that is more competitive, physically active, and louder. A setting like this encourages students to take risks in expressing themselves as they learn, without the fear of embarrassing themselves in front of the opposite gender. Removing this distraction allows the boys to concentrate on their schoolwork, and as we’ll soon learn, has undoubtedly contributed to many students’ acceptance to the country’s top-tier universities.
Torah Comes First!
A strong focus and expectation of proper behavior and midot are always stressed on campus. Growth in character development and social responsibility, coupled with a special emphasis and love for Eres Yisrael and the Jewish Nation, is the core focus of the School’s educators.
Students are taught to remember that the spiritual rewards for Torah study and missvot performed throughout one’s life far outweigh the other, more transient considerations. Students are encouraged to continue advancing their education, all the while careful to remain dedicated to Torah study.
As stated it in their Yeshiva profile, “Ma’or aspires to have each young man to emerge as a proud, committed Jew and world citizen, who will be a source of pride to his family, his community, and his Creator.”
Core Ideals and Values
Quality education in both Hebrew and secular studies is not all the school has to offer by any means. A comprehensive guidance program helps boys find a sense of direction and a feeling of importance. Throughout the course of the school year, counselors are readily available for meeting with students. Parents are likewise encouraged to meet with the counselors as they feel necessary, ensuring that every measure is taken to warrant the flourishing of each boy.
Staunchly pro-Israel, the Yeshiva aims to see every graduate spend at least one year continuing an exclusive Torah education in Eres Yisrael. The faculty believes that it is best to remain in a Torah environment during the formative years of early adulthood, when students are highly impressionable and susceptible to the potentially destructive influences of today’s secular society. A year spent in Israel provides young men with the time to gain a degree of independence and maturity before defining their futures by selecting a professional course of study. The aforementioned guidance program aims to help students and parents determine the right choice of yeshiva in Israel for each boy.
Meet the Staff
The Ma’or faculty compromises an outstanding cadre of caring, professional educators who are experts in their fields.
It goes without saying that the heart and soul of Ma’or lie with its leader, the Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Reuven Semah. Rabbi Semah received his rabbinical ordination from the famed Yeshivat Porat Yosef in Jerusalem. He has taught high school students for over fifteen years at Ilan High for Girls, and has served as the Rabbi of Congregation Magen Abraham for over thirty-five years. The Rosh Yeshiva has devoted himself to Ma’or since its inception in 2005, and he is recognized as the central figure in Ma’or Yeshiva’s success and continued advancement.
Rabbi Raphael Malavsky serves as the Yeshiva’s menahel, principal. He holds a Doctorate in Education from Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, and has been a highly respected Jewish educator for over thirty years. Rabbi Malavsky served for 18 years as the principal at the Jewish Educational Center of Elizabeth, New Jersey. At Ma’or, Rabbi Malavski’s proficiency in administration is evident, as he keeps all operations within the school running smoothly and efficiently.
Mrs. Roni Rosenberg is the school’s Curriculum Coordinator. An educator for thirty years, Mrs. Rosenberg ensures the program of study is continuously stimulating and meets the highest standards.
Other members of the faculty include Rabbi David Beyda, a graduate of Ner Israel and John Hopkins; Rabbi Meyer Topaz, who holds an MA in History and has many years of experience in Jewish education; and Mrs. Natalie Halawani, a former engineer who holds degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. Mrs. Halawani also holds a patent and has written a publication which discusses an algorithm commonly used for planes and radars.
The New Director of Student Activities, Rabbi Moshe Malka
While the entire faculty is much-loved by the Ma’or students, it is with Rabbi Moshe Malka that the boys always seem to develop a special relationship. Rabbi Malka studied at both the Mirrer Yeshiva and Yeshiva of Philadelphia. He has over twenty-year’s experience educating high school boys, and is recognized as an expert in the field. After years dedicated to teaching high school boys, Rabbi Malka joined the staff at Ma’or, where he has been since its inception. He continues to keep a close relationship with everyone who has passed through the School’s doors.
“Our Yeshiva”, says Rabbi Malka, “offers a very unique opportunity for boys to grow. They grow both spiritually and academically, but what is especially important is their growth in midot! The small classrooms give me and the other Rabbis a chance to connect with the boys, and help them navigate through confusing circumstances that might arise during their high school years.”
Rabbi Malka isn’t the only one who believes in the Yeshiva’s “unique opportunity to grow.” Ma’or graduate Mark Daner, who deftly divides his day between working and learning, tells what he feels is the most important lesson he’s gained from four productive years at Ma’or:
“As a freshman in high school, I was completely estranged to the notion of being a Torah Jew in the real world. I didn’t think it possible to be a ‘learner’ as well as a dedicated businessman. But over the years, Ma’or trained me – they instilled in me the classic fundamentals of Judaism in its purest form, and taught me how to remain true to my values no matter where life takes me.”
Students and staff alike agree that the extra-curricular activities help to motivate Ma’or’s students in their classroom studies too. Ma’or students have the opportunity to join a number of school clubs, go on wonderful trips, and participate in weekly Physical Education classes. And we haven’t even mentioned the best part… The “Ma’or Mavericks.” With the Basketball Season just underway, the Ma’or Mavericks, led by students Eliyahou Ben Hamou and Moshe Halawani, are looking forward to what they’re certain will be a fantastic season!
The team meets twice a week with Coach Albert Roma, or “Coach” as the boys call him, for exhilarating routine practice drills.
“Coach won four championships in a row with his previous team,” says team captain Eliyahou Ben Hamou, “We’re sure he’s gonna bring us to the championship.”
The School’s Principal, Rabbi Malavski, notes that boys must maintain a good and steady grade-point-average in order to be allowed to play ball.
“With an incentive like this” he says, “our players aren’t just stars on the court, but in the classroom as well.”
The students and faculty at Ma’or anticipate the addition of a softball and soccer team in the near future.
Spotlight on the Rosh HaYeshiva
We spoke to Rabbi Semah about his feelings about his beloved students and his most precious undertaking, Ma’or Yeshiva.
“It is so very gratifying to see our community students enjoying their high school experience,” Rabbi Semah said. “They grow in knowledge and develop into mature adults that feel grateful for what the Yeshiva has done for them. After four years in our Yeshiva, they certainly emerge as different people.
“We live in a society that provides entitlements and rights to its citizens, yet it is all too common to find citizens ungrateful for what they receive. The attitude has become ‘You owe it to me!’ and ‘What have you done for me lately?!’
“When our students graduate, they look back at their years at Ma’or with the utmost sense of gratitude. How special it is that they come to realize this sense of appreciation. It is our sincere hope that our students continue on as proud Jews, good citizens, and loyal community members that give back to the community as much as they can.”
After an informative interview with the Rabbi, it is evident that the vision he has for his students is clear. It is Rabbi Semah’s dream to see every young man graduate with a solid secular education, and a true desire to learn Torah, enabling him to choose any direction in life.
Ma’or Yeshiva truly provides our community with an institution that all can be proud of.