On Wednesday, March 21st, Yeshivat Darche Eres (YDE) was honored to receive this year’s Hersh Potok Memorial School of the Year Award at the 74th Annual Torah Umesorah Dinner. This award reflects the success of a school which has stood strong in its commitment to cultivate each child individually on all levels – academic, spiritual, and interpersonal. It was a proud and inspirational night for all who attended.

Torah Umesorah and Their Mission

Torah Umesorah is an organization that provides training, support, guidance, and resources to Jewish educational institutions. Their mission is to ensure that every Jewish child receives the highest standard of Torah education, along with the skills needed to lead a successful life and become a productive member of society. Torah Umesorah has created an innovative network that allows hundreds of yeshivot, Bet Yaakov schools, and Jewish day schools to connect, share ideas, and collectively strategize in areas of Jewish Education. Torah Umesorah prides itself on perpetuating its motto: “Every school. Every teacher. Every student.” With over 760 schools associated with the organization, Torah Umesorah has taken the lead in synchronizing Jewish education across North America. Torah Umesorah serves as a reminder that we are one nation, with one goal – to serve Hashem through Torah and to continue to transmit the traditions given to us by our forefathers.

To accomplish this incredible feat, Torah Umesorah offers a variety of programs that cater to school administrators and teachers, which then trickle down to the individual students. The programs include an annual conference that unites hundreds of educators under one roof for a weekend of training and inspiration, as well as sponsored fellowships, which keep principals and school leaders up to date on the best up-to-date practices and offers the school leaders administrative guidance. Torah Umesorah also provides rabbis and teachers a platform to network among each other through their website, Chinuch.org.

YDE and Torah Umesorah – Every School

YDE Boys School Menahel, Rabbi Alex Miller, has graduated from the Yesud Ma’aloh Principal Fellowship and is in midst of the Emes Ve’Emunah Fellowship. Each fellowship is a two-year program in which Torah Umesorah provides courses in hinuch with top leading professionals in the fields of general and special education, as well as psychology. The Emes Ve’Emunah Fellowship is a program which guides administrators on how to incorporate lessons of emunah across the curriculum.

Mrs. Rivkah Dahan, the YDE Girls School Principal, was the founding director of Torah Umesorah’s Chaim and Baila Wolf Educational Resource Center and has participated in the Aish Dos Women’s Principal training program. Within the training program, Mrs. Dahan was able to further her education, specifically in the areas pertaining to yeshiva and Bet Yaakob environments. More than any lessons learned through these programs, the principals most appreciated the opportunity to network with many other rabbis, educators, and gedolimacross the country, whom they can now contact with ease. For example, when faced with a delicate situation that needs to be dealt with sensitively and discreetly, Rabbi Miller can now be in direct contact with the Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, one of the leading gedolim in America.

Rabbi Raphael Netanel, YDE rabbi and Director of Student Affairs, has also undergone training through Torah Umesorah. He is a star participant of the Nefesh Chaya Mashgiach Training Program. This program trains administrators in the field of mental health in the school environment. Rabbi Netanel has trained in areas of anxiety, depression, ADHD, behavioral issues, and other prevailing mental health issues, with renowned psychologists and professionals in those fields. This program, as with all Torah Umesorah programs, is both a learning experience and provides an opportunity to form lasting connections with experienced and capable resources.

YDE and Torah Umesorah – Every Teacher

When discussing the annual Torah Umesorah convention, it is almost unanimous among the YDE rabbis that the highlight of the weekend was the two-hour private session with Rabbi Reuven Feinstein, Shlita. With the help of Torah Umesorah and the connections founded through Torah Umesorah programs, the YDE rabbis were given an exclusive opportunity to have a Q&A session with the gadol. Rabbi Feinstein offered the Rabbis advice and guidance on various topics and scenarios that present themselves daily in a school environment.

Almost a year later, this connection sparked an extraordinary trip for the YDE Fifth Grade boys. When the fifth graders completed Masechet Sukkah, Rabbi Netanel sought to make their siyum unforgettable. Now that he had a close bond with the gadol, Rabbi Netanel arranged for the fifth grade to celebrate their siyum with Rabbi Reuven Feinstein. The rabbi sat with the boys, learned with them, and congratulated them on the amazing accomplishment, encouraging them to continue in their great work. This awe-inspiring trip was only made possible due to YDE’s administration taking advantage of Torah Umesorah’s wide reaching networking initiatives.

Another notable experience shared at the convention was the “Networking Breakfast.” At this breakfast, rabbis and teachers have the opportunity to sit at a table with over twenty other educators of the same grade; for instance, all fifth grade Rabbis can sit around one round table and discuss the best approaches to teaching mishnayot. The opportunity to connect with so many educators of the same grade level with the same curriculum from across the nation is rare and unique to Torah Umesorah’s skilled programming.

In addition to trainings and conventions, YDE staff from all divisions have diligently utilized Torah Umesorah’s teacher resource center. All in the name of engaging and inspiring students, Torah Umesorah offers worksheets, bulletin boards, and posters on an array of subjects. If they don’t have exactly what a teacher is looking for, Torah Umesorah provides a graphic artist who can help teachers turn their creative dreams into a reality.

YDE and Torah Umesorah – Every Student

In addition to guiding administrators and supporting the teaching faculty, Torah Umesorah goes the extra mile to directly invest in the lives of as many of the hundreds of thousands of students as possible. National Director, Rabbi Dovid Nojowitz, and Executive Director, Rabbi Tzvi Bloom, have made multiple personal visits to YDE’s school buildings. Each visit was spent assessing the progress and needs of each division, with a personal touch from Torah Umesorah. On one of his visits, Rabbi Tzvi Bloom happened to notice that the high school seniors were running a campaign for their senior trip to Israel. Rabbi Bloom went over to the boys and expressed an enthusiastic interest to have a part in the boys’ zechutand made a generous donation to the campaign. On another visit, an elementary school class excitedly shared a new initiative with Rabbi Bloom called“בעל תריסין”,in which students act as the “Protectors of Torah” by memorizing full pages of Gemara. Impressed and inspired by the students’ outstanding work, Rabbi Bloom sponsored special rewards for the students. The individualized attention offered by Torah Umesorah is what makes the partnership with YDE such a great fit. Indeed, YDE is well known for the individualized attention and concern for the academic and social wellbeing of each and every student.

School of the Year

Through its longstanding relationship with YDE, Torah Umesorah has recognized YDE’s dedication and participation in its extensive programs and trainings, as well as YDE’s investment into the wellbeing of its students. The YDE experience is one of cutting edge academic excellence, discipline, and accountability in an atmosphere of warmth and respect, with a particular focus on serving Hashem with joy and happiness. YDE’s dedication to its mission is evident through its product – the precious students and alumni of YDE. Each of YDE’s well-established divisions caters to its students in an unparalleled way.

The Early Childhood division, directed by Mrs. Sophia Dabbah, provides the nurturing and stimulating environment that toddlers need to build their educational foundation. The teachers and support staff of the preschool guide their students in developing as active, creative, and independent learners. Mrs. Dabbah and her administration implement research-based initiatives that foster physical, emotional, and social maturity. Most recently, YDE constructed a sensory room where students can develop their senses and enhance their fine motor skills. With the guidance of the school psychologist, the Upper Nursery classes have been enhancing their social skills in a fun and interactive manner. The Early Childhood curriculum also includes a literacy program as well as music, art, and physical education. When the preschoolers graduate from the Early Childhood division they are well prepared for the transition into elementary school.

Students who enter YDE elementary school are welcomed to an atmosphere of love, warmth, respect, and midot tovot. Both the boys’ and the girls’ schools have cultivated an environment of simha and ahava. When visiting the boys’ school, one can feel an electric charge of Torah and excitement for growth. It is common to find the boys actively participating in hands-on learning experiences. The Menahel, Rabbi Alex Miller, with his upbeat attitude, has promoted an atmosphere in which students can feel proud of their education. Rabbi Miller and his dedicated staff of administrators, rabbis, and teachers have truly mastered the balance of structure and support.

Mrs. Rivkah Dahan, principal of the Girls Elementary facilitates a rigorous educational program, while infusing the girls with positivity and warmth. On one of Mrs. Dahan’s daily visits to the lunchroom, she sat with a few lower elementary grade girls and mentioned that Pesah vacation was around the corner. Almost in harmony, the girls chimed, “But we don’t want vacation! We love school!” There is no doubt that these feelings of excitement are sparked by the teacher-student relationships. The morot and the secular teachers are fully invested in every aspect of their students’ development. In addition to the support offered during school hours, YDE Girls School has launched a Big Sister program, offering the students community role models whom they can connect with and turn to for support. The students feel that they are wanted, loved, and supported in school.

Another one of the crown jewels of YDE is its Boys High School. Under the direct leadership of the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Meyer Yedid, the Yeshiva has quickly earned a name as a premier yeshiva high school. Known for a caring and attentive staff, high academic standards and a commitment to excellence, the yeshiva has produced, and continues to produce Bene Torah on all levels. Students are empowered to find their role within the community and are equipped with the tools to succeed. The high school principals, Mr. Harvey Feldman, and Dr. Yitzchak Goldberg, individualize each student’s daily schedule so that every student is set up to succeed in each of the challenging courses. The high school administration constantly encourages the students to enhance their transcripts and professional resumes.

The boys have opportunities in science research, business and management, as well as advanced placement (AP) courses for college credits. In addition to exceeding academic requirements, YDE High School also focuses on nourishing the soul of each talmid. One of the hallmarks of a YDE student is the excitement and enthusiasm toward Torah and misvotthat is instilled in him throughout his school years. The boys are privileged to form lasting bonds with community rabbis whom they can turn to throughout their years in school and post high school as well. YDE aims to prepare these young men for a meaningful and productive life, based on Torah values with a strong emphasis on midot tovot and finding meaning in misvot. The alumni of YDE High School have earned their positions throughout community Torah institutions, prestigious colleges, businesses, and hesed organizations.

The common thread among all the divisions of YDE is that the students are given love and confidence to succeed. Rabbi Yedid embodies ahavat Yisraelsimhat ha-haimahrayut, and midot tovot, and empowers his staff to have the same qualities as well. This infusion of positive qualities then filters to the student body, the YDE families, and the community at large. It is for these reasons, that from among the 760 schools affiliated with Torah Umesorah, the organization has chosen to pay tribute to YDE at the 74th Annual Dinner.

The Torah Umesorah 74th Annual Dinner

The Annual Dinner was a beautiful and inspiring event, which united educators from across the spectrum of Jewish educational organizations. Many of the YDE faculty, including administrators, rabbis, and teachers were in attendance, as well as the YDE Boys Choir and their parents. Prominent gedolim such as Rabbi Reuven Feinstein, Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, and Rabbi Malkiel Kotler were honored guests. Community rabbis Rabbi David Ozeri and Rabbi Raymond Haber were also present. Administrators from many other community schools joined in the occasion as well.

Under the leadership of renowned singer Rabbi Baruch Levine and Hazan Jack Braha, the YDE Boys Choir commenced the event with two beautiful songs, “Yadati” and “Veharenu.” The performance was a product of the Know Your Niggun program.  Know Your Niggun is an initiative geared toward educating and familiarizing children with the meaning behind many of the songs and pizmonim they have been taught since a young age. After months of rehearsing these songs, the boys were proud to finally showcase their talent and provide much deserved nahat to the crowd.

Rabbi Dovid Nojowitz, National Director of Torah Umesorah, eloquently presented the Hersh Potok Memorial School of the Year Award to Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Meyer Yedid and YDE President, Mr. Michael Jemal. Rabbi Nojowitz highlighted the yirat shamayim and midottovot that Rabbi Yedid personifies and transmits to his staff and students. Rabbi Yedid then captivated the audience with an inspirational devar Torah, highlighting the responsibility of educators. The Rabbi quoted Tehillim (92:13), “The righteous person shall flourish like the palm-tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” He elaborated on the unique and distinct qualities of the palm-tree and the cedars of Lebanon. One grows tall but bears no fruit, while the other bears fruit but has limited height. David Hamelech compares a sadeek to both of these trees the rabbi explained, because a true sadeek is one who has grown “tall” in his own Torah and midot, and who has also dedicated himself to sharing that growth with others. Rabbi Yedid reminded the audience, that as educators, we must be mindful to provide our students with the opportunity of growth, as well as the skills to produce for and give to others.

Furthermore, Rabbi Yedid addressed the importance of approaching students with the proper balance of yir’ah and ahava. The rabbi outlined children’s need for structure and boundaries, as well as care and warmth. Rabbi Yedid’s speech embodied the overall mission of YDE and its signature style of education. The teachers of YDE, under the guidance of their skilled administration, work hard to utilize this balance of structure and support to produce successful and well-rounded students.

Rabbi Yedid concluded his speech thanking Torah Umesorah for the important role that they play in Jewish Education today. “A yeshiva without Torah Umesorah is like a child without a father.” Rabbi Yedid explained that a yatom, an orphan, is one without a parent to support, guide, advise, and care for him. So too, Torah Umesorah serves as a guardian to all the schools connected to them. In unison, the entire hall rose in agreement with Rabbi Yedid’s statement and gave Torah Umesorah the standing ovation it clearly deserves. Torah Umesorah has done and continues to do amazing work for Jewish children across the educational spectrum today. They continuously assess the needs of our community at large and fill those needs in creative ways.

The Torah Umesorah Dinner signified the unity amongst all of our yeshivot working together in providing the next generation with the proper Jewish education and life skills to be successful members of our society. Congratulations to YDE for the well-deserved honor! May all the schools and educators at large continue to work together and succeed in perpetuating the chain of our holy mesorah.