Mekor Chaim students at Western Wall
Mekor Chaim students at Western Wall Israel news photo: Makor-c.org

Twenty YU High School students and ten of their Israeli counterparts are "exchanging schools" for several weeks.

Twenty 10th-graders from the two Yeshiva University high schools are taking part in the six-week program: ten from the Yeshiva University High School for Boys/Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy (YUHSB) in Manhattan and ten from the Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls (YUHSG) in West Queens. The two are more popularly known as MTA and Central.

The specially-chosen students are studying in two Israeli high schools, from which ten students will soon arrive in the American high schools on a parallel track. Now in its second year, the program is a "culture immersion experience" for both groups, and will help them connect with their counterparts and with various cultures of the “global Jewish community.”

The Central students are already well into the program at Ulpanat Tzvia in Maaleh Adumim, a suburb just northeast of Jerusalem, while the MTA students, who arrived on Chanukah, have begun classes at Yeshivat Mekor Chaim in Kibbutz Kfar Etzion in Gush Etzion. Both schools are located in Judea and Samaria "settlement blocs," considered to be generally within the national consensus.

"The visiting Mekor Chaim students inject a sense of passion, urgency and authenticity into the rhythm of school life [in the U.S.]"

Later this year, six Mekor Chaim students and four Tzvia students will travel to New York to study at the YU high schools for six weeks. In addition to attending classes, the Israeli students will tour New York City and Philadelphia to experience life in American Jewish communities, and even learn about American culture as well.

Tova Rosenberg, coordinator of the exchange program, spoke with Israel National News about the program and its goal of opening the students' eyes to the ‘global Jewish community.’ "Both the Americans and Israelis have much to gain from each other and give to each other," she said. "We expect that they will experience both personal growth and the privilege of giving to others. For instance, the Israelis will certainly bring their Religious-Zionist spirit into our schools, and will show us how they celebrate Rosh Chodesh Adar, and the like." 

“What’s unique about it is that the American students are fully integrated into the Israeli classrooms,” said Rosenberg, who also serves as Director of Hebrew Language Studies at both YU high schools. “The students sit in on all Judaic studies classes, are included in all school activities, and are housed in the same dormitories as the Israeli students.  They're not treated as guests, but as members of the student body.”

Serious Growth Foreseen

Rabbi Mark Gottlieb, head of school at YUHSB, explained, “The culture of deep spiritual purpose and constant reflection that is the hallmark of the Mekor Chaim experience has exposed our students to serious religious and intellectual growth in ways unimagined for the typical tenth grader."

"Additionally," he said, "the visiting Mekor Chaim students inject a sense of passion, urgency and authenticity into the rhythm of school life here. Armed with a newfound understanding of the American Jewish scene, these exceptional students have the potential to become the next generation of shlichim (emissaries to Israel).”

The YU high school students will also take part in a series of field trips intended to show them aspects of daily life in Israel, and will enjoy special Sabbath programs at YU's Gruss Kollel in Jerusalem's Bayit VeGan neighborhood, arranged by the Kollel families themselves.

The boys' program is now in its second year, and Rosenberg is confident that her successful efforts to include the Tzvia-YUHSG exchange program this year will be continued in future years as well.