Parents, teachers and students all gathered together earlier this month to celebrate the 13 students in the first graduating class of Hachmey Lev, an innovative Yeshiva High School for mainstream, ultra-orthodox (Haredi) boys between 13-18 years old.
At Hachmey Lev’s joyous first 12th Grade graduation ceremonies are, from left, Efraim Zechariya, Rav Eyal Twito, Rav Mordechai Blass, Eitan Moran, graduate Shimon Peretz, and Rav Bezalel Cohen.
In a dramatic departure from other Haredi yeshivas in Israel, Hachmey Lev, established in partnership with the Society for Advancement of Education (SAE) in 2013, is the first Haredi Yeshiva high school in Jerusalem to provide Haredi teenage boys with a program combining advanced Talmud study and general studies, such as mathematics, English, and science. This program culminates in their receiving a full matriculation certificate upon completion, enabling them to enter university. 80% of the graduates passed Israel’s high school matriculation exam (versus about 52% nationwide).
Without the skills and knowledge gained in secular subjects and further university education, their ability to earn a living and support a family are greatly reduced. Hachmey Lev assists these young men to meet their full potential, both as students, and later in life, when they will be better equipped to secure employment and support themselves and their families.
The graduates took part in the ceremony by MCing the event, describing their positive experiences at Hachmey Lev, and one graduate was even a member of the school band that was part of the entertainment for the evening.
Speakers included Hachmey Lev Founder and Dean Bezalel Cohen and the General Director of SAE, Eitan Moran, who discussed the many obstacles, from communal and financial to educational, that the school went through to get where it is today. There was also a touching farewell tribute to Rav Yishay, who started Hachmey Lev alongside Bezalel Cohen. All were sad to see him go.
When the graduates were called up to receive their diplomas they received personal introductions and praise from their educators and were given a book written by well-know Rabbi and Doctor Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, who exemplifies someone who excels in a number of fields including religious.
Many of the graduates were involved in highly intensive extracurricular activities and volunteer work. Students volunteered for Magen David Adom, served as fire fighters, interned in the Knesset, played various instruments, were highly involved in the school newspaper. One of the graduates, who had cerebral palsy and is non-verbal, overcame his odds and was said to be the best English student in the grade.
All of the graduates embodied the school’s mission of engaging in both secular and Talmudic studies and in striving to play a positive and beneficial role in Israeli society.
Alex Singer provided in-depth reporting of this event.