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Talmud Torah Etz Chaim

Talmud Torah Etz Chaim
5 Nadav Street

We are living in a unique generation. We have all the tools needed to build an ideal Torah society in Eretz Yisroel. Among us are doctors, engineers, computer scientists, craftsman, who make regular Torah study an integral part of their lives. Above all, we have among us Talmidei Chachomim, for whom Torah study is not just a part of their lives, but their primary activity. Nevertheless, the realization of a Torah society seems as far away as ever.

Perhaps the lack of harmony among the various religious groups in Jewry prevents us from exploiting the unprecedented human resources at our disposal. Israeli religious society is fragmented. Each group is convinced of the correctness of its way of life. Working people don't sufficiently respect those who learn full time; those who learn full time often look down upon those who work. Each group deprives itself of what the other group has to offer.

The manner in which our children are educated does not contribute to the situation. Someone who is convinced that full time Torah learning is the only acceptable way of life will educate his children in a framework which excludes any other option. His child will be left with no choice but to learn Torah full time -- regardless of whether or not he is suited to such a life. On the other hand, someone who believes that work is the cornerstone of proper living, will educate his child in a framework which will not provide his child with the proper basis to understand our religion -- he will fall short of achieving the spiritual heights that he might have otherwise reached.

The "cheder" education in Israel today provides a solid Torah background. However, it is a system which does not acknowledge that not everyone is suited to the same task. The boy who is capable of growing into a Torah leader -- a teacher, Rabbi, dayan (judge) -- must be given the encouragement and support to devote his life to full-time Torah learning. He must be provided with the skills, knowledge, and middos necessary to become a Torah leader. However, the reality is that many cheder boys are not going to become great Torah scholars. Should these boys be the victims of an education which will trap them into unhappy and unproductive lives?

A cheder is required which will be able to identify and properly educate those boys who do have the potential to become Torah leaders. At the same time, it must tend to the needs of the other students. It must instill in these students a strong commitment to Torah and also provide them the necessary skills and attitudes to make an honest living. These boys will be educated to understand that their role is to represent Torah to the outside world. They will be a Kiddush HaShem in the workplace. They will acquire the commitment to continue learning into their adult lives, and to support Torah institutions. Those boys who are suited for a life devoted to full-time Torah study would be educated to understand that each individual has his own task in life. They will look at their former classmates with respect and appreciation. A significant step will have been taken towards mutual respect and achdus (unity).

There are not many communities in Eretz Yisroel which would be capable of building such an institution. A large community is required -- one that would be willing to provide support and send its children to such a school. While Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak both have sizable religious populations, the nature of these communities precludes the establishment of an innovative school there.

The city of Rechovot has a sizable religious population. It is out of the limelight, providing optimal conditions for success. Among the religious population in Rechovot is a large group of immigrants from English speaking countries. This community has the values and background which make it willing to support the kind of institution described above. In the countries from which they came, the members of this community received an education where the accepted norm was that many students would eventually join the workforce.

Kehillas Chatam, made up of Avreichim and Baalei Batim, has in the last thirty years, succeeded in building a community that in many ways is unique in this country. It lacks the friction between those who learn full-time and those who do not. We benefit from each other and respect each other. We have succeeded in creating an "achdus" that is very rare in Israeli society. All members of our community recognize the need for setting aside time for Torah study. The members of this community will also serve as role models for our students.

The Chatam community, under the leadership of Rav David Stein, decided to take up the challenge of building this innovative cheder. The cheder opened its doors in 5759. To ensure that our school provides top quality education both in Torah and general studies, we have lined up an excellent staff. Our staff is periodically evaluated and trained by professionals. Our students are evaluated by educational psychologists. We are confident that we will become a model for similar schools throughout the country. We will spare no effort to make sure that everything goes as planned.

The Chatam community is committed to the success of this school. However, we can not do it alone. The costs of starting a school are enormous; our Israel salaries are not so large. We hope and pray that others will be willing to help us make this very important project succeed.

Sun, 11 April 2021 29 Nisan 5781