It was standing room only at the Mesivta Ateres Yaakov open house this past Sunday, as the yeshiva hosted over 100 prospective students and their parents, eager to learn all about “the MAY experience.”
In the yeshiva’s beautiful facilities, located in the heart of the Five Towns, the day’s program was an opportunity to educate parents and students about the mission of the yeshiva, with the entire staff present and available to answer all of the many visitors’ questions.
It was a busy, exciting, and educational experience that included informative panels, video displays, passionate presentations, engaging dialogue, brainteasers, team-building exercises, raffles, a sumptuous Chinese buffet, prizes, a Jeopardy competition, an elaborate student fair, sushi-making, slushy drinking, ping-pong competitions, and so much more.
Upon arrival, attendees were warmly greeted by the MAY hanhalah, its talented and dedicated faculty, and scores of smiling student volunteers. Guests were ushered into the student fair, where a multitude of booths, manned by current Ateres Yaakov talmidim, described many of the school’s extracurricular programs. The culinary club and its president, senior Gavriel Guttman, prepared chips and guacamole for the enjoyment of the guests and taught many of the eighth-graders how to make their own sushi. Visitors to the ping-pong club’s display could challenge the club’s faculty adviser, Mr. Sam Abetan, a champion player in his own right.
The mesivta’s numerous chesed opportunities were represented by the MAY Lev Leytzan clowns, Yitzy Biderman, Tzvi Korman, and Avi Schwartzblatt, who entertained the crowd with a variety of clowning and juggling acts. Attendees picked up the mesivta’s chesed books, listing the ample opportunity for different chasadim available to its talmidim. Publications were represented by the school newspaper editor-in-chief, senior Ephraim Bencher, and by Eli Bienstock, an editor of the popular weekly student Torah publication Ateres HaShavua.
Athletics was represented by various members of the mesivta’s football, softball, and volleyball teams, as well as participants in the mesivta’s intramural hockey and basketball programs, who were happy to show off the school’s many championship pennants. Academic competitions, including Torah bowl, mock trial, chess, and debate, were also represented.
Following the student fair, the menahel, Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe, addressed the crowd in the mesivta’s expansive beis midrash. He explained that the goal in a yeshiva high school extends far beyond the high-school years and that the ultimate purpose is to build better husbands, fathers, and ovdei Hashem. “Everything that occurs within the yeshiva is aimed at facilitating that goal,” he said. Rabbi Yaffe concluded his remarks by clearly explaining each phrase of the mesivta’s slogan “Rebbeim for Life. Education for Life. Torah for Life.”
The students enjoyed a “mad science” presentation with MAY’s award-winning master science teacher Sanford Pesner, team-building activities with director of student activities Rabbi Shlomo Drebin, and brain-teasing shiurim and a trivia game show conducted by mesivta rebbeim. The afternoon concluded with a delicious Chinese buffet and Chaim Schreier winning the grand raffle.
Following a video presentation, parents attended panel discussions focusing on limudei kodesh, general studies, MAY parents, and MAY alumni. Prospective parents asked current parents and panelists a variety of questions and received enthusiastic and convincing responses. These included:
Are the rebbeim really involved in the lives of the talmidim even after graduation? Alumni talked about their many experiences receiving weekly calls in Israel from multiple members of the faculty, about rebbeim helping them with challenges after marriage, about rebbeim making their shidduchim, and more. Mark Gold, co-president of MAY, noted, “When I wanted to know how any of my many MAY graduate sons were doing in Israel, all I had to do is ask one of the senior rebbeim, who invariably had just spoken with him and was always up on his progress.”
How will MAY help a student who does not yet have good writing skills? A parent panelist noted, “MAY has adapted the curriculum to assign frequent essays and other writing assignments to build basic as well as advanced skills and to provide constructive criticism to facilitate revision. My son started out unable to write a quality essay and ultimately he met with tremendous success as a result of the MAY curriculum.”
How does MAY compare to the other yeshivos in our community? A member of the hanhalah responded, “There are many excellent local options. Each school has its own emphasis and areas in which it excels. MAY is uniquely outstanding in that it excels in limudei kodesh, limudei chol, and extracurricular activities, and its relatively small size facilitates the extra attention that helps students of all capabilities succeed.”
One parent noted, “It’s clear that the rebbeim I spoke with have a very strong emotional connection with their talmidim and truly care about their success.” Another attendee’s comment really summed up the MAY experience: “MAY seems to have a lot to offer in limudei kodesh, general studies, and also in extracurricular activities. It’s a challenging, high-quality program that is very student-centric.”