Jerusalem’s unique Dror High School is a wonderful place for Modern Orthodox students from around the world who are seeking a religiously pluralistic high school in Israel.
Don’t believe the naysayers; pluralistic education exists in Israel. For the first time, Modern Orthodox students from around the world who are seeking a religiously pluralistic high school in Israel have a place to call home. Even less believable (but equally true)…it’s free!
The renowned Naale educational program is launching a new initiative at Jerusalem’s unique Dror High School. Teens will find Dror a game-changer as a co-ed Modern Orthodox High School. Both boys and girls learn Talmud, take part in prayer services, and their “Social Beit Midrash” is a space for students to collaborate on social activist projects and meaningfully contribute to the surrounding community. Though the school is situated in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Moshe neighborhood, Naale students at the Naale-Dror program live on the campus of Ein Carmit Boarding School in the picturesque Ein Karem village, located just outside the city.
“Religious co-ed boarding schools are very rare in Israel, this is why we came up with the idea for Dror-Ein Carmit. Families wanted the Naale Elite Academy experience for their teens but needed a more religiously open setting,” said Chaim Meyers, Director of the Western World Region for Naale Elite Academy. The Naale Elite Academy program enables Jewish high school students from all over the world to study in Israel on a full scholarship. Students who complete the program, which runs from the 9th-12th grades, graduate with the internationally recognized Israeli matriculation (graduation) Bagrut certificate.
Naale administration wanted to give options for all Jewish families. “Pluralistic studies and gender equality are not part of the standard yeshiva or Ulpana in Israel,” Meyers explained. “Dror presents an open view on Judaism and religiousness, which makes it a perfect match for traditional and Modern Orthodox families.”
With the cost of Jewish education skyrocketing in the USA, the Naale program has been gained much interest. Meyers explained the motivation, “This is a free program for students. There is no need for parents to pay $30,000 a year for private Jewish education. And, it’s in Israel. The students get to know their heritage and explore Israel through trips that are part of the program. There’s nothing else like this anywhere.” Including free room and board, Naale is designed to help acclimate and integrate teens into Israeli society and culture. It has been especially popular with families are considering living in Israel and making Aliyah in the near future.
Roni Hazon-Weiss, the principal of Dror High School, is excited about the new Naale program at her school because she knows that North American high school students are actively seeking something different in Israel. “What we offer to students can’t be found in North America. One of the key elements in the school is its religious pluralistic environment,” revealed Hazon-Weiss.
The Dror program is broad, explains Hazon- Weiss, “It’s not just learning the religious texts in a co-ed setting. We explore religion inside and outside the classroom by going to museums, participating in social activism, spending Shabbatot with different types of religious families in metro Jerusalem. Within our ‘Social Beit Medrash’ the students meet members of the Knesset, social activists, religious figures, all within a religious Zionistic environment.”
Jonathan Rosner, a Canadian expatriate who lives in Maale Adumim, sent his son to Dror because he discovered a unique environment. “The rav [rabbi] of the school has a very positive and proactive attitude towards modern halachic issues,” Rosner explained. “For example, the school believes that it’s better for boys and girls to be in a co-ed school and learn how to relate to each other now, while in a religious framework, rather than waiting until they are thrown together in the army.”
One of the additional aspects that Naale provides students with is the structure and support from their network of teachers, counselors, educational professionals, communal Shabbatot and being matched with a “host family” where they can spend Shabbat, holidays or just go for a visit.
Ms. Hazon-Weiss maintained that Dror also plays a vital role in bridging the Israel-Diaspora Jewry cultural and religious gap, which during the past year has considerably widened. She said, “The relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry is so important and Dror is vital to that relationship because it offers a Zionistic and open-minded religious environment. For me, this represents one of Dror’s greatest challenges and one of its greatest assets.”