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Yeshiva students missing basic math and literacy skills, hindering them from university advancement

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Hasidic men rarely consider university as a career path but that is changing

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Whether they run their own business or teach religious studies, Hasidic men rarely consider pursuing a university degree.  While most Hasidic men in Montreal generally find employment in a field not requiring a professional degree, this may slowly be changing. Recently, some have shown interest in pursuing a degree and building a career as a professional. Eli Meroz, the director of studies at College TAV, had lots to share in an interview with TheJ.ca.

Over the past few years, Eli has been working closely with the Hasidic community to help the young guys get into university. He works on a case by case basis, to ensure their ultimate success.  Eli understands the struggles, for he himself went through a Hasidic Yeshiva system. When he left Yeshiva, Eli acquired his high school diploma through adult education at the English Montreal School Board and went through college and university successfully. He believes Hasidic men encounter several specific challenges.  

“By the time these men are ready to begin college, they are usually married with a child or two. When one has a family to support, spending 8 years in school may seem less realistic. Let’s also not forget that for a professional to be qualified to work in Quebec, one needs to pass a French exam, which adds more to the already overflowing workload.” 

Jackie Clamen is the Senior Social Worker at Agence Ometz, as well as the coordinator of the GED Program. In December of 2015, she started a pilot program for Hasidim interested in preparing for the GED exams (high school equivalence). The program offers free tutoring in all the subjects being tested on the GED.  

“We have a perfect success rate with our Hasidic students. We prepare them thoroughly, so when they take the test, they pass with ease. That success gives them confidence and pushes them forward in their education. A fluency in written and oral French will be crucial if you want to work in Quebec. After passing the GED exams, learning French should be the next step.”

One such Hasid, taking the leap into university is Ari Weiss. Ari is 22 years old, married with a son, and now in his second year of college, with hopes of attending medical school. He explained how a young Hasidic Yeshiva student like himself, came to be a full-time student at Concordia University.

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”I always knew that when I got older, I would pursue a professional career, something that would give me the opportunity to help others. Becoming a doctor seemed to fit that bill. I really began considering my options when I moved to Montreal after I got married. With my wife’s steadfast support and the low tuition costs, I took the plunge into the unknown world of essays, exams and reports.”

Ari faced many hardships as he began his educational journey, especially his lack of a proper secular education. But Ari is no quitter, holding on to something his father taught him many years back. “Whatever you do in life Ari, do it properly, with passion.”

He explained, “To make up for the information I lack, I have taken several initiatives. Firstly, I reach out for help and use  the school’s resources available to students. Secondly, I am constantly reading whichever book I can get my hands on. I’m teaching myself everything I wasn’t taught growing up. Also, there are so many online resources to help me learn basic skills at my own pace. For me, going to school is more time consuming than a full-time job. I study around the clock, all throughout the week. I never close up shop.”

TAV College is a bilingual, private college in the Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough of Montreal.

Most importantly, Ari believes it is his perseverance and commitment that drive him to push forward. In addition, it is important to surround yourself with people who are supportive and encouraging. For Ari it is his wife Esty.

“I supported him when we discussed it while we were dating. I had a great job and I knew I wanted to continue working after we had children either way, so it made sense for us.”  Some are fortunately warming up to the idea, but for others it is still too new and unacceptable but Esty is supporting Ari all the way. Going to university is still a foreign concept in the Hasidic community and some family members and friends were skeptical at first. Eli Meroz believes that Yeshiva students have great analytical skills and intellectual abilities to succeed, but they are missing basic math and literacy skills, which will hinder them from continuing with their higher education.

Acquiring a GED was Ari’s first step. He worked tirelessly to master it, as a foundation of his future studies. “Encourage your children to read, to question. This will open their minds to absorb new material. With G-d’s help, when I’ll be a doctor, I’ll put copies of the GED book in my office for my Hasidic patients to see where my journey began.”

Agence Ometz delivers accessible, confidential, personalized and culturally sensitive services based on Jewish values.

Ari also talked about the spiritual difficulties a young Hasid may face when attending a secular college.

“We all know that nowadays, the colleges are filled with progressive, anti – G-d messages. As a religious Jew, especially one that grew up in an insular community, this was new to me. Before entering a highly secular, anti-religious institution, you need a solid foundation in your Torah learning and Judaism. I am super strict with my Daf Hayomi (daily Talmud) learning every evening to counter all that progressiveness.”

”I always keep in mind that most of these students have never seen a religious Jew, let alone interacted with them, so this is my chance to make a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s name).”

Libby Scher is a freelance journalist living in Montreal. She writes about her local Hasidic community and has been featured in many Jewish publications.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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