N.J. students are among first to study at new Tiferet site
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N.J. students are among first to study at new Tiferet site

Five high school grads from Teaneck, one from Bergenfield, and one from Passaic are among students finishing an academic year in the new four-story facility of the Tiferet Center for Advanced Torah Studies for Women in suburban Jerusalem.

According to co-founder Rabbi Azriel Rosner, Tiferet was founded in 2005 with the unique goal of providing a complete community for gap-year students, where teachers all live in the neighborhood and maintain an open-home policy for the 60 young women from London, Toronto, Florida, Texas, Memphis, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Boston, and the New York metropolitan area.

Given that nearly 70 different seminary programs are available for overseas women before college – 51 of them in Jerusalem – each one must find a niche that attracts a particular type of student. Tiferet is in Ramat Beit Shemesh, about 45 minutes from the capital city.

“Because we are a little out of the Jerusalem social scene, our emphasis is on girls who are coming to Israel to learn and grow and not necessarily be part of that scene,” said Rosner. “Everyone involved here lives within walking distance, and for students thousands of miles from home this adds an aspect of integration. Judaism is more than academic; it is also experiential, and our setup offers an experience of being part of an Israeli community.”

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New Jersey students at Tiferet include, from left, Jessica Listhaus (Livingston), Alana Blumenthal (Teaneck), Lindsay Stadtmauer (West Orange), Ariel Mischel (Teaneck), Rachel Moradi (West Orange), Alyssa Zaretsky (Teaneck) and Michelle Fleksher (Passaic). Not shown are Leora Koenig (Bergenfield), Sara Weiss Kallus (Teaneck), Doren Glaser (Teaneck), and Tehilla Goder (Hillside).

Michelle Fleksher of Passaic, a 2009 graduate of Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, said Tiferet interested her primarily for its self-contained atmosphere.

“I was looking for something smaller and warm, and here we’re in a community and can go to visit our teachers whenever we want,” she said. “Coming from a place of not liking to be away from home, that was the number 1 reason for me to choose Tiferet.”

Alyssa Zaretsky of Teaneck explained that each student is assigned an “adoptive” family, providing an insider view of Israeli life. The families “live in a very modest way but have everything they need, and they and their children are happy,” she said.

Fleksher noted that unlike many other seminaries, Tiferet offers college credit based on attendance, not exams or papers. “When it comes to testing I can get very stressed, and I didn’t want that,” she said. “You are here because you want to be. It’s very calming.” She hopes to study nursing in the United States after completing a second year at Tiferet.

The new structure, faced in Jerusalem stone, houses classrooms, a dining room, a study hall, and student dormitories. Its construction was financed by private donations and what is referred to as a “substantial” no-interest loan from the Caroline & Joseph S. Gruss Life Monument Fund. To keep up with enrollment demand, added Rosner, a second building is planned.

Students can choose from among classes in Bible; Jewish history, law, and philosophy; and Talmud, prayer, Zionism, and Israel advocacy. Like most other seminaries, Tiferet offers hikes and trips to national parks, landmarks, and archaeological sites. Also like other programs, it holds classes from morning till night and leaves one day a week free for community volunteering.

Bergenfield resident Leora Koenig, a Frisch School graduate, said her service involved playing with children in a local family so that the mother could devote extra time to their autistic sibling.

Alana Blumenthal of Teaneck came to visit the school when she was a senior at Bruriah High School in Elizabeth. “I saw that no one was bored,” she related. “I sat in on a class and was inspired right away. This was the way I wanted to learn and spend the year. And once you get accepted, you’re immediately part of this huge family that is Tiferet.”

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