Does ‘day and night’ provide enough time to balance Torah and academic studies?

Shavuot, the holiday that celebrates the receiving of the Torah, serves as a reminder of the centrality of religious studies in Jewish life. In fact, the famous verse from Joshua 1:8 says “Vehagita bo yomam valayla,” that we should meditate upon the Torah day and night.

We take part in the annual tradition of a full night of Jewish learning on Shavuot, we get a taste of the “day and night” mentality. For so many yeshiva students around the world, intensive and around-the-clock Torah study is not a one-night phenomenon, but a way of life. However, their young adult years of immersing themselves in Jewish law overlap with another crucial time priority: the time when society at large believes they should be studying towards attaining a professional degree or trade, and eventually entering the workforce.

How can such students possibly achieve both objectives at the same time, if they study Torah “day and night?” Where is the time for their secular studies?

The Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT), a pioneer in providing high-quality academics to religious Israeli and Diaspora Jews alike, has crafted a unique solution through its International Program in English. The program allows students to continue learning with their rabbis in yeshiva in Israel, while also providing them with the opportunity to obtain a prestigious academic degree and strong professional training in the area of business.

The program’s academic curriculum combines studies in management and marketing with a background in technology, incorporating lectures and practical research projects that challenge the students to apply their knowledge to real-life situations. Courses are offered in principles of management, marketing management, introduction to micro-economics, introduction to macro-economics, principles of finance, financial accounting, managerial accounting, business ethics, and mathematics for business. Many students have already graduated from the international program and have acquired leading positions in the business and high-tech sectors, both in Israel and abroad. All the while, these students do not sacrifice on their Torah studies.

JCT’s international students thrive in the context of a unique Torah-academic balance.

Saul Rothman of Los Angeles recalls that once he completed his service in the Israeli army, “I just felt like I was lacking in certain areas and felt it was critical to get back to my Jewish identity while taking the next step in life. I was 24—I needed to start my degree. At JCT, I could still learn Torah while also study computer science, which was exactly what I wanted to study.”

Dovid Samuels of Memphis, who describes himself as a “mix between modern Orthodox and haredi,” was also looking to study computer science and faced a choice between Bar-Ilan University and JCT.

“The main reason I chose JCT was the religious environment coupled by a recognized technology degree. There is not a single college that is on par with JCT on a religious level while still maintaining a competitive educational level,” says Dovid, who hopes to serve as a computer programmer in the IDF and then pursue a career in artificial intelligence.

Yosef Berger grew up in a modern Orthodox community in Edison, N.J., and made aliyah last October. He is completing a one-year program in computer science and, like Dovid, plans to use his knowledge in the IDF.

“What attracted me to JCT was the religious studies and the fact that I could study computer technology,” Yosef says. “This is the only English game in town for that. It’s very important for me to have that religious environment at the school. The mission that JCT helps spearhead is a critical issue. The ultra-Orthodox community doesn’t have the ability to enter society and this college is sometimes their only way.”

Benny Sabghir of Brooklyn, who is in the final year of a three-year JCT program in business administration, is already seeing the fruits of his labor—he works as head of content at DataCrushers, a start-up in Jerusalem that helps e-commerce merchants recover lost revenue.

“Although JCT is a religious institution, it is a not a ‘down your throat’ religious institution and there is no ‘pushiness,’ which is very important,” Benny says.

Thanks to JCT’s international program, yeshiva students like these young men do not need to pull Shavuot-style all-nighters throughout the year in order to find time for Torah study. JCT helps them strike the best possible work-life balance, while creating a new generation of leading professionals within the religious Jewish community. The workforce benefits tremendously from their contributions, while the Jewish people enjoy the zechut (merit) of their Torah study.

Chag Shavuot Sameach!

About the Author
Stuart Hershkowitz is the Vice President of the Jerusalem College of Technology.
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