Profile in Courage

Last week I visited Menorat Hameor, a Haredi high school that AMIT operates in Petach Tikvah. This is the only Haredi school that AMIT operates. With us were three alumni from the school, two who serve in Haredi intelligence units in the army and another alumnus who is in a junior college computer program. The school was opened in 2010 in response to a request from Haredi lawmakers who were a part of the governing coalition at the time. The officials were concerned about the number of Haredi adolescents who dropped out of yeshiva with no marketable skills, were abandoned by their families, and who were living on the streets.

The AMIT principal is responsible for running the school in accordance with agreed upon general principles and parameters, for example hours of religious studies and secular studies. However, sensitive religious issues are decided by a Haredi rabbi on staff. As the rabbi explained to me, “I don’t have a TV. I never learned anything secular. This is not my plan A, but I know that if these kids don’t have a place, they will be lost to us. So, it is plan B.” For instance, a European Holocaust trip predictably triggers a delicate negotiation between parents, students, and the rabbi because the heritage visit takes place within a larger Zionist framework.

Life for this principal is very complex. Every day, Haredi kids apply to the school but if the rabbi believes they could function effectively in a standard Haredi yeshiva, they are not accepted. If the school is “too successful” there is concern that the Haredi community will force the school to close. That is why the rabbi prefers to keep the school operating in its old, rundown facility, even if there is the possibility of building a new facility.

Life for this rabbi is very complex. The rabbi has been put on a blacklist by extremists in his community, and his property has been subjected to vandalism and graffiti. His car tires have been slashed. His sons have been excluded from prestigious yeshivas. Yet, he keeps doing his job because he knows that what he does is important and meaningful for some often-neglected members of his community, and he believes that these students should also have the best opportunities available to them.

Menorat Hameor currently has 180 students in grades 9-12, 32 dedicated staff, 175 alumni, 88% of alumni who served honorably in the army, and one very courageous Haredi rabbi. Looks can be deceiving. You have to listen to people’s stories to appreciate the work AMIT is doing every day.

About the Author
Audrey Axelrod Trachtman, is the president of AMIT's board of directors and served on AMIT's board since 2009. She was the vice president of finance and strategic planning for Philip Morris and General Foods Latin America and received the YWCA Women of Achievement Award. She serves on the executive board of directors of JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance) and on the board of directors of Project Gabriel Mumbai. She is a member of the Westchester Chevra Kadisha, a founding member of Kol Echad, New Rochelle’s partnership minyan, and served on the Young Israel of New Rochelle’s board. She is a CPA and has an MBA from the Wharton School. She and her husband, Chaim, are the parents of Sarah (and Josh), Rebecca and Tali (and Rafi) and grandparents of Leora, Eli, Elinor, Aliza, Noah and Annie.
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