The religious community has a number of youths who are
intelligent and capable but for various reasons find it
difficult to maintain an all-day learning program. These
youths often drop out of yeshiva and then, for lack of
choice, reluctantly and unwillingly gravitate toward the
street with all its attractions.
If a program were available which would combine yeshiva
studies and vocational work, these youths would never have
reached the street in the first place. Once these youths
have hit the street, it is much more difficult to reclaim
Ohr Chodosh is a new attempt to deal with the problem of
Anglo-Saxon religious youth in Israel who do not fit into
regular yeshivos by addressing the root of the problem. Ohr
Chodosh offers a comprehensive morning yeshiva studies
program, with vocational training in the afternoon
encompassing carpentry, electrical work, construction and
After graduating the two-year program, students are able to
apprentice with professionals in their respective fields and
eventually have a skill in a lucrative trade.
The founder of the program, Rabbi Aaron Zimmer, is a man of
extensive qualifications and experience in both the yeshiva
and secular world. After spending his youth in New York,
Copenhagen and London, Rabbi Zimmer earned a degree in
Architecture and Business Administration. He learned in the
Mirrer Yeshiva for a number of years, and has been learning
for the past 16 years in a kollel in Telshe Stone
affiliated with a yeshiva that caters to American youth. He
is also involved in local communal affairs.
Eleven years ago Rabbi Zimmer was asked to help initiate a
carpentry training program for Anglo-Saxon yungerleit
who found it necessary to support their families. Over
the years, approximately 100 avreichim took part in
this high caliber carpentry course which operates on a farm
in Motza under the instruction of Reb Yitzchok Kitay, a
ben Torah and carpenter with 20 years experience. The
furniture which the avreichim made during their
training in the program is donated to poor families.
The graduates of the course are now working bnei Torah.
Eighty percent are living in Israel today. They
successfully support their families with their acquired
skills as, contractors, carpenters and handymen, while
maintaining at least one seder of Torah study a
Seeing this success, parents of youth who couldn't adapt to
regular yeshiva programs approached Rabbi Zimmer and asked
him to devise a program for their sons. These parents were
concerned that unless an alternative was found, their sons
would flounder without direction. With Rabbi Zimmer's
experience with youth, he realized that they were missing a
sense of satisfaction and productivity in their life. All
day learning was too much for them, but taking a piece of
wood and turning it into an object of value would give them
a sense of accomplishment.
"From my experience," Rabbi Zimmer explains, "once a person
feels accomplishment in one aspect of their lives, it
radiates to other aspects as well. I saw that there was a
real need for a combined yeshiva and vocational training
Rabbi Zimmer first sought the approval and guidance of his
mentor, Rav Mordechai Friedlander, as well as receiving the
backing of other gedolim.
A pilot program was implemented for the last three months of
the 1999 school year. Using the carpentry facility in Motza
and employing Reb Yitzchok Kitay's assistance, he trained 8
boys ages 17-18 in basic carpentry skills. The boys were
from Anglo-Saxon families from various neighborhoods in
Jerusalem and Bet Shemesh. They studied in their own
yeshivos in the morning and attended the carpentry course in
It should be stressed that all the teachers of the program
are bnei Torah who teach the boys a way of life in
addition to simple work skills. For instance, the boys see
how their instructors close up shop to go daven mincha.
They demonstrate that despite working for their living,
Jewish obligations are paramount in their lives.
The program completely fulfilled its expectations. As soon
as the youths began working with their hands and creating
useful furniture, their productivity had a profound impact
on their morning seder and their sense of fulfillment
from it also grew.
One 18 year old student said at the end of the course, "This
is the first time that I started a project and completed it
from beginning to end! This sense of accomplishment made me
realize that I have the potential of completing Shas
The success of the pilot group revealed what tremendous
potential the program had.
The first full-year program of Ohr Chodosh opened on Rosh
Chodesh Elul, 2000. The youths study in the morning at their
respective yeshivos, and attend the training course in the
The beginning of the course focused on professional
carpentry skills. They were taught how to use carpentry
tools and machinery safely and responsibly. They built
various projects, gaining knowledge of power tools as well
as learning how to lacquer, stain and sand.
One of their projects was a collective endeavor in which
each of the boys had to design a cabinet to the
specifications of a client's order. Each boy had to
calculate as if he were running his own carpentry shop, how
much material was needed, the overhead on the project, final
cost of producing the cabinet, cost of a worker, and time
spent on the project including measuring and installation.
Then the group compared their notes, and built the project
During the second semester, the program covered a
fundamental electrical course. At the end of the course the
group had an outing to the electrical power plant in
For the remaining months of the school year the group
studied basic masonry skills as well as construction
including building materials, cement, plastering, window and
The first year program is right now at completion. The
youths who attended the program not only exhibited a
tremendous sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, but
their achievements in their Torah learning also
Efraim, 19, from England now living in Rechovot, explains,
"I needed to do something, as I couldn't concentrate on
learning all day. I was about to leave yeshiva with nothing
to do until someone suggested that I join this program.
Since I like using my hands, I agreed. I thoroughly enjoyed
the course and I'm planning to stay on for a while."
Eli, 19: "Before I took this course, I felt like a kid. But
this program is building me, and making me a person. I feel
its putting me together and I enjoy my morning learning
seder much more."
Gershon, 17, from Long Beach, California, now living in
suburban Jerusalem: "I was in yeshiva before, but didn't
find my place. My parents told me about the program and I
joined. I met new friends, and learned skills in the areas
of woodworking and electricity and just physical work in
general. The teachers help you and are there for you. I feel
very good about the program."
After this successful year, Ohr Chodosh is expanding its
program for the 2001-2002 school year to include a full day
schedule, all on its own premises. There will be a morning
beis midrash program geared to the needs of the
students including small shiurim delivered by English
speaking mechanchim as well as learning halacha and
hashkofo. The beis hamedrash program will be
led by Rav Friedlander.
The vocational program will include a computer course in
addition to the carpentry and electrical courses. The
program also offers recreational activities and preparation
for GED diplomas. The atmosphere will continue to be
individualized and caring.
Rav Zev Leff, the rav of Moshav Matisyahu, has given his
enthusiastic endorsement to the program. In addition to
sending several boys to study there whose progress he has
watched with satisfaction, he has issued a warm approbation
in which he writes: "I strongly endorse this project and
efforts such as these will strengthen the upcoming
generation of Jewish youth to Torah living and will thus
strengthen the future of the Jewish people."
For more information on the program, phone Rabbi Aaron
Zimmer at: 02-533-4833, fax:02-534-4540, or send