A year of study in an Israeli yeshiva program: Before and after
Berger, Shalom Zvi
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Full time Torah study in a yeshiva in Israel, once considered an exotic experience for a modern Orthodox high school graduate, is now a commonplace phenomenon in North American Jewish education. This study examined American modern Orthodox high school graduates before (N = 403) and after (N = 384) a year of study in Israeli yeshiva programs, and found substantial increases in "high" scores in areas of religious ritual practice, commitment to continued Torah study and Zionism. There were two sub-areas which did not exhibit such clear changes. One involved accepting Israeli national religious beliefs; the other dealt with questions of moral and ethical behaviors.;These findings might be explained by considering the interplay between prior educational background and the Israel experience. Those issues that were central to the diaspora Jewish educational process and were reinforced by the atmosphere of the Israeli program show substantial gains. New issues, such as national religious beliefs, or issues that were not specifically emphasized in the context of the Israel yeshiva program, did not show the same strengthening.;Upon reexamining a similar group a full year after the conclusion of the Israel program (N = 315), there was a minor "drop off" in areas of commitment to Torah study and plans to move to Israel. On the whole, the changes that took place over the year in Israel remained.;When a control group (N = 304) was surveyed that included high school graduates who did not choose to study in Israel but went directly to college in the United States, no such changes were found.;Examination of modern Orthodox high school graduates who travel to Israel for a year of Yeshiva study finds them to be a unique group. In contrast to most year-long foreign study sojourns, these students arrive in Israel with a twelve year preparation and a four thousand year heritage. It is not surprising that the results of this study show changes that last even a year after return to college in the United States, while comparable studies of other overseas programs do not reach such conclusions.