May 21, 2024
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TABC’s Olam HaChochma Program Broadens Its Students’ Intellectual Horizons

What are the elements of creative writing? TABC freshman Yaakov Wieder spent the past year investigating this question, while he also wrote two short stories and a television script. Guiding him in his exploration was Mrs. Nancy Edelman, who served as one of the mentors of TABC’s Olam HaChochma Scholars program, an enrichment program designed for exceptional incoming freshmen. Over the course of the year, students in this program independently researched a topic of their choosing, while partnering with a mentor who helped guide them. The process culminated in an enlightening night of presentations, as each student conveyed his findings.

The topics that the students chose ranged the full gamut of interests, including history, halacha and English. Some examples include: “The Origins and Development of the English Language;” “A History and Analysis of Shmoneh Esrei;” “The Impact of Technology on Education;” “Chronology of Tanach;” “Modern Applications of the Laws of Bishul on Shabbat;” “The Ambivalent Role of the Jewish People in Medieval Times.”

Mrs. Deniera Goldenberg, director of the Olam HaChochma program, in describing one of the goals of the program, commented that “by having our students write and present scholarly papers, we are preparing them for a lifetime of intellectual pursuits.” She described the intended participants as “scholars who are self-motivated and inspired by academic challenges.”

The mentors were both members of the TABC faculty and experts from the community. Mrs. Edelman, who serves as the director of curriculum and educational technology at TABC, defined her experience of serving as a mentor by noting, “It was gratifying to watch the student I mentored take what he learned in my English classroom about the craft of the short story and apply it to his own creative process in writing his own collection of stories. Watching our students challenge themselves and pursue their intellectual passions was exciting and their enthusiasm infectious.”

A fellow mentor, Mrs. Cary Reichardt, chair of the history department in TABC, echoed those sentiments. “Any opportunity which I might have to ‘turn a student on’ to the study of history is special for me. Seeing a student with a particular interest or focus, meeting with him and bearing witness to the transformation that takes place as he delves deeper into the subject, is one of the greatest rewards of teaching. Being a mentor in the Olam HaChochma Program has enabled me to guide a young seeker in his search for the truth.” Rabbi Nathaniel (Nati) Helfgot, rabbi of Congregation Netivot Shalom and head of the Talmud department in SAR, mentored his son Shlomi. He noted that he was “proud that my son was involved in this opportunity to pursue a passion.”

Throughout the year, the scholars heard speakers who either described how to conduct research and give presentations, or who focused on specific topics that were being researched. Rabbi Dr. Aaron Ross, assistant principal of the Yavneh Academy, spoke about “Transformative Technology Education.” Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel, chair of the Rebecca Ivry Department of Jewish Studies in Stern College, lectured on “Returning Apostates in Medieval Ashkenaz.” Hearing from experts in their respective fields opened the participants’ eyes to new perspectives and broadened their understanding of each topic.

As a way of complementing their scholarly pursuits, the program endeavored to also expand its participants’ horizons in the literary, artistic world. The scholars attended the Tony Award winning play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” an adaptation of Mark Haddon’s bestselling book about a high functioning boy on the spectrum who uses his incredible intelligence for math to navigate the world. In preparation for seeing the play, Ms. Lauren Burstein, a member of the TABC English department, led a lively discussion about different mediums that can be used to tell a story while comparing and contrasting the play and the book on which it was based.

Rabbi Adler, Rosh HaYeshiva of TABC, put the program in perspective of the religious philosophy of the school. “We recognize the primacy of Torah study,” he explained, “but equally important, that which society and the world has to offer us. The program allows students to embrace both, while engaging in a high level of research and presentation.”

The inaugural year of the program was a great success and TABC looks forward to an expanded, even more enhanced version next year, as new incoming freshmen join the program.

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