For Orthodox American immigrants to Israel searching for a high school for their daughters that would ease the transition, Pninei Chein in Ramat Beit Shemesh, which combines the best of Torah education and the highest academic standards, could be the answer.
By United with Israel Staff
Many Orthodox American families interested in Aliyah are concerned about the education of their children upon settling in Israel, especially those of high-school age – and rightly so.
With a new language to learn, a new culture, and a new social milieu, teenagers often have the most difficulty adjusting to the change.
Pninei Chein, a high school for girls in Ramat Beit Shemesh, a comfortable community for religious English-speaking immigrants, has helped its students adjust to a new country while getting a first-class Torah and secular education.
The school was founded 12 years ago by one of Ramat Beit Shemesh’s leading rabbis, Rabbi E. Kornfeld of Kehillas HaGra congregation, under the guidance of Rabbi Yisroel Gans, who counsels many prestigious Torah institutions across the country.
Until then, there were basically two options. One was the religious schools that do not offer many of the secular studies and exams necessary to receive a high-school diploma from the Israeli educational system. The other option was the religious Zionist schools, which differ from the haredi upbringing to which many families making Aliyah are accustomed.
Pninei Chein, which now educates over 200 students, has been recognized by the Ministry of Education as one of the best in the country.
United with Israel interviewed Rabbi and Mrs. Pupko, the school principals, who explained that the school provides an American-style Bais Yaakov atmosphere while encouraging the girls to maintain their individuality and recognizing their unique strengths, be it in the realm of academics or outside interests, such as art or music.
Furthermore, they said, students are encouraged to share their concerns and discuss any problems or questions they may have with empathetic staff who understand the unique challenges of moving to a new environment coupled with common issues facing all teenagers.
The school also provides tutoring for girls with disabilities.
Following are excerpts of the interview.
Why was there a need to establish a new school for religious high school girls in Ramat Beit Shemesh? What is your mission?
“Our mission is to instill in our students a love for Torah, Avodah and Eretz Yisrael [Torah, contributing to society, and the Land of Israel] and enabling them to achieve high academic success while growing to become healthy, well-balanced women who will pass these values on to the next generation.
“We see it as our duty to instill in our girls a sense of privilege and joy of being Bnos Yisrael [daughters of Israel].”
What differentiates Pninei Chein from other schools in Beit Shemesh for Orthodox Jewish girls?
“We are unique in that we provide a high-level education and full bagrut [high school matriculation] while instilling in the students a deep commitment to Torah values and the ability to maximize their potential.
“The Pninei Chein curriculum includes educational tours as an integral part of the history and biology courses and offers electives in biology, graphic design, and computer programming.
“Many extracurricular activities and projects take place throughout the school year as well, including plays, choirs, camping, outings, touring, prominent guest speakers, debates, and chesed [good deeds] projects in order to build strong, healthy and well-rounded girls.”
Are all the girls from an American background? If so, how do they integrate within Israeli society upon graduation? Is their Hebrew fluent, with no American accent?
“Not all, but most of the girls are from an American background. Many have American parents but were raised in Israel. Most of the staff is native-Israeli, and the teaching is all in Hebrew.
“The girls also do volunteer work within the Israeli community.”
Do girls from other parts of the country attend?
“Some do come from other parts of the country because of our unique approach.”
How did you manage during the corona crisis? Does it appear that most of the girls adjusted well?
“During Corona, we used a system that enabled the teachers and students to be in touch, and all the schoolwork was sent through this system.
“The system, which had remarkable success, also enabled tutoring, and there were some extracurricular activities in groups of 10, according to the regulations of the Ministry of Health.”
What are some of the career paths your graduates have taken in recent years?
“Some of the careers are nursing, computer programming, technology, architecture, graphic design, fashion design – all options suitable for the religious girl.”
Many graduates have kept in touch with their former classmates and teachers over the years and have visited the school, referring to it as their home away from home forever, Mrs. Pupko said.
(To contact the school, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 055-678-4153.)
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