Yeshiva offers locals new option

BY STEVE GOLDBERG, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

“I love St. Louis,” says Stuart Rosenblum, a native New Yorker but now St. Louis resident for 15 years. “It’s a great place to live and to raise a family. That’s why I left my job in New York and moved here.”

Attracted in part by the Jewish day schools here, Rosenblum now has another option. A traditional yeshiva known as the Missouri Torah Institute (MTI) opened its doors this past August in Chesterfield.

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Rosenblum, a board member of MTI, said he expects that the school will be an important step to increasing the growth of the St. Louis Jewish community, while helping to strengthen and uplift other local Jewish institutions, including the other day schools. “It provides an option,” he says, for those families who might otherwise choose to send their kids to a high school out of town.

Indeed, school dean Rabbi Dovid Fromowitz stressed that “The growth of the community is a major focus of the school.” Well-attended classes, open to the entire Jewish community, are held weekly, and the yeshiva recently sponsored a kosher Chinese dinner.

The yeshiva has an initial 9th grade class consisting of seven boys, with a new grade to be added each year. Current students are all from St. Louis, although MTI expects to draw from throughout the Midwest.

A special feature of the yeshiva has been the presence of four post-high school “Beis Medrash” students. These young men devote themselves to advanced Jewish learning and act as mentors and role models for the high school students.

Another unique aspect of MTI is its demanding schedule. Encompassing full Jewish studies as well as a complete secular program, the day begins at 7:40 a.m. and continues until at least 8:15 p.m., although the students take a break for dinner at 6:15 p.m. Often students and teachers are present much later. On Fridays, school ends at lunchtime, but the kids are back for a half-day on Sunday.

One might assume that these MTI students dread such a schedule, but 9th grader Jonathan Rosenblum “can’t wait to go back at night” to spend time with the Beis Medrash boys. Besides the learning that takes place, there may be games of foosball and mounds of cholent to keep the kids happy. Another student explains that “I look forward to coming to yeshiva every day. The rebbeim are great, the teachers are great, and the food is great.”

The Missouri Torah Institute is a branch of the famed Chofetz Chaim yeshiva in New York. Other similar affiliate schools are located in Dallas, North Miami Beach, Los Angeles, San Diego and Milwaukee. Rosenblum explains the Chofetz Chaim affiliation: “They have a proven success record. And it’s not just a yeshiva, it’s a way of life. You can be a doctor or a lawyer, but do it Jewishly.”

Rabbi Fromowitz shares his position as MTI dean with Rabbi Shmuel Wasser, and the two work well together. “We’ve known each other for many years,” says Rabbi Fromowitz. Having two school headmasters “allows for better checks and balances and it’s good to be able to consult with another person.”

The rabbis plan on increasing the yeshiva’s involvement with other local Jewish schools and organizations, and hope to repeat the success that has accompanied other similar yeshivas.

“In Milwaukee and other cities,” says Rosenblum, “the Jewish population grew” after such schools began operation. “In addition, other local schools benefited as well,” since these yeshivas attract families whose children tend to attend a number of local schools.

For more information, the Missouri Torah Institute may be reached at 314-594-0462.