Report: Far North Dallas Yeshiva Immerses Students In Jewish Faith

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texas-torah-instituteThe following report by Sam Hodges about Texas Torah Institute appears in The Dallas Morning News:

Pose a question to a student at Texas Torah Institute, and you won’t be answered in teenspeak, with its likes, you knows and sentence equivalents of the bridge to nowhere.

First the student will pause, considering. Then he’ll provide a simple, clear response. It may not be eloquent, but it’ll be reasoned, as if he had been taught by a rabbi – which he has.

Here’s 19-year-old Ben Goldstein on why he’s glad to be in an all-male school.

“When you’re trying to build a foundation for yourself, the last thing you need is distractions,” he said.

Texas Torah Institute, in a nondescript Far North Dallas building previously used for car sales and dance classes, is a yeshiva. That’s a school where older boys and young men, typically Orthodox Jews, spend hours each day in rigorous study of sacred Jewish writings.

It is the only such school in the Southwest. Founded in 2003 with eight students, it has grown to 70, and the annual budget just passed $1 million.

Five rabbis are on staff at the school, which combines Judaic studies with regular high school courses. Some graduates stay on to further their study of the Talmud, the ancient commentaries and traditions related to the Torah, and which Orthodox Jews revere and consider their authoritative guide.

Students from afar

Day student enrollment is picking up. But most students are boarders, coming from as far as Mexico City and New York.

“My rabbi told us about this place in Dallas,” said Dani Barak, an 11th-grader from Far Rockaway, N.Y. “I came to check it out. I find it fits me very well.”

During the last three decades, Dallas has seen a flourishing of Orthodox Judaism. The evidence is in synagogues, rabbi-led study centers, a handful of private schools, and increased availability of kosher foods.

But without a yeshiva, Dallas was missing a “a vital component of the Jewish infrastructure,” said Rabbi Aryeh Rodin. He founded TTI, which initially met at the synagogue he leads, North Dallas’ Congregation Ohev Shalom.

Having such a school is a convenience for local Jewish families who want a yeshiva education for their sons. It also signals Dallas’ maturity as a regional hub for Orthodox Judaism.

“When I grew up here [in the 1950s], the idea that Dallas would be a beacon or center for Orthodox Judaism was far removed,” said Gary Weinstein, president and chief executive of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. “We looked at Miami or New York City or Chicago.”

For TTI students, school begins before 8 a.m., goes until nearly 7 p.m., and includes three prayer sessions.

“It’s a very long day, but if you want to achieve something, you’ve got to put in the hours,” said Shlomo Rafaelov, an 11th-grader from Dallas.

Through early afternoon, the focus is on Judaic studies. Classes are more like seminars, with rabbis drawing students into lively discussion of the scriptures and commentaries.

Judgment, ethics

Critical thinking is one emphasis. Ethics is another.

“Someone who is grounded in our traditional perspective on life, family and community is that much more effective,” said Rabbi Shlomo Pacht, principal and teacher.

After Judaic studies, the students move to general studies, taking about four hours of classes in math, science, English and other basics.

“The students here are pretty sharp young kiddos,” said Fred Wagner, who spent 33 years as an educator in Texas public schools and now leads general studies for TTI. “And the discipline problems are so much less.”

Students here wear dress shirts and pants, skull caps, and more formal hats for prayer. They’re allowed to check e-mail, strum guitars and play chess during breaks.

Extracurriculars include basketball – the Timberwolves play other small, private schools – chess tournaments, and a mock trial team.

Some graduates go straight to college, while others remain in TTI’s post-high school program, doing fulltime Judaic studies. It’s common, too, for graduates to travel to Israel.

While TTI is likely to see, long term, a number of its graduates become rabbis, Rodin said his goal is that each boy become a mensch. That’s Yiddish for someone of integrity and honor.

Tuition is $14,000, with room and board another $5,000. The school is looking for larger quarters and has grown with almost no marketing, relying on word-of-mouth from rabbis and students.

“I talk to my friends and they want to come here,” said 11th-grader Simcha Dubinsky, of Monsey, N.Y. “Hopefully, we’ll get a bigger building.”

{The Dallas Morning News/Noam Newscenter}


  1. Sounds like a typical Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva – focusing on Torah Beiyun and Mussar, creating the greatest potential to develop a Mesivta bachur into a Lamdin and Ba’al Mussar! A real Mentch!

  2. The article is very accurate. It is well run and a just the place for certain boys. I would roughly describe them as in-between Ner Israel and YU. I am a parent of a boy learning there and he’s doing great bli eyin hora.

  3. I know the roshei yeshiva Harav Hogoan Eli koufman and Harav Hogoan Shlome Pacht. I almost forgot Harav Hagoan Yacov Cohen.

    What Talmidei Chachmim and Balei Musser!

  4. Need more of these yeshivos that fit the typical USA-American frum boy. Learning while developing writing/reading/math/critical thinking skills, connecting to a community is a lost ideal in the bigger cities.
    CHAZAK, chazak and grow stronger.

  5. I know this Yeshiva very well. It has a fantastic reputation and truly develops its talmidim into Bnei Torah. One of the tings that is most amazing about it is that all of the boys are so happy there!! You can feel it from just talking to them and watching them. May the Yeshiva continue to grow and be matzliach!!


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