December 7, 2021
Balancing Torah studies with secular academics is already a tall order for religious college students. The COVID-19 pandemic has added new complexities. But the Jerusalem College of Technology’s (JCT) International Program in English enables students to navigate both of those challenges.
The International Program — which is hosting an open house on December 12 — is a competitive program that offers young men and women from around the world the viable opportunity to live and study Torah in Israel while pursuing a prestigious academic degree in Computer Sciences or Business Administration. Following three critically formative and intensive years of study, students emerge prepared not only to embark on successful career paths but also thriving life paths that maintain an abiding fidelity to Torah and Israel.
In the following interview with The Jewish Press, International Program Coordinator Shlomo Anapolle discusses the pandemic, the Torah-academics balancing act, and more.
Q: How has the pandemic changed the landscape for the International Program?
A: “COVID was definitely a challenge for students across the world. Having taught high school in the U.S. before making Aliyah this summer, I was able to see firsthand how hard the pandemic is on students. Here at JCT, classes went on Zoom and now are back in person. In addition, there are some courses that benefit students by being more flexible, such as our computer science and math exercise classes, where the instructor meets with students and reviews problems with them. For most students, this is an extremely important use of their time; but for other students who already understand the concept presented, it is more helpful to watch the recording of such exercises on their own time as a review. And so we record and send these classes to the students. This is one of many ways the program has adapted to the new reality we live in.”
Q: What is the most difficult part of balancing Torah studies with secular academics?
A: “Balancing a dual curriculum of academic and Torah studies isn’t easy; it requires discipline, commitment, and strong time management skills. The academic studies at JCT are rigorous, and since our students are spending several hours each morning immersed in Torah, they can’t afford to waste time in the afternoons and evenings.
“At the International Program at JCT, we recognize that our students work harder than most college students, and we are committed to supporting them every step of the way. Most importantly, we want our students to be happy and religiously inspired and fulfilled. We run evening learning programs and fun get-togethers for our students, to make sure they not only succeed academically, but also enjoy their time at JCT and are excited about their Torah studies.”
Q: What about your experiences and passions drew you to assume a position with this program?
A: “Before my family made Aliyah, I worked extensively with pro-Israel and Sephardic students back in the U.S. One of my main goals is to connect Jews of all different backgrounds and religious levels together through common causes. I ran events for thousands of students and worked hard to actualize that vision whenever possible. In addition to working with college-aged students, I also taught high school students the past three years and have run many summer camps in Israel for underprivileged youths.
“Bringing all of this together, JCT is the perfect place for me. I love working with a diverse group of students who understand how important Torah, Israel, and the Jewish future are to us all. I constantly meet with students, asking them how we can help make the program even better, because our program is geared specifically for students who are considering Aliyah and aligning their own future with that of the Jewish people.”
Q: How do you see the International Program evolving during the next five years?
A: “Israel is where the Jewish future is. Statistics are showing that the younger generation is beginning to understand this a lot more. 15-20 years, only 5% of gap-year students chose to make Aliyah. Now that percentage has grown to 15-20%! JCT is looking to expand our degree and course offerings so that we can be the go-to option for students who wish to stay in Israel, engaging in both Torah and secular studies at a very high level.
“We charge around $4,000 a year for tuition, far less than a standard American university, all while offering high-level academics in English over the course of the three-year program.”