Yeshiva's healthy attitude winning global admirers


A yeshiva for strictly Orthodox boys without academic qualifications is attracting attention from as far afield as Russia after becoming the first to send students on the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Manchester increased its emphasis on exercise and health in response to the results of an NHS-funded survey of the strictly Orthodox community.

The health study, led by Jonny Wineberg - chair of the Jewish Care Forum - and psychologist Dr Sandi Mann, found that barely one third of men in the Salford community took the nationally recommended level of exercise.

The yeshiva was also the first to offer secular qualifications through a BTEC, supporting young people with behavioural and learning difficulties.

Yisroel Hassell, Darchei Torah's manager, said the "great package" of volunteering and hiking which 13 boys experienced while reaching the Duke of Edinburgh gold standard had been followed by a healthy eating course.

"They learn about healthy foods and how to cook. We do cycling and football with them too and we recently received a grant of nearly £10,000 from Sport England to give them squash and tennis lessons.

"The research in the Salford health study showed that double the amount of women exercise, so we're trying to emphasise health to the boys.

"It's also very important they know what cigarettes can do to their bodies as there is a lack of education around smoking and how to keep fit instead of eating junk food."

Mr Hassell said the yeshiva's programme had prompted inquiries from Orthodox leaders in Belgium, Switzerland and Russia on how they could apply it to young people in their communities.

"Boys can come here and get a proper qualification, which helps them to get a job and have a successful life.

"It better prepares the boys for university, college, the army in Israel or for opening their own business."

The yeshiva had expanded by acquiring a 35-bedroom care home site in a £400,000 project to provide facilities for cooking, music and technology.

But this would not impact on the intimate nature of the yeshiva, which is attended by 18 boys.

"The whole ethos is one of individual attention. These boys who have failed in school, who fell through the cracks, thrive with attention and small classes - and when they're happy they'll be successful."

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