June 9, 2006
PTI's first graduation
The yeshivah has grown each year since opening.
Significant milestones seem to come fast and furious for a young
organization like the Pacific Torah Institute (PTI). Since opening
its doors in September 2003, the men's yeshivah high school
the first of its kind in Vancouver has grown each year. It
moved into a new facility in it's second year. But, on June 25,
the school will be celebrating its most significant milestone yet.
PTI will say goodbye to its first graduating class the group
of five students who started at the school in their Grade 10 year.
"These are five young students who have worked very hard,"
said Rabbi Noam Abramchik, one of the three deans of the yeshivah.
"We are fortunate that they have always been a mature group
of kids, who set the tone for the school with a serious nature toward
The graduates, Andrew Freedman, Yosef Okrent, Yoni Erlichman, Benjamin
Barer and Alexander Smollan, will receive their Dogwood certificates
the official symbol of high school graduation in British
Columbia which is a significant achievement when combining
a regular curriculum with the four and a half hours a day they also
spent studying Judaics.
"This school has an environment in which, if you apply yourself,
you can accomplish a lot of things," said Erlichman. "The
rabbis created an environment where learning is the most important
The school started with 16 students in 2003 in grades 8, 9 and 10.
They grew to 19 the next year and 28 this past session. Even with
five students moving on, the yeshivah expects to have an enrolment
of close to 40 next year - a number that will have the facility
close to bursting at the seams.
"This school has the ability to flourish in Vancouver,"
Erlichman said. "If the students take advantage of that and
Vancouver takes advantage of what they have, then it will become
a great institution."
Four of the five grads will move to Israel next year to continue
their education and travel. The fifth will begin post-secondary
"One thing that the rabbis have always encouraged is that you
don't have to become a rabbi or be learning full-time," Erlichman
said. "But you should let Judaism be a part of your everyday
life in some way."
The June 25 ceremony will also honor David and Ellen Freedman, whom
Abramchik described as the president and first lady of the yeshivah.
The Freedmans were instrumental in bringing PTI to Vancouver, while
also offering their home as a dorm for students and as collateral
for the school's financial start-up. Ellen Freedman even served
as the yeshivah's cook for the first school year.
"It is very appropriate that we honor the Freedmans at the
graduation of our first class, because there wouldn't be a first
class if it wasn't for them," Abramchik said. "We have
supporters all over North America, but if it wasn't for the Freedmans,
we wouldn't be here."
"We're both overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment,"
said Ellen Freedman, noting that the school's success has almost
exceeded her and her husband's wildest dreams. "The rabbis
themselves and their families are truly inspirational and have had
an enormous positive effect on our community. We are so grateful
that they decided to come out and make this a part of their lives."
For more information about the graduation ceremony, which will take
place at the Vancouver Public Library, call 604-261-1502.
Kyle Berger is a freelance journalist and graphic designer
living in Richmond.