A student’s experience at Yeshivat Or Chaim extends well beyond the classroom. The wide array of co-curricular activities, teams and programs encourage students to get involved in school life. Students are part of an environment that stresses contributing to the Jewish people while at the same time channeling their passions and honing their leadership skills. Bnei Akiva Schools emphasize a commitment to Medinat Yisrael. We expect our students to demonstrate Ahavat Yisrael, Derech Eretz and social responsibility towards the Jewish Community, Canada, and the world at large.
Most Thursdays from 5:30-7:00 PM, students participate in a school-wide mishmar program. Mishmar is an opportunity for students to spend
extra time learning about a wide array of topics including upcoming Jewish holidays, current events and ethics. On occasion, guest speakers from the community are invited to address the students as well as well as visiting scholars from Israel and abroad. As well, members of our Judaic studies faculty will run informal classes related to Torah, Jewish music and relevant current Jewish issues.
The Or Chaim Shabbaton is a yearly opportunity for the school to spend a Shabbat together. The grade 12s generally go up early, organizing programming for the rest of the school, including Friday night learning groups. Shabbat includes davening, divrei torah, singing and shmoozing. Programming in the afternoon has included a shiur with a member of the Yeshiva University Beit Midrash, a nature walk and a “Shmooze” with members of the English department. The Shabbat is a spiritual, community-building experience, allowing our students to interact with each other and some of their teachers in an out-of-classroom, Shabbat atmosphere. Following Havdalah, the boys participate in dancing led by the Or Chaim band and conclude the evening with a bonfire and kumsitz. An annual highlight for students and staff alike – an experience not to be missed!
At Yeshivat Or Chaim, students have the opportunity to participate in clubs and / or committees. Clubs vary year-to-year based on interest and student leadership. Students are encouraged to speak to members of student council or student activity coordinators if they are interested in initiating a new club or committee at the Bnei Akiva Schools. Clubs must have a staff liason supervising the activities in order to be an official school club. Some recent clubs have included:
- Investment Club: this club teaches students valuable business skills through interactive means. Club programming has included a TD Seminar, a “dress for success” presentation, guest speakers, lessons on investing and stock market basics. This club also competes in a simulated stock market exchange program. Winners receive a prize and their names are placed on the YOC-IC plaque.
- Environment Committee: A grass-roots, student-based movement, staff have been thrilled to see students take up this cause within the school. The students in this committee work on brainstorming initiatives related to how the school can improve its environment. They have been working hard to encourage recycling so that papers and cardboards do not end up in garbages.
- Film Club: A classic film, some popcorn and Mr. Teversham’s analytical words. What could be a better way to spend an evening after school?
- Business Club: A student-created initiative, this group arranges for speakers working in the business field to share their experiences with our students. Topics of discussion have included work-life balance, university experiences, career path choices, the specifics of a day-to-day business career and suggestions for remaining religiously connected while working in the field. This club has allowed students to gain valuable real-life ideas and advice.
Learning with the YU Beit Midrash
Our students have the opportunity to learn with members of the Yeshiva University Torah Mitzion Beit Midrash Zichron Dov, permanently housed in our Beit Midrash. In addition to individual opportunities to learn, students participate in chabura programs or Bekiut optional lunch program. Avreichim in the Beit Midrash also teach a regular grade 12 chabura class. YOC alumni have the opportunity to become part of the Chaverim learning program.
Our school provides coaching and weekly preparation sessions for interested students to compete in the National Bible Contest. Each year a group of students advance to the final rounds. Last year, Natan Snowbell (’17) finished sixth world-wide in the international contest, after placing first nationally.
Each year, our students participate in two different Model UN programs. Under the guidance of faculty members, students research the politics of the country they have been selected to represent, in order to play the roles of real United Nations delegates at the conference. Participating in the Model UN programs adds to participants’ knowledge of world affairs and their public speaking skills.
Qualifying Grade 11 and 12 students participate in Yeshiva University’s Model UN Conference with hundreds of other yeshiva high school students across North America. All students are invited to participate in the Jewish Canadian Youth Model UN held in Montreal.
Student council is made up of a cadre of grade 11 and 12 students who are responsible for administering and running student and school oriented activities with class representatives from grades 9, 10 and 11. Annual activities coordinated by the student council include sukkah building, pre-pesach car cleaning, school lunch programs, Sports Day and basketball intramurals. A portion of the funds raised from student councils programs are donated to various local and Jewish charities.
Grades 9, 10 and 11 are represented by 2 students as part of student council. Grade reps support and assist in school-wide programming, including shabbaton, Sports Day, Shushan Purim, Chanukah and school-wide tisches. Grade reps gain valuable leadership experience and take pride in creating programming that is enjoyed by the entire school.
Our athletic teams foster a sense of school pride amongst the student body. The school has two basketball teams: Junior Varsity for grade 9 and 10 students and Varsity for grade 11 and 12 students. The teams compete in the TDCAA. The varsity team has the opportunity to play in various tournaments, among the highlights – Yeshiva University’s Sarachek Tournament in New York. Tryouts for the basketball teams are held at the beginning of the school year and the season typically lasts from October to March.
The Cross Country Running team, open to all students who qualify, also competes in the TDCAA. Tryouts and practices start at the beginning of the year and the season typically lasts until the winter.
The Soccer team is open to all students who qualify. While the soccer season is typically in the spring and summer, tryouts and practices usually begin in January. The soccer team also competes in the TDCAA.
Our Student Council also runs a year-long Intramural Basketball Program during lunch hour which is open to all students to participate.
As part of their graduation requirement outlined by the Ontario Ministry of Education, students at Bnei Akiva Schools must complete 40 hours of documented community service. The vast majority of our students however, complete well more than the ministry’s requirements.
The philosophy of Bnei Akiva is central to our school and many of our students volunteer as youth leaders, running weekly Shabbat programs, organizing shabbatonim and various other activities.
The Chessed Committee, led by Grade 11 and 12 students, promotes opportunities for students to get involved in various activities with organizations such as Chai Lifeline, DANI, Zareinu, Yachad, Tomchei Shabbos, Free the Children and Friendship Circle. Yearly programs students participate in include Movember, Sharsheret Pink Day and the Charity Cholent Contest, benefiting Od Yosef Chai. The committee also organizes an annual pre-Pesach food drive, collecting food items and funds. Our students then help to package food for Toronto’s needy, participating in the annual Passover Food Drive, organized by the National Council of Jewish Women.
Musical Activities – Choir, A Cappella Group and Band Our student-run choir performs several times throughout the year,and have performed at community-wide events such as the Yom Hoshoah program and the Mizrachi/Bnei Akiva Yom Hazikaron/Yom Haatzmaut program. A few years ago, choir members started a second group that sings A Cappella-style. The a cappella group performed at the school shabbaton and have led davening at several shuls in Toronto and Thornhill.
Students who play an instrument are invited to join the school band which also plays school events including the school Shabbaton. Outside-of-school performances have included a retirement home and Netivot.
At the culmination of the school year, Bnei Akiva Schools hosts an Art Exhibition evening. The work displayed is a representative survey of all the artwork done throughout the year from all grades at both schools. The high quality artwork comprises pieces in painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, and multi-media. Invitations go out to all Bnei Akiva families, as well as to those in the wider community. Visitors typically come away with great enthusiasm and feel inspired by the quality of artists done by our students.
Book Club Evening
As part of their summer reading curriculum, Grade 9 and 11 students participate in a book club evening. Parents are encouraged to read the books and participate in the program as well. Students craft the discussion questions and, for grade 11, a faculty member moderates the discussion; for grade 9, a grade 12 student moderates the discussion. This evening is a wonderful opportunity for students to share their thoughts, prefect their public speaking skills and engage their classmates, parents and teachers in a sophisticated literary discussion.
Public Speaking Contest
Bnei Akiva Schools runs an Annual Public Speaking Contest available to all students. Judges vary from year to year, usually made up of a panel of teachers, administrators and community members. In 2010, a people’s choice component to the competition was instituted, whereby the audience members themselves act as judges and text the number of their favourite finalist. The public speaking competition is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn to successfully communicate orally, to hone their public speaking skills and to give students an opportunity to share their beliefs in an encouraging atmosphere.