Jerusalem College of Technology, seminary reimagine ‘shana bet’

New pre-aliyah program enables students in second gap year to take JCT courses in Torah study, Hebrew language and academics during second semester.

The campus of The Jerusalem College of Technology. Credit: Courtesy.
The campus of The Jerusalem College of Technology. Credit: Courtesy.

The Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) and the Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim (MMY) seminary announced the formation of a first-of-its-kind partnership enabling young women spending the second semester of their second gap year in Israel (“Bet Bet” students) to take JCT courses and enter the world of Israeli academia, paving the way for those who aspire to make aliyah to fulfill their dreams.

Students at MMY and many other gap-year seminaries in Israel usually begin their second year (shana bet) in September and conclude it in January, leaving them in limbo for the second half of the academic year. These students face a choice between remaining in Israel or returning to their native countries for college—and that choice is skewed toward leaving Israel due to the lack of appealing options for the second semester.

Yet in the new “Shana Bet Bet Joint Program,” MMY’s Shana Bet students will be able to remain on the seminary’s campus and get college credit for JCT courses in Torah study; ulpan (intensive classes in Hebrew language); and academic disciplines including business, nursing, engineering and computer science.

Those spending a second semester at MMY for shana bet while taking JCT courses will be considered MMY students from January to September, before determining the next steps in their path. During their Bet Bet semester, they will maintain their focus on Torah study while at the same time having the option to begin their college courses or hone their Hebrew-language skills through taking ulpan.

“From an aliyah perspective, once a seminary student returns home after shana bet, it is very difficult for them to return,” said Rabbi Shlomo Anapolle, director of JCT’s International Program in English. “This unique new program is stepping in to bridge the gap for young women who wish to remain in seminary for two full years while building opportunities for a long-term future in Israel.”

The first cohort of the JCT-MMY joint program will begin in January 2025—the start of the next Bet Bet semester. Currently, about one-quarter of the international students at the women’s campus of JCT, Machon Tal, are alumnae of MMY.

“This historic partnership is a game-changer towards facilitating a more holistic path for aliyah for seminary students,” said Rabbi David Katz, dean of MMY. “These young women are zionistically motivated and passionate, yet naturally hesitant to make the jump at this sensitive juncture in their lives. Allowing them to transition to collegiate life and study options in Israel, work on improving their Hebrew-language skills, all while initially staying in the comfort zone of their seminaries, removes most of the natural impediments to aliyah. The administration of JCT-Machon Tal has proven to be amazing and sincere and we are honored and excited to partner with them as we bring more and more young adult women to settle here.”

The joint program with MMY is the latest in a series of initiatives launched by JCT with the goal of creating a comfortable environment for international students and facilitating aliyah for those who seek it.

JCT recently introduced affordable options for international students to pursue careers in high-demand fields in the Israeli workforce, such as engineering and nursing, thereby boosting their chances for employment after graduation. Students in the college’s International Program who are not Hebrew proficient can now complete their core science courses in English over the course of two academic years instead of one, giving them sufficient time to also study in ulpan.

In January, JCT announced that Rabbi Shalom Rosner will assume the position of head of English Judaic studies for students at its men’s campus and will teach at the women’s campus as well. By bolstering its Judaic studies program through the addition of Rosner, JCT is opening doors for English-speaking international students who want to remain in Israel to earn a college degree while continuing their high-level Torah learning, all at one institution.

Finally, a new partnership between JCT and the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) program is striving to ensure that students enjoy a home away from home by building a robust social life on campus. Rabbi Simcha and Rebbetzin Margalit Herschman are the inaugural JCT-JLIC couple tasked with launching the program, which is being offered in Jerusalem for the first time.

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The Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) is one of Israel’s major academic institutions with nearly 5,000 students on three campuses. The College specializes in high-tech engineering, industrial management, business administration, and life and health sciences.
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