For students in yeshiva, the recession in the past only applied to politicians, parents or maybe even the home. This year, however, students have begun to feel the effects of the recession in their own Jewish high schools.
Some clubs and extra curricular activities have been cancelled due to lack of funding. Classes have been enlarged and teachers laid off in order to save money. This poses a dilemma for administrators across the area. “Trying not to curtail student services and options at the same time that we worry about teachers not losing a part of their living is a tough balancing act,” said Rookie Billet, the principal of Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, N.J.
Sports is one major aspect of school life greatly affected by the recession. The Yeshiva High School Athletic Sports League has made changes in order to save money in these challenging economic times. Forty Jewish high schools in the tri-state area participate in the yeshiva league. The schools include Orthodox yeshivas, The Heschel School and Solomon Schechters.
The most shocking change for students in the tri-state area is that the tennis league for boys and girls has been cancelled. The league, however, still plans to hold some kind of tournament. Tennis is the most expensive sport for yeshiva high schools as court time is pricey and all courts have to be rented for matches because many high schools do not have tennis courts.
“This decision makes me feel like tennis is not taken seriously in the yeshiva world,” said Hanna Erdfarb, a tennis player and junior at Ma’ayanot. “The tennis league was my only opportunity to play tennis during the spring season so for it to be cancelled is very disappointing.”
Coaches are also unhappy with the yeshiva league’s decision. “It is very displeasing that tennis has been cut,” said Eileen Schwartz, athletic director at Ma’ayanot. “They perhaps should have tried cutting corners in all teams by maybe making seasons shorter and having fewer games in order to keep all the sports going.”
Tennis is not the only sport affected by the recession. Schools participating in the yeshiva league were told about other changes. Schools received letters from the New York Board of Jewish Education, which oversees the yeshiva league, and athletic directors attended a meeting in May to discuss ways of saving money and coping with the economic recession.
Schools learned that for this year’s season half of all basketball games have to be scheduled on weekends. This could perhaps save money because on weekends, with emptier schedules, parents may be more willing to drive players to the games. Therefore money will not be spent on bus transportation.
In addition, the yeshiva league said that double headers — two games in a row — should be scheduled. This could save money for schools with junior varsity and varsity teams. If two games are scheduled in a row only one bus is needed to transport both teams, as opposed to two games on two different nights when a different bus would have to be ordered for each night.
Finally, divisions within leagues have been changed. Leagues for each sport are made up of divisions. Depending on what sport and the number of teams that participate, there are divisions A and B in certain sports and divisions East and West in others. For example, in the girls’ hockey league the competing schools are divided into the East or West division. During the regular season, teams within the same group compete against each other. Only at the end of the season during playoffs, do the best schools from each division compete against one another.
The yeshiva league plans to change divisions so that schools that are located closer to each other will play each other. This saves money because if an away game is located near the home team’s school then parents can drive players to games and paying for bus transportation would not be necessary, according to Coach Schwartz from Ma’ayanot.
Not only are players affected, but team spirit and the number of fans could also change. “When there is a game or match after school, fans attend the game because it is convenient for them, right after school,” said Suzanne Schrag, a basketball and tennis player, and junior from SAR High School. “However, with most of my basketball games scheduled for the weekend, I fear that there will be fewer fans and that will really affect the atmosphere of the league and its games.”
Despite the changes coaches are optimistic that the ultimate goal of the league will remain steadfast. “While these are obviously difficult times financially for many, which have caused schools and the league as a whole to make changes to the operation of their leagues, yeshiva high school sports at their core still offer those same feelings of camaraderie and school spirit that they always have, which is something that might carry more importance today than ever before,” said Dovie Quint, coach of junior varsity hockey at MTA, Yeshiva University’s High School for Boys.
The yeshiva league is an essential part of the Jewish high school experience. Numerous students in various sports show their athletic abilities and compete all year long. It is truly shocking and saddening that such a crucial part of a high school student’s experience has been affected by the economic situation. Yet even through the challenging economic times, the yeshiva league hopes that all high school participants will enjoy the sports and competition the league has to offer and will foster the same feelings of school spirit and camaraderie that players feel every year.
Marcella Berman is a junior at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, N.J.
This article is reprinted of October 30, 2009Trava Mista Cano Alto