Consider this a prequel to an article written for and included in “My Yeshiva College: 75 years of Memories”*.
MTA: What I think I remember…
In those very, very so-long-ago days when I attended MTA (Manhattan Talmudical Academy…the “elite” TA vs. Brooklyn TA) there were very few neighborhood “modern orthodox” (now how would that have been defined 60 years ago?) High Schools from which to choose. Not that I had a vote… I lived in Queens and I never assumed (or even considered) otherwise. In its original incarnation MTA had been my father’s alma mater and I was predestined to attend.
There was a dorm that attracted out-of-towners but MTA was predominantly a commuter school. I do not at all recall noticing that we shared the building with Yeshiva College (we did). We were accorded freedom of movement…a sharp departure from the cloistered days of elementary school, greater than that of any of the then contemporary High Schools, and certainly so when measured against current day standards. The general studies program started late afternoon because many of our teachers were recruited from the ranks of the better public high school faculties. We took advantage of free time in the gap following the morning Jewish studies (at the time it was called “TI” –as distinguished from the intensive Gemarah study program). Our ad hoc activities included football and punch ball (dodging cars on the adjacent streets and at the 188th street playground), the bowling alley 3 blocks west, the pool hall across the street and – in Senior year, courtesy of a number of “attendance optional” afternoon classes – even Central Park and the boat basin. A few minutes were also allocated to a huge array of extra-curricular activities. All these activities tempered the long, LONG days: a commute from Queens, including a hike to and from the station, started out at 7:30 AM and concluded at about the same time in the evening.
Oh yeah, the education. Prudence and loyalty to the “Yeshiva University” product prevents full disclosure here. MTA was (and is) a major feeder school for Yeshiva College. The many of us who were moving on up did not much sweat the admission process. Graduation (from MTA) and acceptance (by Yeshiva College) was one of the naturally anticipated events in the life of many a young orthodox Jew. Consider our experience at MTA as a rite of passage…boys becoming men (almost) and moving up the ladder. Suffice it to say that when we exited the halls of MTA, we were much smarter, more socially adept, and well prepared to take on the next stage of our education…and beyond. For the most part, we achieved our target colleges, graduate schools, and careers of choice. As years transpired, I marveled at the so very many smart and successful friends with whom I graduated and, perhaps as important, the many who remained a part of my life.
*Yashar Books 2006 Menachem Butler, Zev Nagel