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Endless Excellence

Yonatan graduated from Ohr Torah Stone’s “Ariel” High School with a record number of matriculation units | “When I set myself a goal – failure is not an option”

By Noam (Dvul) Dvir | 12 July, 2021

Jacob Sapirstein Junior High and High School for BoysTens of thousands of high school seniors completed their studies this year, but not before successfully completing their matriculation exams.

Twenty-one matriculation units are the requirement for a full high school diploma – except that Yonatan (18), a senior at the Ohr Torah Stone educational network’s Ariel religious high school in Jerusalem, did not stop there. His high school diploma consists of no less than sixty units, half of which are in science tracks – an extremely rare achievement, unheard of in the Ministry of Education’s examination unit.

In English, math, physics, computer science, and Arabic for instance, Yonatan reached the highest possible level – five study units – attaining a score of 100 in each one. He also submitted a comprehensive thesis in history on the topic of Budapest Jewry during the Holocaust on the level of a college research paper. Yonatan relates that Covid-19 actually helped him manage the tight schedule; “the time I saved on travel, alongside the fact that Zoom classes began on time and there were no conflicts in the exam schedule helped me a lot,” he explains.

Yonatan is 18 and studies in a communication class specifically designated for students on the autistic spectrum. The goal he set himself did not come about accidentally. Five years ago he read an article about a student by the name of Yaakov Eiderman, also a student at the Ohr Torah Stone high school, who had graduated high school with 57 matriculation units. Yonatan decided to break that record. “There were those who tried to convince me that it wasn’t possible, but I knew that when I set myself a goal – failure is not an option,” he says. Alongside the desire to break the record, he wants to send an important message: “If I can make even one student work hard to achieve the goals he sets himself, I will have succeeded.”

“The process is long and arduous,” he adds, “but there is nothing more satisfying than the moment you reach the end, and there is nothing more calming than the sigh of relief.”

Something that disturbs Yonatan is the complete lack of awareness regarding autism. “Autism is considered a slur, and that stems from total ignorance. The autistic spectrum is not limited only to being mentally challenged and having cognitive issues, but mainly consists of difficulties creating relationships and understanding social norms and situations. Students in school say to me, ‘but how are you so smart’? Or – ‘but you look so normal.’”

“The focus of our activity at Ohr Torah Stone is to enable every student to express himself to the utmost, and to realize the skills and talents of each and every individual. We strive to offer an environment that engenders interest and values,” says Yuval Farjun, principal of the Ohr Torah Ariel school. “Yonatan challenged us with the goals he set for himself, and in effect, that he set for us as well. We were very happy to accompany his growth in all spheres. It’s important to note that his matriculation grades are only a small part of his circles of activity. He is no less prominent in the fields of Torah and social involvement, and he is an example to us all.”

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