This year, the ninth and tenth grades at MAY are cellphone-free thanks to a groundbreaking program started last year at MAY, which radically changed the typical meaning of “phone home.”
The “Phone Home” program was the brainchild of the mashgiach ruchani, Rabbi Yehuda Horowitz, together with the ninth-grade rebbeim, Rabbi Tsvi Greenfield and Rabbi Avi Schulman. Asking boys to keep their cell phones at home is simple enough but very often is accompanied by resentment and fear of missing out. Creating a phone-free culture and offering positive incentives to motivate students to do so seemed like a possible alternative. The universal participation was unprecedented.
“We were confident we would draw some interest from the bachurim,” commented Rabbi Greenfield, “but we never expected that such a large group of boys would want to participate. I believe it is a testament to their families’ values and to their own understanding of the drawbacks of bringing a phone to yeshiva.”
The mesivta has had a longstanding policy requiring all talmidim to deposit their phones and other electronic devices in designated cellphone lockers at the beginning of the day. However the “Phone Home” program took the notion of “out of sight, out of mind” to the next level.
The current sophomore class, who wholeheartedly embraced the launch of “Phone Home” last year with a 100% participation rate, opted to stick with it again, thereby expanding the program to half the yeshiva’s talmidim; 96% of new freshmen have already joined the program as well.
“It’s a completely voluntary program,” commented Rabbi Horowitz. “If a talmid wants to opt out, he may. But, b’siyatta d’Shmaya, the program was an incredible success last year and the older grades asked if they could have the same opportunity!”
The project has incredible built-in incentives to motivate talmidim, culminating in a two-day, all-expenses-paid ski trip to Vermont.
Rabbi Yaffe, the rosh ha’yeshiva, noted, “This is another example of how our rebbeim regularly go above and beyond to mold their talmidim in a holistic way — not just in the confines of their shiurim. I’m so proud of our talmidim who have embraced this idea in such a significant way.”