Israel | Kfar Silver Youth Village

Helping Young People Reach Their Full Potential

The Kfar Silver Youth Village, located near Ashkelon, is regarded as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of the global ORT network and is one of our leading global priorities.

Set in hundreds of acres of agricultural land near Israel’s border with Gaza, the Village embodies ORT’s mission to level the playing field for under-resourced students. Students are empowered to reach their full potential enabling them to become fulfilled and contributing members of Israeli society.

In the 2022-23 academic year a record number of students enrolled – more than 1,000 across the Junior and High schools and including both day students and boarders.

  • The Village embodies ORT’s mission to level the playing field for under-resourced students. Students are empowered to reach their full potential enabling them to become fulfilled and contributing members of Israeli society.

School Ethos and History

Kfar Silver was originally founded 60 years ago by the Zionist Organization of America to serve as an educational and agricultural home for the many children who had arrived and were still arriving in the country from the Diaspora in the early years of the State. It was named in honor of Rabbi Dr. Abba Hillel Silver, from Cleveland, Ohio, who had been a key figure in mobilizing American support for Israel. World ORT took ownership of Kfar Silver in 2016 and the Village is managed by World ORT Kadima Mada. Currently, over 1,000 students including 249 boarding students are enrolled, representing a 30% increase since 2016.

Many of the students at Kfar Silver Youth Village come from challenging backgrounds and face mental health challenges, poverty, complex family issues or have families who are unable to adequately care for them, immigration difficulties, and other issues that adolescents confront. One third of students arrive at the school with educational challenges, and nearly all require intense emotional counselling and tutoring. A large number are from low socio-economic backgrounds and single-parent households or are orphans. Due to these challenges, many boarding students are at-risk of failing in their studies. In most cases, these students arrive at Kfar Silver after struggling academically at their local community school or are referred by the Ministry of Social Services due to significant domestic and/or socio-economic issues that impacted their safety and welfare. Their arrival at Kfar Silver is a pivotal and potentially life-transforming opportunity to escape difficult backgrounds and forge a new path forward.

A quarter of Kfar Silver’s students are boarders. Of these students, the vast majority are either new immigrants or from immigrant families (primarily from Ethiopia or the former Soviet Union). A small number of Bedouins from the Negev also live in the Village. Since March 2022, 41 young Ukrainian refugees have come to Kfar Silver and are now successfully integrating into the school as boarders.

Kfar Silver provides a holistic educational experience to its diverse student body enabling students to surmount severe educational and emotional challenges: the school’s Bagrut (the Israeli Matriculation Exam, a requirement for entry to higher education) passage rate of 95% in 2022 exceeds the national average and represents a substantial increase since 2016, when it was 50%.

Creating an Environment Conducive to Learning and Personal Growth

Since 2016, World ORT has embarked on a major, ongoing improvement of the buildings and infrastructure, thanks to the financial backing of ORT supporters worldwide.

In recent years the campus has been modernized to accommodate the growing student population and ensure they have a safe and optimal environment in which to live and learn. Major projects have included extensive renovations as part of an $11 million four-year project – the largest at an ORT school worldwide in living memory.

A very significant anchor donation was made by the Gerald and Gail Ronson Family Foundation, and work has included a complete renovation of the kitchen and dining hall complex.

Support for the project comes from across ORT’s global network, with donors and supporters of ORT America and ORT UK raising additional funds for facilities including new athletics provisions, the full refurbishment of the synagogue, and upgraded science buildings and bomb shelters as well. Further contributions have come from ORT Suisse, ORT Canada and ORT Belgium.  

World ORT is also providing a range of academic, vocational, and extra-curricular courses to give every student the opportunity for self-improvement, inside and outside the classroom. Being part of the ORT global network enables students to take part in international events, competitions, and opportunities that they would not find elsewhere. An added benefit is ORT’s investment in teachers, ensuring that they receive training and support to serve the diverse student population.

Looking Forward

Significant developments are underway for the creation of new programs and expansion of existing ones at Kfar Silver. The agricultural center (with a working dairy and farm) is developing an agritech curriculum and educational track to allow students to pursue their interests in this dynamic area at all levels. The Center for Agritech will provide a state-of-the-art program that includes a range of subjects integrating life sciences, molecular biology, genetics, and math, with a heavy focus on technology. Students will gain the knowledge and expertise needed to compete in today’s agricultural high-tech industry and will be prepared to enter in-demand jobs in this booming field.

New initiatives in sports education include state-of-the-art athletic facilities unparalleled in the region, and upgrading the Village’s sports hall, which attracts youth from the surrounding area to study at Kfar Silver.

The need for new and renovated classrooms is a top priority as the Kfar Silver student body has increased by almost 56% in recent years. Currently, all available learning spaces in the Village are being used, including classrooms that are outdated and need infrastructure, furniture, and technology upgrades.

 

Curriculum Overview

Kfar Silver serves students aged 12 to 18 in Junior High and High School. In addition, an elementary school for students from nearby towns, serves as a feeder school for the upper grades.

The school aims to reduce educational gaps through its reading and comprehension support, Incubator Learning Center, Evening School classes for boarders, and extra tutoring and Hebrew Lessons for newcomers. Students study compulsory national curriculum subjects such as history, science, sports, English, Hebrew language, Hebrew literature, and mathematics.

Kfar Silver also provides a variety of study tracks in which to major (five Bagrut units) with options for students with a technical interest, a creative desire and/or an academic orientation.

These study tracks include:

  • Sport
  • Psychology and Sociology
  • Diplomacy
  • Arts and Design
  • Communication
  • Chemistry, Biology and Physics
  • Healthcare Systems
  • Agriculture
  • Computer Science
  • Hebrew
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Coding/Software Engineering
  • Research

 

Gifted students can participate in a variety of ‘excellence’ programs in Science, Mathematics, and other STEM-related subjects with external partners such as the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Dropout Prevention Programs

Thanks to personalized and group academic support, the decreasing dropout rate is now below the national average and represents a significant decrease since 2016. This demonstrates Kfar Silver’s proven record of turning around the lives of children who were at risk of not being able to join the mainstream of Israeli society, through the IDF or National Service and higher education.

In the 2021/2022 academic year, students were encouraged to take part in the following programs where they received between two to six hours of extra tutoring per week in STEM subjects, English, Bible study, History and Citizenship:

 

Etgar/Ometz Program

This program addressed the needs of Grade 10 and 11 (Etgar) to Grade 12 (Ometz) students who struggle academically by giving them a well-defined study framework. Teachers identify the most at-risk students and provide them with intensive one-on-one sessions.

MABAR program

The MABAR program is an innovative matriculation track that has provided extra support to students with genuine potential and helps them reduce their learning gaps. These students often lack the commitment to succeed in their studies and this program helps them focus to reach their academic potential.

Northern Arrow Program

This program is for students in the Junior High School who are either gifted and need additional educational challenges or have not performed well academically but have shown potential to improve if given extra attention and stimulus. Students benefit from learning about new technologies to encourage thinking skills and concentration, including working with drones, robotics and even playing chess. As students engage in these new courses and succeed with the help of teachers, they show real motivation to improve in their regular classes.

Additional Educational Provision for Students

The school recognizes boarding students’ abilities and strengths and provides them with the best opportunities to become effective and fully contributing members of Israeli society. It offers them a wide range of educational enrichment programs at the end of the school day.

These include:

  • Theatre
  • Arts
  • Cooking
  • Music
  • Dance
  • Soccer (Football)
  • Athletics
  • Basketball
  • Gym
  • Girls Netball/Volleyball
  • Gym – External Students
  • Martial Arts
  • Ultimate Frisbee

Conclusion

The Kfar Silver Youth Village has proven that its unique approach enables students to overcome social and academic challenges and thrive thanks to the supportive environment it offers. Young people who might have not succeeded elsewhere, can discover and pursue their interests, and become productive and contributing members of Israeli society.

95% of Kfar Silver students pass the Bagrut (Israeli Matriculation Exam), exceeding the national average

1,000 students are enrolled at the village

70% increase in student enrollment since 2016

50% decrease in the high school dropout rate since 2016

100% of Israeli students join the Israel Defense Forces

21% are boarding school students and come from challenging backgrounds

8 miles from the Gaza border