Machon Yaakov was founded in 2005 by Rabbi Beryl Gershenfeld (Rosh Yeshiva) and Rabbi Avraham Yitzchok Jacobs (Director). Machon Yaakov has its roots in a sister institution, Machon Shlomo (also located in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem), which enjoys a more than 25-year reputation for excellence in developing exceptional students. Rabbi Gershenfeld has been deeply involved with Machon Shlomo since its inception, and continues to serve as dean of that institution as well.
Around 2000, it became evident that Machon Shlomo would no longer be able to handle the number of high-quality applicants it was receiving. To remain true to its hands-on, intimate, and intensive program, Rabbi Gershenfeld asked Rabbi Jacobs – a graduate of Machon Shlomo, but by then a senior Wall Street executive – to begin making preparations for another program that would effectively double Machon Shlomo’s capacity without compromising its core philosophy or commitment to excellence. The result was Machon Yaakov, which opened its doors in September 2005.
Since that time, Machon Yaakov has welcomed more than 200 students from a broad range of academic and professional backgrounds for its full-time 1- and 2-year learning programs.
In any given year, Machon Yaakov serves 30-35 total students between the 1st and 2nd-year classes (with an incoming class of about 20).
Our typical student possesses a strong character, a passion for growth, an intellectual curiosity, and a natural sense of leadership.
Although mostly from the United States, Machon Yaakov students hail from a wide-range of countries, including Costa Rica, Venezuela, Russia, England, Germany, Australia, Lithuania, and Hungary.
Though all texts are studied in the original Hebrew and Aramaic languages, many of our students arrive with little or no background in Hebrew. A Hebrew language program is provided to bolster vocabulary and grammar. Most students make tremendous progress in reading skills within a matter of months, if not weeks, as the program is highly intensive and motivating.
The average student age is about 24, ranging from 20-30.
Machon Yaakov students represent such universities as Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, Cornell University, University of Michigan, Northwestern University, Cambridge, and the London School of Economics, as well as many others.
Beyond geographic diversity, our students hold a wide-range of interests as well, including backgrounds in business, finance, consulting, medicine, the arts (with several accomplished musicians and actors), and professional sports. While some students arrive at Machon Yaakov with professional experience, others come just after university or graduate school.
Each student is encouraged to express the uniqueness he was given, with no absolute right or wrong path to growth. The vast majority of our students naturally establish themselves as businessmen, doctors, lawyers and academics, while a small percentage may find their calling as rabbis and teachers.