School renamed Mesivta Emes L’Yaakov, the Katav-Akrish High School of TTI
It is often asked, “What’s in a name?”
This question dismisses names as nothing more than superficial labels. In truth, names have tremendous power. They reflect our essence, representing not only our spiritual mission, but our potential as well.
But how does one pinpoint the essence of a Jewish institution? By the level of learning that takes place within it? By how beloved the students are to the community? By the energy and enthusiasm evident in everything they do? Each of these is an integral part of TTI–the Yeshiva of Dallas. But there is something deeper that embodies the essence of a yeshiva, a necessary prerequisite for everything else: It’s Torah. In a world full of shallowness, we look to our heritage in our search for truth and substance. And with this in mind, TTI was honored and privileged to name Mesivta Emes L’Yaakov, the Katav-Akrish High School of Texas Torah Institute.
The name holds incredible significance, not only for what it represents, but also for who. Yehuda and Maggie Katav, exemplary role models and steadfast supporters of Torah learning in Dallas, wanted to commemorate their parents. This was to be a tribute to Maggie’s parents, Yaakov and Estrella Akrish, z”l, originally from Morocco, and Yehuda’s father, Menachem Katav, z”l, originally from Baghdad, Iraq, and to honor Mr. Katav’s mother, Tamar, who beamed as she watched the yeshiva students singing, dancing and shouting “Mazel Tov!” as they gathered with the community to celebrate this milestone. It is a beautiful testament to the love of Torah and dedication to Judaism that so clearly define the Katav-Akrish family legacy, and considering the fact that the initials of their names spell out “Emes L’Yaakov” (based on the Torah verse: “attribute truth to Jacob”), it was the perfect name for this extraordinary institution.
Yehuda and Maggie shared the celebration with Yehuda’s mother, along with their children and grandchildren, representing four generations of a family which is committed to the Jewish principles of charity, integrity and study. They had already forged a strong bond between the Katavs and TTI, and decided as a family to take this next step in their commitment to strengthen the yeshiva and the Jewish community of Dallas.
Tamar Katav, “Savta,” was clearly overwhelmed, knowing the yeshiva will now be a namesake to her late husband. He was born into a family of sofrim (scribes), and saw the vital importance of living a Torah life even in Baghdad when it was dangerous to do so. What nachas she had in seeing the dozens of yeshiva boys, hailing from many cities across the continent, filling the auditorium, singing and dancing with their rabbis, friends and neighbors. Exuberant dancing continued outside on the 2.5-acre campus of the yeshiva which was graciously gifted by the Haymann Family several years ago, along with the 10,000-square-foot school building. A beautiful new sign was unveiled, proudly displaying the new name “Mesivta Emes L’Yaakov, Katav-Akrish High School of Texas Torah Institute.”
Being able to share the truth and beauty of Yiddishkeit with so many fine young b’nei Torah is, according to the Katav and Akrish family, a powerful legacy which began many generations ago in Iraq and Baghdad and will, G-d willing, continue to grow with this extraordinary yeshiva. The Katavs’ daughter, Tammy Diamond, shared the following thought: “For my grandparents, to stand proud and watch their children ensure that the next generation continues to learn Torah in a free world and pass on that legacy, would fill their heart…The grass is always going to be greener where you water it.”
TTI President Aaron Yurowitz, one of the speakers at the naming ceremony, explained that what is truly striking about the Dallas yeshiva high school is not only the high level of learning, both in Judaic and general studies, but also the intensity with which the students are enveloped and beloved by the community.
“We are the only yeshiva in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and can offer a high level of learning without the distractions that may sometimes be found in larger communities. This is both a tremendous zechus (merit) and a huge responsibility that we enthusiastically embrace.”
It is clear that the students are a treasured resource within our community, as evidenced by the enthusiasm with which community members vie for their company at Shabbos meals! “It’s so funny but now my wife knows she has to schedule the yeshiva boys weeks in advance because they are in high demand! Our Shabbos table is elevated by their presence as they always come prepared with a beautiful d’var Torah (word of Torah) to share with myself and my son,” says Avi Grossman.
When there is a community simcha going on, like the Hachnasas Sefer Torah we had several months ago, the bochurim (yeshiva boys) are the first address for creating the ruach and simcha to help celebrate such landmark events. Perhaps sixth-grader Naftali Kaufman says it most succinctly. “Everything is different when the yeshiva boys are around! They are so fun and I love learning with them!”
Dot and Basil Haymann, generous donors of TTI’s beautiful campus, describe the students as true role models for the boys in the community. “Our young men have learned that they do not only have a responsibility to continue to educate the next generation, but also they have a social responsibility to give back to the community that they are a part of… They went down to Houston to help with the cleanup … They learn with children in the community, both those who are in yeshiva day schools and kids who are in public schools … These yeshiva boys are upstanders and not just bystanders in the community.”
The Katavs also consider the yeshiva students “their sons,” and shower them with Shabbos onegs, trips, barbecue siyumim and other extras, to enhance their yeshiva experience in Dallas. They can think of no greater honor than having the Mesivta of Dallas bear the name of their parents, who instilled within them a strong passion for Torah and mitzvot.
Ultimately, we all leave behind our names as a final legacy, and the Katav-Akrish families are passionately grateful that the yeshiva bears their family name as it continues to grow as a source of advanced Torah learning with boys who truly exemplify a Kiddush Hashem. The Katav-Akrish family chose the Mesivta based on these sterling characteristics to be the home for their family’s namesake. May they continue to reap much nachas and bracha from the yeshiva that proudly bears their name.
— Submitted by
Rabbi Moshe Tropper