Expansion underway for Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway

School will add a residence hall, classrooms and gym


Yeshiva Darchei Torah, of Far Rockaway, has two new buildings under construction on Seagirt Boulevard, a mesivta beis medrash — a study hall and classroom building — and a residence hall.

The architectural firm working on the project is Fischer and Makooi, based in New York. The yeshiva received city approval for the work in April, and began excavating on May 8.

One of the two five-story buildings will have 15 new classrooms, and the other, the school’s first state-of–the-art dormitory, will have 87 rooms housing more than 350 students. They expect the construction to be completed by 2026, and a new gymnasium will be added in a second phase of construction scheduled in the next 18 to 24 months.

Darchei Torah officials said that the school needs the new classroom building because enrollment has swelled over the past decade, to 2,800 students, and the current facility, on Beach 17th Street, cannot meet the demand for increased learning space.

“We want to not only have more space in terms of class sizes, prayer, gym, science labs and all that,” Rabbi Moshe Benoliel, the school’s director of alumni affairs, said, “but we want to enhance the quality of the education, and having more space and amenities will enhance the entire educational experience for our students.”

Darchei Torah offers pre-school through seminary studies, and the high school and seminary have a strong residential program, with seminary students required to live on campus. Residential options are offered for older high school students as well.

“We have residential options, but they’re sub-par,” Benoliel said. “We need a proper dormitory, and it happens to be that even though our population in the elementary school is heavily focused on Queens and Nassau County, once you get to high school and seminary, we have a very strong out-of-town component.”

After an elementary school was built in 2011, a dormitory was planned for the next stage of construction for the yeshiva. Two years after the expanded building opened, there was already a shortage of classroom space.

“It became apparent that in addition to a dormitory, we were going to need more classroom space, and the study hall that housed the high school and rabbinical seminary was overcrowded,” Rabbi Baruch Rothman, director of institutional advancement, said. “It became apparent that in addition to a dormitory, we would need another study hall as well as additional classrooms.”

“We had to make a secondary study hall four, five years ago, so we took a space that was originally something else and have been temporarily using it as a study hall,” Rothman explained. “When that space becomes vacant again because we’re building a new study hall, the current study hall is going to become a new gym.”

Rabbi Yaakov Bender, who serves as dean of the facility, leads Darchei Torah.

“Notwithstanding our record enrollment, we have endeavored to remain a ‘small school’ where it counts — by attending to the educational, social, emotional and spiritual needs of every single student,” Bender said. “Completing this new facility will further enable us to meet those very needs, on a broader and deeper level.”

Rothman said that the site of the new construction was an underutilized and underappreciated portion of the campus.

“This campus has been occupied by one or another Jewish institution of learning for well over 75 years,” Benoliel said. “As far as we know, this is the first time that the southwest corner of our campus, a prime location facing Seagirt Boulevard, will be occupied by an educational facility.”

The school is halfway through a capital fundraising campaign, and anticipates more parents becoming involved in the future. It receives an abundance of financial help from the community and foundations. 

“A lot of our students do come from low-income backgrounds,” Benoliel said, “and that’s how we have a very strong scholarship program, where we do our best to take students who qualify from all Jewish backgrounds and income levels.”