The first Jewish high school of its kind in the world, Yeshivas Nefesh Dovid (YND), founded in 2001, channels the knowledge of Torah into the hearts, minds and lives of deaf and hard-of-hearing young men. YND, with its sterling secular educational program, is a valuable support system for this population throughout the global Jewish community. YND accepts young men in their teens from yeshivos, Jewish Day Schools, and public schools and addresses all the emotional and academic challenges that those with hearing loss typically deal with on a daily basis regardless of mode of communication.
A unique aspect of the program is the presence of role models who are deaf or hard-of-hearing themselves, including Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Kakon, the Dean and Rosh Yeshiva, and co-founder Dr. Hart Bressler, MD. In addition to trained and qualified rebbeim and teachers, sign language interpreting services, speech pathology, audiology services and an array of recreational activities all complement the program. Upon graduation, the students receive an internationally recognized Ontario Secondary Diploma. Since its inception, YND’s current home base at the Yeshiva Gedolah of Toronto only serves to further integrate the students with hearing peers and the community at large.
Rabbi Kakon earned his Master’s Degree in Talmudical Law and s’micha (rabbinical ordination) from Ner Israel Rabbinical College of Baltimore, Maryland. He also holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland. As a licensed therapist, Rabbi Kakon provided clinical therapy services for several years.
While in Baltimore, he also founded and directed the only overnight camp for deaf and hard-of-hearing Jewish adolescent boys at Ner Israel Campus for seven summers. The success of the program and the necessity for a year-around education for this population resulted in Rabbi Kakon and his family’s relocation to Toronto to co-found YND.
Rabbi Kakon, a descendant of the Ropshitzer Rebbe and a ninth generation descendant of the Baal Shem Tov, is a charismatic teacher whose unique experiences and achievements inspire people from all backgrounds and walks of life.
Dr. Bressler, Canada’s first deaf medical physician, is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine. As a full-time family physician, he also maintains a clinic that specializes in chronic pain management.
A past president of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Hearing Society, Dr. Bressler has spoken widely for both professional and lay audiences on topics dealing with deafness and hearing loss. He is uniquely qualified to provide support from a medically objective perspective as well as personal insight into the myriad of issues that impact those with deafness and their families. He studied at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem and Yeshiva University of Los Angeles.
Dr. Bressler was instrumental in working with Rabbi Kakon to establish the Yeshiva in Toronto.