Dec 22, 2014
What is a "Chassidishe Chinuch?"

Op-Ed: Does a "Chasidishe education" mean teaching our mesorah in the exact same way that it has been taught for thousands of years?

The Yom Tov of Chanukah is all about Jewish children. Whether it is the stories of Yiddishe kinder playing dreidel games during the time of the Yevanim, or the exciting Chanukah parties and gelt that are prevalent today, this Yom Tov is really a celebration of a Jewish future through our youth. This is further emphasized when we see that the root of the word Chanukah is chinuch, which means education. Knowing that a strong Jewish future is rooted in education, parents throughout the generations have done everything possible to ensure proper chinuch for their children, and a sound Yiddishe and Chasidishe chinuch continues to be priority today.

But what exactly is a Chasidishe education? Does it mean teaching our mesorah in the exact same way that it has been taught for thousands of years? Well, yes and no. While we still teach the same messages and our values have not changed, we have upgraded from the caves and handmade scrolls that were used in the times of the Maccabees. It is not uncommon to find state-of-the art classrooms and Smartboards in todays chedarim. Clearly, some progress is a definite improvement.

In recent years, a dialogue has been taking place in the world of Chabad chinuch, in which mechanchim have been tackling the unique challenges of educating our youth with our timeless Torah and Chasidishe traditions, in a world that is changing at a faster speed than ever before. Looking for guidance from the past while moving into the future, this new generation of melamdim is determining what todays Chasidishe chinuch looks like.

For many teachers, it means incorporating innovative teaching methods into the classroom while instilling the same level of Yiras Shamayim that has been the trademark of Chabad Chasidim for generations. In todays classroom, the lesson may be a classic understanding of the concept of Lichatchila Ariber, but taught through an exciting obstacle course, so that students get to truly experience the concept with their entire being.

Rabbi Zelig Silber, a veteran 5th grade teacher at Cheder Chabad of Monsey, believes in the fusion of professional teaching techniques with classic, undiluted Chasidishkeit, and says that teachers should not be shying away from contemporary pedagogical models. In his role as the director of the Menachem Education Foundations Teacher Induction Program, Rabbi Silber has played a key role in ensuring that teachers who are entering the field of chinuch have the skills they need to succeed in the classroom.

Some question whether all these new-fangled ideas are really necessary, falling back on the old if it was good enough for my parents, it should be good enough for me line of thinking. People ask the same thing about Chassidus, says Rabbi Silber. Why is it necessary today when it was never learned in the past? The answer, as the Rebbe gave over in many sichos, is that Chassidus is needed today more than ever to help us get through the unprecedented darkness.
Silber continues, Our chinuch today is exactly the same. The amount of media that is available is stifling and overwhelming for our children. The street is a lot more appealing and its influence more pervasive today than it was 20 years ago. As mechanchim, it is our duty to use any tool in our arsenal to grab our students attention and ensure that they are prepared to be a Yid in todays age.

Looking to the Rebbes horaas, it is clear that there does not have to be a choice between Chassidishkeit and professionalism. On numerous occasions, the Rebbe emphasized the idea that professionalism can coexist with, and indeed should be grounded in, Yiras Shamayim, and beseeched educators to participate in training to become more professional and effective. This attitude was also shared by the Frierdiker Rebbe who wrote the following in 1947 (Igros Kodesh #3000, 29 Adar 5707):

Anyone who knows the field of Chinuch and is seriously involved in guiding children, recognizes and feels that even the most qualified and experienced educators need to speak with one another from time to time about the methods of education and guidance that are most suited to the type of students they are educating I now turn to all of the melamdim and teachers to attend these professional development classes in an appropriate measure.

Rabbi Silber says that he often looks to traditional Jewish sources to support the newest professional ideas that he teaches in MEFs TIP course. For example, an early session of the training course he leads focuses on student rapport, or establishing a positive relationship with students. While contemporary teaching methods flesh this idea out, it is an obvious extension of the Talmid-Rebbe relationship that has been a cornerstone of Jewish learning for generations. On a more spiritual level, he quotes Tanya in Igeres Hakodesh (chapter 27): " for drawing down anything spiritual is only possible through great love. Without a relationship, it can be a lecture, but it is not going to affect the students life, he says.

A more apparent innovation is the idea of multiple learning styles. This important element of student engagement ensures that no matter if a student is a visual, audio, kinesthetic or tactile learner, each child will truly process the learning experience on his or her own terms. However, this educational principal is as old as the Torahs first explicit instruction regarding chinuch: (Shemos 13:8), which is the underlying directive for the Pesach seder.

Touch, taste, song and story are all vital parts of the Pesach seder. A physical seder plate reminds participants of the various elements of the evening, which we even point to at a pivotal point of the seder. Tasting bitter maror and bland matza gives us an experiential way to remember the slavery in Mitzrayim. And starting the seder off with Mah Nishtana teaches us a powerful lesson about piquing childrens interest through asking and encouraging questions.

Implementing these and other timeless directives of Torah requires specific, repeatable processes and techniques which is what is sometimes referred to by the catch-all phrase professionalism in education. While many are apprehensive that professionalism replaces Chassidishkeit in education, Rabbi Silber emphasizes that, on the contrary, when gleaned through appropriate sources, professional teaching methods are the tools through which a teacher make sure that a Chasidishe education achieves its goals.

A lesson we can learn from Chanukah is that chinuch must be taken seriously. The word chinuch in the context of Chanukas Habayis (which the name Chanukah stems from) connotes a firm foundation and secure beginning. Just like a builder would never pour a foundation based on intuition, but only after consulting with detailed and concrete plans, it behooves us to ask ourselves: Does the Chassidishe chinuch we provide have the appropriate methods and techniques in place to engage our students, hold their attention and ensure that its effect will last?

Rabbi Zelig Silber was interviewed for this article by MEF reporter Rena Udkoff. This is the 3rd installment in the Menachem Education Foundation op-ed series, MEF on Chinuch. Future installments will continue to explore the answer to the question posed above. To view previous op-eds, click here.



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Opinions and Comments
1
Yasher Koach to our Chassideshe Melamdim!
Granted there is a new for Melamdim to learn teaching skills. However, who is insuring that our Melamdim have the Ikar: Yiras Shamayim, Dugma Chaya, Ahavas hatalmidim & dedication. No proffessional courses can create that authentic Melamed.
(12/22/2014 1:25:12 PM)
2
Its about time...
we had a Machon to give Shiurim & farbrengens to our melamdim on the yesodos of being a Chassideshe Melamed. There is so much from Rabboyseinu Neseinu on Chinuch, besides for Chazals, Rishonim & Achronim. After a Melamed is fluent in our rich history in Chassideshe Chinuch, should he learn proffessional skills from people that have a Hashgachah on their classes.
(12/22/2014 1:39:21 PM)
3
All True But...
Of course, Chassidishe Chinuch and professionalism do not have to be a contradiction; after all, one is the content and other is just the tools.
HOWEVER, the question is where the "professional methods" come from and who teaches them. Often, the premises upon which modern methodologies are based, however similar to Chassidishe Chinuch they seem at surface, are really a diversion from it. And those slight hints of kaltkeit to our values are very dangerous.
For example, much of the ideas at the core of Montessori and other such methods ring true, based on "Chanoch Lenaar Al Pi Darko". But there is a line. Does the child get to choose everything? Is there ever a place for Kabolas Ol? Is Davening an optional activity, to be done if and when the child chooses?
Or with the relationship between teacher - who more than the Frierdiker Rebbe advocates the need for a "Mechanech" rather than a "Melamed", one who truly cares for the student, not only the material? But that is not to be confused with the casual Love & Logic style of teaching where the teacher and student are practically equals, friends, where the teacher has no authority and the student has no Morah Rabbach?
There is so much more. But let's not be fooled. Between black and white there are many shades of gray. And within those shades lives Amalek...
(12/22/2014 1:44:00 PM)
4
to # 1
a wise (chasidesheh) yid, put it simply, regarding teachers
the chasidshkiat - is who you are.
the skill - is what you do (or how you do it).
(12/22/2014 4:43:27 PM)
5
not enough
we also have to address the fact that not all children learn in the same way and THATS OK. its no shame if a kid cant fit in a mainstream class room all the time. also those in the mainstream classroom need other ways of getting them to soak in the learning. we live in a city with many distractions. as the child gets older other skills should be encouraged like woodworking, computer science, athletics. its a shame that the whole child approach has had a hard time making it into the mainstream. also the teachers need more support from the administration and a committee to make sure that not only they are payed on time but much more!!!
(12/22/2014 5:55:09 PM)
6
nowadays that so many chasidishe young
married people can't get a place for shlichus, it's the best time to try and get them to be the best teachers for our mosdos chinuch.
It is obvious that the way things are playing themselves today in mosdos chinuch, especially in Crown Heights it's not working out to the fullest to put it mildly.

Non mashpiim of the old generation, together with some, with-it, chassidishe young men and selected rabbonim, (not young parents or those that have money) should conduct a revision of principals, staff and their curriculums.
children that come from homes where there is a tv, non kosher videos, movies, with parents that are lacking in yidishkeit and or chasiddishkeit etc, need extra supervision and guidance, as well as an effort to persuade their parents.

Together with a lot of good, a lot of damage was done to many young parents while they went themselves through the system.
The system needs to be geared to create chassidishe balebatim, along with possible shluchim, while persuading merkoz to change its ways and recruit to fill the available posts for shlichus, with the best learners/achievers chassidish, that are prepared for it as the main criteria for recruiting, which will give a boost and encouragement to the Yeshiva students that it pays the effort.

We see 770 almost empty from American bochrim, many young married men don't go anymore to kollel, many that go to college, do it feeling that the system failed them.

It's time to make it work from the bottom up, and to to bottom.
It can be done,
(12/22/2014 6:14:07 PM)
7
All true BUT
You need the right person and they need to know how.
So if you have the wrong person (or currently he is the wrong person because he is not the Chassidishe Yid you need as a teacher) then even if they are good tools,you are putting the tools in the wrong hands.

Let's be honest, when I was in yeshiva I sat and learned nigla and chassidus and davvened for hours had a Koch in Mivtzoim would farbreng on Yomei depagra and Thursday nights. We wiuld sit through hours at a time of the rebbes farbrengens and learn the weekly likut and misichos. Besides the daily shiurim and chalukas hashas etc.

Now, I am in education. I dont even have the time i need to prepare for school. A day in school is enough to make anyone exhausted. Then I come home to my wife and children who also need a husband and father.

How much time and what operttunity does a teacher have to be a Chassidishe yid. When was the last time there was a farbrengen for melamdim?. Shiurim for melamdim?

You always have the question what came first the chicken or the egg. In this case their is no doubt that first and foremost you need chassidim. And I am sorry to say that because you were once chassidim does not make you a chossid today?

The past 2 days we had off school did we take the time to get together and learn chassidus daven properly. A farbrengen? On shabbos how many melamdim or dugma chayus of how a chossid should daven?

We need a roll model. Our children need people they can look up to and say I want to be like him.

The other day we were speaking about davening in class and the children said but people don't daven bevida any more. Ad heichon higanu.

A chassidher chinuch starts with real chassidisher melamdim. Then move on...

(12/23/2014 9:04:05 AM)
8
To #3
This is a great point. That's why as an educator I try to balance various approaches. I feel that any one approach taken to the extreme is bound to miss something. However we need to take the best of the tools that are out there.
(12/23/2014 11:33:31 AM)
9
Great hasgofa
Rabbi Silver
Torah Umesorah is the tops in professional training courses , with years of training experience for both teachers and principals. They also have a new state of the art resource
library for teachers located conveniently in Flatbush.
(12/23/2014 3:28:35 PM)
10
To 3
Exactly my thoughts.
(12/23/2014 7:55:05 PM)
11
Hotham 92
Something is obviously lacking in our system

These days it is a case of 'unusal' to find a family that hasn't got at least one child 'freid out' - as they call it.

And mainly in FFB families.

What would teh rebbe have advised?
Who knows!

But maybe there is truth in what we are often told that mixing kids from chassidish families and those from non-frum ones - do
(12/24/2014 8:51:08 AM)
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