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Convention Explores New Ideas in Education

NORWALK, CT — More than 150 Torah educators from across the US, and from as far away as, Melbourne, Australia, Moscow, Russia, and S. Paulo Brazil, convened at the Dolce Conference Center in southern Connecticut earlier this week for a two-day conference on education.

Sponsored by the Merkos Education Office, the conference offered educators the opportunity to explore new teaching skills, learn from their colleagues and leaders in various education-related fields, while enjoying a 48-hour period steeped in the world of education.

According to Rabbi Nochem Kaplan, Director of the Education office, this year’s conference was the best attended and most enthusiastically received.

Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, Chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, spoke to the educators at the conference. Of the numerous events organized and sponsored by Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch on an annual basis, he said, this one has particular resonance for him.

Total Immersion

Lively discussions and animated debates spilled over from the formal sessions into the ballroom during meal times. Teachers clearly embraced the challenge to rethink pedagogical models for teaching Talmud and Jewish law in the schools.

Rabbi Meir Pogrow, head of “THE MASTER TORAH” foundation in Jerusalem, one of the guest lecturers, developed a revolutionary approach based upon the original system of Torah study. It incorporates cognition, skills building, comprehensive review and reinforcement which solidifies one’s learning to achieve Torah mastery. Pogrow delivered a series of four illuminating lectures on the topic.

Child Safety in a Complex World

Chabad schools have never shied away from dealing with the difficult and thorny issues of the times. The conference gave educators the opportunity to review Chabad’s Child Safety Policy, engendering a great deal of discussion. Parental and community cooperation, protecting the physical and emotional wellbeing of the student, and school responses to incidents of alleged abuse were among the themes discussed.

Nurturing the Soul of Children

Rabbi Moshe Wohlberg, Dean of the Chabad-Lubavitch Yeshiva in Manchester UK, delivered one of the keynote addresses. Educators in the Torah community, he said emphatically, must realize that they bear the responsibility of breathing ruach chayim, spiritual life into the students in the process of being teachers and administrators.

A New Paradigm of Effective Nurturing of Prayer in Schools

Jewish schools open their day with prayer and all schools struggle to make the process of teaching a child how to pray, a meaningful and inspired experience. The issue of Tefilla in schools was addressed comprehensively in a number a papers and presentations. What are the real objectives of Tefilla in schools? What can make the process an effective educational and learning experience which can be gradually built upon? What kind of atmosphere promotes these objectives? What should be the expectations and incentives? These issues will be followed up in the coming months through the Merkos Chinuch office in cooperation with a steering committee formed during the conference. The Objective: A new Tefilla-prayer curriculum.

Chinuch Innovations Exchange

A Gallery of short presentations of chinuch ideas, innovations and opportunities was followed by a chinuch ideas marketplace, showcasing practical ideas from the classroom. The session, led by Rabbi Boruch Kaplan, teacher of the Southern CT Hebrew Academy, highlighted the many innovations of Chabad teachers in schools across the country.


  • 1. Rochel wrote:

    Investing in our future!

    Thanks to Rabbi Krinsky and Rabbi Kaplan for your vision and concern for OUR children.

    Hatzlocho rabbo and may Hashem give you long life in good health to continue this vital activity.

  • 2. Excited wrote:

    Very impressed by the swift response to expressed concerns regarding some methods in our system. Very impressed by the leadership taking consideration of those issues and acting on them. My faith is being restored.

  • 3. A G wrote:

    Interesting psychobabble. Scrap Yiddish. Teach English (language) skills from first grade.

    Help the kids to communicate effectively. This is, contrary to what many educators would have you believe – not rocket science.

  • 4. cockeroach biologist phD wrote:

    AG, if you want your kids to learn language skills than don’t send them to institutions where they will mold their lives forever as chassidim. Instead, send them to some PS in the bronx where they will learn Spanish. I think it is very important for our children. Maybe one day your child will even get a degree in Language Arts.

  • 5. Melamed wrote:

    I dont mean to ran’t about another of our rotten apple community issues, but I cant help it:

    There are only three issues

    1. Lack of materials. (Lishoneinu and Sifoseinu? enough already) Why is there no Tanya that is child freindly (for example with Nikudois)? Find me a gemoreh with a single chart or diagram? Nothing! Even in Judaica World the only gemorah with clear diagrams and pictures was *chulin* !! Nothing on Eilu Metzius, nothing on Bava Kama. Then you wonder why today’s 20 year olds can’t make a sentance out of a gemarah (then blame all sorts of “modern” couses such as ADD or this or that as usual). Teacher should not have to chase each other for their homework sheets and booklets.

    A solution would be to collect teachers’ work into one central database so that other teachers won’t have to stay up nights writing class material. If you think about it, teachers stay up nights preparing class materials, and all those stuff stored on harddrives and old computers fill up terrabytes (as an exapmle, that’s how Tzivos Hashem’s Learning Teacher’s Guide came into being) If the Chinuch Office (or whatever they call themselves) would collect this sea of materials, you could have huge libraries of golden teaching resourses. And teachers would then not have to stay up nights preparing for class. Better: If you are a Melamed and you are reading this, and you have materials that would otherwise be rotting on your old laptop, just send in stuff right now to
    Chinuch Office
    784 Eastern Parkway Suite 304
    Brooklyn, NY 11213

    Just because they didn’t ask for it, if they begin receiving stuff perhaps it would start them off and make use of resorces that are sitting and doing nothing.

    2. Lack of attention to the sensative kids or the shy kids some kids just don’t do well in classes >30 and teachers who never get to know the child. Kids in this category deserve to have more of a personal relationship with their teachers and principals rather than exist as a number on an assembly line sorrounded by walls that are cold as stone in a mass scale babysitting institution

    A solution to this would be to create after class groups of similar interested quiter kids. Back in the days in Oholei Torah we had “Metzuyanim.” The idea was a special group of good kids who would get the feeling of belonging they deserved. This is where schools could make use of bochrim for after hour activities. Also, principles should make a personal effort of getting to know these kids. When I was a head councelor in a large camp, I sort of “adopted” a shy boy. When his parents saw him on visiting day, and how well he was doing, they were in tears when thanking me for what I gave him.

    3. Lack of teachers who are good at what they do. Not every camp learning teacher who needs a job should be dealing with children. The solution? Principles should have excessivly high expectation of their staff.

    Fix these and you have the greatest chinuch system in the world.

  • 6. ausssie wrote:

    wowoowowowow go rabbi smukler u trully r the greates principal around

  • 8. Yehudis wrote:

    The reps from O.T. think they know it all from the looks on their faces. They have a lot to learn. Let them get rid of their Gyva and maybe there is hope. The problems begin in early elementary – believe it or not. They are just the maka b’patish. Hashem help us bring up Frum, Chassidishe children.

  • 9. Agree with A G wrote:

    I agree with A G but Oholai Torah ain’t changing.

    Example: Last time I complained to a principle the teacher doesn’t give a divar Torah for the parsha – He said go buy a parsha book on your own.

    Well Thanks for the babysitting. Pay for tutors if you want education.

  • 13. Guess What? wrote:

    #3, Were you there? There is much more to it than you so inadequately write. Please open your thinking to the big picture, which has several details you seemingly have not been made aware of. There is always room for improvement; and based on very in- depth research, what this conference addressed was an informed and compassionate wealth of information that can bring such improvement to fruition. Is there a reason your communication was so negative?

  • 14. Thank you! wrote:

    Thanks to every person who attended the conference. I think that principals and teachers should be held accountable, and the fact that you were there hopefully says that you wish to be so. (Unless some of you were contrarians or serious skeptics and went there to sabotage their honest effort.) I don’t think a healthy, intelligent person thinks he/she has nothing more to learn. For the skeptics out there: Do you want to discredit potential for betterment, or do you want to give it at least some consideration?

  • 15. No? wrote:

    #11, Why can’t students studying to become chasidim also be students with language skills? Are you saying that that would be an impossibility? Maybe because I am not familiar with the curriculum, I assumed that language skills were inherently part of the picture. No?

  • 16. And there-s more wrote:

    #12, I think your 3 potential solutions are a good beginning. With that said, I think that if we do not delve into what effective practices means, no amount of materials, personal relationship to a shy student,or high expectations will serve to make an excellent educational system. As a teacher for many years myself, I know that there are elements to teaching and learning that require a teacher to be informed about what helps children learn. All children are not the same, therefore they do not all learn in the same way. It is imperative that education professionals educate themselves, also. I do agree that principals should have only the highest of expectations. At the same time, we would hope that they themselves know what it takes to create an environment that strives to meet the needs of the individual learner while providing curriculum that fully meets the expectation of a particular population, in this case Chabad. IT IS POSSIBLE! It takes commitment and action. I think this conference shows these two qualities, and I am grateful for the insightful leadership.

  • 17. Rabbi tzfasman wrote:

    I spy rabbi tzfasmam!
    The best teacher ever!!!!
    We miss you @ the ohel!!
    Brazil is lucky to have you

  • 18. to #4 wrote:

    Guess what! Charity begins @ home as the saying goes…..
    I know the Rebbes especially in younger grades put in their heart & souls…..Whats lacking today is basic manners even bfore Derech Eretz & any learning!

  • 19. Well.... wrote:

    To #4, They KNOW enough to KNOW that there is always more to KNOW,so I KNOW that they KNOW a lot. Ya KNOW?

  • 20. There is more wrote:

    To #4- Too simplistic! There is a lot more to it than you are aware, apparently. I don’t want my personal aggravation from your comment to render my response sarcastic, but I do take offense to your comment. You seem to undermine the profession of teaching when you limit its boundaries. There is SCIENTIFIC evidence abounding in the field of education, and much of it pertains to what effective practices need to be. There is SCIENTIFIC research available to show that a brain literally shows change when the right methods and practices are applied with a student. You are not alone in terms of unfamiliarity with such research, but I think the time is ripe for others to know that a wholesome and effective educational environment is not a matter of simplistic measures.

  • 21. I defend my profession! wrote:

    #4 Yehudis, Where is the interpretation of their faces coming from? I do not interpret even one face as thinking they know it all. Are you biased for any particular reason? Did any of them insult you, demean you, hurt you, invalidate you in some way? I personally interpret various expressions as: interested, knowing, doubting, surprised, learning, speculating, questioning, concerned, tired, thirsty, understanding, conscientious, aware, knowing, and more. And what is the comment about early elementary about? I don’t believe anyone said where any problems do or don’t come from, since we know that problems come from a myriad of places for a myriad of reasons, one of those places being “early elementary”. Thirdly, I don’t believe anyone there does not want to bring up Frum, Chassidishe children. I think most want to bring them up having the best chance to be successful and healthy in many ares of their being. So, I applaud any of them who took advantage of this opportunity to enhance their skills, just as every other professional is required to do in any other profession. The only comment I have as a suggestion for the organizers is to find a way to offer scholarships or reduced rates for those who merit them.

  • 22. Thank you! wrote:

    Beautiful place, beautiful purpose. Thanks to the devoted teachers who care enough about the children’s education and spirits to do what it takes. Ignore the naysayers. They are just not up to understanding the necessary issues, for reasons only they know or should search themselves to find out. It is possible to maintain any and all parts of the traditional studies and yet infuse improvement in any and all areas designated. Astute teachers know this. They will not compromise any specific studies, trust me. They are capable professionals. Naysayers need not apply.


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