The Bais Menachem Youth Development program, a Chabad Yeshiva for ‘at-risk’ youth in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, is the subject of this intriguing feature article published today by the JTA, written by Uriel Heilman.
From the JTA:
The Bais Menachem Youth Development program in this northeastern Pennsylvania city is no typical Chabad yeshiva.
The students wear flip-flops and T-shirts, not the typical black-and-white of Hasidic seminaries. In addition to Jewish law and Bible study, the curriculum includes improv nights, poetry slams and screenings of National Geographic nature shows. The students take taekwondo classes, skiing lessons and canoe trips down the Delaware River. There’s even a house band.
Welcome to the yeshiva for wayward Chabad youths.
“A couple of years ago I was coming out of a very dark time in my life,” said a 17-year-old named Levi who grew up in the Chabad-Lubavitch stronghold of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. “I used to party and smoke marijuana and hang out with very bad people.”
At the yeshiva in Wilkes-Barre, Levi said, he finally found what he needed.
“Instead of just kicking me out for my issues, they looked past them,” he said. “They didn’t look at me as someone who would ruin the school but as someone who needed help. They brought me back to my roots. Other yeshivas treated me like a child, not like an equal. They treated me like a human being.”