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Op-Ed: What’s Wrong with ‘the System?’

by Anonymous

To preface, I’m a 21 year old bochur who is currently in his last stage of the “system.” We all hear the statement that “the Yeshiva System is messed up;” it is echoed daily by people all across Lubavitch: students, parents, teachers, Shluchim, observers, etc.

The Yeshiva system has had a positive effect on countless bochurim, but sadly, a substantial portion – I would even go so far as to say a majority – seem to be walking away with nothing solid to show from their years in Yeshiva, or even worse: an experience that has left them turned off. There are many reasons why I suspect the system is failing, but there is one in particular that I believe is the main reason we have a dysfunctional system.

I recall once seeing a cartoon with a student holding a test which he failed, and the caption reads: “who failed, the student, or the teacher?” In the Yeshiva system today there is a mindset and a goal shared by the Hanhalas of most Yeshivas – to be considered one of the ”top Yeshivas in Lubavitch“. Success in their eyes is having a roster full of mitzuyanim – excellent students, model bochurim who excel in the hallmark Chassidishe traits and are easy to build up, with the end game resulting in the Yeshiva having a top name. Where does this craziness come from, I ask!?

Yeshiva is a Shlichus, and the concept is that you’re supposed to inspire the kid and help him/her change for the better. Imagine a Shliach saying, ”I have no one to work with in this city; 90% of the Jews here are not Lubavitcher Chassidim!“ Everyone would tell the shliach, ”You’re an idiot, your job is to work with your Jewish demographic and get them to increase in their Yidishkeit!“

Yeshiva is very much the same; your goal is to help each student achieve his or her personal potential. True success is not being the Yeshiva with the most Chassidisheh bochurim in Lubavitch, rather, it’s being a Yeshiva that caters to its crowd of students, and brings out in each precious individual their greatest potential.

I went through three Yeshivas in the past; I saw this defective attitude in all three of them, and the negative effects that came along with it. Be it Farbrengens which were mostly addressing struggles relating to bochurim of the ‘50s, outlandish rules, or chucking bochurim out like flies (which the Rebbe discouraged and only allowed in certain cases. Students from the days when the Rebbe was alive said it was very rare that a bochur got kicked out of Yeshiva. These days, every fine upstanding Yeshiva feels a need to make a selection of at least 10-20 bochurim a year to throw out – or not accept back the following year, which does enormous damage to the bochur, and leaves a bad impression to others in yeshiva of the cold businesslike manner in which their supposed role models conduct their yeshiva.)

I understand that the Yeshivas need to set a higher bar, have certain standards, and enforce rules, but they need to be done in a realistic manner, set to the majority of the bochurem they’re dealing with. Yeshivas have to wake up to the reality that the times have drastically changed and the students have changed; running a Yeshiva as if it were yesteryear will continue this rampant problem in the system. I believe that if you creatively adapt your program to fit your students, (obviously within the guidelines,) the students and staff will be much happier, and in the long run the students will have gained far more.

So this Yud Tes Kislev, may I suggest to every Hanhala out there that you have a meeting and discuss if you currently have the correct goals and priorities. Check and see that you are catering to your current crowd – with your shuirim, schedule, farbrengens, creative and healthy outlets, and rules. Take a deep look and evaluate if you are doing the utmost to achieve the greatest success for each individual student, and find additional ways to positively inspire and have greater effect. If every Hanhalah would focus solely on catering to their current crowd of bochurim, I suspect this widespread problem of ”the system” wouldn’t be on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

This Op-Ed reflects the views of its author. It does not necessarily reflect the views of CrownHeights.info or its Editors.

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34 Comments

  • 2. Very nice wrote:

    But I think it should start earlier, not wait till kids are in zal. The “system” should get its act together already on the elementary level.

    Unfortunately, the “system” is not equipped to deal with kids who want to learn but have learning disabilities. The mechanchim aren’t capable of structuring programs per student (those who are not mainstream). This leads them to fall between the cracks, get frustrated and either lash out or quit and lose their cheshek to learn.

    Apropos Yud Tes Kislev, when we restart learning Tanya, whatever happened to “chanoch lena’ar al pi darko”?

    BTW, this holds true for the girls’ schools as well.

  • 3. Mendel wrote:

    I went through the system in the 70’s and early 80’s and nothing has changed,
    the system is very good for guys that can or have a real rotzoin to learn or they are from familys with a name of sorts or money
    but for anyone ells forget it.

  • 5. 23 old yeshiva graduate wrote:

    You have know idea how many people this speaks to. In fact, I am printing this article and handing it out to the hanholoh at my old yeshiva.

    The problem is, that your article speaks clearly to the students, but the hanholoh don’t seem to understand it.

    If I may just say one thing to you, that which i have learnt these past years, Don’t tell yourself that you are a failure or even that the system failed you. It does not do you any good, and will not do you any good when your trying to get married.

    Just tell yourself, yes there could have been, and should be many changes made to how our yeshiva is run, but at least you are a frum bochur who knows his right from wrong, and seems to have a good level of intelligence.
    and hey, you know the right path and outlook even though they didn’t teach it to you in yeshiva, so you’re not doing too bad…

  • 6. Nice Article. wrote:

    Smart bochur. Keep fighting the good fight. These are the years you will draw on for strength when you are older and have less time to sit with your chaverim, mishpiim etc.

    This aim towards ‘mitzoyonim’ is a relatively new phenomenon and is taken from the playbook of Geitzed and Mir. Majority of my class would not have been accepted to yeshivas in today’s cookie-cutter standards. Now, 20 years later, the vast majority of my class are shluchim, financial supporters of their community moisdos and/or community askonim.

    You’re missing a major point here. The amount of tuition moisdos can reasonably expect to get from parents is directly correlated to the yeshiva’s name and ‘mitzyonim’ factor. That is what led to the change over the last 20 years. Until you have a solution to that problem, I suspect Chabad yeshivas and sems will continue along this path.

    One last point; the world of shlichus is highly organized and energized. Aguch runs a well oiled machine. Chinuch does not have this equivalent. I would have thought that an institution such as Merkoz Linunei Chiniuch would have been a perfect moised to lead the Yeshivah heads of tomorrow but the organization does not seem to put enough emphasis on Chinuch.

  • 7. mushka wrote:

    I think the one true school that moniters the students that come in and doesn’t have this problem is Bnos Rabbeinu!

  • 8. A System Change to Ponder.... wrote:

    I think a system of short term goals is a way to keep students focused. The current system allows bochurim to idly ‘Bullshove’ for hours without feeling like they are failing themselves. In secular schools/colleges lihavdil, a student won’t waste time because he knows in a week from now I must know A B and C…

  • 9. just a couple questions wrote:

    how many have properly learned to learn?
    with an organization like Chabad, being as successfull as it is in getting people to hit the bricks running. what is done with the multitude of kids that come into the system late?

  • 10. uri wrote:

    You say “In the Yeshiva system today there is a mindset and a goal shared by the Hanhalas of most Yeshivas – to be considered one of the ”top Yeshivas in Lubavitch“. Success in their eyes is having a roster full of mitzuyanim-… resulting in the Yeshiva having a top name.” Please indulge me as to which yeshivos you are talking about they most certainly are not chabad.

  • 13. well written wrote:

    No.11 YG in melbourne,HAH get rid of who they want.And have rejected many boys for a second year. The rip the moral out of kids. Unfortunately another out of touch Yeshiva.

  • 14. Perspective wrote:

    The Yeshivos Perspective:
    • Lack of funds
    o Lack of proper facilities to accommodate number of students
    o Large class sizes
    o Lack of qualified teachers
     What qualifications / training do the current teachers have?
    • Striving to be the best
    o Curriculums
     May be unrealistic
     May be outdated
    o Image of what a student should be
     May be unrealistic
     May be outdated
    Parents Perspective:
    • Yeshivah choices
    o What Yeshivah can help my child learn and grow?
    o What future does the Yeshivah prepare my child for?
    o B”H a lot more today than years ago
    • Would the Yeshivah accept my child?
    o Rejections hurt the parents and more importantly the children
    • Monetary concerns
    o Tuition
     Can I afford it?
    • Registration fees, insurance fees, tuition fees, building fund
     Meeting the administrators to discuss scholarships
    • Extremely humbling
    o School clothing and supplies
    o Bus fees, PTA fees, Book fees, Extra activity fees, Teachers and bus driver Yom Tov Gifts, etc…
    Teachers Perspective:
    • What other job can I find?
    • Will I get paid?
    • Can’t handle the class size
    • Can’t handle the curriculum
    • Diverse class
    o Migrate to and concentrate on the path of least resistance
     Hopefully 50% of the class will learn
    Childs Perspective
    • Another day of school!?!?!
    • The teacher is ignoring me
    • If I ask the teacher to explain they seemed annoyed, maybe I shouldn’t ask anymore
    • Peer pressure
    o Got to keep up with the popular kids
    • I feel like a parrot… repeating, but have no understanding
    • Got to go to the bathroom…. Teacher doesn’t let
    • When’s lunch, when’s recess, when do we go home????
    • Homework!!!!!
    • Where is all this getting me?
    • When do I get time to unwind
    o Kids stress too!

  • 15. Bochur wrote:

    Number 3: You are right on the ball their needs to be a board that overlooks the yeshivah system similar to Merkos, who’s role would be to make public of yeshivahs that run their yeshivah similar to the way written in this article and to discourage parents from sending kids their, that would help yeshivahs with tuition as well since the thing parents would be looking for wouldn’t be yeshivah of mitzuyanim per say but a true yeshivah with the right mindset and outlook. Yeshivahs that run on premises like these harm the so called mitzuyanim as well..

  • 16. another view wrote:

    the normal situation of a bachur that grew up in a home based on the foundations of chassidus, should not have problems with the system. since he knows that this is what life is all about learning davening etc. you dont have to be smart to recognize this even a simple person can comprehend to this. chassidus is not merely for maskilim. now if you have issues in yiras shomayim, or problems that a frum yid shouldnt have, then thats an issue and go speak to your private mashpia, but the mashpi’im of the yeshiva and so to the general holoich yailech of the yeshiva cant be targeted to these types of things. for example: a mashpia farbrenging about iskafya should not discuss iskafya in watching movies, besides the fact that its not proper to discuss such things by a farbrengen, besides for that, then the normal bachurim are going to lose out and they are going to think that they are tzadikim holding at the highest level possible. (also if you farbreng about such stuff then it wont be looked at as such a bad thing although its an issur deoraisa to watch most movies the lav of velo sosuru). i suggest you to find yourself a mashpia who will guide you and help you up the latter of truth. and you cant just sit with your arms folded, its very hard work. dont comw with ta’anois on the hanholos and mashpi’im. (btw i happen to be not a very chassidishe bachur but i still hold as i said before).

  • 17. no one special wrote:

    Your negativity has deep roots that many of us have recognized. The best & the brightest are not being attracted to teaching at or running a Yeshiva.

  • 18. Proud mother wrote:

    So many of our bochurim are going into the IDF. When I asked my son why he respected his commander more than any of his Rebbeim, his response was.“ The commanders live the way they want us to live” Rosh Yeshivas- spend a month in the IDF and then go back to your yeshivas.

  • 19. Realistic wrote:

    16: don’t know which planet your on but almost all brochurem watch movies these days and secondly the authors whole point was cater to your specific crowd, if the majority is holding around that level, they should do as you say.

  • 20. Kollel for Life wrote:

    I am a talmid at BMG and I am shtyging to reach gadlus baTorah which with BS“D I will soon accomplish. The problem in some yeshivas is that the talmid has many ”distractions” such as kiruv and learning nistar (thee are great inyonim, but they shter most people from vaksing oyz).

    I plan on going to Kollel for life and becoming a godol and to be marbitz torah – that is my shi’eefa.

  • 22. Netzach wrote:

    #18 all because we feel more of a goal and feel like where doing some thing also i felt yeshiva was a waste of time sitting around doing nothing the whole day and the army gives a goal and a focus of what we enjoy

  • 23. To #20 wrote:

    You wrote: ”distractions“ such as kiruv and learning nistar shter gemorah learning.

    Chas V’sholom!

    ”Kiruv“ as you call it, gives a brocha of 100-fold into the learning, and the Rebbe said it isn’t a guzma, but kipshuto.

    ”Learning nistar“ as you call it, is the spice that makes gemorah relevant and not just ”another chochma“ like math or science.

    You learn in BMG (aka Lakewood) come visit and taste a day in Lubavitch. It may not get you Gan Eden, but it will take away your geshmak in Olom Haza. And you will see that the tachlis is not becoming a ”Godol“.

    You may even discover that ”Gedolim“ and ”Kitanim” are terms that later require a brocha of Asher Yotzar.

  • 25. to bochur (#13) wrote:

    Why should it be an orginization ‘like’ merkoz linunei chinuch?! Shouldn’t that moised be dealing with Chinuch?!

  • 26. chaim wrote:

    When i was in yeshiva in the early 90’s i was used by everyone. The shlichum made me work around the clock for no pay, just advancing their own careers. Then shlichus was who can you kiss bu** in the yeshiva and the hanhala didn’t care about us. Then post shlichus, semicha was a joke and total waste of a year. You are on your own and needed to find a shiduch. Then if you never married the right family u never had a chance to find a great shlichus. When u did find shlichus after a few years you become too popular the main shliach finds an excuse to let you go. Then u feel totally wasted and a loser.

  • 27. understanding mother wrote:

    Beautifully written sadly true. I think aother problem may be tell me if i’m incorrect we have few and far between dugma chays(living examples) for our kids to look up to anymore!

  • 28. SZ wrote:

    To #20, very amusing, but this might have been what someone from BMG might have sounded like 20 years ago but unfortunately you don’t sound very not believable. You sound like you’re a bored Lubavitcher pretending to be yeshivishe. I can’t imagine anyone saying they’re going to reach “gadlus b’Torah” soon, at least not on a forum. Next time, maybe talk to someone who goes to BMG and maybe you’ll be able to pull it off better. B’hatzlacha.

  • 29. 26-year-old Yeshiva graduate wrote:

    The worst part of this selection applied by the Yeshivos is that, though you may be good enough for the Yeshiva because you can pass tests, chazer a maamer and somewhat keep seder, they give you no FUTURE. They’ll take your money, your effort and desire to work hard, but give you no concrete return. You can learn right from wrong from basically any institution that isn’t the street, and Yeshiva teaches right from wrong no better than any academic institution–minus the academia part of things. The system is rotten and unsustainable, and it will change eventually, once the cracks become big enough.

    To number 16 “another view”: so much is wrong with your viewpoint, I don’t know even know where to begin. Let’s start with your being megaleh torah shelo kahalocha and interpreting the posuk “vlo sosusru” to mean that watching movies is a lav mideoiraisa. You ripped a phrase straight from torah shebiksav, and with no interpretation or precedent, decided it referred to movies, and that they are therefore ossur midioraysa. This without any source other than you’re own ego-need to delegitimize others in the hopes that it will reinforce your need to be better than others and beyond their reproach, and “good” “pure” and “not corrupt”. That you do not and cannot hold up to your own inhuman standards, you clearly must know. But there is still the damage you can do to others’ impressionable psyches before they know what you’re full of. You create an ideal that exists nowhere but in your own head, and then measure others by this made-up standard. You and your ilk sicken me.

  • 30. Mendel wrote:

    to # 17 you are someone very special.

    To any Hanholah that would like to change this type of problem within yeshivah’s that would help and guide the Rebbes children of bochrim to appreciate yeshivah and show whoever the bochur is then just follow the Rebbe’s direction of ahavas yisroel but truley follow it and you will see changes and if you cant for whatever reason then call me in and I will show you how this is done

  • 31. mmmm wrote:

    you wrtie ‘Yeshiva is very much the same; your goal is to help each student achieve his or her personal potential.”

    his or her… mmmm… maybe thats where the problems begins. bochurim need to become boys.

  • 32. Dumb Waiter wrote:

    The problem goes like this:

    They just put the food on a table. But first you have to go to another table and take a plate. The forks are on another table with the spoons. But to have a knife you have to come early because there are not enough to go around.

    Then you may have to stand in line to get food on the plate with your knife and spoon. And the food tastes OK but looks awful.

    The system stinks.

  • 33. BOCHER wrote:

    DONT BLAME NO SYSTEM, IT IS ALL IN THE BOCHER IF HE WANA LEARN HE WILL LEARN
    BUT DONT BLAME ANYONE

  • 34. Oy.... wrote:

    The reason some students do not learn has a lot to do with the ignorance of the fact that people do not learn best in the same ways. That is probably why some students from days of old indeed did not learn as much as they could have. It is still the reason that some students today do not learn as much as is hoped. Maybe in earlier years there was less knowledge available about the complexity of young minds and its relationship to accessing learning. Student were called dumb, lazy, apathetic, etc. That lack of understanding of professionals led to a weakness in the system, the results of which we see in front of our eyes on any given day, no disrespect intended. On the other hand, those students who had a learning style compatible with their teachers were able to excel. We see cases of this in front of our eyes on any given day. Now we are at a critical time when we can take advantage of important studies of the mind, learning, teaching, and differentiating instruction. Please don’t get caught up in the cliches such as “It was good enough for me, so it’s good enough for you; Learning is learning, so if you don’t learn it means you do not want to; This new stuff is just mishugas; They could learn if they were given proper consequences for poor grades; etc., etc.” That’s like saying you will utilize your model-T, even though it does not meet your needs anymore. Or you will use a mattress to hide your money under because the banks have no additional value. You get the idea. Sometimes resistance to change or improvement does not serve us well.

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