99 Ideas for Improving our Education System

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By: Ya’akov Shallman

Every so often a wonderful article is written lamenting the challenges in our educational system. I recently chatted with a friend of mine who confirmed that not much has changed since my time spent in yeshiva nearly 25 years ago.  Many boys today like so many years ago feel they are just passing the time and serving there yeshiva “sentence”.  Our schools still struggle with acknowledging and solving what is missing for our boys’ education.  Yeshivas tow a hard line of focusing on Jewish studies almost exclusively and frown upon thinking about work and commonly look down on subjects that don’t appear to be in the top 1% of talmudic and torah achievement – Chumash? Dikduk? Jewish history?  They don’t have a warm and prominent place in many yeshivas.

As a parent with 5 boys and the prospect of high school / yeshiva around the corner, I think about this subject often and want to find the “best” ways of ensuring my boys can get a great chassidic, torah education

The Rebbe is emphatic that school is not primarily to gain knowledge or the “VOS” (its not just about acquiring information) the main objective of Jewish education is to imbue our kids with the “FAR VOS”, the why; the meaning and value of it all.

As parents, my wife and I strive to provide a set of values, meaning, and beliefs as the core identity for our kids.  This is an ongoing process that certainly doesn’t stop at bar mitzva or at the doorstep of the yeshiva dorm when I drop off my kid, his luggage and an enormous check for tuition.

It’s hard to know what you want your kids to become by the age of 20 without outlining, well, what you want. Here are my top objectives and goals for my kids in yeshiva:

  1. A love forG-d, Yiddishkeit, Chassidus and the Rebbe.
  2. A sound base ofHebrew learning skills and knowledge so my kids can have learning as part of their lives until 120.
  3. Emotional confidence and comfort in problem solving.
  4. Preferably, a sound base of reading, writing, and mathematical skills to enable them to explore non shlichus opportunities after their years in yeshiva.

I find myself left wanting by many articles written by parents, teachers and rabbis alike – they often just don’t offer solutions for how we can try to improve our yeshivas.  There tends to be a lot of “throwing up our hands” and little in the way of practical, concrete solutions.

In an effort to be part of the solution and move the needle even just an inch – here are 99 ideas to help improve our yeshiva education.  My hope is that even one good idea can emerge and this can motivate others to turn this list into a 1,000 new ideas.

Micro Classes:

Short classes lasting between 2-6 weeks long to cover crucial topics and enable kids to have variety in their learning – kids will feel productive and will gain mastery of the information. We make too many assumptions about what our kids know and don’t know and what they appreciate. Let’s make sure they have a stronger base of knowledge and appreciation.

  1. Who are rishoinim and achronim (pnei yeshuah, shitah mikubetzes, shaagas Aryeh, etc) – history and goal of the seforim, major contributions.
  2. Cholov yisroel – all sources.
  3. Wearing hat/jacket/gartel – all sources.
  4. Beard – all sources.
  5. Mikva – all sources.
  6. Eiruv – all sources.
  7. Sleeping in a sukah – all sources.
  8. Emunah / Bitochon.
  9. Tumah /Tahara intro and overview (with source material or just as a general overview of information).
  10. Intro to different styles of learning Gemara  – e.gBrisk,Rogachover etc.
  11. Amira l’akum
  12. Understanding the din of baal tosef and all about dinim d’rabonon, siyagim, minhagim etc.
  13. Teshuva- overview al PI chassidus.
  14. Simcha – overview al pi chassidus.
  15. Cooking on shabbos.
  16. 2 month intro to yiddish.
  17. Chassidus, Mussar & Kabbalah.
  18. 12 Pesukim b’iyun.
  19. Contemporary topics al pi torah: vegetarianism, drugs/ alcohol, war, morality, ethics and Halacha etc.
  20. Aseres hadibros.
  21. Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach.

Interactive Classes:

Here are a list of classes that can be elective, seasonal or short classes providing basic knowledge and background around commonly obscure or unstudied topics.

  1. Hilchos bais habechira.
  2. Mishkan.
  3. Sta”m / Safrus.
  4. Shechita- animals.
  5. Korbonos.
  6. YouTube shiurim/ virtual library from other sources.
  7. Kidush hachodesh.

Gemara/ Halacha:

Empower our boys to ramp up their exposure, knowledge, confidence and sense of achievement by learning subjects that they can complete – enabling more students to expand to larger mesechtos from strength. Learning gemara is not sequential and these classes can be applied to any school, class, or student where it makes sense and will be most beneficial.

  1. Smaller Masechtos- Megillah, Nazir, Sukka, Chaggigah, Sotah.
  2. Teach how to develop a pilpul – Encourage bochurim to take on research projects.
  3. Teach around a subject instead of a mesechta.
  4. Start with the Halacha and work backwards to the gemaras.
  5. Skype other roshei yeshiva’s lectures.
  6. Master a chapter of gemara – with rashi and toisfos.
  7. Master laws of carrying on Shabbos- – with all gemaras / sugyos.
  8. Master cooking on Shabbos with all Gemaras / sugyos.
  9. Master melacha on yom tov- with all Gemaras / Sugyos.
  10. Use iPads for Talmud classes from other teachers around the world.
  11. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch- Built into the curriculum that is it completed in its entirety before Shiur Gimmel Zal.

 Chassidus:

  1. For both Mesivta & Zal, Likkutei Sichos B’Iyun, with all the Mareh Mekomos, in an interactive shiur /lecture setting – not merely one person reading and translating, or merely following along with the original recording (there’s a value there as well, but that is not what this is).
  2. For Mesivta:   Chelek Aleph through Daled B’Iyun – 1 hour built into the daily curriculum. This will establish fundamentals in Chasidus and fundamentals in the Rebbe’s Torah, specifically Likkutei Sichos.
  3. For Zal:  Intelligently designed curriculum, surveying a broad range of topics and learning methodologies so the bochurim can a) master the material and b) internalize the Rebbe’s nuanced, classical and revolutionary approach to Torah.
  4. Mastery of first 12 perakim of tanya – with Shais Taub Map and including insights from Jacobson, Paltiel and Freidman.
  5. Skype class with other mashpim.
  6. Tzimtzum – Alter Rebbe vs. Gra.
  7. Discuss likkutei diburim/ read on your own.
  8. Public speaking class on delivering a sicha.
  9. Write an essay on a sicha or maamor- 5-10 essays / year.
  10. Shaar yichud v’emuna with Yoel Kahan insights and curriculum.
  11. Manis Friedman lectures / quizzes / curriculum.
  12. Majeski history tapes/ curriculum / quizzes.
  13. Iggros on topics/ subjects in class.
  14. Yossi Jacobson Tanya shiurim.
  15. Yossi Paltiel Tanya Shiurim.
  16. Bechira Chofshis – different opinions and Chabad position.
  17. Hashgacha Protis acc. to the Besh”t.
  18. Ahavas Hashem
  19. Yiras Hashem
  20. Chassid/ Rebbe relationship with insights from Immanuel Schochet and Manis Friedman.
  21. Neshama.
  22. Reincarnation.

Farbrengens:

  1. Videos of rebbe’s farbrengen.
  2. Rotate other mashpiim to farbreng.
  3. Rotate shluchim to farbreng.
  4. Have each kid farbreng for 15-30 min on something on the parsha.
  5. Create communal farbrengens for yomad’pagrah.
  6. Create list of 2 week to 30 day hachlatos – group and individual- track and keep lists for each student to view achievements.

 Improved General Curriculum:

  1. Mishnayos.
  2. JLI courses.
  3. Jewish history  -BaisHamikdosh era, Halachic history and chassidic history in an organized fashion, covering specific periods and characters. Students are often left with massive gaps (or more honestly lack of any historical knowledge). Such study will “complete the picture,” by solidifying Torah study and yiddishkeit. As one example, imagine having historical background to the all the Rishonim and Acharonim, and feeling the context of their work. In addition, these courses will certainly encourage further Torah study, research and generate great interest by broadening the student’s Jewish understanding.
  1. Master 613 mitzvos.
  2. Rambam- one chapter.
  3. Moshiach.
  4. 11 month school years broken up every 90 days for 1-3 week breaks. Makes learning easier, more consistent and productive.
  5. Lashon Hakodesh classes. The students’ needs strong lifetime Torah skills…this will happen with lots of learning, practice, and being taught the actual language…professionally, and well.
  1. Classes on how to learn Meforshim – merely being able to read and understand basic Hebrew does not suffice.

 Davening:

  1. My Prayer / read discuss.
  2. Learn Ohr Hatifilah in class.
  3. Discuss hisboninos.
  4. Laibel Wolf/ Ginzburg – meditation.
  5. Pirush hamilos.
  6. History of the siddur and customs.
  7. Customs and letters on saying tehillim –Kuntres Ma’alos amiras tehilim.

Parental Involvement:

Parents don’t raise kids in a bubble and we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. So many parents have something to contribute with ideas, creativity, insight, inspiration, teaching, knowledge and support.  We are a large extended community with so much talent and ability if we just communicate more.

  1. Message boards for fathers and for mothers per class or school or age to discuss how to handle challenges that arise, share good ideas for both educating and parenting.
  2. Foster better accountability and communication between teachers and parents with WhatsApp groups or blog.
  3. Parent exchange across the globe to share ideas and find volunteers to help within each yeshiva.
  4. National conference for parents.
  5. Tutor board – Skype and in person.

 Courses on Jewish Academics:

  1. How to understand the foundational talmudic logic rules and framework on how the gemara thinks and doesnt think.
  2. Early on (5thand 6thgrade) a basic flow chart should be introduced. In Mesivta and Zal several courses of the specifics of each generation, and how specifically their work is pertinent to each other and to today.
  3. There should be a basic intro helping familiarize every student with what every sefer is.  Hebrewbooks.org should be your best friend when leaving Zal. All these Sefarim shouldn’t be random.
  4. Using  Sha’alos-U’Teshuvos would be a strong tool for the rules of Jewish academics, the breakdown of thoughts, the implication and power struggle between the opinions.
  5. Class on the 13 Midos Hatorah to understand the rules and hierarchy of talmudic rules.
  6. Pirkei Avos  B’Iyun(starting in Mesivta).
  7. Chumash B’Iyun, with meforshim (irrelevant to Chitas). To establish true mastery and appreciation for the topics that are given so little attention, yet meant to be readily understood.  Kol Menachem Gutnick Chumash by Chaim Miller would be perfect for Mesivta.
  1. Nevi’im and Kesuvim B’Iyun.
  2. Halacha B’Iyun – well before the “Smicha Year.”
  3. Mesivtas and Zals can be more creative with Torah study that is NOT strictly in a sefer. 

Consider teaching a subject in chasidus, halacha, gemara, history…anything. But it doesn’t have to be from one book. Create one class as a conversation, debate or something to think about critically or meaningfully.  Chasidus is so rich with incredible details (both academic and practical) but when taught as a series of facts, the student can get lost. MAKE room for conversation. Talk about why, how, maybe etc.

  1. Mandatory reading:

Starting in Mesivta the following books should be mandatory for every student to read. This will help for: academic advancement, broadening of the mind, generating openness to greater issues with-in Judaism and with historical knowledge. Each book serves a unique purpose, and ought to specifically be read during these formative years.

In alphabetical order:

  1. All for the Boss by Ruchoma Shain
  2. Biblical Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
  3. Abraham J. Twerski (students pick a volume that speaks to them).
  4. Jewish Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
  5. Judaism in a Nutshell: Israel by Shimon Apisdorf
  6. Mashiach by Rabbi Dr. J Immanuel Schochet
  7. My Prayer by Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel
  8. Mystical Concepts in Chassidism by Rabbi Dr. J Immanuel Schochet
  9. Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism by Dennis Prager and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
  10. Rabbi SchneurZalman of Liadi by Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel
  11. Rebbe by Joseph Telushkin
  12. The Silver Era by Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkof
  13. The Committed Life by Esther Jungreis
  14. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Jewish History and Culture by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
  15. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Judaism by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
  16. The Essential Talmud by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
  17. The Great Maggid by Rabbi Dr. J Immanuel Schochet
  18. The Lonely Man of Faith by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
  19. The Philosophy of Chabad by Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel
  20. The Sanctity of the Synagogue by Baruch Litvin
  21. Think Jewish- Zalman Posner
  22. To Be a Jew by HayimDonin
  23. Tools for Tosafos by Haim Perlmutter
  24. Toward a Meaningful Life by Rabbi Simon Jacobson
  25. Turning Judaism Outwards by Rabbi Chaim Miller
  26. Who is a Jew? by Rabbi Dr. J Immanuel Schochet
  27. Why The Jews? The Reason for Anti-Semitism by Dennis Prager and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  We don’t need to reinvent the yeshiva system – we just need to try doing things a little differently and implement improvements. If we will visualize the concrete outcomes that are most important for our children – – to be a CHaYaL –  we can easily work backwards to try new methods to achieve this end.

If you would like to be part of the discussion for improving the education of your son – send your email address to join the group at 99yeshiva@gmail.com

41 responses

  1. Yaakov – your children are blessed to have you as a father. Just reading this, it’s clear how well versed you are in the Torah world, and that you think deeply of their chinuch and well-being.

  2. Parents who care, love yiddishkeit and the Rebbe, and want to improve education and instill love of learning, and growth! Sign me up!

          • Why pipe dream? If done properly our children would embrace this and feel fulfilled and whole.

          • most kids have an attention span of 6 minutes or less. The reason they have no knowledge of 98% of the material you suggest teaching is because they have no interest in the matters. After all, most of what adults know comes from outside school. i.e. parents, farbrengens, books/seforim read on own time.

            Just my 2c

          • If done properly, our children could be in a much better position than they are now when completing their time at our institutions.

    • You can never have enough ideas or dialogue and you can’t get anywhere with out them either. Hopefully parents and schools will find one good idea or generate their own.

  3. Agree with Hershel.

    There are so many issues with this article I can’t even begin.

    While I applaud the author for trying to do something, half of these suggestions are just digging the grave deeper.

  4. So much chitzoniyus.
    That we think our children require a hundred point list?
    How complicated are we MAKING them???
    That the Baal Shem’s derech could come to this?

    And that emunah is number 8 on any list (misnagdish or chassidish)!?
    After Wearing hat/jacket/gartel, Beard, Sleeping in a sukah???
    You forgot not eating shalosh seudos.
    THATS’s what will DEFINE your children, not penimiyus. not emunah.

    And that people (outside of learning/quoting a sefer) use modern tense when talking about a tzaddik who was niftar.

    I’ll give it to you on one leg.
    Emunah peshuta, a CHUSH’adig emunah – Alef.
    Living a yiddishkeit we want our children to emulate – Bais
    Living a yiddishkeit our children WANT to emulate – Gimmel.
    The rest is details, go and learn.

    Create hashem’s next generation of avadim, not shidduch resumes.

    • OK, so some items may be out of order. But now you’re just picking it apart.

      You’re Alef, Bais, Gimmel list – is that what the schools are currently using? Not working so well is it….. just look at the products they’re producing.

      • No they are not using my list.
        Nor the author’s hundred point list.
        They are using a BILLION point list.

        This list reminds me of how my rebbe sometimes advises college kids who are going as madrichim to outreach conferences or weekends. And the higher ups give these well meaning idealistic 20 year-olds a hundred page bound booklet of copies and texts and otzar hatorah printouts of rambams and proofs and gemaras. And they are told to stick to the script. It can’t be disproven!!!

        And my rebbe always says that the kids who have the most hatzlocha with their “customers” are the ones who rip it all up and tell them stories from The Rebbe and sing some Carlebach (both would get them forcibly removed from these conferences btw!).

        Those Balei Teshuva have a kiyum.

        Pashtus.

        I know, mamesh KNOW, the author means not just “well”, but he means the best for his kinderlach and all kinderlach. It’s clear from how much effort he put into this.

        But in the end it’s just another symptom of the problem.

        not a solution.

        • I think you may be misguided and not in tune with children in this generation. They need everything you mention, but so much more too. The list above starts delving a little deeper into what is needed.

          • We have so many things in our life we think we need but we don’t.
            Transferring this mindset to our kids makes the insanity hereditary.
            This is making our kids complicated. The opposite of temimus.

            I think the author is so worried to leave something out, that he may ch”V leave the most important thing out, the Sibos HaSibos, hkb”h. Ve’haraya, each nekuda he mentions should end with – “to become closer to hkb’h”. (Like the ma’aseh with the Alter Rebbe’s business man chossid that ends with, Skum Davar? Ein Od Milvado)

            Make the FOUNDATION of their lives an pashuta emunah that they receive from their parents’ mouth/actions/heart, and the life that they are supposed to lead will follow far easier than if you try and saddle them with the whole binyan BRICK BY BRICK. Kids can’t carry so many bricks.

            And don’t think I haven’t had these same thoughts! Late at night, after krias shema, trying to figure this same question out. What seforim first? What seder first? What middah to start with and when?

            For now (keninah hara, all my kinderlach are under 8), I was muchlat to just be who they need me to be, begiluy and especially when they are not there. Hanistaros La’shem elokeinu, ve’haniglos lanu ul’vaneinu…

            I try to resist the temptation to not overload them – we’re all afraid we may leave something important out! – but to get in the important themes that they’ll need to get to the first level.

            To me that means:
            HKBH is the ein sof and the sibas hasibos.
            He is our tatti, who always hears us and takes care of us.
            Ivdu es Hashem Be’simcha.
            Ein Shum Ye’ush Ba’olam Klal.
            The Sha’arei T’shuva are ALWAYS open.
            Kol Yisroel Areivim Zeh Lazeh.
            Emunas Tzaddikim, and befrat our rebbe (and all tzaddikim).

            And from there, be”h we can move on, when they are ready, to the pratim.
            But never a list, my rebbe councils against lists in any way.
            Vayisa’oo. Just do it. With a chushadig emunah peshutah. And it will get done.

            This isn’t a plan, there’s nothing etched in stone.
            It’s far more thematic than pragmatic.

            And like the author, i too always seek help in this inyan, affirmation, criticism, etc.

  5. Its amazing to see comments here from one extreme to the other. The bottom line is we all share a desire to see our children grow and succeed – we only differ about the best way to get them there.
    Out of 100 ideas, I’m sure everyone can find a few that they agree with and like, so instead of arguing, see to it that the ideas you feel will work, get implemented.
    Reach out to your children’s teachers and principals and respectfully suggest some creative and important ideas to enhance their chinuch.
    (Or just send them this list and let them pick the ones they feel they can implement).

  6. You guys are all missing the point. The problem is not in the yeshivos.

    By the time a bochur hits yeshiva, he is already partially [de]formed by his previous years in the school system

    If you want a bochur to be knowledgeable in the 100-topic mini-list, then start at 1st grade, by teaching them the Hebrew language as a second language, so they can read in their free time and study.

    Or, if it’s a limudei chol school, then teach English reading and writing, so they can read.

    When a boy exits 8th grade unable to read or write in any language, and without any interest in Jewish literature, what makes you think that you will create a new guy at the age of 14?

  7. My article is not intended to be the definitive approach to teaching our kids successfully and it is not intended for any particular grade or school. These are simply brainstorming ideas to show that we can get creative and add perhaps 1 or 2 or 20 of these ideas in every single school where they can be helpful – but the real point is to get other people just like all of you to come up with 1,000 new ideas, take action and show our kids we care. Shooting down ideas stifles the creative process and leads no where. I challenge all of you to think creatively – which in its most successful form means that we don’t just shoot ideas down but rather ask – what would it take for that idea to be a good idea… that is true collaboration and how we work together – The secular world has figured this all out – We certainly can do the same.
    All 99 idea may be terrible and I am ok with that but I certainly am not going to sit on my hands, write a $15,000 check to a school and hope for the best.

    • Reb Yaakov, I certainly agree with your goal, but the methodology is what I oppose.

      Nitpicking among the hundred items validates the “list” approach that I cannot accept. Everything you wrote is a necessary prat in the program of chinuch for a chabad child.
      But our children are not technical complicated machines with thousand page manuals.

      Maybe a good eitzah into my objection to the methodology would be the Piazacna’s Chovas Hatalmidim. The introduction is for parents and mechanchim, but of course, the rest is nogayah. The mechaber, hy”d, doesn’t have lists. He discusses the goal, the main impediments, the general derech, etc. Any chassidishe yid can gain from it, and most misnagdim could if they are ehrlich with themselves (for example, the anonymous quote in the sefer about the number of litvish yeshiva bochrim vs chassidishe in the inter-war era is usually attributed to the Chofetz Chaim zy”a, that out of kavod the mechaber didn’t name.)

      Our children aren’t checklists, they are tahara neshamos that our generation is letting down. Parents are the main mashpi’im, it is on us. But it’s on us to NOT screw them up.

      I feel as if getting so involved in pratim, opens up more variables and more chances for failure and disappointment. Imagine if your son only “gets” 60 of your 100, as I’m sure most would. Or if he only chaps half of each one.

      But if we stick to the klal of emunah, the yesod of everything, they can get 100% of that – every yid has 100% of that already, they jsut need to be margish it! – and it will always guide them correctly.

      • Perhaps you didn’t read my article in its entirety. I’m not suggesting that my child complete this checklist of 99 chores. I’m just throwing out ideas of things we can offer our kids and see how they respond and find things that give them success, enjoyment and productivity in their learning years. Torah is the food of faith. How else to nurture their emunah if not for more learning whatever the learning may be.

        • See here: http://klalperspectives.org/rabbi-moshe-weinberger/

          (Someone wrote in a letter in the next issue which objected and essentially said the solution to the issue at hand was just to drag the kids into the beis medrash, at once proving what Rabbi Weinberger was saying and illustrating that life without chassidus offers almost no solutions to the younger generation. )

  8. Wow, I am sure the Rebbe Rashab would be so proud, that it is being suggested that in Toimchei Tmimim that that he instituted, books authored by non-frum yiddin (like Denis Prager), or Conservitive Rabbis (Telushkin), should be part of the curriculum.
    As they say in Yiddish – ס’איז ניטא אפילו וואס צו אפשלאגען
    The biggest proof that something is wrong with the way Lubavitch looks right now – is that an article like this can be authored.
    ומסיימים בטוב

  9. Eli G
    As I said, I’m sure some of my ideas may be bad ones. I can readily acknowledge when I’m wrong and maybe these books have no place. But Better than shooting down my idea and dismissing the entire thing replace these books with better suggestions. – I’m sure you would agree we can better engage our kids and get them reading and thinking.

  10. Yaacov,
    While I do not doubt your good intentions, but it seems to me that we don’t just disagree as to what specific books should be read, rather we don’t see eye to eye on what the purpose of a Chabad Yeshiva is.
    The Rebbe Rashab writes in Kuntres Eitz Hachayim perek 22:
    ועתה עלי להודיע לכם מטרת התייסרות אגודתנו. תדעו, אשר מטרת יסוד אגודתינו אינו רק להחזיק בחורים שיעסקו בתורה. במלות אחרות, יסוד אגודתנו אינו להגדיל ולהרחיב עסק התורה הנגלית, כ”א זאת היא תכלית יסוד אגודתינו אשר הבחורים העוסקים בתורה הנגלית יהיו יהודים (אידען) יראים ושלימים עם ה’ ותורתו . . ולתכלית זה נתעוררנו
    לייסד אגודה להחזיק בחורים העוסקים בתורה, לשמרם מהדברים המזיקים ולהשתדל בכל האפשרי בעזרתו ית’ לנטוע בהם איזה הרגש פנימי ביראת ה’ ואהבת ה’ וידעו במה הם עוסקים, מה הם לומדים,
    היינו חכמתו ית’, ובשביל מה הם לומדים

    In other words, the purpose of TT, is to produce Chasidishe Yerei Shomayim – bochurim who the “world” does not interest them at all, rather their purpose in life is to do what Hashem wants.
    While it is self understood that as a means to achieve that goal – there must be a good learning curriculum, that gives the students the tools to become Talmidei Chachomim – however this is not the goal, rather one of the elements required to reach that goal.
    THE problem of the yehivos today, is that they are failing to do so. Most bochurim who are indeed true chasidiesher bochurim with true yiras shomayim, are the way they are because of their homes/nature, and it has little to do with the Yeshiva they went to.
    Suggesting reading books that do not at all represent the Chasidisher Hashkofo, not only does not help the problem, it actually will only make it worse. Yes, it may “broaden the horizons” of our children, but that really was never the objective of Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim.
    I do agree that besides the problem that the Yeshivos are failing to instill true chasidishkait and yiras shomayim, they are also failing to teach their students how to learn. But I have never met a Talmid Chochom who became so because uses ipads and skyped to hear shiruim, or when instead of learning Bova Basra, heard shluchim-style shirum about cholov yisroel…
    The main issue in the Yishvah curriculum today, is that it is non-traditional. instead of learning a lot “kamus” (especially at a young age) – the way it was 50 years ago – the Yeshivos are constantly learning “slower” and teaching many meforshim etc. at a very young age.
    שאל אביך ויגדך and you will realise that over time this just got worse and worse, and today it is totally out of control
    ויש להאריך

    • I’m all for it. Now tell me how we translate that process in 2016 terms. I fully believe in these objectives. As I wrote, I don’t want to reinvent anything. But our tactics need support and improvement to compete with a world that our kids are consumed in.
      The challenge that chassidus faces is accessibility. We have 7 generations of Torah that is largely inaccessible to the average 13 year old. So it’s on us to open the door and usher our kids into this beautiful world. Not an easy task. So again- I don’t want to change the goal- I want to create dialogue and ideas around how to achieve them. Perhaps some of my suggestions are off- ok, let’s throw them out but to sit a kid down in front of kuntres aitz Chaim and expect it to mean anything to my kid here in Los Angeles California or Miami, or New York or Melbourne- well, that’s just wishful thinking.
      And by the way the very kuntres of the rebbe rashab that you quote so we’ll also suggests many other ways of teaching our kids- none of which are implemented in our yeshivos- for example- start teaching our kids Halacha and then work backwards the Gemara- this would be a tremendous way of showing our kids how all of these laws developed.
      Here’s my bottom line – I’m a firm believer in the eternal truth and goodness of Torah – and I believe that if we can enable our kids to have learning and tools to learn then the truth and goodness of TORAH can be a tremendous strategy to give our kids a fighting chance to have Yiras shamayim and a relationship with Gd almighty.

  11. Please! The problems are not in the Yeshivos, they are in the homes.
    Instead of a list of 99 ideas to change the Yeshivos, let’s compile a list of 99 things to change in the home.
    I’ll get you started:
    1. Throw out the TV.
    2. Tznius in the home and out.
    3. Kids should see their fathers going to minyan and having a kevius in learnin.

    • I’m not perfect but all of your suggestions are priorities in my home and I still believe we can and need to do more. “Nothing” is wrong with our yeshivas? They are all perfect with no room for improvement? I think even the yeshivas would agree they can do even a little better. I’m not passing the buck or shrugging my responsibility as a parent but let’s face it- we are investing in our kids time and future. It’s not just what happens at home.
      Of course it’s both.

      Start a 99idea article on how to improve our homes and I’ll gladly add to it!

    • CA Shliach,

      It’s obvious that parents can always do more to enhance their children’s chinuch. In the home, outside, and even within themselves. I don’t think anyone suggested otherwise.

      TTL was established to take young bachurim who came from homes that were not necessarily pristine Chassidisher homes, and many are the stories of famed Chassidim who developed their path within the Yeshivah — in line with, or against, their parents’ express wishes — even though their homes weren’t up to par.

      To say that TTL cannot work with children who’s homes don’t completely adhere to the standards of our community is to miss the point!

      You are sanctimoniously avoiding the conversation. I don’t know you, but it’s also possible you are blaming your own failings on your child’s-friend’s-mother’s dress — as a Shliach I would hope you know better!

  12. I beg to differ, alot has changed in the last 25 years.

    25 years ago, 1/2 (maybe more) of the Lubavitch mesivtas had a secular program attached to it in the afternoons. Today, a mesivta with a high school program is on the margins and carries a stigma.

    25 years ago, the goals of a yeshiva was to take a bochur as is and through a 4 year regiman, leave the bochur better off academically and with better, more refined midos. Today, mesivtas are more concerned with meeting budgets and not having a “bad year” that will destroy the mesivta’s reputation. The impact of this on the bochurim is hard to overestimate. The bochurim know from the get go that it is not about them, it is about what the mesivta looks like in the future. Another unintended consequence is that the bochurim body is much less diverse. Your kid is either with a bunch of “mitzuyonim” (read lemelach) or a bunch of at risk children, there’s no in between and therefore our children do not have the exposure that we enjoyed. To be frank, I would probably be out of the system by the age of 16 if I was facing today’s system.

    Lastly, 25 years ago the focus was on being a yirah shmoyim, a tomim, and an ehrlicher yid. Becoming a head counsler, a project leader, or some kind of hafatzoh guru, was not emphasized. To put it in secular terms, the focus shifted from integrity (humility?) to leadership. This diluted the real meaning of being a chosid and I’m not sure the Rebbe Rashab would recognize the mesivtas today that are carrying his vision.

    I like the list that was put together and if yeshivas took it seriously and choose even 5-10 of the ideas and implemented them, we will be better off in 5 years than we are now. Kudos to the author for his energy and may he see success in his efforts.

  13. From a current, actual, bochur in the oh-so-intimidating “system” 🙂
    Indeed, not all suggestions of the author are great – perhaps I would take off some of the books, and add some like “Links in the Chassidic Legacy”, “Branches in the Chassidic Menorah”, “My Encounter with the Rebbe” by Zalmon Jaffe etc.

    However where the author has a great point, is that Yeshivos could go for a more “goal based” orientation, where they look at the final goal they are trying to accomplish in a Bochur, and not be afraid to change the “means” – ie; for some bochurim it may be beneficial to learn half as much Gemoro, and learn some Maayan Chai in the other time (like someone who has no background in the Rebbe’s Torah,) or other stuff.

    I agree with the author, that mechanchim should read all these suggestions, and even if they don’t agree with any of them, feel the sort of attitude/approach that can be (even partially) implemented.

  14. Reb Yaacov,
    as a teacher in a mesivta, your article is very important to me, I agree with most of what you write and most of the comments (I dont think that there are arguments there – more different perspectives) and i would like to share a few points
    1) like in all groups, Bochurim can be divided in to three – צדיקים בינונים ורשעים, there are many bochurim that are doing well with the system as is; of course there is always room to improve but these bochurim benefit from the old style learning regular gemara chassidus etc. and they gain knowledge and skills and the like, there are those bochurim who are for whatever reason not really interested in learning and the like, usually because of something that happened to them in the past, family issues or something else that would need professional help. in these cases implementing your ideas can and would help but not by much, these boys need people who are trained to deal with their issues, unfortunately most yeshivas can not afford to hire someone like that on staff (in addition a successful psychologist (that I call for cases that i feel are to big for me) told me that even psychologists don’t always have the solutions to all the problems), for these bochurim we try our best and Daven for better. but then there is a (large) group in between that can benefit from your ideas.
    2) I think the most important of your article is not the 99 ideas but the first four goals that you write about in the beginning (I disagree with the fourth one but that is for a different discussion). most of your ideas ( i would say about 90 of them) address only the second goal – giving them information that covers a vast array of topics, some goals address the third and fourth goals by getting them to do certain projects. but i dont think that any of them (properly) address the first (and I think the most important) goal; to instill a love for Hshem tora and mitzvos etc. the way to reach this goal – and this is for parents as well as teachers – in my opinion is not through the information, rather through the bochurim/students liking the people (parents teachers etc.) that represent the above (tora and mitzvos) by providing a caring environment, the bochurim associate that care with yiddishkeit and want to be part of it, no amount or type of curriculum can substitute for that – either the boys like the teachers or not, if they find the information interesting it wont help. (we had a case where a bochur came to us from a Yeshiva with supposedly high standards of learning but the bochur strongly disliked the principal and the Bochur told me clearly that his goal had been to leave yiddishkeit R”l, but bh after being in our Yeshiva where he likes the staff he has changed his mind and is growing) .

    3) to add actual ideas of (extra) curriculum (not a thousand ideas yet but a bit closer)

    Midos Tovos:
    anger (and anger management)
    jealousy
    friendship
    respect (for elders and for peers)
    וותרנות (how do you say this in English?)
    selflessness
    all these should be taught in a workshop style where they can see how people behave with and without good midos.

    business Halacha: there are many (new) organizations that are promoting Halacha in the workplace there are a few books by Rabbi Ari marburger, this would also further your fourth goal:) Bochurim would relate it because in the amzaon/ebay age many children are already involved in buying and selling (not to mention scamming, returning) and it can create a tremendous kiddush Hshem when bochurim will actually live this way.

  15. a few more points
    1) most of the staff in yeshivos are people that the system did work for them, they indeed learnt and gained a lot, many of them also remember their classmates being invloved in other things not because the yeshiva was not interesting enough, rather because these bochurim were interested in other things, so the current staff in yeshivos naturally feels a)the old system worked for me so it can work now too, b) those that are not interested are not interested. period, of course the Hanholo can understand that there are exceptions but this is the “first impression” that they have. (still, many hanholos are trying to change things in the direction that you mention)
    2) when it comes to information, the facts are that just being taught – no matter how well – will not necessarily cause the information to be retained, and some times even reviewing will not suffice, there has to be a desire to learn.
    Case example: I teach tanya, I had a bochur that while he was in our yeshiva wasn’t really interested in learning (although he came to class and got decent grades) later he went to a different Yeshiva and bh he got involved in learning and started to grow, when I met him a while later he told me “why didn’t you teach me these perokim in tanya? that’s what got me involved!”. and then i have a bochur that was in the same class that keeps sending me messages (to this very day) how he remembers the Tanya classes and how much he liked them etc. so you see two boys can learn the same subject and the difference in how/if they remember is based on the amount of interest at the time of learning – not so much the style/curriculum/amounts/subjects etc.

    3) more on ideas:
    nigunim (those that are able, to have them learn on instruments) some kind of system where they go through a large amount of nigunim
    mamorim ba’al peh: a set schedule of each bochur reviewing a mamor once a month or so.

    the Kashrus industry:
    explaining different standards of various hechsherim .
    visiting plants (where applicable) .
    having people that actually work in kashrus to give hands on classes.

    • R’ Levin,
      I agree and love your ideas. I understand how most of my suggestions appear to address the “curriculum” and I am sensitive to the value of caring teachers etc – I guess I am trying to solve the factors that seem more “controllable” or changeable and trusting that the truth of torah will speak to each student in some subject if we can just expose them to enough variety and creative learning.
      You mention the 3 groups of students – totally makes sense – but this being the case – how many fit into the middle – my guess is the majority – which means that yeshivos as a klal are catering to the top 10% – well – we would be well served to address the middle 70-80% of students instead…. that’s what I would like to solve for.

  16. granted. there is a large percent (we can leave it to the surveys to determine exactly how many) of bochurim who can benefit from improvements, I would like to posit that even these bochurim are gaining from the system as is, especially in regards to the first (and most important) goal, (providing the Hanholo in his Yeshiva are caring etc.) take yourself as an example, i have never met you, but based on the way you wrote this article and your responses I feel that you have
    1) “A love for G-d, Yiddishkeit, Chassidus and the Rebbe” (I am sure you feel that it can be improved, more meaningful etc. – but don’t you think that Reb Hillel Paritcher would say the same about his own love for G-d, Yiddishkeit, Chassidus and the Rebbe?)
    2) “A sound base of Hebrew learning skills and knowledge so my kids can have learning as part of their lives until 120” that seems so from the the many ideas you put forth, but I might be wrong on this one.
    3) “Emotional confidence and comfort in problem solving.” emotions can’t be measured through an article but it seems that you are definitely comfortable in suggesting (and may I say – acting on?) solutions to problems.
    4) “Preferably, a sound base of reading, writing, and mathematical skills to enable them to explore non shlichus opportunities after their years in yeshiva” well, if you can write a 15.000$ check to Yeshiva, and it seems that this is not your concern, then i can assume that you are b”h successful in this realm too.
    so the question is, did your yeshivas have any part in this? can you honestly say “not at all”?
    I am not shirking responsibilities and I indeed read our article and I am always looking for ideas how to improve and all, but you have to remember most Hanholo members have no proper “training” in lesson planning, curriculum etc. our “training” is coming from the old system of learning basic materials and understanding them and then giving them over, and if we have extra time with the option of either talking to bochurim ans showing them TLC, showing interest in their lives (which furthers the first and foremost goal) or preparing an interesting class, what has precedence?
    still, many Yeshivas are indeed doing many “non-traditional” things (just one example of many; in chovevei Torah zal they have an option of instead of learning regular gemara they have a special booklet on Sugyos of Halacha from the Gemara down to Shulchan aruch, and yes, bochurim love it).
    in any event in regards to “solving the factors that seem more “controllable” or changeable” i dont think that creating a dialogue on a website will really get anywhere, what can be done is to try to actually prepare lesson plans for some of the above and try to share it with yehsivas (JLI tried to do things for yeshivas but a) most Yeshivas are can not afford it – they are not charging much, and there is obvious costs to them but even that – many Yeshivos are struggling with basic salaries etc b) they did it in a more “balebatish” way – that some felt was not so appropriate for Tomchei temimim.) I think many yeshiovos would embrace it and teach it. (this year for example a new organization was created to have many bochurim learn the entire maseches – or most of – Baba basra, and bh most – if not all -yeshivos are on board and the organization is thinking of more ideas)

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