Dear Menahel – by Rabbi Dovid Abenson

Regarding my article posted on TLS, I would like to add, that if you see the rebbe is incapable of adequately teaching these three steps, which are the foundation of all Torah learning – kriah, translation, and comprehension – you are obligated to get him professionally training to help him improve his skills.

If the rebbe is still not producing successful students capable of reading and translating the texts on their own and instead, depend on their parents supplementing their studies by hiring tutors, then the rebbe must be replaced. The come-back that the classes are too large and that not every child can be adequately reached rings hallow. As does the excuse that the rebbe must be kept on because he must not be deprived of his parnassa.  As to the latter, the yeshiva might consider re-assigning him to another position – perhaps teaching one-on-one. If that’s not possible, perhaps the school can work with the community to provide him with other employment to compensate.

This phenomenon, wherein rebbeim are being kept on for years while students’ lack of success is being blamed on the students or their parents, has got to stop.  Over the years, many parents have shared with me their frustration at not being able to criticize the rebbe’s teaching skills; they are afraid that the menahel will tell them to place their child elsewhere. In smaller communities, where there is only one community yeshiva, parents have a harder time with this. For them, there is no other alternative yeshiva to consider. I’ve seen many children go off the derech because the yeshiva they are attending does not meet their academic needs.

As a society, we have become too politically correct: Especially when it comes to our educational system, parents are being effectively silenced. As one veteran mechanech told me, parents learn quickly to “be smart, not right.” How unfortunate for us all; these parents’ observations, in fact, might benefit all our students, even the successful ones.

Just because a rebbe has been teaching for 30 years doesn’t mean he knows how to teach. I see this all the time. Whereas, my courses on upgrading skills generally take from between four to twelve hours, I’ve found that when working with maggidei shiur the amount of time I need increases considerably, since there is so much deprogramming to do.

If the foundation is weak, the student will not only suffer throughout his school years, he might never be able to learn gemara on his own.  Unfortunately, this issue has evolved into a global crisis in the Torah world today.  I know this from personal experience; I’ve worked with many such cases from all over the world.

The rebbe assumes tremendous responsibility for the well-being of his students: he can either make or break them.  As his menahel, you are entrusted to make sure that the students are assigned teachers capable of helping them succeed The culture   within the school must change: rebbeim must be held accountable for their students’ lack of success. This can include quick, on-pressured testing every time a new skill is introduced, as well as acknowledgment that rebbeim’s teaching skills should be upgraded on a regular basis .Even the most successful rebbeim can benefit from this.

Fixing this problem will result, with Hashem’s help, in many more satisfied students pursuing Limud Torah with joy and happiness, which is certainly mechanchims’ ultimate goal.

For more information call: 1 For more information call: 1.877.hatalmud/1.877.428.2568  or email [email protected]

Endorsed by HaRav HaGaon Rabbi Mattisyahu Salomon shlita mashgiach of Lakewood.

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  1. As a parent & a tutor in the Lakewood chadorim I’m sorry to confirm the above article.

    It is considered to be demeaning for a rebbi to receive hands on training & menahalim rarely get involved in direct teaching advice. It takes tremendous skill to effectively teach 27 children & not everyone is cut out for it. We are creating a sinas haTorah in our children by not properly training rebbeim & by not replacing those incapable with the best talent we can.

  2. What can be said what can be done it’s so sad with a little amounr of humility (guts) both the hanhakh and the ones who pay them can change our world. Keep it up rabbi abenson one day somewhere will hear and do

  3. What can be worse than a Rebbe being kept in his position when he is incompetent for the job? When the STUDENTS are targeted for behavioral and/or academic problems! Insult added to injury and terrible repercussions. Example: New fifth grade Rebbe with no classroom control. I was called and told that my son is out of line and not behaving. I took my son to task and he insisted that the class is “on wheels” . I was a naive parent and came down hard on his behavior and did not “buy” his excuse. I found out at the end of the year that the classroom decorum was nonexistant and my son was one of the better behaved (admitted by the principal, who said that he called all the parents.) This was many years ago and I have great regrets for my response. The cost? My son did not feel heard and felt very invalidated and blamed when the problem was the Rebbe. Another example: Mesivta Menahel coming down hard on a different son for his lack of interest during one of the sedorim (but not the other sedorim). My son insisted that the Rebbe is off track and that the other boys are not behaving. I found out afterwards that the Rebbe for that shiur was being replaced after that zman. Both stories left me (and my sons) feeling betrayed.
    The lesson: I should not take the school seriously when they call about my child? Do I need to call other parents to check on what’s truly transpiring in the classes? Perhaps. Very sad and damaging all around.

  4. Rabbi Abenson should be giving course to hundreds of rebbeim and tutors. Just a few hours can give a major upgrade in teaching skills – not only how and what to teach but how to relate to the individual/

  5. Which scenario is better- a Rebbe having excellent technical skills meeting all requirements in this article but one who is emotionally unhealthy and hurts the emotional well being of 5 to all of the class students OR a very healthy emotional wise Rebbe but one who doesn’t meet said teaching skill requirements?

    • A completely false dichotomy, because you can ask a simple question, Can you have an emotionally healthy Rebbe who is also a good and skilled teacher? The answer is Yes.

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