I-Pad, I- Education…I-Crisis?

By Dovid Abenson for TLS. What has come to be known, in our circles, as the ‘Shidduch Crisis’, is a troubling reality that our children face as they approach marriageable age. It is not uncommon to hear the matter discussed, openly, between parents, rabbaim, and our youth themselves.

There is another, more insidious crisis, however, that these same neighbors and rabbaim are afraid to publicly discuss. It causes equal, if not more, mental and social anguish for too many of our children. It compromises their devotion to Yiddishkeit and handicaps their learning. I firmly believe there is an Education Crisis (EC) in the Yeshivish world. Our educational system is failing our children. Miserably. And we are too scared to speak honestly about it.

I have worked as an educational consultant for over 20 years, helping talmidim upgrade their skills in Hebrew reading, Gemorah study, and understanding of the extrapolations of the Rishonim and Acharonim. Simultaneously, I consult with Roshei Yeshivas and principles wishing to improve their own ability to detect and help students with underdeveloped learning skills and lack of simchas hachayim in their studies. Too frequently, parents present me with a distressing portrayal of their children’s cheder
and school experiences: sons and daughters departing daily for school with trepidation and returning more depressed and insecure than the previous day. The lack of joy they see in their children’s educational experience is heart breaking. When I began my career, I had a suspicion that our educational system was deficient. The students I worked with seemed to be encountering troubles with the curriculum that pushed them too much and unnecessarily compounded any underlying learning disabilities or behavioral ‘problems’ that they may or may not have had.

As my career has progressed, and my exposure to our educational system has expanded, I now know that not only the obviously struggling students are suffering: even our ‘successful’ students are lacking, critically, in Jewish knowledge, and self-development. The purpose of this article is to break the silence that pervades this topic. Through my discussion of the deficiencies I see in our education, I hope to concurrently provide some solutions. Finally, I must emphasize that the problems I detect are not limited to a particular yeshivah, city, country or rebbe.

After working with many students, I have had the unfortunate opportunity to observe our schools’ lack of encouragement to question. Questioning the world, even the Torah world, is a fundamental aspect of a
student’s self-development. Unfortunately, many of my students who have posed questions to their rebbaim have been met with discouraging, vague responses :

This rebuff of a child’s question is unacceptable. When a student questions Hashem’s existence, ponders the necessity of keeping mitzvos or wants to know what an unknown Gemorah term means, a teacher’s response must be supportive, precise, informative and kind.

Especially today. With I-phones, I-Pads, and I-pods ubiquitous among the students, the modern rebbe faces an unprecedented I-focused student culture whose members will use any means necessary to obtain desired information. And this is where the true danger of a brushed off question lies. When one child asks a question and is silenced, an entire class of talmidim learns the dangers of inquiry. From that moment on, both the student and his classmates are left to their own devices. None of them can safely seek the
guidance of a rebbe without fearing that their curiosity or questioning will be met with shame and disapproval. Students seeking answers may turn to the Internet. They may come up with solutions on their own, as uninformed as they may be. Or, they may just stop exploring, stop questioning, stop being
interested in really learning, because that is what they are they are told to do: ignore something that doesn’t make sense. Move on. Pretend you didn’t notice. Just memorize it. Committing facts to memory and regurgitating teacher-fed information does not impart simcha in learning.

I believe that the sophisticated art of Torah study is being lost because of a misguided assumption that hour upon hour of Gemorah lacking in total clarity and precision will somehow transform our young bochurim into great Torah scholars. But the opposite is true. By overtaxing the patience and concentration of students, educators invite behavioral problems and unenthusiastic talmidim. We must teach our children basic skills and emphasize simplicity and joy in learning in order to imbue them with a solid foundation in Torah before overwhelming them with complicated discussions. Finally, Torah-including NACH – must be presented as a topic that is modern and alive, an entity to be questioned and explored, if it is to successfully ignite students’ life long interest and passion. Our approach to religious studies must change. Otherwise, we are creating generations of students who don’t know their own Judaism.

When a term is vaguely defined, when the differentiation between halachah and Hashkafah is left murky, students are left with unnecessary feelings of guilt for not reaching certain madrigals. A Bas Israel struggling with the slippery term of Tnius, for example, needs to know what constitutes ervah, and what constitutes chumrah. She must understand why she is meant to dress and act with modesty.

I fear that the lack of differentiation between Hashkafah and Halachah forces our creative, individualistic children into molds that may not fit them. And, when being ‘frum’ doesn’t fit well anymore, more than the black hat comes off. Religious practice becomes unmanageable–an all or nothing burden. For too many of the students I work with, the final decision they make is that the Judaism they have been exposed to is not for them. But they don’t know anything else.

One interpretation of Judaism has been presented as the only halachic way to live. So, in some cases, the children go ‘off the derech’. Or, they remain within the community but harbor private dissatisfaction with their religious education, faith, and practice of mitzvos.

It is imperative that our schools and yeshivas implement higher standards of quality control over their students’ learning. One of our great Gedolim recently commented that most bochurim who reach Yeshiva Gedolah cannot learn the plain, simple explanation of a Gemora, and hopefully they will be able to do so by the time they reach Kollel. I frequently work with students who are provided with mistranslations that render a Gemorah meaningless.

The two great deficiencies in Jewish education that I outlined above (fear of questioning and lack of real clarity) mean that students fail to recognize when information they encounter is nonsensical. I am distressed to report that I even see rebbaim exhibiting these behaviors, evidence of their own lacking education.

A particularly disturbing example of substandard Gemorah learning comes to mind. Yaakov (name changed) was an earnest talmid, learning in a mechina that had studied a particular masechta for two months. The perek begins with the discussion of a case in which “shnayim ochsim b’tallis”, literally translated as “two people holding a cloak”. When I reviewed the perek with Yaakov, I was troubled to see that he mistranslated the line to mean “two people arguing over a piece of cloth”. When I inquired if this translation made sense, Yaakov’s response echoed the words I had hoped I would not hear: “Yes, that is how my rebbe taught it”. Now, the first point the Gemorah takes issue with is the fact that both contestants are actually holding the tallis. If you translate “ochsim” as “arguing”, not only have you mistranslated the
word, but you have also made the first discussion of the Gemorah meaningless His rebbe apparently failed to realize the problem and managed to distort the Gemora, Rashi, Tosefus, etc. sufficiently to make Yaakov and his classmates think that they understood it. When I approached the rebbe and suggested that ‘ochsim’ should be translated as ‘holding’, he considered the matter for a few moments and conceded, “Okay. Perhaps you can”. This disturbing corruption of education exposes a further problematic reality: A disturbingly high percentage of the people teaching our children are unsuitable and unprepared for the job.Our standards must be higher and we must be willing to fire substandard rebbes. An individual who does not love his talmidim and cannot learn Gemorah himself is in no position to prepare bochurim for further advanced study, or torelate to their very important questions.

I need only work with students with a short time before I encounter their own frustrations and dissatisfactions with their education. In one case, I asked an 18-year old bochur 10 questions on a Mishna he had already learned several times. When he found 10 questions, I asked him find 10 more. Eventually, the student found 72 questions. When the bochur left, he informed me that this lesson had left him feeling both pleased and angry. He was thrilled to have experienced such a challenging learning session. He felt that it was the first time he had felt his intellect ‘stretched’. He felt angry, however, that none of his Rebbeim had exposed him to the questions before. Students should never feel betrayed by their rebbe. In
another incident, I spoke with a student who had been reprimanded for asking a particular question. I took the opportunity to provide him with an answer to the question he had posed. When I was finished, the innocence and beauty of this student’s response rang clear—”Why couldn’t my Rebbe tell me that”? Yaakov’s shock was easily to see. So was his hurt and disappointment. He knew there was no reason for his Rebbe to have reprimanded him so sharply. And, he knew the shame he had felt was unfounded.

As educators, we must all acknowledge that our responsibilities extend far beyond providing our students with information. We must realize that we are an important part of the Massorah. Our role is to impart a love of Torah and mitzvos to the upcoming generation.We must embrace students with unconditional care and respect. Before reprimanding a student for repeatedly arriving late to class, we must take the time to ask ourselves what is precipitating the behavior? When a student ‘acts out’, to the point that our administrators deem him or her no longer welcome in the school, we must revisit our teachings. We have no right to abandon our youth. Suspensions and expulsions are not the Jewish way. Nor are they pragmatic. We are living in a world where our students are very free to fill an empty school day with Internet or explore the many enticing features of our society. We must keep our students close. And answer every question.

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  1. Wow a sharp article, with not enough info what the exact problem is, and how to solve it
    I would like to mention some points.
    You say you can’t supress a talmids question about Hashem – recently I became aware that “my own” children growing up in a “frum” house, don’t know many of the basics!? Hashem opened my eyes, and now I’m working on it, trying to impart our basic reason for existence in this world, and about being an Eved Hashem etc.
    But I wonder where are the rabbaim? O.k. the rebbe has no time, so then it’s the principals fault, how come he is not bringing in a person to impart basic yedios about yiddishkeit?
    Rabbi Solomon Shlit”a holds, that every cheder should have a mashgiach, just as in older boys yeshivas.
    If the rebbe would learn half an hour a day mesilas yeshorim with the boys [and girls] etc, and give proper hashkofa, we would be a different klal yisroel.
    Also we need to “train” the rabbim in this field, rabbim are not trained in this field at all, they don’t know what and how to teach Hashkofoa.
    The rebbe needs the right tools, same as a plumber can’t fix if he doesn’t have tools.
    As far as simcha, this is really a communal problem! We all want to send our children to “top yeshivas”, we put too much pressure, and our dear children are suffering very much.
    but it won’t stop since we all want the “top”!?
    When we start being honest with ourselves, and only teach according to the real level of the children, then we will be matzlich. Right now we are pushing to hard, and it not working. But the schools are helpless, because the minute they slow down they get a bad name and they lose students, so they keep up the game, and everyone is “seemingly” happy because they are in a great yeshiva – but the realty comes out eventually!

  2. Wow, this is a powerhouse article.As an educator this is a subject that we have been discussing for a very long time.this “satisfaction in learning ” is the main source of our losing many of our youth. I have broached this topic many times, and there are reasons why there is no willingness to change. The main reasons for no change are as follows: a. We’ve always been doing it this way, b: the amount of resources that we would need to accommodate these students and we just don’t have the funds c: that rebbe / teacher has been here forever ( he’s a relative) we can’t get rid of him/her. C: let those kids find a school/ yeshiva for “those kind of kids”.There truly is a crisis going on in our schools that none will ever admit because they are worried about pr, but if the schools truly loved their students , they would do something about. (Also the rabid claim that they get paid too little (and late) to put that kind of effort in .

  3. you have no idea how right you are. Unfortunately there are too many kids who go “off” for no reason other than they have too many unanswered questions and they are belittled for asking them.

  4. Wow great article, sounds just like the same problems the Public School system has been facing. If you can find the answers please share them with the BOE.

  5. I am a non religious jew who grew up in boro park and went to a prestigious yeshivah in flatbush.

    On the first day of first grade, the rebbi began teaching us berayshis, in yiddish, even though this was not a chasidish school by any means.

    rebbe: Bereyshis – in – unfong
    me: rebbe what does in unfong-mean
    rebbe: quiet! we do not explain they helegeh torah into english.

    It was not until 3rd grade that I finally got a tutor who translated the holy torah for me.

    Any question I ever had for my rabeyim was met with ridicule, a frask across the face, a ruler slam to my knuckles.

    me: rebbe, why is it considered modern to wear a leather kippah, what kind of kippah did moshe rabeynu wear?

    FRASk! go to the principals office.

    This was repeated through 12 years of “yeshivah.” My parents tried to instill normal jewish values into me, but when you are in school for 10 hours, sleep 10 hours, there is little time left for that.

    It did not help when we moved to lakewood to be close to family and to try to find our way.. my wife would wear her very modest snude on shabbos, while all the women in their $3,000 custom wigs and $1000 bug-a-poo strollers would make snide remarks about how she should go find a more modern community to live in.

  6. Wow !! This is the most well thought out and well written article I have ever read on this website. I believe that part of the underlying problem is, people are not intellectually honest with even themselves. People (especially in our community) tend to live in a “make-believe” world. We pretend that everything around us is just picture perfect. Perhaps we do that because its just easier to or perhaps because we just don’t know better. Regardless, unless we begin approaching our problems and addressing them we are bound for a downhill spiral. Kudos to you R’ Dovid ! A wonderfully written article encompassing such a broad topic with so little space to define it. Kol hakavod !!!

  7. To “My experience”. I’m sorry about your experiences(assuming your post is legit). It is my hope that one day you will focus on the vast majority of religious jews who aren’t like the ones you wrote about and return to a meaningful,fulfilling,religious life. We’ll all be here waiting for you! All the best.

  8. The educators will just sigh at best:
    To the Boe and anyone else who’s looking to find a solution to this crisis.
    If you take each child and truly love and wracked your brain to figure out what does he need to be successful, only then will you find a solution. Every child is different and his needs are different.

  9. Why does everything have to be dubbed a “crisis”? There is no shidduch “crisis” either. There are no more single girls than guys because statistically there are no more girls born than guys. I agree the system has problems but don’t make it a “crisis”. Not every problem is the end of the world. (And please don’t respond “if you are the parent of a girl you’d understand” because the fact that there are hardships doesn’t mean its a crisis. Nobody is saying its not hard OR that there is no problem)

  10. to #5 To paint a pitcture of lakewood that of $1000 bugaboos is not being intellectualy honest (hypocriticly so).The real lakewood is bnei torah who dont dream about these things. Ufortunaly the people who dont belong here tend to stick out because they seek attention.Drive aroundthe yeshiva area and you will see poeple who can inspire you and have very little gashmius.Our job is to make it uncomfortable for them and hopefully they will move out and and keep lakewood pure the way it was meant to be

  11. All valid and timely points.
    One important issue that impedes even the Rebbe/Morah who has the knowledge and expertise to communicate the answers and understanding that are sorely laking in todays generation is the class size.
    No matter how good the educator, when his or her attention is divided into 25-30 parts, the results are disastrous, both to the educator and the student.
    It is physically impossible to give today’s restless and short attention span children the warmth and time in a bloated class.
    Unfortunately, financial concerns are prioritized and the chinuch is compromised.

  12. Whats this business about separating halacha and chumrah in hilchos tzenius? Are you implying that being stringent in hilchos tzenius is a problem for our girls and a reason for them to abandon yidishkeit?
    This is so wrong in many ways and neged hashkofas hatorah and masores hachiniuch, it is the way of the modern orthodox world who encourage questioning emuna and masorah instead of just accepting yiddishkeit with pride and love. (They have a huge crises with their youngsters….)
    This is not our way and not our masoira. We have wonderful Rabbonim, Mashgichim Roshei yeshivos and a masorah of how to teach Torah, How to teach Hashkofa (-Musser sefforim) etc.
    Ipads will not change the mahalach in chinuch the true and tried way that worked before the invention of the car and will work ad beias goiel.

  13. There is a very informative and competent organization today called The Ani Maamin Foundation that deals EXACTLY with these issues. I have gains tremendously from listening to the shiurim of Rabbi Sapirman and so have 1000’s of others around the world. The organization is based in Monsey and they have symposiums for mechanchim around the world. I can’t remember the # off hand – but its definitely worth looking up.
    Gut Shabbos!

  14. Hey real lakewooder:

    “Our job is to make it uncomfortable for them and hopefully they will move out and and keep lakewood pure the way it was meant to be”

    What do you mean by “pure”? all the non jews must move out of Lakewood to provide you a place, sounds like a similar plan back in 1938 but he wasn’t a Jew so that made it a bad thing and you wanting it and being a Jew makes it OK???? He was wrong then and so are you now!

  15. The I-pods and I-pads have nothing to do with this being an “I” generation. However, the point is still valid.

    Most Rebeim today are overworked,underpaid, have too many students in their classrooms and still do a yeoman’s job of being Mechanech our children for us.

    I would posit that the equation of 2 parents working(or learning)+large families+the incessant technology in our lives=children that
    A) have no focus,
    B)often feel left out
    C) parents that are frustrated and unable to deal with the situation.

  16. Oh please, when I was young my mother had to do laundry at the lake, cook on a fire and my father was a traveling tchatkeh salesman and went to the fare twice a year for a month. There was no money, we had ten children in two rooms, it was cold the rebeim spoke yiddish and gave petch. WE MANGED FINE. And never had “questions”

  17. to c-unit & everyone
    i totally agree with what you said & would like to tell you about the human psycological mind & its way of working in todays society.

    in todays society when tragedy strikes r”l a persons psycological mind tells him to avoid thinking about it-the reason it happened, the message from hashem etc….-& just continue on with life. BUT this is not exactly to avoid it, its done cause the person is not able to face reality. when this occurs-& it occurs many times, daily & year round-the person is bringing himself down by not facing the issue & fixing it before it becomes a BIG PROBLEM & then its too late & deep into the problem to fix. His psycological mind tells him not to bother with it & pass the issue over by ignoring it altogether.

    with this occuring so often WE have a major problem of FACING REALITY & DOING SOMETHING ASAP

    Great article Hatzlacha

  18. Boruch Hash-m someone finalyy had the guts and words to express what many of us have been worried about for a while. Halevei some action will follow.

    To those that are skeptical about the problem: you are in the dark.

  19. To Alte Kocker; I mean Lakewooder: you don’t believe in ואהבת לרעך כמוך? Or was that only said by Gd for those who sit in Kollel the whole day?

  20. mazel tov. well done (moderator please stop moderating my posts out).
    I once had a discussion with a parent on not hitting children in the classroom. He said he was in favor of hitting because “we have a mesorah and don’t need these college educated “professionals” to tell us what our mesorah is or should be. With cavemen like this, it will be difficult to excuse the term reform our chinuch system.

  21. You are an adult and can choose how you live your life. Blaming your non religious lifestyle that you obviously chose to take after you were married, on remarks made to you is immature to say the least.

  22. Working in kiruv and chinuch for over 20 years I have found endless examples of students being pushed through the system instead of giving him or her what they needed. If our educational system will stop worrying about what the competing schools are sending home for homework each night or the concern what people will say about how their students haggadah fared against his cousins haggadah at Bubbies Pesach table and start saying its quality of what the students learn we will begin to tackle some of these issues. Its the self respect and the confidence of our students that is going to push them to strive for greater heights in learning and living. Its not the quantity of material covered but the quality of thinking, skill development and love for yiddishkite that will prepare our children to lead the next generation of yidden!

  23. beautiful article. hits every point that has been hitting children for the past long time. i just hope the people who can make the change actually see this!!

    #5 i’m sorry for ur bad experiences. i hope you can find clarity somewhere and i hope it’s in yiddishkeit cause there is lots of beauty here.

    real lakewooder- so, are u a yid, or are u a lakewooder? cause a yid doesn’t say that. a yid doesn’t say “we hafta make them feel uncomfortable so they’ll go away.” unless u’r talking about bugs. maybe rethink your position. show people the beauty instead of shunning them.

    it aint broke- it is. it is broke. when i girl thinks that a thru z is all halacha she may feel choked and just do away with the whole thing. whereas if she is taught what is what, together with the beauty of it all, and it is not shoved down her throat, she may choose herself to go the right path! that goes for a lot of things. not only girls and tznius. also, noone is encouraging people to ask. only that when people do ask, don’t ridicule them. one more thing- when u were young, did u live in a hanoch teller book?

    these are very important things that are written in this article. love is what we need.

    one more thing -it aint broke- if u want to see “ad bias goel” u may want to consider this- the bais hamikdash was destroyed from unreasonable, baseless hate. the opposite would be unreasonable, baseless love. try it. it’s nice.

  24. I really enjoyed reading the article. I have a good example:
    we had a whole discussion in class and the teacher to sum it said “girls to sum up our discussion today, nothing in the Torah is grey, everything is shades of black and white.” very nice onto the next class.
    That class we also had a discussion and the teacher said ” to sum up the class nothing in the Torah is Black or White everything is shades of Grey!”
    this happened in an 11th Grade classroom in a High School in Lkwd.
    What are the girls supposed to take out of this class?

  25. this is all wonderful and to me the points seem valid. Obviously the Torah can remain constant and unchanged and at the same time adapt to changing times and needs of klal yisroel and still adhere to our mesorah..so when are the leaders of lakewood…or the moetzes or the agudah or torah umesorah going to stand up and provide new guidelines to mechanchim everywhere about explaining difficult sugyas and teaching teh emes about tznius without shoving it down the throats?!?!?!?!? Nothing will change until then bc all current mechanchim are hard wired to the way it was always done! I am sure we could put all of the “off the dereech yeshivas” out of business by changing our ways and the way we educate our youth.

    We all must PROTEST until community leaders get on the bandwagon ESPECIALLY in lakewood bc so many other communities will follow.

  26. I have worked with Rav Abenson and seen the “before” and “after”. I was shocked at how correct he is. Not just that reading is a problem but in that the chinuch we provide too often defines the kids before they develop and squelch the chances they have to become real people. Shlomo said to train kids according to their way, not ours. As for the tznius issue, halacha vs. chumrah; use this or use it as an example, by blurring the lines between the two we often impose upon kids in areas that undermine their needs to express themselves. Chazal is full of examples of the need to be very careful in delineating between halacha and chumrah, and not to undertake chumrah unless one is on the proper level. Not to undertake chumrah to create the madreyga.
    anyway, the issue is on the table, parents need to be watchful if their kids are not in love with chinuch something is wrong and it is not always wrong in the kid.

  27. Rabbi, you hit the nail right on the head. So many yeshiva bochurim in world nowadays are not enjoying their learning, why…. How are we suppose to pass on a mesorah that we do not enjoy and do not fully understasnd, what sort of chance are we giving to the next generation?….. NONE!
    Keep up the work, kol hakovod.

  28. I am a talmid of Rabbi Abenson, what can i say…. im slowly begining to enjoy my learning. What ever the older generation say, you aren’t a bochur in todays wolrd, there are many problems that needs sorting and Rabbi Abenson is trying to deal with it. Thanks
    vist shaarhatalmud.com – DON’T DELAY

  29. This article applies to us in England. I personally have been through a tough time in learning which I feel I missed out on, in my growing up. I think all Rabonim should speak out about these points and do something about it. At the moment I am learning with rabbi Abenson online which has helped me catch up on my learning which that I have missed out on. Baruch hashem helped it has helped me tremendously. The truth is, I was going to leave learning because I was not enjoying a second of it, but with god’s help I started learning with rabbi Abenson which showed me that there is enjoyment in learning and I learn because I want to, not because I am forced to. Which I find that they do in too many yeshivas. I was in a mainstream yeshiva and I spoke to bocherim who were finding it hard and were struggling to learn and therefore were just messing around. After long talks with my friends it all boiled down, that we find it hard to learn all the Jewish stuff, they would say, it’s boring and unfulfilling. It killed me because I asked all around who can help us and all I got was “the enjoyment form learning will come” but it NEVER did and finally rabbi Abenson was heard about and i asked can you help me, and for the first time it was “YES i will show you” and that was my turning point in learning and it all went upwards from there. There are no ways to thank rabbi Abenson for his time and patience to help a bochur in need. Any bocher who wants to continue learning but finds it too difficult I highly recommend for you to contact rabbi abenson it is a life saver it’s a chance not to be missed.

  30. I am in yeshiva in England, I had difficulty in learning and one of the big Roshei Yeshivos in England recommended that I go to Rabbi Abenson and I was reluctant at first thinking, “how could he help me, I’m not bad, I’m not stupid, I don’t need him,” then after the first few meetings I realised just what his program is designed for.

    It isn’t a remedial program but an upgrading program which pinpoints all my undeveloped skills and rectifies them very quickly, I was amazed at how simple he made it and that not everything needs to be so complicated and i came to realise just how many bochurim give the illusion of understanding what they are learning when in fact they don’t really understan at all.

    It is a revolution and it is a crying shame that i had to wait 20 years before I saw him and realised what learning b’emes really means. The simcha and enjoyment is unreal, I never thought i could obtain such levels in my learning. I realised after this program that my teachers in school were unclear in their learning and what I thought was a lack in my ability and knowledge was in fact the inability of the teachers to teach it properly due to a lack of training in this field, and then there was the language barrier which was created when they spoke yiddish and other languages which confused us and left us in the dark.

    Now I understand why there is a problem in this generation with boys and girls going off the derech, because in school they weren’t taught properly with clarity and happiness in yiddishkeit and the teachers made the Torah like a secular subject in the way that you just parrot off information without any thought what so ever just so long as you get 100% in your next test, that is all that the school cares about, they don’t care about the boys’ textual skills at all.

    I pray and hope for the sake of all future generations and for the continued survival of yiddishkeit itself, that Rabbi Abenson’s revolutionary program (not really revolutionary but just returning to our true mesora) be institituted in all schools and yeshivas worldwide.

    Thank you again Rabbi Abenson,
    An Appreciative Bochur.

  31. I would like to make a comment on #40 i just read:

    I thought I had a major problem in understanding my teachers in Bais Yaacov here in Canada, where I study. I had alot of remediation and it costed my parents alot of money untill, I came to Rabbi Abenson, which was mamish hashcacha protis. With only in a few sessions he showed me how to learn and now i see alot of my teachers are unclear teacing the hebrew subjects. From the commen i just read its all over the world like this in England, too.

    i would like to thank Rabbi Abenson, for helping me in my heberew subjects and I only hope that our school would impliment Rabbi Abenson’s great program. Im sure it would help the girls tremendously and also show the teachers how to teach properly.
    May hashem bless you with all the sucess and health to carry on this great project-saving our generation.

    Thank you very much!

  32. Rabbi Abenson addresses a crucial problem in our schools, and many of the comments address additional problems. Yeshiva, Bais Yaakov, and Jewish Day schools should take his words to heart. If our children do not find learning Torah meaningful they will find other things to fill their need for meaning. We see too many beautiful neshomos going away from a Torah way of life because there is something too painful for them in the frum world. Shame on us! It’s about time we address the situation and take our kids seriously.

    Regarding Rabbi Abenson’s teaching, we had much success. Rabbi Abenson used Skype to work with my 7th/8th grade daughter who read painfully slowly, and had much difficulty with translations. By the end of the time working with him, her teacher said, “She’s a different student!” She’s now in Bais Yaakov, with a very challenging teacher, and, although it’s the beginning of the year, I believe she’ll do fine. She hasn’t requested to go back to her tutor yet, and that’s a good sign. Thanks to Rabbi Abenson for your good work with our daughter. And I hope that everyone heeds his words in our yeshivos.

  33. This very valueable article on the great achievements of Reb Dovid Abenson is all very true. I personally have heard in montreal where i live and other cities as I travel to different countries on buisness that this program have saved boys. At the same time Rebbeim I have heard gained wealth of knowledge through Reb Dovids program.
    What a beautiful article to see published and may many people continue to take Reb Dovid up on his great talent and wisedom.
    Morty Stern
    Montreal Canada

  34. very nicely written and every Jewish parent in the world should be required to read Rabbi Abenson’s article more than once! Furthermore, this article should be included in the curriculum for the graduating class in every Jewish high school, boys and girls!
    If we wait until our youth become parents to clue them in we’ve already missed the boat………

    regarding comment #33, Torah shouldn’t be black, white or grey! IT SHOULD BE VIVID HIGH DEFINITION TECHNICOLOUR!!!!

    yashar koiach to Rabbi Abenson and I pray that people wake up, heed his words and more importantly take action by getting involved b’achdus in our children’s chinuch by respectfully challenging the ‘old school’ black, white and grey ways….

    let’s get out of the box and insist on true chinuch by qualified mechanchim and mashpiim……our yeshivos are not unemployment agencies or family-run businesses…..

  35. eptember 23, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Fantastic article- couldn’t be more true and acts as an alarm to myselft to really bring Torah down to earth for my own children. I already have a grown child totally disenchanted with Yiddishkeit and I’m so proud of my other grown children that the put on teffilin everyday even if it is just before shkiya sometimes. They are all very bright and after going through the Yeshiva system never had a Rebbe who made them excited about learning .
    Unfortunately , in my experience, the problem starts way before Gamara. It seems to me , for my kids, the teacher least fit for the job was given the job. Is it any small mission to instill in 6 yr. old first graders an enthusiasm for davening? But when the pay is so low , the really qualified teachers go into computors or the higher level yeshivas or any other field that pays the bills. Its been very frustrating and homeschooling is not an option for us because of the isolation, for us and I just hope as I drag my little boy into an unstimulating classroom to spend 5 1/2 hrs with a boring rebbe that I can create enough of a spiritually inspiring environment in my home that they will want to be fully commited Jews who find simcha and meaning in there everyday mitzvos when he is grown.

  36. Bravo!
    Our children really suffer from the way Yeshivos are run today. It makes no sense to study Tosavos before a student is fluent in reading, Chumash and Rashi. Navi and basic dikduk are essential, and have been left out of the Charedi Curriculum. If the approach to learning would be “simple” and “clear” learning could actually be fun.
    The grueling hours Bar Mitzvah boys are asked to study is astounding. How many adults could be in school from 7:30am, finish after 6pm, and return for two more hours of night seder? As Rabbi Abenson so aptly points out, more is not necessarily better. It breeds rebellion and discontent. Our system needs change.

  37. It is unfortunately too true.
    In Israel it is even more severe. Kids are mamash out of cheder for the weakest excuses. Broken children, broken broken beautiful neshamas. And why? Because we can’t or don’t want to answer questions or explain or interact. The education system is very unidirectional. The antipathy of the Best Torah education.

    We need to give over Torah with LOVE and SIMCHA. Nothing less.

  38. Someone just told me of a boy who has done Kita Aleph twice and still cannot read. His Rebbi told the father that there is no hope for him and he has to give up on him – the boy is 5 years old

  39. ONE MONTH NOW SINCE Rabbi Abenson’s article appeared…………………and………and………..and……….and……….and……………ok, some great comments from people…………and…………and…………..a bit of talk about the subject……………….and………………and………….WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT THE ISSUE……………….now we have no excuse…………..in case we weren’t aware enough, now we are……………..so WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT THE ISSUE……………..we look to the Lakewood Scoop now to spearhead something dramatically to alter the situattion in partnership with Rabbi Abenson. Ok guys, the subject is now officially REOPENED FOR DISCUSSION: “WHAT CAN LAKEWOOD SCOOP IN PARTENERSHIP WITH RABBI ABENSON NOW DO TO IMPLEMENT DRAMATIC CHANGES IN “THE SYSTEM”????????? Please leave YOUR COMMENTS BELOW………………………..NOW!!!!

  40. about 49.
    this rebbi with his inability to teach will destroy a pure neshama.
    al taamod al dam reecha. A rebbi who teach solely for parnassah, cannot teach properly. the reebeim take the responsability of transmitting the love of yddishkait from generation to generation.
    It is a question of pikuah nefesh.

  41. If a student is refrained frok asking questions,the next question he might have is, how true is the material that I am being taught. An open mind is a thinking mind.

  42. Reb Dovid originally came to Montreal to work with a child who was in dire need of support. This boy is today a nachas to see sitting and learning in BM with such geshmak.

  43. Regarding No 51, I think it is a very valid point: why does everyone vent, yet no one seems to be asking Rabbi Abenson to take this ahead to the future. Obviously we need him and others like him to get the show on the ground. Venting about loosing kids through the crooked system won’t t prevent more kids going off. Prevention will only work through implementation. Did anyone at Lakewood Scoop approach Rabbi Abenson – have any yeshivas approached him? Momentum must not be lost!

  44. Hi,

    Great article. I know it is hard to fight the system but we need people like you who have the courage to stand up and try and save our kids. Unfortunately, Getting on the Internet is a easy as buying an ice cream. We have to make learning exciting and let the children understand that Judaism is not a religion its life and unfortunately its becoming a subject or at least the kids feel that way. Keep up the great work.

  45. Great Article. There are many points to which I completely agree. I am in the middle of dealing with a Rebbe of one of my children that is burnt out. Or so it seems. He is always full of excuses of why he “can’t” do certain things. Here my child is learning gmorroh for the first time in his life – and his rebbe lacks passion – totally. Where is your passion I want to shout…but I cant because it is not politicaly correct! If you had a business and your packager wasnt packing – would you say “he has a family to support” ? or would you fire him instantly? Enough of the laid back attitude and feeling bad for his family….the best thisng for my sons rebbe would be if he became a plumber or an electrician – he would actually feel good about himsel and at the same time he wouldnt be harming the development of our most important assets – Our dear and beloved children. Their heilige neshomos! I want to shout this out – but is there anyone listening??!!
    Hatzlacha R’ Abenson….but you are up against a wall, especially is a small community.

  46. I once asked my sons rebbe how he explained “hekesh” to my sons class. I am still confused from his answer. he waived his hands a lot and he mumbled something about balloons – I did what was expected of me – I nodded my head in agreement as if I know exactly what he is saying ( or wants to say) and at the same time feeling horrible for my son that he has to pretend this way every day – and come home feeling unsatisfied. It is sad. We hold ourselves to very high standars and most of the time rightfully so, but in the classrooms of our mosdos we need change. yes we can!

  47.  Great article.  I am writing this comment coming from tremendous pain,and suffering.
    I realize Hashem is in control of every aspect of our lives,
    I realize that looking back is unproductive. Yet I lay awake at night and cant help but feel …I’m not sure if abandoned is the right word…but I feel the system has failed me and my family.
    I feel abandoned from Hashem …and as I am writing hear your counter arguments…..intellectually, but my pain is my pain,it just is.
    When I converted over 16 years ago,Dovid was 10 months old . My entire being,only wanted to serve Hashem….all I ever wanted was for my family to embrace a path of truth/emes.
    Zestful and idealist I set out to pursue truth and serve Hashem.
    All I ever wanted was for my family to embrace this path of Torah and Mitzvos.
    But I am far from having the merit, as my life unfolds, Hashem has other plans and I must accept this suffering with love. When you dont see a light at the end of the tunnel it is hard.
    Moreover, it is my children suffering. First Moshe, and now Dovid. My other children too suffer, as I preoccupy myself with trying to help Dovid amidst trying to keep my own sanity.
    It hurt to watch as my daughter so kind and lovingly conversed with Dovid , all the while knowing he was so obviously stoned. I have to be grateful that he was home…though it was hours after dinner,….rather than on the street somewhere not knowing where he is.
    It was disturbing for me to hear that mothers story of her son not on drugs but non the less rebellious and angry, to the point where they threw him out….no knowing where he was. Now that they found him,no contact,the boy wants nothing to do with them. That is too much to bear. Guess I have nothing to complain about.
    Looking back I see a system,… the yeshiva system that I embraced wholeheartedly, failed and rejected my family. Dovid  as a young boy so sweet so sensitive so eidel. Walked around the house kissing mezuzzas,and meticulously davening to Hashem, wanting every word to be perfect. Yet he became the perfect candidate to get bullied.I made attempts to speak to superiors to get the bullying to stop, but was unsuccessful,trusting in the powers above, and always siding with the Rabbeium and the the system, cause they kmew best,they in my eyes direct representatives of Torah and Orthodox Judaism. They knew more than me so I trusted,and trusted and trusted.The more religious the institution the more he was misunderstood and bullied.This continued til his last days in Yeshiva.
    True even if he wasn’t religious this bullying may have been inevitable….but much harder to swallow under the guise of religious Judaism. Yeshivas throwing away children like garbage.
    Maybe if Torah was taught with love and sensitivity and individualized to respect that not everyone can fit into that square box. Maybe taking the time to find out who he truly is….how sensitive and caring, and thoughtful,and creative,never wanting to hurt a soul…sensitive to the pain of others if an injustice is done.
    Emunah, emunah, emunah…..this is what Hashem wants.
    What is the next step. Rehab???? We know it isn’t always the answer except for the lucky few.
    What would Avraham Twersky say ?
    Maybe you have his number.???? Another shot in the dark??????
    There are so many in pain and broken. I just one of them.  

  48. As a mother, who has seen her sensitive, kind, gentle, spiritually elevated son transform into a teenager no longer Torah observant because of his anger at Hashem, rebbeim and yeshivah students, I applaud Rabbi Dovid Abenson for his drive in combating the problems of our yeshivah system. My son attended a very “chasheva” school where all the Roshei Yeshiva sent their sons. There was a major problem in bullying in this school. My then five year old would get kicked by big boys – just because he was standing on the playground. He was beat up, had his head knocked against a locker, hung from a hook, had his snack stolen, his Torah cards taken by extortion etc. etc. The 1st grade rebbe would hit the boys on the head if they couldn’t tiche properly. My son developed headaches which he still suffers from when having to do any kind of learning – limud ha kodesh or secular. The rebbeim hit the kids in general and so did the rosh yeshiva. There was a lot of pressure in this yeshiva to shteig away. They were interested in making gedolim. But as many boys had learning disabilities or were just not top learners, there were a lot of sufferning kids out there. Some people when they’re angry or feel inadequate take it out on other people. Hence, the large proponent of bullies in that school. Some absorb the pain, would never think of striking out because they are naturally aidel and therefore internalize it and get sick. That was my beautiful tzaddik of a son. We are only fortunate that our son did not turn to drugs, like so many other lovely frum children. I doven to Hashem every day to bring back my child to the beauty of Torah and mitzvos.

  49. Pretty serious article if this is true why cant the big people in chunnuch machneah themselves and ask Rabbi abenson for help. Just becasue goverments can fuff us why do yideshe schools do the same. We reaaly ahve to daven and hope there are more indvauls like the dovid for the good of klall yisroel.0

  50. I am a 20 yr old Yeshiva Bochur at the Gateshead Yeshivah Gedolah. During my educational yeras, nobody picked up on my pronounciation of reading between Sepharic and Ashkenazic until I came to Rabbi Dovid Abenson, who diagnosed the problem in a matter of seconds, becuase of my pronounciation it effect my transalation. After a few weeks of work on the Ashkenazic pronounciation, it became effortless to read fluently, no english way of reading in syllaballs and mixed pronounciation.

    I told Rabbi Abenson that I had a teacher who lived in Israel and a french teacher that they were pronouncing in a Sephardi and Ashkenazi way. This caused me to stumble for many years.

    In the educational world that, when teaching you should not have these sort of people teaching to Ashkenazic children which will cause them in the future to stumble like me, and have someone like Rabbi Dovid Abenson to come after many years to help you correct the way you have erred. After correcting the reading, we started doing Chumash, Mishna and Gemara which I now more enjoy than i had before.

    If only we had proffesional Mechanchin and know what their doing, majority of Klal Yisrael would not be in this situation, and have someone like Rabbi Abenson with his hard work and effort to put this situation right.

    Yasher Koach to Rabbi Abenson for all his hard work and time that makes Torah more enjoyabe to the rest of us.

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