What’s Lacking in our Educational System?

Rabbi Shafier shmuzBy Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier: Last week I had the opportunity to spend Shabbos with a very unique organization, Minyan Shelanu. All I can say, is that it pains me tremendously that we need such organizations, but Boruch HASHEM we have them.

If the term “Youth at Risk” has become very common, Minyan Shelanu deals with the youths who are no longer at risk-whatever the risk is-they are there.

My first introduction to the “chevra” came in the elevator, erev shabbos, as I was chatting with one of the mentors. A 15 year old fellow was leaning against the wall, and the mentor turned to him and said, “Why don’t you say hello to the Rabbi?” without missing a beat, he answered: “Why should I?” I then understood what we were dealing with.

These are all young men, from fine families who are very, very disconnected. And shabbos, kosher, and davening are the things they are most disconnected from. If you search for the cause of the problem-there isn’t one, there are many. It is a very difficult generation. The scholastic, religious and community norms are very demanding, and many young people find themselves disenfranchised.

Never the less, for me a moment of clarity came during the Shabbos afternoon session. I began with a short presentation, and then opened the floor to questions. The guys were very open, and passionately expressed many of the issues of deep concern to them. Our discussion lasted almost two hours. At one point, I realized that there was something fundamentally lacking in their understanding. I asked: “Gentlemen, can anyone here tell me why HASHEM wants us to keep Shabbos?” Silence. “Can anyone here tell me why HASHEM wants us to only eat kosher food?” Silence. “Can any one here tell me why HASHEM wants us to wear tefilin?” Silence.

I said, “My friends what’s lacking here is the basics. Before you decide to keep Judaism or reject it, I think you have to find out what Judaism is.”

Sadly, I find this to be only too common in our times. Where well educated, Yeshiva graduates may know tremendous amounts of information, but the basics behind it all is lacking. The guys may know every Tosfos in Eilu Metzius-but they don’t understand what Davening is. A young woman may know every Ramban in Chumash, but doesn’t understand why she should care about knowing them.

In that vein, I spoke at a Torah U’Mesorah convention a few years ago, and my theme was-we’re not teaching Yiras Shamyim. I think that message is as relevant today as ever.

Have a good Shabbos,
R’ Shafier

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15 COMMENTS

  1. throwing kids out of school with no alternative should not be allowed
    We need drug education classes for teens
    We must help children w learning issues reach their potential
    Teens see religion as rules to hard to follow and they wind up on street here where serious drugs are free
    Lakewood is a city of no inbetweeners only very yeshivish or nothing No room to work out religous questions
    Teens feel judged
    They have no outlets to develop talents
    As I see it first thing is not throwing children out of school
    Second thing is using a program called SAFE it works
    Also we need to see people as struggling with issues not bad or problem people
    I do not believe we are doing what Hashem wants We are harming our children We need to love them with no conditions religous or not and we must help them and let them develop at their own speed
    Need more outlets than plays for girls we are teaching them to be actresses
    How bout real life skills ?
    Nothing will change here until a massive tragedy occurs Hope Moshiach comes before that

  2. Agreed, working in a kiruv environment for a few years helped me learn so much more in basic emunah and peshat in mitzvos.
    My first year involved I learnt just as much as the non-frum kids I worked with if not more.
    At one point I saw ads of such programs being brought to yeshiva. Yeshiva’s including mesivta’s should include this in musssar seder. Etc.

  3. If the schools insist on keeping our boys in school until 4:00 on Sunday’s why can’t they offer extra curricular subjects? Music, computers (basic typing, Word, Excel, Powepoint etc…) woodworking, art, organized sports. There are many young talented men out there that can use a little extra money and can have a major positive influence on our kids while teaching them other skills. And I am sure many parents would be very happy to have their kids learning these things in a safe and familiar environment. It might cost, but in the long run it will pay off. And there must be some government grants for music, art and physical education curriculums.

  4. Rivka, we understand what you are saying but whose point are we missing: yours or Rabbi Shafier’s?

    The comments are directed to what he witnessed.

    Your points have to be addressed as well but one thing at a time.

    The Ani Maamin organization was attempting to make inroads into schools. Their programs bring these points to frum youths.

    We go to Yeshivos and starting at step two, so to speak: Mishnayos, Gemorra, Meforshim…

    Granted that the Rabbeim in the younger grades teach the fundamental basics of chum ash and Hashanah but in today’s day and age there are many lingering questions that enter childrens minds as they begun to mature.

    A Rebbi or parent cannot be flippant and say, “How can you ask such heretical questions!?!”

    If the Kuzari, Ramchal and so many others can address these fundamental issues that truly form the basis of our belief system then we must give appropriate attention to our young who have so many important questions.

    Before they find answers in the wrong places…

  5. No one is teaching basic frumkeit in Lakewood. Period. I discussed with Rabbi Shafier once how we are lacking basic love, warmth, understanding and emunah/bitachon in our schools.

  6. Whatever the point is and until we can reach it remember:

    Mimyan Shelanu Rocks!!

    I’ve learned so much about life’s ups & downs at the Minyan!

    They are the only place in town that is available 24/7/365 for our youth. (literally)

    Besides for the hundreds of children that they made sure stayed in yeshiva before it was too late.

    Ashreichem!! -Minyan Shelanu & Rabbi Chaim Abadi!!!

  7. Being a frum yid can be very difficult at times or demanding. Not only kids feel it but many adults as well. It takes constant effort daily for many just to hang on. I don’t need a rabbi to explain it to me. Maybe the kid didn’t wanna say hello to just another rabbi trying to be kewl or help out.
    B’h the kid was leaning and learning why interrupt? Many of the rabbis have never really experienced discontent or a life similar to any of these guys or girls so how do u think they can connect. Being Jewish is seldom a warm and fuzzy religion, it’s about doing things a certain way. Like any other kids there testing the waters and rebelling in their own way. They need something to connect with, give them pride, self esteem and be coached rather than a tutor. Their coaching requires a whole different format than some offer. Show them you can enjoy life, do fun things even being a frum yid. Surround then with positive energy at all times in different approaches. We’re all different, it’s not always a one size fits all. Many schools express what you can do rather than what you can’t.

  8. Most of the day for a yeshiva boy consists of davening and learning gemarah which is basically chinese to many of the boys. I think we need to start with tefillah, to learn the meaning of the words we say three times a day so that its just not a chore …oh gotta go daven…. gemarah as well is like shakesphere in a new language without any punctuation. Kids who thought they were smart all of a sudden are thrown into ..what I dont get it, whats wrong with me, and that I think is the beginning of a boys downfall

  9. IMHO read about john Caldwell holt and his works.Destroying all stressful, disturbing “educational methods” will enable us to have peace of mind and absorb all our favorite info in order to accomplish our dreams.

  10. What’s needed is the following:

    1. Standardized education in all classes including secular. The repetition of rules and procedures and knowledge takes years to become inculcated in “learners”, and must be enforced/applied by highly trained educators and administrators on a regular basis.
    2. Highly trained and educated rebbein and secular teachers. Being an expert in any given area does not make one able to teach. There are specific, well established tools for educators that work; and we need to spend a few years learning them before being given charge of a class.

    Cheerleading, heart to heart talks, hoping for the best, etc., are all fine and dandy, but they are not part of the skill set required for educators to impact on students. AND, if an entire school to teachers and administrators are on the same page, you can change worlds for the better in a fairly short amount of time.

    Hatzlacha!

Comments are closed.