Saturday, November 10, 2012


An Older Way

chederReb Akiva,

I wonder if you could blog something about the following…

I am a “rebbe” in cheder, meaning I am a teacher of young Jewish children in ultra-orthodox religious school.  As a cheder rebbe, I am acutely aware of the 'industrial revolution' having infiltrated our method of chinuch (education). 

Industrial education was patterned after successful factory patterns and assembly line techniques.  It was an attempt to be the most “efficient” with educating mass numbers of children.  But efficiency does not necessarily equal educational success.

In der heim (in older Jewish communities, such as before World War I) it was one melamed (religious teacher) who kept with the same children over a period of years, overseeing them and helping them mature into [hopefully] erlicher Yidden (proper well mannered religious students heading towards religious men).

Nowadays, the kinder (children) are put onto a conveyor belt system; by the time a rebbe has 'tuned' in to the child and properly understood him, stepped into his way of thinking and begun to have a major impact on his growing life and education, the child is moved on to the next rebbe (in the next grade).  The old rebbe gets to start again from scratch with a new set of children, new ways of thinking, etc, and the new rebbe gets children in the middle of their growth, again having to learn how to reach them, direct them and educate them.  Then the process continues as just as the new rebbe begins to make his impact, the children move on again (at the end of each year.)

th (3)I think that a possible 'middle way' could be achieved if the rebbe could stay with the same children at least for two years.   Two years in a child's life is a good length of time of maturing, and give the rebbe and child time to successfully bond and have a major impact.

We need to be trying steps to improve our religious educational system, as far too many of our children are not having a successful Jewish educational experience.  Many are not achieving their potential, and any number falling by the wayside is too many. 

Not every technique we try has to be “new”.  We can look to successes of the past and bring them back as well.


  1. Yes!!! My son is definitely suffering because of this assembly line and I had hoped the Torah world would be providing something better than the public religious schools, and not just more Torah and less of something else... The Yeminites brought to with them to Israel the 'Mori' and I've now heard of it being an after-school program!?

    This is a great presentation:

  2. great comment re yemenite jewish education. the link didn't seem to work... could you check it please?

    this piece is excellent. children should not be educated on any assembly line model.

  3. Josh, that was a great video on education. The whole process has to be revamped. I've been saying this for years. Thank you for posting the link.


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