Chinuch is always a top priority of the chareidi
community. As such we are happy to present this report of a
recent meeting of senior British educators discussing the
problems that all face along with some solutions.
Last month the Association of Headteachers of Orthodox
Jewish Schools held their Annual conference at the Normandie
Hotel in Bournemouth. Sixty participants, representing
12,000 of the approximately 15,000 school children studying
at Jewish schools in Britain, gathered together to
participate in a series of shiurim, lectures and
brainstorming sessions on various chinuch topics.
The guests of honor were Rabbi Y.C. Horowitz (Rov of Satmar
Manchester), Rabbi Y.L. Wittler (Mashgiach of Yeshivas
Tiferes Yaakov Gateshead) and veteran mechanech Rabbi
Moshe Young of New York. Rabbi Horowitz gave a series of
shiurei halocho addressing specific shailos
that had been presented to him before the conference, and
was also available to speak to individuals throughout the
conference. Both Rabbi Wittler and Rabbi Young presented
divrei chizuk and addressed topical chinuch
issues. They also participated actively in many of the
sessions led by the various Headteachers.
The main sessions included a discussion of issues such as
motivating pupils, raising the profile of a rebbe, streaming
classes, accountability and the school-parent relationship.
These sessions were attended by all delegates.
Smaller special-interest sessions also took place to discuss
the future of GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary
Education, the standard test given in all England after high
school), recruitment of staff, early years and issues
pertinent to female Headteachers. All Manchester
representatives held a meeting with Mrs. Nemeth of MST
(formerly Massoret Teacher Training) concerning teacher-
Each major session was followed by an opportunity for
questions and answers, and there were also regular breaks
for delegates to mingle and discuss issues of mutual
interest. Indeed there was a palpable atmosphere of
purposeful unity, as old and young, experienced and less
experienced mechanchim, representing all shades of
Orthodoxy, mingled freely well into the night discussing
their difficulties and successes, garnering tips and
The Association was actually set up in 1991, operating under
the auspices of Rabbi J. Dunner, and the first Chairman was
Rabbi Meir Roberg. Upon Rabbi Roberg's emigration to Eretz
Yisroel, Mr. Chaim Wahrshawsky took over at the helm and
instituted the Annual Bournemouth Conference. Indeed the
current Chairman, Mr. D. Jacobson, praised Mr. Wahrshawsky's
efforts in raising funds for this Conference. Mr. Jacobson
also thanked his vice-chairmen, Rabbi Y. Yodaiken of
Manchester and Rabbi N. Lieberman of Gateshead, for their
assistance in the organizing and running of the
Over the past decade the Association has expanded to include
London and Manchester chadorim and European schools.
Representatives from Antwerp, Zurich and Gibraltar were
present at this Conference. The Annual conference itself has
grown in both size and stature over the years, and has been
described this year as "the best ever."
Rabbi Dovid Kestenbaum of Manchester, who was a rebbe in
Lakewood for ten years, summed up his feelings about the
Conference. "Having been to the large Torah Umesorah
Conventions in America I was somewhat hesitant about
attending this conference. However I was most favorably
impressed and personally received a tremendous chizuk
from seeing such a professional team of Headteachers
demonstrating forward vision and an eagerness to hone their
Rabbi Wittler commented, "I came away uplifted by the level
of devotion and expertise displayed by those in whom we
entrust the chinuch of our children. It was a
privilege to be a party to such a maamad of kvod
Mr. Dovid Jacobson, chairman of the Association, opened the
Conference by welcoming all who were present and by thanking
his vice-chairmen, Rabbi Y. Yodaiken and Rabbi N. Lieberman,
for their assistance in organizing the Conference. He paid
tribute to Mrs. Kestenbaum, a source of sagacious advice to
the Association since its inception, who is due to retire
later this year. Letters of support from Rabbi M. Roberg of
Eretz Yisroel and Mr. E. Salomon of Gateshead were read
Rabbi Wittler, mashgiach of Yeshivas Tiferes Yaakov
Gateshead, based his divrei chizuk on the Four Sons
mentioned in the Haggadah, pointing out that the idea
of treating children as individuals is already noted in the
Haggadah and is not merely a modern concept.
The Chochom is the straightforward pupil whom we must
teach everything, safinan lei ceturah, and not be
satisfied with a little. We hope that the Rosho, like
the ben sorer umoreh, acts only as a prototype to
point out the vulnerability of the adolescent years and to
stress the importance of a common and consistent message:
kol oviv veKol imo.
The Tam is the underachiever, the child at risk.
Little or no success at learning creates risk. This is
because they do not feel part of the crowd. Noting that this
posuk is in the plural, Rabbi Wittler declared that
the vital message for the Tam is that he is part of
Finally, the She'eino Yodei'a Lish'ol, who is often
regarded as even less than a Tam. However, some
commentators note that this term covers the silent majority,
everybody between the Chochom and the Tam.
Those pupils must not be judged before at pesach lo.
Communicate with the She'eino Yodei'a Lish'ol and
discover which category he truly belongs to. Due to the
pressures of life nowadays, many children have even missed
out on the special mother-child relationship, which is
alluded to in the Haggadah by the feminine expression
at. Headteachers should look out for such children,
concluded Rabbi Wittler, and either provide them with what
they lack or appoint mashgichim in schools to do
Appraisal of Kodesh Teachers
Rabbi E. Klyne shared his expertise in the field of
"Appraisal of Kodesh Teachers" with all delegates. After
quoting from Chazal on the importance of rebbes displaying
professionalism at all times, he went on to guide delegates
through this delicate subject using techniques that he has
The appraisal system involves: individual explanation to all
staff members, setting parameters for appraisal, setting
future targets and reviewing those targets.
One of the major achievements of the Association is that
Headteachers concentrate on one particular topic (e.g.
appraisal of kodesh teachers, or behavior management)
and then share their expertise with colleagues. This leads
to great savings on duplication of time and efforts, and
frees Headteachers to concentrate on the growth of each
Rabbi Klyne also initiated the compilation of a database of
teacher skills, so that teachers who have expertise in
certain areas (e.g. differentiation, bereavement
counselling, use of overhead projectors--OHPs) can
demonstrate their skills for the benefit of teachers of
Rabbi Y. Yodaiken led a session on the issue of behavioral
management, declaring that it was a universal issue that
generally affects our generation. He quoted HaRav Matisyohu
Salomon, mashgiach ruchani of Lakewood Yeshiva, who
stated that the challenge of this generation is that of
developing good middos in our children.
He clarified that the key to discipline is encouraging
pupils to become your disciples and accept your leadership.
Furthermore he demonstrated how three aspects of education
affect a child, namely, the home environment, the classroom
situation, and the whole school dynamics. An alert
mechanech, working within a school which takes into
account individual needs of children, can identify problem
areas and respond accordingly.
Rabbi Yodaiken distributed a booklet containing: a)
classification of the five major types of problems
experienced by children; b) a typical behavior assessment
profile; c) an action record form; d) key components of good
behavioral management; e) playground issues and how to
This was followed by an explanation of how good record-
keeping reduces behavior problems.
Prepared questions were put to a panel consisting of Rabbi
D. Kestenbaum, Rabbi Y. L. Wittler, Rabbi Y. Yodaiken and
Rabbi M. Young, by the chairman Mr. D. Jacobson. Topics that
were covered included: The Purpose of Secular Studies,
Learning Kodesh through Loshon Hakodesh, Directing Teenagers
Without Causing Rebellion, the Advisability of Playing
Sports in Schools and Yeshivos, Monitoring Teachers,
Developing Bitochon in Students, Instilling a love of
Tefillah in Children, the most Uplifting Experience
of a Headteacher, and the most Difficult Decision a
Headteacher has to make.
Concerning tefillahhergesh) during
tefillah nowadays than in previous generations. Rabbi
Wittler advised that pointing out to children when one
notices somebody davening with hergesh, is a
useful tool in encouraging a love for tefillah.
The brain trust was the last official session of the first
day, and provided a springboard for discussions that
continued well into the night.
At a special meeting held during the supper interval, the
chairman Rabbi Fachler outlined the problems facing schools
that wish to take GCSEs.
First some of the pre-release texts for English GCSE are
unsuitable for our pupils. Second, the way questions are
phrased on the actual exam papers can often reflect a left-
wing trendy ideology. Third, questions on science and
geography papers can involve kefirah, and even French
language papers have recently included totally unsuitable
material. Furthermore, media studies will be given a higher
profile in future English GCSEs, which could cause further
Rabbi Fachler reported on a meeting that he attended in
Manchester with a representative of the GCSE boards, at
which it was suggested that two English GCSE papers should
be made available. One would be the current one, which is in
reality English New Age Culture, and the second would be a
traditional English paper.
In accordance with a suggestion from Rabbi Pinter, it was
decided to encourage all member schools to patronize the
same examination board, and to join forces with the Muslim
Community in creating a sizable clientele for alternative or
improved examinations. Also, further representations would
be made to the DFEE (Department for Education and Employment
-- the British government ministry that deals with
education) at the highest level.
In addition the Association would request that it be allowed
a representative on the revising committee of the examining
body. Mrs. Nemeth carried out that role on behalf of our
schools for eight years with positive results. Indeed Mrs.
Nemeth agreed to act as consultant to the committee of
Headteachers that was set up to tackle these issues.
Rabbi Y. Goldblatt led a thought-provoking session on the
issue of motivating a senior pupil. He pointed out the
importance of suitable subject-matter (e.g. the correct
perek of gemora for that ability group). Also,
pupils are amenable to different subjects at different times
of the day, and even the day of the week can affect
In a short presentation, Rabbi Fachler focused on the eight
strands of intelligence. By giving pupils an opportunity to
complete a questionnaire and identify their strengths and
weaknesses, one can then tailor the lesson to the pupil's
Rabbi Lieberman asserted that a Headteacher can create an
atmosphere that encourages pupils to cooperate by arranging
regular exciting and stimulating activities. This can
include a week/weekend spent at an adventure school, a
Chanukah show, regular school trips, competitions and
sporting activities, amongst other things.