Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

19 Adar 5761 - March 14, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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British Headteachers Meet in Bournemouth
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Part I

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- training.

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 dispensing advice.

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 Conference.

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 skills."

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 Shomayim."

Opening Session

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 out.

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 Klal Yisroel.

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 so.

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 developed.

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 individual pupil.

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 other schools.

Behavior Management

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 rectify problems.

This was followed by an explanation of how good record- keeping reduces behavior problems.

Brain Trust

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 problems.

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 pupils.

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 needs.

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.

Personal Musings of a Participant

by Rabbi N.

Part I

I was one of approximately sixty participants at the recent Conference of Orthodox Headteachers. I returned to my school with a tremendous chizuk. For several days I was in the clouds. Eventually I started thinking rationally and clinically: What was it that had given me such a boost? In truth there were many things!


Frum Yidden have become somewhat more polarized in recent years, as communities grow and develop and create their own particular brand of schooling for their children. Some parents won't allow their children to mix with children of another school. Intense rivalry has developed in certain areas amongst schools.

Yet at the Conference in Bournemouth a spirit of total achdus and unity prevailed. Headteachers of supposedly rival schools were swapping information, experiences and tips. They were offering to assist each other during (every Headteacher's greatest nightmare) staff shortages.

Mechanchim from the Chassidishe chadorim mingled freely with the heads of limudei kodesh of mainstream Orthodox Schools. Nobody had a fixed place for meals. You sat down next to the person you happened to be talking to on the way in to the dining room.

The ruach of achdus was incredible. Problems and mistakes were discussed openly and frankly. It was obvious that all the mechanchim were involved lesheim Shomayim. A true kiddush Hashem.


It was a mixed crowd. Not only were we from mixed backgrounds, but some were experienced mechanchim with over forty years of experience under their belt, whilst others were starting out in chinuch.

But there was one common denominator. All the participants were keen and eager to improve and develop. The more senior mechanchim participated in sessions led by others a generation younger than themselves who could have been, and sometimes were, their former pupils.

The Chairman and leading light of our Association is the evergreen Mr. Dovid Jacobson, who casually recalled chinuch directives that he had imbibed forty-five years ago. It is under his guidance and personal example that this central message of the Conference was conveyed. We can all improve and hone our skills, and we are happy to accept guidance.


An honored guest at the conference was the veteran mechanech Rabbi Moshe Young, currently of New York, but with more than twenty-five years experience of heading an English school. Rabbi Young's contribution to the Conference was inestimable. We heard down-to-earth mussar and guidance on the role of a modern day Headteacher (as reported elsewhere). He participated in all sessions, and his contributions were coherent and concise.

But Rabbi Young has another string to his bow. As a mechanech in America for the past five years, he understands the American education scene as well (as does Rabbi Dovid Kestenbaum of Manchester). And he understands the pros and cons of both the American and European scenes.

My own school has benefited from teacher-training led by true experts in their fields, who were imported form America. As excellent as they were, there was always a lingering doubt in my mind. Do they really understand the European scene? Are they tuned in to our problems and our culture?

We were privileged to have two mechanchim in our midst who had vast experience of the American scene plus extensive knowledge of our schools. An excellent and fruitful combination.


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