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Inbox: Issue 929

“If we really would like see schoolwide change and professionalism in the teaching field, schools need to incentivize and reward those who do a better job”


Giant of Chesed [Angel of Mercy in the Valley of Death / Issue 928]

Thank you for the beautiful tribute to Yankie Meyer a”h. Mr. Meyer, a.k.a. “Jack,” was a household name in my parents’ home.

My father, Mr. Chaim Schoenblum, was a member of the chevra kaddisha of Boro Park. Together with Rabbi Shulem Mermelstein, they took care of hundreds of niftarim. Many times there were complications with releasing the body, medical examiners, and the like. Yankie Meyer was always there.

He became a close friend of my father and at one point even offered him the reins of Misaskim. As I visited my father the day before Mr. Meyer’s petirah, I could see the pain in my father’s eyes as he spoke about him. We will all miss this giant of chesed.

Yehi zichro baruch.



Queen Elizabeth’s Hebrew Name [Changing of the Guard / Issue 928]

I found your article “Changing of the Guard” on the late Queen Elizabeth II most interesting and informative. In it you mentioned the prayer recited in the shuls for the monarchy.

In Carmel College, when they recited this prayer every Shabbos, they bestowed upon the queen a Hebrew name: “Elisheva Hasheniyah.” The other members of the royal family were included in the generic term, “and all her household.”

It would be interesting to speculate what Hebrew name Carmel College would have given to King Charles III, were it still in existence today.

Rabbi Dr. Chaim Simons

Kiryat Arba


Our Missing Judicial System [The Kashrus Triangle / Issue 928]

Thank you for your informative interview. Rabbi Fishbane is truly an accomplished leader in the kashrus world today, and I have gained invaluable wisdom and practical guidance from him over the years.

Permit me to contribute some additional perspective to this conversation.

Most hashgachos require meat restaurants to have a trained mashgiach on site whenever the kitchen is operational. The kitchen doors are locked at the end of each day, and only the mashgiach possesses the key. High-definition surveillance cameras are installed throughout the establishment, monitoring and recording to the cloud 24-7. Many other security protocols and procedures are in place as well.

Does this render it unfeasible for a rogue proprietor to surreptitiously slip in a few packages of nonkosher poultry? While it is highly unlikely, and would require intricate planning and motivation to execute, unfortunately it is not impossible.

Every mashgiach will use the restroom throughout the day, exit the kitchen periodically to speak with a kosher customer, and spend time huddled over the sink washing vegetables. A sophisticated and motivated fraudster can take advantage of these momentary lapses to sneak in nonkosher product.

While the overwhelming majority of proprietors are ethical and upstanding individuals, charlatans have always existed and will never cease to be present in society. There will always be a small minority of individuals who will attempt to defraud, despite every law and procedure.

Governments develop statutes, a policing system to ensure compliance, as well as a judicial branch to penalize those who exploit the system.

Similarly, the hashgachah system establishes protocols and hires well-trained mashgichim to ensure compliance — but unfortunately does not have a judicial system to sanction individuals attempting to deceive and circumvent kosher law.

We need to think creatively how to create powerful deterrents in lieu of a judicial branch. One proposal suggested by my dear friend, Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe, was to perhaps require kosher restaurateurs to be bonded for a significant sum, which would be triggered and collected in the event of a severe violation.

Following the recent tragic kosher violation, hashgachos are doing a comprehensive audit, patching vulnerabilities, and upgrading protocols accordingly. At the same time, we also need to recognize that even the best system can be exploited with sophisticated, devious machinations.

Rabbi Nosson Dubin

Rabbinic Administrator — Houston Kashrus Association, Founder — Kosher Institute of America


Gratitude Above All [Inbox / Issue 927]

Last week, Mrs. Sarah Schwartz wrote in her letter that showing gratitude to teachers can help ease the staffing challenge that many schools are facing today. While showing teachers gratitude may not be the sole reason for a teacher to stay in the field of teaching when so many other factors are not working for her, a lack of appreciation is extremely discouraging.

I work as a teacher in a special-ed school in Brooklyn. Three years in, instead of getting the feeling that I am partnering with the parents for their children’s success, I feel as if I am fighting them for it. I am often made to feel like an enemy of the parents, when, in reality, I am rushing out of my home in the morning, hastily saying goodbye to my own children, in order to spend the majority of my day giving my all to their children.

In the Jewish world, Chanukah has become a holiday synonymous with gift giving. In that spirit, the school sends out a note each year to the parents asking them to contribute toward teacher appreciation. The response is pathetic.

But more than the money, it is the attitude. I am entering my fourth year at this position, and never once have I gotten a thank-you note at the end of the year, let alone a phone call. Two or three parents have sent a “tysm” text.

Yes, the salaries are low and the conditions challenging. But it is the lack of gratitude that will drive me from the field above all else.



A Model We Can Adapt [Inbox / Issue 928]

In response to the “Parent Who Cares About Teacher Drainage,” I have been a New York City teacher for over 25 years. Because of my success in the classroom, my principal elevated my role to become a model teacher.

The model teacher agreement between the New York City Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers gives model teachers an extra $7,500. This salary is contingent on the model teacher teaching at least half a day and then modeling teaching and mentoring teachers the other half a day.

In the New York City Department of Education, there different levels of teacher leadership. The top tier can earn up to $25,000 on top of the base salary. Each higher tier gets larger increments on salary and more responsibilities. (Model teacher is more than enough for me!) Plus these teacher-leaders are always the ones asked to perform higher-level work, such as developing curriculum and lesson plans for extra pay per hour.

Good teachers should not leave the classroom. They should also be rewarded for the good work. The model teacher system is one example of how it can be done.

Our school systems should look into having a more lucrative plan for the better teachers. This way teachers don’t leave the classroom, and they’re able to nurture the next generation of teachers.

It can be a win-win situation for teachers, for our administrators, and most of all — for our children.

A Proud Model Teacher

Far Rockaway, NY


No Incentive for Improvement [Inbox / Issue 928]

I’ve been following the letters about the teaching field with interest. This week’s letter about professional development (PD) being a waste of time was intriguing.

PD in our schools usually is a waste of time for the following reason: PD should ideally be implemented in a framework of a yearly schoolwide goal, and teachers should be supported with ongoing coaching throughout the year. In addition, teachers’ personal goals should be tied to school goals.

However, it’s highly unlikely that any yeshivah or Bais Yaakov school would implement PD in this way because the schoolwide change that this framework aims for is virtually impossible to achieve.

Here’s why: If you are a teacher whom a school is desperate to keep (remember, there’s a teacher shortage!), you know that all you have to do every day is show up. No one will fire you for doing a sub-par job (barring something terribly egregious). Why should a teacher try a new approach, attend PD, and improve his/her craft, when the teacher won’t get paid more for working longer and harder?

In fact, if you get observed by the principal and get a glowing report, you don’t get a raise or bonus. In the corporate world, however, good reviews are tied to more compensation. Not so in our educational system.

Granted, there is a group of dedicated, ambitious, and idealistic teachers who work very hard to grow professionally without incentive, out of a sense of responsibility toward the children. But in my opinion, those are in the minority, and if we really would like see schoolwide change and professionalism in the teaching field, schools need to incentivize and reward those who do a better job.

A Concerned Consultant


Perfect Fusion [If Walls Could Speak / Issue 928]

I was thrilled to read the article about the Kobersdorf Shul and Rav Avraham Shag Zwebner, as I, too, am a sixth-generation descendant of this great gadol.

The connection of the Austrian shul melded my paternal and maternal heritage, one German, and one Yerushalmi. I’ve always been fascinated by my family’s history, and feel that my Yerushalmi yichus was a strong connection that pulled me into settling permanently here in Eretz Yisrael. This is where I come from, this is where I belong.

I know I have “cousins” all over Eretz Yisrael and probably the world, and I’d love to be in touch with more of them and hear more about the different branches of the family.

I can be reached via Mishpacha.

Faigy Peritzman


Where Creativity Was Called For [Different Schools of Thought / Double Take – Issue 927]

Your Double Take stories are always thought provoking, as they always portray realistic problems, often with no ideal solution. Such was the case with “Different Schools of Thought,” in which both students (the struggling one and the disruptive one) found themselves in a very difficult situation.

I must wonder, though, if suspension was the appropriate tool to use at the outset. Several other creative solutions come to mind, somewhere between the ineffective Band-Aid solutions that the school had been attempting and the extreme technique of suspension.

Perhaps the classroom could have been provided with an assistant. Perhaps the class could have been temporarily broken up into smaller subgroups, each with a separate teacher, while the issues were being ironed out. Perhaps the disruptive child could have been provided with an educational shadow to monitor and modulate his behavior.

Of course, such solutions are more costly than a suspension, but there may be communal means to provide some form of assistance. The goal should have been to get the classroom functional once again, without creating more problems in the long term by further harming the disruptive student. The administration resorted to simplicity whereas creativity was called for.

In short, the situation was presented as win-lose, whereas the thinking should have been win-win.

Jerrold Landau

Toronto, ON


Why So Late? [Different Schools of Thought / Double Take – Issue 927]

After reading last week’s Double Take, I found it hard not to sympathize with both Tamara and Shani. They are both caring mothers, each trying to do what is best for her own child while still remaining sensitive to the challenges of the other boys in the class given the difficult situation.

Actually, the one person whose behavior I would question is Rabbi Fine, the principal. How could it be that such a difficult classroom situation was going on for so many weeks, and the principal of the school was unaware of it until a parent brought it to his attention after Chanukah?

I have been fortunate to teach in two wonderful schools where teachers knew they could discuss difficult classroom situations with the principal and that it would not be taken as a poor reflection of the teacher or his or her management skills. Particularly young teachers starting out, as was the rebbi in this story, need to know that there are mentors within the school to guide them and administrators to support them.

Even if the teacher did not feel he could bring this situation to the principal, it is still hard to believe that in all that time Rabbi Fine hadn’t asked the rebbi how things were going in his class and if he had any concerns about any of his students. Could it be that since the beginning of the school year, the principal hadn’t been visiting the classrooms and getting a sense of how the classes were running? It is very possible that had the principal gotten involved much earlier, this classroom situation would not have festered as it did, and all of the boys would have benefited.

I also wanted to comment on one line in the story that touched a very sensitive chord for me. Tamara says, “We had him tested for ADHD… But he wasn’t ADHD.”

Through my years as an educator, I have heard that phrase “he is ADHD” or “she is ADHD” said by many parents and educators, and I cringe every time I hear it.

He or she is most certainly not ADHD, just as we would never say “He is diabetes or she is Crohn’s disease.” He or she is an individual with ADHD and should always be recognized as a person first who carries this specific diagnosis but should never be defined by it.

A Concerned Educator


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 929)

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