“Yes, we ‘believe’ that the bnei Torah are the real soldiers — but then why don’t they get at least the same support as the soldiers?”
Why Not Encourage Them, Too? [Voice in the Crowd / Issue 986]
I wanted to thank Sruli Besser for a wonderful and well-written article. I think the article is a must-read and hopefully, the chareidi world will do something constructive with the article. Now let me explain.
You have a hundred thousand people learning Torah in yeshivos and kollelim in Eretz Yisrael who don’t serve in the army. The reason we give is that we feel the bnei Torah are the real protectors of Klal Yisrael.
Although the majority of bnei Torah are living just fine, there are those who are struggling. Yes, Am Yisrael does give tremendous amounts of tzedakah, but the bnei Torah don’t receive as much help as they need, and the help often comes along with begging and shame. Yet the bnei Torah keep up the struggle because they know they are protecting Klal Yisrael.
Then comes wartime. All of a sudden they see worldwide chareidi Jewry pouring in millions of dollars, people baking, sending gifts, and organizations raising millions of dollars — all for the army.
Yes, we “believe” that the bnei Torah are the real soldiers — but then why don’t they get at least the same support as the soldiers? Correct or not, this discourages the bnei Torah.
Just imagine how much better avreichim would learn if they came to first seder and there were big signs praising them, fresh food prepared for them, and notes of encouragement.
Let Klal Yisrael put their money where their mouth has been for the past 75 years and then we can really hope to win this war and see the Geulah sheleimah b’karov.
A Fan of the True Heroes
Not the Time [Voice in the Crowd / Issue 986]
As someone who has shown time and again his impeccable grasp of social nuance, and graced us with many an article subtly bringing to light those nuances in calls for action, change or reflection, the final few paragraphs of Sruli Besser’s “Voice in the Crowd” were surprisingly and disappointingly tone deaf.
Baruch Hashem, most of us are able to be machshiv Torah and understand the huge weight our bochurim and kollel yungeleit are shouldering. But at a time when bochurim and kollel yungeleit of the same age (and some even younger!) are physically being moser nefesh, “squar[ing] their shoulders, [and] hugging their parents goodbye” for what is the very last time for some, Rachmana litzlan, how can you beseech the klal to actively note and aid those who are shteiging in warm buildings with electricity and hot meals and the ability to call their parents at night?!
There is a time a place to draw a parallel between the critical mission on the ground versus the one in our batei medrash. Now is not yet that time.
Yael Wielgus, NJ
Teaching Neshamos [A Class of His Own / Double Take – Issue 985]
I just completed making a differentiated test for a few of my students and have been feeling very strongly about the Double Take story in which the teacher couldn’t do anything for his advanced student.
Differentiating properly was something I could never have done in my first years of teaching, when I was developing my style and trying to keep my head above water.
At this point of my teaching career, I have the time and energy and experience to try to reach each and every one of my students, and I differentiate all my teaching, sometimes just for one girl.
Private incentives and enrichment are done all the time as each child matters.
Nowadays, there is so much available online, even for kodesh, that there is hardly any excuse not to address each and every child in your class.
Secondly, if you are making your own materials (as we kodesh staff have to do), since it’s mostly done on the computer, it’s easier to differentiate the stuff tailor-made for each student.
No one is saying it’s easy, but we can’t afford not to. And if you feel stuck, reach out to other teachers for ideas how to help that out-of-the-box child.
We teachers must remember that we are not teaching material. We are not teaching classes. We are teaching multiple neshamos in Klal Yisrael and we must endeavor to help each and every one succeed in their own way.
Rise to the Occasion [A Class of His Own / Double Take – Issue 985]
I read with interest the letter “There Are Options,” in response to the Double Take story “A Class of His Own.” I agree that there are multiple options available for the student, which should be seriously explored and implemented as appropriate for the specific situation. But I take issue with the letter that states that the “brightest children should not be pushed to become troublemakers, which they become when dismissed or bored.”
Perhaps this is part of the problem: The brightest children — as well as other types of children — are not “pushed” to become anything by their circumstances. They and their parents have the ability to respond to the challenges of the circumstances around them — just as we all have this ability at work, in relationships, or in other areas of life.
Both bright and academically challenged children — and their parents — sometimes need to learn that they cannot always mold and manipulate the circumstances around them, but rather, at times, must respond and adapt themselves to the circumstances. The real world outside of school, and many interpersonal relationships as well, demand that we rise to the occasion and choose our responses to challenging circumstances. As much as we would like to, we don’t get to mold the nature of the circumstances, and we would often do much better rising to the occasion in our responses.
Very often, we will find that doing so enables us to contribute our individual talents and strengths much more so than demanding systemic change from the systems around us.
The Parents’ Job [A Class of His Own / Double Take – Issue 985]
I have a son who, like “Ezra” in the Double Take story, is extremely bright. Like Ezra, he’s been constantly bored in class since the early grades in school. And like Ezra’s parents, we didn’t want our son to skip a grade due to social concerns.
One thing we realized was that being a partner with the teacher is of paramount importance for the year to succeed. If a student is seriously struggling and falling behind, the school will not expect the teacher to cater to the weak student. That student will be pulled out of class by a tutor — because a teacher must cater to the majority of the class.
By the same token, we had private teachers learn with our son over the years so he felt like he was learning something at his level. He was able to learn a completely different Gemara this way, at his level. The rest of the time, he had permission to read history books or Jewish novels during English class, and learn a masechta of his own choice when the rebbi reviewed the Gemara he’d already mastered.
My son also was the “assistant” rebbi or teacher when the rebbi or teacher deemed it to work. Not only did it not hurt my son’s social standing, it taught him to be confident and articulate.
My main takeaway from my son’s elementary school years is how important it was to have the teacher or rebbi in our court, allowing him to do his own coursework during school time. But as parents, it’s our responsibility to provide that extra coursework. It’s a job for me — but one well worth the effort.
Not the Answer [A Class of His Own / Double Take – Issue 985]
In response to Ms. Mirsky’s letter in Issue 986, I would like to submit that derech eretz, while important, is not the answer for the gifted child.
No educator would tell a child with dyslexia or another learning disability that even if he doesn’t understand the material, he “must learn to sit quietly and have patience,” or that “what he needs to start doing is working on himself.” We all understand that when a child is in a learning environment that doesn’t address his needs, it’s imperative for the school and/or parents to find a way to meet those needs.
Even if the school provides therapies and tutoring for the learning-disabled child, or enrichment for the gifted child, both children will have plenty of opportunities during the rest of the day to practice patience, self-control, and other crucial life skills. The challenging times, which inevitably make up the bulk of the day, will be that much more manageable if he has support for some of the day.
I don’t blame the schools for not being everything to everyone; they are underfunded and understaffed. It is unreasonable to expect them to provide alternative curricula for gifted children. However, a problem-solving attitude, or at least an acknowledgment of the predicament, would go a long way toward improving the situation.
When our gifted son was terribly bored in school, any request for enrichment was denied by the hanhalah with claims that allowing him more leeway would make him “not normal” and would cause him to lose respect for his rebbi (somehow, these concerns were not relevant to the children who were pulled out of class because they were struggling academically).
Even when we offered to find a chavrusa and pay him ourselves, they refused to let our son out of class for occasional enrichment sessions. Instead, they managed to teach our son that learning is a mind-numbing, unsatisfying process.
If the purpose of chinuch is to instill a love of learning, insisting that bored, under-stimulated kids endure countless hours learning nothing but “compassion, listening skills, and respect... how to hold his tongue and think before he speaks” does the opposite.
I agree with Ms. Mirsky that we can’t expect teachers to completely supply all of the students’ disparate needs. But we can expect them to understand that gifted children present a unique challenge, and that parents and educators can work together to find creative solutions that respect these children’s journeys.
Name Withheld, Lakewood, NJ
Unreasonable Expectation [A Class of His Own / Double Take – Issue 985]
While I am aware that you are a fictional mother of sixth-grade Ezra, I have some thoughts I would like to share with you. Letter writer Ashira Mirsky was spot-on when she described the issue as centering on middos and derech eretz.
Malky, that problem is for you to address, and not the school’s. However, the expectation that above-level learners be treated similarly to resource room students is misguided and just plain wrong. Your child is not the same as the struggling reader, who, if he went without help, would be functionally illiterate. Your child will be fine.
In addition, consider the big picture, namely school resources. We pay tuition, but it never covers everything, which creates a situation where resources (money, personnel) are limited. Most reasonable people would agree that those limited resources should be funneled to the weakest students. Personalized learning for above-level students isn’t prioritized, unless you would like to sponsor an enrichment track.
In terms of differentiation, again, with the school’s limited resources, teachers are not paid nearly enough and don’t necessarily work full time for the school (while sometimes working multiple jobs). It’s unreasonable to expect teachers to teach beyond the grade level standard.
Teach your child middos, derech eretz, and patience, and get over yourself.
Tracking Is the Solution [A Class of his Own / Double Take – Issue 985]
I must respectfully disagree with Mrs. Mirsky’s letter regarding the Double Take portraying the gifted student. It is true that children must learn good middos from a young age, but it is ridiculous to insist that they learn patience from being bored in a classroom setting. Do we tell the weaker students they must learn that in life they won’t always understand things and expect them to glean that lesson from going at a faster speed in the classroom? Would we tell a child who is gifted in piano to go to lessons with those way behind him because it can improve his character? I hope not on both accounts.
Gifted children should have just as many opportunities to be challenged and feel fulfilled in the classroom as weaker students. Otherwise, all they take away from school is that they are superior and school is “babyish” (direct quotes).
Unfortunately, our school system, so phenomenal in many areas, has yet to realize what public schools recognized years ago: there is a place in a school for a “gifted and talented” class. All schools have resource rooms, but many have nothing to improve the school experience for the brighter students. Dare I say it is high time for our schools to “track” classes, even in elementary schools, even if only for part of the day. This also alleviates the need for a teacher to create multiple individualized curricula.
All students can be taught to use their gifts from Hashem for the greater good, and academic gifts are no different. Here’s to hoping all our precious children get the most they can out of their school experiences.
Another Mechaneches/Teacher in Baltimore
Illustrious Lineage [For the Record / Issue 985]
I would like to make two small corrections to the wonderful article on the French Sanhedrin and Rabbi Yosef Dovid Sinzheim. which states that Rabbi Sinzheim was born in France and was a scion of the Maharal.
The article was correct that Rabbi Sinzheim was born in Treves, but that is the English name for the German city Trier, which is considered Germany’s oldest city. Rabbi Sinzheim was descended from an older brother of the Maharal of Prague, Rav Chaim ben Bezalel, who served as rabbi in Worms and Friedberg, and composed a super-commentary on Rashi, as well as a critique on the Rema’s Toras Chatas, called Vikuach Mayim Chaim.
His grandfather, Harav Avraham Sinzheim, served as rav in Mannheim, Germany, while his father, Rav Yitzchak Sinzheim, was the spiritual leader of Trier, Germany. In the introduction to his Yad David commentary, Rav Yosef David ascribes his mastery of Gemara to the lessons he received from his father. As a youth, Yosef David learned with Rav Shmuel Hillman-Halpern, who served as the rav of Metz after Rav Yonasan Eibschutz.
When Rav Yosef David Sinzheim turned 20, he married Esther, the daughter of Todros Cerf Berr of Medelsheim. Both Todros and his son, Naftali Herz Cerf Berr of Medelsheim, supported Rav Sinzheim so that he could continue to learn.
Rabbi Raphael Nathan Auerbach of Jerusalem, a descendant of Rabbi Sinzheim, has written a comprehensive biography of his ancestor that is included in Rabbi Yoseph Dovid Sinzheim’s Minchas Ani, which was printed for the first time by Machon Yerushalayim in 1974.
Rabbi Yosef Dovid Sinzheim’s sister married Rav Selig Auerbach, rabbi of Bouxwiller. Their son Avraham would eventually marry his first cousin, Rav Y. D. Sinzheim’s daughter, Gittele. Rabbi Raphael Auerbach is descended from both Rabbi Sinzheim and his sister.
Pearl Herzog, Lakewood, NJ
Questioning the Need [Schooled in Hate / Issue 985]
“Schooled In Hate” provided an eye-opening and sobering perspective of life in the Ivy League and elite secular colleges. I was wondering if anyone could take us a step back, however, and explain what is (or at least was, before October 7) the need and the benefit in a frum ben or bas Torah attending such an institution, despite the challenges? I ask not to attack or criticize, but to learn and understand.
What do these institutions offer that is substantively different than what motivated, bright, entrepreneurial, scholarly students can acquire at Touro, Yeshiva University, or other Jewish institutions of higher secular learning? I would very much appreciate an inside perspective.
Thanks for a great magazine.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 987)
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