Destroying Students’ Potential and Destroying Their Lives

22

By Avrohom Gordimer

We have all read about the incredible tragedy of Malky Klein. While there is always going to be unknown information about these and other similar cases, such that people will claim that we lack the full story, this and other alike occurrences should set off the loudest of alarms.

Judge Ruchie Freier wrote a must-read essay on the subject, and I have little to add. What more can be said?

All I can contribute to this heartrending discussion is that the issue of yeshiva and day school exclusion should perhaps be addressed on a broader scale. When children are boxed in (or out) and conspicuously labeled due to their abilities, they can get badly bruised and also unfairly pigeonholed and sidelined for life.

When a yeshiva or day school refers to the more rigorous or high-level Torah learning or secular studies track as the “masmidim shiur” or “honors program”, how are those not enrolled in these more advanced programs to view themselves? What message do these yeshivos and day schools send to these students? That they are not masmidim or honors material; they are lower; they are lesser in achievement and academic quality. And that is how many such students will hence view themselves and act upon the de facto labels that these schools have conferred upon them.

I am all in favor of more advanced Torah learning and secular studies tracks, but there is a sensitive and sensible way to market them.

When a child legitimately needs to be expelled from a yeshiva or day school, such as when as the child is a really damaging force there, or the child’s presence at the specific yeshiva or day school is very much not for the child’s benefit, the expulsion needs to be done in a manner that is sensitive to the child’s long-term needs, coordinated so that the child has the opportunity to transition into the yeshiva or day school that is best for him.

A true story:

Aharon was acting out in yeshiva, and was the most frequent occupant of the principal’s office other than the principal himself. Aharon was not doing anything “bad” in the acute sense (nothing criminal, lewd, etc.), but he was all too often calling out in class and was involved with some disruptive pranks. A few weeks before the close of the school year, Aharon’s parents, who had already registered him for the coming year, suddenly found out that Aharon was not being “invited back” for next year.

Aharon’s parents frantically appealed to the yeshiva, arguing that it was not fair that they were given no advance notice of the expulsion, and that unless another yeshiva would somehow agree to accept their child so extremely late in the year, he would end up having to stay home or “on the street” next year. These appeals were rejected.

With Hashem’s help, including the intervention of a loving rebbe and great exertion by Aharon’s parents, he was accepted into a different yeshiva, where he was shown warmth and was given more personal attention, and where he matured and flourished. He is now at the top of his rosh yeshiva’s shiur and has established excellent academic credentials.

How many boys and girls are subject to expulsion that is executed with insensitivity and capriciousness, whereupon their parents are sent scrambling without ample opportunity to arrange for transition into another yeshiva or day school? How many children feel shamed that they are not labeled as masmidim or honors students, with their view toward their role in Torah learning and school achievement thus substantially narrowed and lowered? How many students like Malky will suffer at the hands of unloving and uncaring principals, who are slaves of elitism and who sacrifice children in its service?

There obviously must be standards, accountability and a drive for excellence, but there is way to do it and a way not to do it. Furthermore, sensitivity and love for each student, with his welfare and success being the priority, must be the goal; external factors of reputation and social standing are irrelevant.

Please read Judge Freier’s essay and think about what was, what could be and what is at the many yeshivos and day schools that are led and governed with compassion and true wisdom, and consider what we can all do to harness the good and bring about urgently needed change.

Originally published in Cross Currents

{Matzav.com}

22 COMMENTS

  1. This is more common than you think. We spend so much money on breathing close those far to us. We take the people who are close to us and throw them away. A mind is a terrible thing to waste and so is people. After 120 those people will come to judgment. And all their Torah studies is worthless.

  2. The main problem, from what I’ve seen, is the lack of accountability that the staff have when they do these things. If these good people – and the vast majority are indeed good – would be held accountable, then they wouldn’t do so many of these damaging things. Sometimes they don’t want to look bad or as having failed, so they sacrifice the kid for their own good reputation.

    The success of this Aron is what some of these reshoim are afraid of. They are afraid of the child being truly successful somewhere else, which will make them look as if they failed in properly educating this child. I’ve unfortunately seen it.

    However, if there would be some sort of accountability, then things would be different. They need to be held accountable for their lies about the child. They to be held accountable for their insensitivity towards the child.

  3. Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin was what we would call an “elite” Yeshiva. Back then people were more resilient and didn’t go off the deep end when they were rejected. Today is a different world. Our children need to succeed in Yeshiva otherwise they’re in danger.

    • The system didn’t call for every boy going to that type of yeshiva, so he wasn’t being ousted from Klal Yisroel.

      • Actually, there more than a few miserable boys who were rejected in Europe.
        Some migrated;some joined secularist or zionist movements ,etc.

        Many of the Leaders in America,davka, made the system to be different. Their offspring and allies prefer the Old system after pulling up the ladders (,while shrewdly coopting a few potential troublemakers)

        Those who fail to study the past

        • They weren’t rejected from the Jewish school system because there was no system. The lack of an organized school system was a problem which caused some to go astray. In America a system was created. It is meant to be all inclusive but effectively exclude many who don’t fit a particular mold. So those are official outcasts, and they are blamed for not fitting in when it’s just that their nature requires a system which tolerates diversity. I don’t mean diversity in levels of yiras shomayim, but diversity in styles and natures.

    • Yeshivas in Europe were set up a lot differently than america. first of all yeshivas (meaning post cheder) were meant to produce rabbis. secondly basically everyone was guaranteed a cheder education. thirdly if one wanted to advance their learning but nowhere to go or couldn’t afford it their were Talmud Torahs.

      The problem is in America their really is no justification for how yeshivas conduct themselves their is no historical precedence. they conveniently act secular when they want and then as a religious institution when it suits them better. should yeshivas run like a regular american private school? does that make sense? what about when menhalim/principals coerce student to snitch on other student? is that the way a Yeshiva should be run?

      why is it that their isn’t a third party to investigate if things arent working right? why do people automatically assume that yeshivas should have the authority to deem if a kid should be thrown out or to make sure he is not accepted to another school? why is their no organization that can sit down and investigate if a kid is really a “nuisance” like how a mashgiach investigates to make sure food is kosher. at the end of the day are yeshivas Jewish institutions of learning or no different than a secular private school!
      tell me would you trust a beis din run by the prosecution?

  4. I have been reading the articles posted and I hear the pain and suffering. I also want to write about the other side. I want to write an article commending the many rebbeim, teachers, and principals who are devoted to their students. The people who work long long hours, who go beyond their call of duty, who look at children as neshamos. I have seen and continue to see those people. They inspire me and humble me. I am amazed by their persistence and love for their students. These people are human and fallible. They can make mistakes the same way we do. I would like people to post about the many teachers and rebbeim who made a difference in their lives and the lives of their children. There are so many stories we can write and share.

    • Please allow this point to be made without changing the subject.

      Secondly, if a good rebbee is truly devoted to most, but the one difficult case he throws out of the yeshiva, then he will get sechar for all of the boys he helped, and for the one he threw out, he will be held accountable, sometimes to the point of shfichas damim.

      The true good rebbees who don’t engage in ‘selektzia’, deserve praise and admiration, on a post specially dedicated to that, not to take away the lime light from this important topic.

    • your comment is nothing but misdirection! take your smoke and mirrors somewhere else.
      the problem might be because it might be that one must be made by experience to learn in depth compassion/mercy. or at least to be heavily attuned to it. something that might not be easily translatable from a sefer to practice. here is a example.
      “Reb Yakov once remarked that he never held a grudge against anyone except for one of his earliest melamdim. He related an incident from his early childhood that had never left him. It was a gentile holiday, and the town was celebrating in the usual way with a festive parade. The children in the cheder were admonished by their rebbe that it was absolutely forbidden to attend the parade. Everyone was expected to be in class on time.
      The next morning, as the young Reb Yakov was walking to cheder, he noticed an elderly woman carrying a number of heavy shopping bags. He approached her and offered his assistance in carrying the bags. After helping her home with her bags, he went immediately to cheder, but arrived slightly late. The rebbe asked him, “Why did you go to the parade? Did I not tell everyone yesterday that it is absolutely forbidden to attend their parade?” The young boy immediately replied, “But I did not go to the parade. I am late because I was helping an elderly lady with her packages.” “Not only did you disobey me by going to the parade, you also have the nerve to lie!” declared the rebbe. This angry retort was accompanied by two slaps to complete the humiliation.
      Reb Yaakov concluded, “He is the only person I have not been able to bring myself to forgive, because, to the best of my knowledge, I have never lied in my life.” ”
      anyone who knows. know that Reb Yankef was a lion when it came to defending Bochrim to keep them in Yeshiva!

  5. It’s worse when the elite mosdos pride themselves on their crop of “metzuyanim”, not merely masmidim or honors students. If there’s one way to ruin an adolescent boy’s middos tovos and anava, it’s to call him a metzuyan. While this is certainly dejecting to the ones who do not get into these yeshivos, it doesn’t do any favors for those that get in.

  6. How dare a yeshiva expel a child for calling out and the like?!

    My blood boils when I hear of such things. Imagine if parents would expel the child from their home for being disruptive in that way. A yeshiva is a place of Torah, isn’t it? That’s what it’s meant to be, isn’t it? Torah is the essence of a Jew. How dare the holders and representatives of The Torah expel a Jewish child?!

    Do they think they’re running a business, like a grocery store, and Jewish children are their inventory, which they can decide to no longer carry, as they please? If that’s what they think, then they should open a grocery store instead.

    If they don’t realize that they are the representatives of The Jewish people, then they are obviously in it for their own personal advancement. They have no right to exploit Jewish children for their own gain.

    If they realize that they are representatives of Jewish kehillos which have to fulfill the mitzva of velimadetem osam es benaichem, then they realize that they have no say and no right to exclude ANY Jewish child whatsoever. That would be the same as thinking that they have the authority to expel a Jew from Klal Yisroel.

  7. Many times rebbeim put kids in boxes because its easier than working with them ,
    ADD, reading issues, watches movies,impulsive, crazy parents are all typical assessments of Rebbeim, principals, that blame the kid and family. Its usually an excuse so the Rebbi /school wont have to work with the kid. Many of the school mandated assessments that could cost up to $2000 are just for the school to have evidence”that its not their issue.
    The kids usually hear about the “boxes” and just get angry and give up. Many see no future and the pain is too much to bear, with horrible repercussions. A proper Rebbi believes in his students ,gives encouragement and makes a plan to adjust the material in a way that’s not dumb down, but not too hard. He works to develop the kid.
    chinuch – not a power trip.
    there are 2 type of Rebbis ..
    Those who care and Those that have shtellers. Those who care, figure out solutions and sacrifice for yiddishe neshomos.

  8. Can we please get back to the Shidduch crises? What are we going to do about the single ladies in their 40’s and are concerned that their childbearing years are escaping? A natural holocaust is brewing r”l.

  9. I read Judge Freier’s essay, although I wasn’t sure before and remain unconvinced afterward, that a judge is especially qualified to write on chinuch.
    Some of what she writes is true – but talk is cheap. If there really are so many people affected by this crisis, then why don’t they get together and open the school of their dreams? Why are they wasting time trying to change the system? Their children can’t wait for the community to change – they need a solution now.
    One of the comments on the article pointed out that Judge Freier bases her argument on Torah sources, but in doing so she undermines herself completely, since she is hardly qualified to pasken. Indeed, in the only place where she brings her judicial experience to bear on this issue, her argument is irrelevant. She describes non-Jewish youth and their issues and possible solutions – which are in the most part inapplicable to our kehillos.
    Yes, we could establish trade schools where academically-struggling students would learn – but who would want to send their kids there? Of course such establishments would be labeled sug beit.
    Yes, we could keep struggling students in class – and then what? Whoever thinks that a struggling student will sit quietly in class and listen attentively even when he doesn’t understand is being totally unrealistic.
    Then we start with the (unfair) accusations: “How many boys and girls are subject to expulsion that is executed with insensitivity and capriciousness…”
    I wonder actually how many. I think the answer is that in the vast majority of cases, our mosdos chinuch are sensitive and caring, certainly far more so than those in the non-Jewish world. And sure, we can endeavor to shelter our children from ever experiencing failure and rejection, but in the world that comes after school, they are going to have to face up to unpleasant emotions and learn how to process them.
    Of course this in no way excuses any institution from behaving with derech eretz – but we have to teach our children to deal with what is, and give them the tools to do so.

    • “I wonder actually how many. I think the answer is that in the vast majority of cases, our mosdos chinuch are sensitive and caring, certainly far more so than those in the non-Jewish world.”
      yep that sure explains all the kinder running for the embrace of goyishe velt!
      lets say in 25 students 1 goes off is it measurably justified. in 50 students 1 goes off is it measurable justified? in 75? 100? 200? at what point does the question become, wait a minute you are talking about people not just statistics?

    • To Just Someone: Let’s talk about Malky Klein, shall we?

      Was she thrown out with dignity and sensitivity??? No, she was not!
      Did this school then try to hide why and how they threw her out, so that they don’t look bad? Was this concealment and misrepresentation of the facts part of what murdered Malky?
      I have seen too many cases where the school is insensitive and then seeks to hide their missteps, which then causes the expelled student so much harm. Just be honest and truthful. Don’t you dare hide what you did to the child’s potential new school. You don’t have the right to murder children. Never!

  10. “When a child legitimately needs to be expelled from a yeshiva or day school, such as when as the child is a really damaging force there, or the child’s presence at the specific yeshiva or day school is very much not for the child’s benefit, the expulsion needs to be done in a manner that is sensitive to the child’s long-term needs, coordinated so that the child has the opportunity to transition into the yeshiva or day school that is best for him.”

    And who decides? tell me would you leave the hen-house open for the fox’s? there needs to be a third party with the authority to investigate otherwise it would most likely be impossible for the administration to be impartial. who would take a beis din seriously that was also the prosecutor. that is also not taking in to account that throwing a kid out could make a kid go “otd”.
    how many years in america have kids been having troubles with yeshivas in america 60 years? and yet still no organisation no instrument to make sure things are done justly. is Yehoshua ben Gamla just a footnote in history? how many more kids should have no yeshiva?

  11. OK, this is great. We finally solved this major major problem, right here on the internet with anonymous bloggers. Terrific.

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