Rav Shteinman to Veteran Menahel: Today’s Generation Calls for Different Chinuch Approach

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rav-shteinmanThe director of a well-known Talmud Torah in Bnei Brak visited the home of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman yesterday and poured his heart out to the senior rosh yeshiva, sharing a heartbreaking story with a lesson in chinuch for our generation.

This menahel was known over the years as a strict mechanech, but his Talmud Torah was highly regarded for its phenomenal chinuch and for producing outstanding talmidim. There was no question about the success of this mosad.

The menahel told Rav Shteinman, “For many years, I’ve been in chinuch and have merited to raise hundreds of children in Torah. There have, however, been occasional exceptions.

“One of these cases was a child, whom we shall call Moshe. Moshe was a boy who was never able to get along with his parents and rabbeim. He was an extremely difficult child who had his hands in every wrong thing. One day, I felt the need to discipline him strongly. I took him to an area of the Talmud Torah where all the children were and I said, “Look boys, you see this problematic student? Remember always not to be like him.’ “I added, for good measure,” the menahel told Rav Shteinman, “two potches on his cheeks. From then until he left the Talmud Torah, I never had a problem with the boy.”

The menahel continued:

“Another incident happened at the talmud Torah with a boy named Binyamin. Although he was by his very nature a good boy, he had one problem. He used to scribble on the walls of the Talmud Torah. Yelling at him didn’t help. Penalizing didn’t help. The child continued to write on the walls of the cheder. One day, I felt he had gone too far. I took him to the office, I put an old shirt on him, and I wrote in large black marker, “I’m a bad boy who scribbles on the walls.’ I then went hand in hand with him across the Talmud Torah. We passed each class until there wasn’t one student who didn’t know what he had done. From that point on, I never had a problem…”

“Years passed and I forgot all about these cases, and these talmidim, until a year ago when it all came back to me. I woke up from my sleep to the sound of the phone ringing. On the line was a whispering voice: ‘We will chase you as long as you live. We will kill you.’ And the person hung up.

“Thus began my ongoing nightmare. I got harassed on the phone, and then the door to my house was burned, but that was only the beginning. One day, on my way to the Talmud Torah, a car stopped beside me. Two former students emerged… Had they not identified themselves, I would have never recognized them by their shocking mode of dress. They started beating me terribly, and they reminded me of things I did to them as their menahel. They promised never to forgive me.”

What bothered him, the menahel went on to relate, was not escaping these attacks, but whether, perhaps, he had been mistaken in his chinuch approach for years. He posed this question to Rav Shteinman.

“Is it possible I was wrong in my chinuch approach? In Shomayim, will I be punished for all my years as menahel, and not be credited with anything other than these children who I may have wronged? How could I have been so well-intentioned and yet failed? Should I quit today, or should I change my approach? ”

Rav Shteinman responded, “Do not be pained, for your intention was good, and you conducted yourself in the derech of chinuch of days gone by – the approach you may have received when you were young. However, you have to understand that for our time, this approach is absolutely not appropriate. Our generation is not cut out for it. Children are bigger mefunakim today, and they need warmth and freedom and less pressure. This system of education of causing a child to be ashamed in front of his friends in order to educate him does not work. On the contrary, it has a boomerang effect and produces a broken child,” Rav Shteinman said. “You don’t have to quit, but you must completely change your approach for this generation.”

And what should be done with these talmidim who already left the cheder?

“You should seek out these talmidim, who are now adults, and tell them that you want to meet with them,” said Rav Shteinman. “Ask them forgiveness. Tell them that you made a mistake, that this was the way chinuch had been conducted in earlier generations, and that it worked at one time but no longer does.”

 {Yair Alpert-Matzav.com Israel}


  1. I don’t understand… THESE approaches of humiliating and demeaning students publicly and shamelessly – can be justified in ANY generation? Don’t get it!

  2. I refuse to believe that busha and bizayon is traditional chinuch. What a disaster. Is this why my friends in Eretz Yisrael have sons off the derech? This could never be derech Toras Moshe M’Sinai. Asur gamor.

  3. i don’t know if this story is true or not, but the part about what R’ Shatainman said is simply impossible. it is not possible to believe that “this was the way chinuch had been conducted in earlier generations”. to take a child and embarrasss him in public is not the way of the Torah. There is no Heter of Malbin P’nei Chaveiro just because it is a child!!

  4. this person did not belong in chinuch in any generation.
    i do not believe that even one child was
    ever positively influenced by such a person.
    Rav shteinman’s approach is a lesson
    on how to treat someone who has acted terribly but wants to do teshuva
    hamevin yavin
    If he is an ehrliche yid he should
    become a shochet. better that he
    shect behamos rather than children

  5. People blame kids going off the derech on internet, cell phones, and other things. This is what’s really causing it! Some educators embarrass those who don’t fit the mold, and it drives people off.

  6. Whenever they print these stories, I’m always questioning if they are taken out of context. Did the man himself print the story, or was it secondhand or thirdhand? Unless you know really what Rav Shteinman said, it’s an interesting story but we can’t know every detail.

  7. #6 – Kids DO go off the derech due to internet, cellphones and other things. Being shamed by educators in public is one of those other things. I don’t believe that publicly parading a child about school with a shirt marked BAD was ever a true derech of chinuch. Hitting, possibly yes, it was done with thought and not out-of-control anger. But labeling a child as bad will never motivate him to be good in any generation.

  8. We too grew up with Principals who in today’s world would be jailed for their actions. What we as children witnessed during our Eelementary years “Ochen Vey” if this is called Chinuch!!!

    Any Rebbe or Principal that uses his hands on a Talmid it is as if he would eat non kosher food or mechale Shabbos!!! There are ways to discipline children and using hands or ridiculing a child in public just shows their lack in Educating the Children.

  9. I find all these comments amusing. R. Shtainman said these things were done in the past and don’t work today; the comments only prove that. The gemora says in Makos that it’s a mitzva to hit a child even when he does no wrong and the child would grow up to appreciate the parent (beginning of second perek). I had a rebbi in second grade who would hit children on the hand with a ruler. No one went off the derech because of it but you can be sure we listened closely.

    I bet all of these commentors don’t believe that there were homeless children on the streets of America or that at Ellis Island children were sent back to Europe without their families if officials didn’t think they were healthy. Or that families had many children so that they could help in the fields, not so that they should go to school. Even child mortality was an accepted fact, every family had one or more children who had died – it was part of life.

    No, this was indeed the way things were, children and people in general were more resilient and a potch was a deserved way of life. Don’t we get a potch (an illness, a death, poor parnossa) if we do something Hakodosh Boruch tells us not to? I’m afraid today’s pandering and softness is due to external non-yiddish influence – we are never at fault so we should never be punished. R. Shtainman tells us that regardless, facts are facts and we need to treat children differently today but it was definitely acceptable, and indeed a MITZVA as the mishna in Makos says, for this Rebbi to do what he did. We need to turn our minds to understand the Torah, not twist the Torah to the way we think it should be.

    To be clear: Today’s child is different and must be treated more gently but this Rebbi did what was right and will ge Schar for it.

  10. This was the way of chinuch in earlier years? Let’s remember the number of young people who joined the Haskalah, the Zionists, the socialists, the communists….it doesn’t work now and maybe it didn’t work then either.

  11. I will never forgive the abuse of a yeshiva in Brooklyn. One particular incident where I was slapped, humiliated and mocked in front of more than 50 students at an assembly comes to mind. 10,000 Yom Kippurs won’t help them.

  12. to #1#2#3#4#5#6 you sound like a bunch of wimpy idiots and b/c people are like you thats why you cant do that any more. back when people had back bones it was ok to shake them up a bit even kids had stronger back bones than you wimps and matzev is a uostanding web site who would not just put something in from a gadol with out a good source so i for one belive it

  13. Everybody calm down – this in fact under certain circumstances was the Derech of Chinuch many years ago. NOT for everyone but in some cases. There is a famous story with R’ Sholom Schwadron ZT”L that he says over about when he was a Bochur and how (I think it was R’ Leib Chasman)gave him a public Tochocha when R’ Sholom Paskened Lifnei rabbo that there is No Tachanun said on a certain day.

    For details on this story ask Rabbi Peasach krohn. He knows it and he even said it in one of his speeches.

    This was a Derech years ago but one that todays Dor cannot relate to.

    Question to all those who are wondering about being Mevayesh someone Berabim – Do you correct a Baal Koreh in Shul in front of the entire Tzibbur if he makes a Mistake? Chas Vsholom how could you? It is better to not be Yotzay Leining then to embarrass someone. You can go to another Shul to hear Krias Hatorah but don’t embarrass the Bal Koreh (Rambam)

  14. I grew up in A Monsey Mosad where the menahel use to beat children till they were red white and blue till one day many years later he was away on vacation and two thugs(nebach yidishe kinder with TATOOS ON THEIR ARMS R”L) stopped their car and asked him are you so and so and he they started screaming and yelling at him so he ran for his life, there are many neshomos who instead of a little warmth were beaten and thats why unfortunately they look the way they did lets try warmth instead of petch if a child is acting up maybe there is a problem at home and the teacher or pricipal should be giving the extra that they are missing from home may we be zocheh to the geulah bekurov and we shouldn’t hear any more of these tzuros

  15. I once saw a teacher stop a little girl in the school hallway and tell her angrily “Tell your Mother not to send you to school in short socks!” I could feel the little girl’s embarressment and I am certain
    the only effect it made on the little girl was to “hate long socks”
    since it caused her shame. If the teacher said the same thing to her gently it may have had an effect.
    Talking gently may not always help
    but embarrassing someone even if they seem to deserve it will turn a little problem into a bigger one

  16. While it’s true that people were stronger in the past and we’re much softer today, I still think there’s a difference between potch and public humiliation. WHile petch happened alot in the not so distant past, I don’t think humiliating a talmid in public was ever the right way. As a previous poster said, many people went off the derech before the war in Europe and many blamed it on Melamdim who were frustrated people who couldn’t find another parnossa.They shouldn’t have been melamdim then and such people shouldn’t be malamdim ever.

  17. In the days of Chazal children had true Yiras Hashem and they understood when they were being spanked it was to spare them punishment in the next life. It even says that the children would thank their parents for punishing them. However, those days are gone and thats very sad. How can I say such a thing, am I a sadistic person? GD forbid! I say it because in those days children were held to a higher standard of accountability because they were holier then we are today. The farther we get from Har Sinai the further we are from HKBH. Dont believe me? Just look at thefirst 6 commentators shock to learning what our sages speak about and is commonly known to have been the status quo only a generation ago. ( and I might add is still the status quo in many yeshivas today ) Unfortunately, today there are alot of Jews wearing kippas who are Torah Jews but instead have created a new spiritiual and mystical utopian Judaism berift of any structure, accountability and discipline. Now dont misunderstand me and think I am espousing a Judaism which is only rigid structure and gevurah. Not at all! Of course we need chesed and Ahavas Hashem and simchas but we must not forget Yiras Hashem! We need to correct our crooked ways.

  18. Ok Everyone,

    First of all R Steinman didnt say it was “muttar” to embaras students in public in earlier years.

    What he probably meant to convey was, that in earlier generations there exsisted a hard line approach to dealing with trouble makers including an occasional potch in front of the other kids.

    What he meant to say was that even that does not work today.

    Sadly I have to admit that more often then not , the kid who was trying to test the rebbes tolerance deserved the potch that he got.

    Comment #16 , Moshe Shmiel! was the school [deleted by moderator]? cause I went there as well for ten years.

    Why cant we get the name of thsi very prestigous principal who had this meeting with R Shtianman , and get the first hand facts?



  20. i had my mouth sticky taped for talking in class. If I would ever see that teacher again i would also remind her what she did.

  21. People are posting that Rabbeim used to hit students, and nobody went off because of it. That’s true, and I agree that hitting wasn’t so bad then. Yes, the Gemara says good things about it. However, this story wasn’t about hitting, it was about public humiliation. There is no heter for that. I was also publicly humiliated by a few Rabbeim, and I went off because of it. I was lucky I found my way back.

  22. unfortunately there are educators who will do this even today, at my school, and I totally disagree with this, they have a policy, that on the first day of school, the first child that steps out of line , even if it was something small, they will shamble and embarass him publicly to keep the others in line . I’ve always protested this Mehalach, since when are we allowed to embarass someone, ask around and you’ll see many schools have this policy, they won’t smack anymore or make em where a sign, but in many schools this is standard policy today, matzav thank u for bringing light to this issue, I hope it will stop and we will have happier children beh

  23. to #11. i hope you are not in chinuch!! The gemorah in makkos refers to hitting as a way of discipline – not a way for a rebbe to release his anger! The gemorah in Makkos does not use an example of shaming a child. that is the antithesis of Chinuch. If you believe that R. Shtainman actually sid this, or if you actually believe that this mechanech is going to get “Schar” for doing this to these children, then I have rachmonos on you.

  24. here’s a fun story of why people like me have so much resentment for the people who call themselves “teachers”. when i was in elementary school, probably in 5th grade, the principal made me walk around an entire day in just my socks and without my sneakers because they weren’t entirely black. yes, the rule was only black sneaker. but i came from a poor family and the only sneakers i was able to get were hand me downs that happened to be white. they could have been more sensitive to the issue and had a discussion with my parents, or sent me home until i had the correct shoes. but they didn’t. they chose to embarras and humiliate an 11 year old child who had no way of getting the proper shoes. other tactics should have been used but they didn’t ofr some odd reason. the bottom line is, the people who are supposed to be bringing the children closer to Judaism are the ones who are pushing us away. what’s done is done, but it’s time for these “teachers” to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves if the way they deal with children is the same way they would want their own children being treated.

  25. I wemt to a a wonderful Bais Yaakov, and there was one 2nd grade English teacher who always made us walk up and down 4 flight of stairs (basement included, where the dining hall was)if she felt wee were misbehaving. Several times she made the whole school run up and down those 4 flights for 20 times for punishment, and one of the girls collapsed with an asthma attack and she still made the girl and the rest of us to run up and down. I ran into the office to alert the secretary to call an ambulance for the stricken girl (no Hatzalah in those days!), and she almost lost her life for some stupid teacher’s whim. She was in the hospital for a few days. I have never forgotten this idiotic lesson. The teacher was asked to leave after that year and
    after 39 years it still pains me to remeber that blatent abuse. I am a teacher now for many long years and have never ever let any of my colleagues to abuse the students, by either speaking about them in the staff room or otherwise. I remember I was in a new school one Sept. and the former teacher of the class wanted to give me all the “inside info” on all the children. I told her that unless there was pertinant medical info, I was not interested. I was quite capable of sussing out a child in a few minutes, and wanted to see each child for what they were, good bad or indifferent.
    I remember clearly that I had to daven with one class every Monday morning, and the other teacher had to collect the dinner money from the children. One child, who had 3 other siblings in the school brought in a large note denomination to pay for herself and the other 3, as per her Mom’s note, and was screamed at every single week, what an idiot you are and your Mom is so stupid, can’t she give the correct change etc… This chid was so humiliated and embarrased by the teacher shouting at her that she wet herself every day. I told the teacher off (privately), that she is never ever to shout at any of my students or any students in the school. She pulled her rank on me and told me she was the vice principal and I then went to see the principal about this. Thank G-d a million times that the parents were paying for their lunches and do really expect the Mom to have small change every Monday morning, to give each child. I spoke to the Mom and asked her to pay by check so that they was not any hassle.
    Yes, there are many times that teachers have hit and have humiliated and hurt a child. This has affected them greatly in many ways. And, yes many have gone off the derech and are living with the anger for many years. These people don’t deserve to teach or be near children. You get more results, talking nicely and kindly to the child and much praise. They will have much more respect for you and will love you for it. You get more bees with honey.
    I have even had over 60 children come to our home on Purim for Seudah (who have never seen or partake in one), after being in school till 2:00 p.m.! The parents dropped off their children and then returned for hamantaschen and coffee/tea after 2 1/2 hours. These children are still talking about the kindness, home cooked Seudah with old fashioned games, after 18 years. We do not have a right to hit children in school and to shame them. We need to talk and find other solutions. We don’t need to abuse children in school, or homes for that matter. We need alot of koach, and kindness, and a lot of hashgacha pratis.

  26. Nothing is good when taken to extreme. children need to be loved and need to be punished. When a child knows you love them you can punish in an appropriate manner without resentment. Punishing a child without a prior warm relationship is akin to slapping someone elses kid. It may scare the child off but will not teach a thing. A punishment from a Rebbi/Teacher who you know loves you will creat a desire to mend and rebuild the relationship.

    To facilitate this we must allow and encourage our childrens positive relationship with their Rebbi/Teacher, then they can have the “backbone” to institute necessary discipline (wether a potch or otherwise).

    When your child comes home with what is percieved as negative… (a grade, “too much” homework”, peer interactions, seat change,…) be careful to build up the teacher/rebbi in your childs eyes. (ie The Teacher/Rebbi is doing what’s best for you, come let me help you…) After building a positive relationhip your child will be ready to handle criticism appropriately.

    (I am not in any way justifying humiliation even with a good relationship.)


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