Why Chabad Hebrew Schools Are a Success

April 27, 2010
In a special to The Jewish Week, Rabbi David Eliezrie of the North County Chabad Center in Yorba Linda, CA, explains why Chabad's 350 Hebrew supplementary schools around the US are growing and drawing more students as described in the Avi Chai Foundation report of last year authored by Dr. Jack Wertheimer.
He writes:
"Chabad’s first priority is always to engage Jews in Jewish life. So, to reach these families, Lubavitch educators, working closely with parents and children countrywide, created an approach that includes engaging academics, inspiring teachers and a non-judgmental acceptance — all fused to shape a welcoming gateway to Jewish life. The model focuses also on enabling families to send their children without spending thousands of dollars, thus removing historical barriers to Jewish involvement for many. Programs are also designed to extend the educational interaction beyond the classroom to the entire family unit.
The Hebrew school curriculum was transformed to a program that is hands-on and interactive. Kids learn Hebrew with the innovative Aleph Champ program, steadily moving up a ladder of achievement. Holiday workshops — like an olive press on Chanukah and pre-Passover matzah bakeries — make learning experiential. In our school we brought animals to help the kids experience the story of Noah and sent the kids on a scavenger hunt to a supermarket in search of kosher products.
We have also taken a hard look at school operations. Some Chabad-run schools have improved on the traditional two-day a week program. Others have modified to a more intensive program on Sundays only, and for logical reason. In my community I resisted the change for years, fearing it would lower academic standards. But the reverse has proven to be true. A Sunday morning of intensive learning has had a greater impact than the two days a week after school. Kids arrive fresh and ready to learn on Sundays, compared to weekdays when they come in drained from school and activities. I’ve discovered that we can accomplish more in three hours on Sunday with no breaks, than in four hours split between two weekday afternoons, where time is wasted on getting started, focusing the kids, and providing a necessary recess.
But the greatest advantage of Chabad schools is the passion and energy of the teachers. The rabbis, rebbetzins and teachers live Judaism in an intense, personal way. They serve as powerful role models for the children, who become inspired by their infectious joy. The children bring this home and parents and siblings often join the Jewish experience, too."
Updated: Jun. 06, 2010