NORWALK, CT — More than 150 Torah educators from across the US, and from as far away as, Melbourne, Australia, Moscow, Russia, and S. Paulo Brazil, convened at the Dolce Conference Center in southern Connecticut earlier this week for a two-day conference on education.
Sponsored by the Merkos Education Office, the conference offered educators the opportunity to explore new teaching skills, learn from their colleagues and leaders in various education-related fields, while enjoying a 48-hour period steeped in the world of education.
According to Rabbi Nochem Kaplan, Director of the Education office, this year’s conference was the best attended and most enthusiastically received.
Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, Chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, spoke to the educators at the conference. Of the numerous events organized and sponsored by Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch on an annual basis, he said, this one has particular resonance for him.
Lively discussions and animated debates spilled over from the formal sessions into the ballroom during meal times. Teachers clearly embraced the challenge to rethink pedagogical models for teaching Talmud and Jewish law in the schools.
Rabbi Meir Pogrow, head of “THE MASTER TORAH” foundation in Jerusalem, one of the guest lecturers, developed a revolutionary approach based upon the original system of Torah study. It incorporates cognition, skills building, comprehensive review and reinforcement which solidifies one’s learning to achieve Torah mastery. Pogrow delivered a series of four illuminating lectures on the topic.
Child Safety in a Complex World
Chabad schools have never shied away from dealing with the difficult and thorny issues of the times. The conference gave educators the opportunity to review Chabad’s Child Safety Policy, engendering a great deal of discussion. Parental and community cooperation, protecting the physical and emotional wellbeing of the student, and school responses to incidents of alleged abuse were among the themes discussed.
Nurturing the Soul of Children
Rabbi Moshe Wohlberg, Dean of the Chabad-Lubavitch Yeshiva in Manchester UK, delivered one of the keynote addresses. Educators in the Torah community, he said emphatically, must realize that they bear the responsibility of breathing ruach chayim, spiritual life into the students in the process of being teachers and administrators.
A New Paradigm of Effective Nurturing of Prayer in Schools
Jewish schools open their day with prayer and all schools struggle to make the process of teaching a child how to pray, a meaningful and inspired experience. The issue of Tefilla in schools was addressed comprehensively in a number a papers and presentations. What are the real objectives of Tefilla in schools? What can make the process an effective educational and learning experience which can be gradually built upon? What kind of atmosphere promotes these objectives? What should be the expectations and incentives? These issues will be followed up in the coming months through the Merkos Chinuch office in cooperation with a steering committee formed during the conference. The Objective: A new Tefilla-prayer curriculum.
Chinuch Innovations Exchange
A Gallery of short presentations of chinuch ideas, innovations and opportunities was followed by a chinuch ideas marketplace, showcasing practical ideas from the classroom. The session, led by Rabbi Boruch Kaplan, teacher of the Southern CT Hebrew Academy, highlighted the many innovations of Chabad teachers in schools across the country.