December 18, 2018 7:18 pm at 7:18 pm #1647456
We are a BT family after growing up barely reform on long island and now residing in Wisconsin. Our now 12 year old boy has attended frum schools since K3. Last year he participated in a Chabad sponsored even known as Chidon. This event has youngsters from around the country learn the Mitzvot from a set of proscribed books. There are 3 exams–a student achieving a 70% average across the 3 exams is eligible to participate in the big event in Crown Heights. My son did so last year as a 6th grader.
This year the exams required him to know not only the Mitzvot, but he has to identify the Pasuk from which the Mitzvot is derived. This is great except he is supposed to identify the Pasuk in the biblical hebrew. Being a BT household, we are not well versed in Hebrew and although he has gone to frum schools for nearly 10 years, he can still not learn directly from Hebrew.
So we began making flashcards the showed the Mitzvot and the Hebrew Pasuk but neither of us understood the the actual Hebrew–rather, we were looking for key words or characters that would be unique to the pasuk so he could recognize it as the one the Mitzva was derived from. IMO, this was ridiculous since we were learning nothing and according to what I understand, the Rebbe wanted us all to know and perform the Mitzvot–not necessarily to be fluent in Hebrew.
I called the Chidon center and got no satisfaction on my idea that their curriculum was leading to exclusivity rather than inclusivity– nor did they agree that their test was a hebrew test rather than a mitzvot test.
The end result is that my son stopped participating.
Would like to hear what the community thinks of this–also, if anyone can influence this program to become more inclusive of non-hebrew speakers, I think that would be well.December 18, 2018 9:20 pm at 9:20 pm #1647494
You gotta contact a shliach to help u .
Most are helpful. הצלחה רבהDecember 19, 2018 2:35 am at 2:35 am #1647584
I can understand why you- the parents- are not comfortable learning directly from the texts.
But I don’t understand why your son who has been attending frum schools his entire life cannot learn/read chumash?
This is not about learning the Hebrew Language, this is about learning Torah. A frum life is about learning Torah and doing MItzvos, one cannot be separated from the other.December 19, 2018 7:41 am at 7:41 am #1647615
Agreed WTP. Something is missing here. My parents are also BT but I can learn fluently in Hebrew Yiddish and even some aramaic. If you are saying that as parents you want to learn with and support him but you can’t due to the language barrier, well I can relate to that. My parents weren’t too helpful when it came to chidon our any homework either. But I didn’t expect them to learn with me- I learned with classmates after school and ended up winning first place international. It can be done.December 19, 2018 10:26 am at 10:26 am #1647642
I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but you have to learn to read Hebrew. I know there are some cases where people become BT’s at a relatively advanced age when it is much harder to take on new languages, but that doesn’t have any relevance for the kids.December 19, 2018 10:39 am at 10:39 am #1647624
Thanks for the responses so far. I don’t know exactly why he can’t learn from Hebrew directly. It does seem to be a matter of parental influence in terms of priority. Most of his BT family classmates cannot do so while boys from a family where the father has passed away early can as there mother ensured that the Rabbi’s teach the boys. Thus, I am probably most to blame.
My son has other things going on after school– and he did study after school and on Sundays the Chidon books but not in Hebrew. He could have studied Hebrew with the Rabbi’s sons but he didn’t and that’s that.
The point is that for whatever reason, he is not fluent in Hebrew and will not be because it is a lower priority.
Yet he knows the Mitzvot and the Parshas and a good amount of Tanach yet is fluent only in English. Certainly the understanding of Scripture is more profound if learned in Hebrew but it is far greater than nothing to understand what you can in English.
The end result is that he is no longer studying the Chidon books because he was being tested in Hebrew. This does not seem to me a satisfying conclusion even if it was someone else’s son. If they merely allowed testing in English for BT, he would be continuing his study in this area. What good is being done here?December 19, 2018 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm #1647796
Eli Y, look at 501 Hebrew Verbs by BaronsDecember 19, 2018 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm #1647710
Completely OT, CS, but now that you mention your family background I better understand your strong headed feminism and your incongruous attempts to reconcile it with Judaism.December 19, 2018 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm #1647806
Avram in MDParticipant
“So we began making flashcards the showed the Mitzvot and the Hebrew Pasuk but neither of us understood the the actual Hebrew–rather, we were looking for key words or characters that would be unique to the pasuk so he could recognize it as the one the Mitzva was derived from. IMO, this was ridiculous since we were learning nothing”
I disagree that you were learning nothing by doing what you were doing. Especially if you were combining finding key words/letters with reading the pesukim, however slowly. Any and all exposure to the pesukim will help. The ultimate goal here is not to get to the fun Crown Heights trip, but to build those learning skills. At first, yes, it’ll be picking out only key words, and very slow reading. But as you keep seeing and reading the same words over and over again, they’ll become more familiar, and your ability to read them and pick them out in other pesukim will improve. Unfortunately yes, there is now a steeper learning curve for your son to pass these tests and go on the trip. But rather than closing the book on the higher goal of acquiring the skills by demanding everything in English, is it possible to seek out some additional help? Maybe an older boy in the school needs some chessed hours? Or an older person in your community wants an opportunity to do a wonderful mitzva by tutoring?December 19, 2018 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm #1647811
Avram in MDParticipant
“The point is that for whatever reason, he is not fluent in Hebrew and will not be because it is a lower priority.”
Writing as a BT myself, if at all possible, make this a higher priority. Better skills to learn chumash, mishnayos, gemara, rashi, tosafos, shulchan aruch, etc. inside is something I always wish I had been able to get at a young age. Do it with him if possible!December 19, 2018 3:07 pm at 3:07 pm #1647879
” Certainly the understanding of Scripture is more profound if learned in Hebrew but it is far greater than nothing to understand what you can in English.”
True, but unless you are dealing with a learning disability, this should not be an acceptable standard for a student – and it seems many of his classmates- who are attending a yeshiva and should be taught how to learn inside in Loshon Hakodesh, whether their parents can help them at home or not. The chidon may be a fun way to encourage kids to learn, but it is not a goal in itself- being able to learn Torah is the goal.December 19, 2018 3:39 pm at 3:39 pm #1647892
The experience itself, is best addressed to someone inside Chabad, who is part of this program.
If you are asking general advice on how to pick up a better understanding of a)reading hebrew and b)understanding hebrew, perhaps those in the field of education can offer advice.
Regarding the importance of being able to read and understand “biblical hebrew” as you put it, is critical. For many years I volunteered for a group that billed itself as “anti missionary”, their favorite targets and where they have the most success are the ignorant. not just of judaism in general but even those who simply cant read hebrew. They would set up shop with jewish looking symbols and books, printed in hebrew and make claims about their beliefs and base them on pesukim in tanach. With no ability to refute them or even read the source material in the original, many were duped. my point is NOT that you or your son are targets for missionaries, rather, the inability to read and learn something in its original is a HUGE handicap. You are at the mercy of the translator. Like the saying goes, “something is lost in the translation”.December 20, 2018 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm #1648585
One of the strongest Jewish arguments against Gentile interpretation of the Bible was the Gentile lack of understanding of the original Hebrew text. Studying translated texts as a substitute for the original is condemning the student to a lifetime of ignorance. Study Hebrew and make it the highest priority. The Torah was transmitted in Hebrew- there is no substitute.December 20, 2018 1:49 pm at 1:49 pm #1648603
For the OP: I think you might be hung up on the assumption that your kid will have to become fluent in conversational Hebrew, which is not true. Many frum people in America can easily learn a sefer written in Hebrew, but could not carry a conversation with an Israeli (myself included). It’s not because there are massive differences between modern Hebrew and the Hebrew used in sforim. It’s more because visual comprehension of a language can be easier than audible.
That being said, there ARE massive differences between Biblical Hebrew and Hebrew used in later sforim. I think most would agree that Biblical Hebrew is significantly harder. As the result of your kid’s age and this program you’re discussing, Biblical Hebrew seems to be the main focus right now, but that’s not because it’s the logical, language-comprehension starting point. He might continue to struggle with memorizing pesukim and their meanings for a long time, but that doesn’t mean you should worry that he’ll struggle to understand written Hebrew for the rest of his life.December 20, 2018 1:53 pm at 1:53 pm #1648605
“Completely OT, CS, but now that you mention your family background I better understand your strong headed feminism and your incongruous attempts to reconcile it with Judaism.”
I’m not usually as critical of you as others are, but that’s a pretty horrible thing to say. Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but it sounds like you’re saying “Now that I know that your parents are BT’s, it makes sense that your bad at being frum and have ideas contrary to yiddishkeit.” You’re making a blanket assumption that BT’s carry baggage (like feminism) with them from their previous life if I understand correctly.December 20, 2018 6:59 pm at 6:59 pm #1648829
Thanks all for your feedback–really appreciate it! Great perspectives and
good advisement.December 21, 2018 8:50 am at 8:50 am #1649011
NCB — I hear your criticism and you have a point. Nevertheless, I do think that with that demographic there is a greater protensity to have some opinions that are off the grid compared to the mainstream positions of the Torah community, as compared to people who hail from a strong unbroken mesorah. Again, propensity not likelihood. Even within that demographic they mostly do not suffer from this type of malaise.
Similarly, you’ll also notice this phenomenon in that among otd groups there’s a greater propensity (not likelihood) that those from a less stronger Orthodox mesorah are more likely to fall into compared to those from families with an unbroken Orthodox chain.
So I agree with your overall point but think my point has validity as well. Perhaps I put it too starkly.December 21, 2018 9:34 am at 9:34 am #1649015
What’s the difference between propensity and likelihood?December 21, 2018 10:41 am at 10:41 am #1649030
Some Common SenseParticipant
Please please do not loss hope. It is a very hard struggle but it is worthy the work to lovingly develop your son to love learning and give him the skills for a lifetime of learning Torah to be the best of his ability. That is the ultimate goal, not this specific program.
I say this as someone who had to work very hard to do this.December 21, 2018 10:42 am at 10:42 am #1649034
There’s no question that it’s more likely for new BT’s to go back off the derech than it is for FFB’s to go off the derech. I don’t think anyone disputes that, but that isn’t really what you said. CS said her parents were BT’s not herself, which means she technically is a frum from birth. Once someone has been a BT for much of their life, that baggage is usually gone. I certainly don’t think it transfers to their kids. I think your making assumptions based on the patterns of “fresh off the boat” baal teshuvas. Also, when has CS espoused feminist views? I hadn’t ever seen you make that accusation on her other threads.December 21, 2018 11:38 am at 11:38 am #1649043
I’m trying to differentiate between comparative likelihood (Group A compared to Group B) and plain likelihood.December 21, 2018 11:40 am at 11:40 am #1649066
“There’s no question that it’s more likely for new BT’s to go back off the derech than it is for FFB’s to go off the derech. ”
Do you think so? It could be — i am not sure?
Do we have an off the derech percentage? (The MO Study talked about the issue but didnt really come to a percentage number if i recall correctly).
What is “new” — 1 to 5 years? I am sure there is no real available data on this — but its an interesting question.December 23, 2018 11:15 am at 11:15 am #1649591
NCB: Among otd people, there’s a notably greater proportional representation of children of bt’s. (In fact, there’s a recent article in Tablet called Baal Teshuvah: The Next Generation that makes this same point, which is not where I noticed this phenomenon, but may have some [definitely not completely] accurate points.) But that wasn’t my main point, only a side point making the original point that even among observant/Orthodox bt’s — and their children, to a lesser extent but still greater extent than overall — you’ll find a proportionally greater acceptance of certain/specific more liberal positions (that are fully accepted/standard beliefs among general secular society) than you’ll find elsewhere in the Orthodox community.
And, again, not by all or even most bt’s. But it is proportionally more likely than by other Orthodox folks.
I think it is hard to fully give up an entire mindset when becoming frum. And if one didn’t fully give it up they’ll likely transmit some form of it to their children. To again stress, it may be a minority but it is still a greater proportion of that community than you’ll find in the overall Orthodox, especially Chareidim.December 23, 2018 2:29 pm at 2:29 pm #1649681
Among otd people, there’s a notably greater proportional representation of children of bt’s.
I first read that as “Among old people”, and spent a few minutes to trying to understand it.December 23, 2018 3:37 pm at 3:37 pm #1649750
To Eli Y:
Kol hakovod for your efforts to involve you child through Chabad with this program. Its totally understandable that such programs are easier for kids from families where both they and the parents have grown up with immersion in lashoh hakodesh but encourage your kids to participate to the extent their Hebrew skills (and yours) allow. Over time, its one way among many to increase their Hebrew language skills while growing in their limudei torah. Again, you are doing great work and encourage the kids to move along at their own pace and make steady progress.December 23, 2018 5:04 pm at 5:04 pm #1649808
Neville thanks. About the program itself, Eli Y, I hope the other commentators have given you what to think about as far as your priorities etc.
Just to add, to succeed in the specific Chidon program, a child must be very motivated. Years ago, I learned during recess, lunch and after school. And that was the norm for all Chidon serious contestants (I didn’t win anything internationally the forst year I tried, just from my school.) And back in the day, you had to be one of the top three marks from the school to be allowed to compete internationally. Which meant that if you worked really hard and got an 85% (the tests are in english, tricky multiple choice questions, just the pesukim are in lashon kodesh,) you still wouldn’t make it because the top three were in the 90s. The way they’ve tiered the program now really is inclusive anyone without lowering the high bar of effort and work ethic a child must put in to succeed.
It gives me much nachas when I walk into a classroom, and the students, who have a free period, or end a test or lesson early, eagerly take out their chidon books and start learning.
And for me, besides memorizing all the mitzvos and their details by heart, much of which I know until today, I think the main thing chidon taught me was the lesson of succeeding only by virtue of hard work. That lesson, that you need to put in your all to succeed, yagati umatzasi, has been a tremendous help for me throughout my life thus far. It is worth a child failing one year because they slacked off, to gain that lesson in my opinion. Especially today where many things come by easy and it is easy to slack off and feel entitled.December 24, 2018 8:48 am at 8:48 am #1650119
“Do you think so? It could be — i am not sure?
Do we have an off the derech percentage? (The MO Study talked about the issue but didnt really come to a percentage number if i recall correctly).
What is “new” — 1 to 5 years? I am sure there is no real available data on this — but its an interesting question.”
When I said new I meant the people who go straight from college campuses to kiruv yeshivas. They come from treif households, but then effectively keep kosher and Shabbos by default when they’re living in yeshiva. From what I’ve seen, these guys frei out A LOT when they leave the kiruv yeshiva.
Now, you could say they don’t truly count as Baal Teshuvas, but are more like “on their way to BT.” You could say it doesn’t count fully until they prove they can survive in the real world. That would be a logical distinction, but we don’t generally make it. We do tend to call these guys in kiruv yeshivas full BT’s, and I think they’d be offended if we didn’t. I would even go as far as to say that time is not an object. Meaning, a BT could stay in yeshiva for 10 years, and still be just as likely to frei out when he leaves because the 10 years don’t prove anything about his ability to be frum in the real world. By the way, I am only really talking about Litvish kiruv; Chabad might work totally differently.December 24, 2018 1:05 pm at 1:05 pm #1650314
I don’t want to totally swear off the article your referenced, but it was talking about Israel, which is a different bag than the US. Nowhere in the article did it suggest that the reason for the trend has anything to do with BT’s carrying views like feminism with them.
It referred to an influx the BT’s from the 70’s who got into hippie Judaism at one point. I think we can remove them from the debate since nobody in their right mind would have thought that brand was sustainable. Most of the article was about BT families not fitting in in “tribal” charedi culture in places like Meah Sharim. I can’t speak to the accuracy of that situation, but it certainly is not the case in America. It’s not a significant portion of the American BT community (if any) that try to immerse themselves in communities like Boro Part or Kiryas Yoel, so I don’t think it’s comparable.
The theme of that article tended to blame charedi isolationism for the trend of BT’s leaving the community. I assume you’re going to deny the claim of charedi blame and assert instead your claim that the trend is thanks to the BTs having progressive, 21st century baggage. You can make that assertion if you want, but that’s not what the article said at all.December 24, 2018 4:07 pm at 4:07 pm #1650978
I told you that the article was not my source; it merely observed a somewhat similar phenomenon so I referenced it even though my point remains even without that article’s existence.December 24, 2018 6:52 pm at 6:52 pm #1651226
BTW if this thread was started anyway, y’all should know that the chidon program is looking to welcome and expand to all frum jews, not just lubavitch, although it is run by lubavitch. (I know there are other great nationwide frum programs that encourage children to learn things on their own time such as shmiras halashon etc and I’m not negating that at all.)
If you think you’re child could benefit from an international, fun, professional, prestigious competition on the knowledge of Sefer hamitzvos, and also the work ethic and the obsession with year wide learning it encourages, on the children’s own time, feel free to lobby your school to join the thousands of participants. To get a feel for it you can Google chidon competition 5778 and watch the gameshow to see these kids in action.
(They have tiered the program with any kids getting a 70% allowed to join the Shabbaton and trip. There are higher lines set to join the international game show, and there is one school representative chosen to compete with the other school representatives to take a much more thorough written test whose winners win gold silver and copper medals.there are also plaques to win.
Every grade learns different mitzvos and competes with their grade members. In the game show, each team is composed of tiered tables with the 4 grades so they altogether complete the 613 mitzvos.)December 24, 2018 7:59 pm at 7:59 pm #1651273
I am glad you commented further as I respect your opinions.
The idea that one has to work hard for something is of course a good one. My son does not have the same drive to learn Yiddishkeit as he has for say playing football. At issue is that at this time in his life, he is not going to work so hard on learning. I am providing a foundation where he goes to Frum schools, lives in a Shomer Shabbas home, observes the Yom Tovs, wraps Tefillin as he’s learning with the Rabbi for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah and as part of it, I was able to get him to join the Chidon even though he would have rather have done something else with his Sundays. In this way he would learn beyond what he was already learning and hopefully the consequences of such would be positive. Perhaps if I was more stern in his upbringing his desire to learn would be greater–in any event, here he is.
Due to this Chabad decision, he is no longer pursuing any of the Chidon learning. Learning can of course be difficult but I do not believe the Rebbe’s intention for children to learn Mitzvot was only if they learn it in Hebrew. After all, is this not a program dedicated to the vision of the Rebbe?
This leads me to my conclusion that we have people making curriculum decisions without the benefit of the Rebbe’s guidance. Sociology gives us many examples of how the oppressed once in power, become like their prior oppressors. In my eyes the current curriculum specialists are what the Misnagdim must have seemed like to the early Rabbis. They are set in their ways and view those different from them with less than honorable intention. They have usurped the goals of the Chidon program and are using the Hebrew criteria to filter out those who don’t hold the same priorities.
Even if I am wrong in this, I am not wrong that their policies have caused my son to stop learning to some extent. For this, they should gain their reward. I’m sorry if this sounds strong but I have learned that to stop a child from learning is a pretty big deal. I could have done more, but I didn’t cause him to stop. They have the ability to assist and instead have done harm. If his not studying Chidon benefits him in some way and this is a mitzvah to them, so be it.
And yes, other comments have been very helpful and supportive and I appreciate all the comments I have received.
I have let some of my anger out on this note and please know it is not directed towards you. Your comments are a great gift to learn from and I appreciate you.
All the best.December 24, 2018 7:59 pm at 7:59 pm #1651274
ElI Y, I just notice an english publication by Feldheim, The Concise Sefer Hachinuch.December 24, 2018 8:00 pm at 8:00 pm #1651278
Eli Y,you can google Sefer Hachinuch Translated and downloaded in a PDF. You have to create a userid and password before.December 24, 2018 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm #1651307
Eli, I can’t talk for Chabad and their policies, but I think you are missing the point. It’s not about knowing Hebrew- it’s about learning Torah. You can’t separate the Mitzvos from Torah, and Torah cannot be learned in translation- translations are good for a start, and as an aid, but are not a replacement for learning Torah as it was given in Loshon Hakodesh. Each morning we say in davening “eleh devarim” where we discuss various mitzvos and their rewards, and the conclusion is “talmud torah k’neged kulam”, learning Torah is equivalent to all of them. I’m wondering why you are so angry at the chidon for discouraging your son from learning, but not at his school for not giving him the proper tools to do so.
By the way, it’s ok for a 12 year old to not want to learn extra in his free time. But he should be developing the skill set so he can do so when he wants to as he matures.December 25, 2018 8:18 am at 8:18 am #1651465
I don’t understand. It sounds like football and lack of interest is what’s stopping him, not chidon.December 25, 2018 9:44 am at 9:44 am #1651469
And don’t fall into the BT inferior complex trap – our kids will be less because I’m BT. Baalei Teshuva turned their whole life around for Hashem – they have a passion and power in their Avodas Hashem that many, even majority of FFBs do not. Allow that same passion to push you to make your kids the best they can be by doing more for their chinuch than the norm, the same way you sacrificed more of your desires for Hashem than the norm.December 25, 2018 9:44 am at 9:44 am #1651468
Eli Y it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A school or chinuch institution has to set standards or the majority suffer to benefit the minority. If it is a case of majority vs minority, the good of the majority wins.
However you as a parent have the privilege and responsibility to develop your child into the best individual Jew possible. You have The power to do so as Hashem granted you your child and your abilities are a perfect fit for him.
You can set up your own personal program for him that you reward him for learning something extra outside of school. If he sees this is important to you and will make you more proud than doing well in sports he will go for it.
My parent had such an learning program for me and my siblings, and we learned and gained so much from it. (Shame I can’t specify further as it would give me away, as we gained things very unique within today’s generation.) You can even do this with the yahadus books themselves.
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