Every Menahels Difficult Dillema, the underperforming career rebbi.

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    As the school year comes to an end it’s time to face the truth that not every rebbe put on the best performance. I don’t know why it is this way but at some point, even a successful rebbi can lose his ability to be the best teacher of Torah. One of my son’s rebbeim had a very difficult time this year & up to half the class is not ready for the coming grade. Every Menahel knows their rebbi that’s limping along but cannot be let go.
    Being a successful Rebbi takes tremendous creativity, an ability to connect to children, & the right personality to keep 28 kids interested in learning 5 hours a day.
    The problem: A rebbe teaching even 5 years or more has no place to go, how can he be fired? yet how can he be kept doing a lousy job teaching? How can we allow 15 children develop a hatred to learning due to a suboptimal rebbi?
    Do you have a solution to this serious problem?
    I believe a multi-million dollar fund needs to be established so that menahalim can compensate & let go of underperforming Rebbeim & bring in fresh talent.


    Ban Rebbis.


    1)perhaps being a rebbe is not actually the BEST kind of job for this person & something in this chapter but a different job is better for him i.e. being a private tutor or a sub which is less pressure on him & a way lots of people start before becoming full time rabbeim. just like lots of jobs first you work for someone to get experience in the business & then you go on your own….

    2)it takes a lot of love for torah & love for children to be a successful rebbe. if the person can’t give his entire self to helping each child to stay on track with the rest of the class then he is not ready to be a rebbe.



    If the person was only a rebbe for five years presumably he is young enough to move on to another job. If he is older than that and burnt out that is a different story.

    I know of one Yeshiva that tried to fire many of their rebbeim. The younger ones moved on. The older ones brought them to a Din Torah. The school lost the Din Torah. Among the things the Dayan told them was a very important point: If it would be so easy to fire a long term rebbe because someone younger can do a better job after a while no one will go into chinuch anymore.

    The little I know

    There is a real question that lies at the core of this issue. The yeshiva and its administration are here to serve whom?

    If the mission is to provide jobs to those seeking careers in chinuch, then the rebbi must be kept in his position at all costs.

    If the mission is to provide the best chinuch possible to the children, then this rebbi must be replaced.

    What makes this problematic is that we have a situation here of אחד בפה ואחד בלב. No yeshiva would openly say that they are here for any other other purpose than to do the best for the talmidim. But that becomes an obvious decoy for the mission to keep themselves in business, with the “best” talmidim, the “best” image and reputation, and the record of doing such great jobs of hiring faculty.

    In reality, there are rotten apples in every bushel, and chinuch is no different than any other employer. If a grocery store hired a worker that was ineffective, that employee would be replaced. There is no acceptable excuse to not replace a rebbi who cannot do the job.

    There was a book published in 1969 called The Peter Principle. He studied the subject of incompetence at great length and depth. The result was the formulation, “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”. It is a good, healthy read, and highly recommended. One of the tenets is that when the incompetent reaches that level, he/she is maintained there and not let go. I bet this has been witnessed by many. I have observed it in chinuch, but similarly in many other places, businesses, government, etc. Sadly, our yeshivos can boast a good measure of this.

    Yes, it is a menahel’s dilemma. But the primary responsibility is not to the rebbi, but to the flock that is losing out on his continued employment. I would insist the stated mission for the yeshiva should dictate the direction of the decision. And upon the notice of termination, the rebbi should be advised to make a change in his career direction.


    “I believe a multi-million dollar fund needs to be established so that menahalim can compensate & let go of underperforming Rebbeim & bring in fresh talent.”

    Really? Schools can barely pay their salaries on time, tuitions are getting higher all the time, and you want to setup a multi-million dollar fund to compensate underperforming Rebbes?

    “Among the things the Dayan told them was a very important point: If it would be so easy to fire a long term rebbe because someone younger can do a better job after a while no one will go into chinuch anymore.”

    So job security for the rebbeim is more important than good educators for our children?


    So job security for the rebbeim is more important than good educators for our children?

    What he’s saying is that if rebbeim don’t have job security, there won’t be many good educators for our children.


    I know of a case where a school had serious financial problems and had to let go of some teachers. The fired teachers took them to a Din torah and won and got their jobs back.

    Sadly the school went under and they lost their jobs anyway


    To Daas Yochid:

    What evidence do you have that failure to provide lifetime tenure to non-performing rabbonim in chinuch will jeopardize the future supply of rabbonim willing to pursue a career in chinuch. One hears the same argument with respect to public service employment, etc. I would suggest that imposing some market discipline would benefit the market, since right now, there are too many rabbonim coming out of yeshivot who surpress the salary of teachers. If the supply curves bends down relative to a fixed or growing demand curve, wages will rise and thereby attract more highly qualified yungerleit receiving semicah to pursue a career in chinuch. Our schools are not designed, nor should they be asked, to function as employers of last resort for rabbonim lacking teaching skills.


    What evidence do you have that failure to provide lifetime tenure to non-performing rabbonim in chinuch will jeopardize the future supply of rabbonim willing to pursue a career in chinuch.

    What evidence do you have that underperforming rebbeim have a negative affect on children?

    Same as I have. Common sense.

    right now, there are too many rabbonim coming out of yeshivot who surpress the salary of teachers

    Higher salaries mean higher tuition, and the tuition burden is already crushing many middle class families.

    The issue the OP presents (which is a serious one) is not that underqualified people are going into chinuch, it’s that they get burnt out. Within the first few years of a rebbe’s career, it’s not such a dilemma to fire them.

    Raising salaries won’t solve this.


    Hire only people who have another job to support themselves.


    Just to be clear, I’m not saying teachers or rebbeim should never be fired. What I am saying is that there has to be a balance. You certainly don’t fire a good rebbe just because you think you can find a better one, and even if a rebbe is seriously underperforming, you need to work with him to try to get him to improve.

    Firing a long term rebbe needs to be done sometimes, but it should be a last resort.


    So called “burnout” is not the primary reason that some rabbonim are not effective in chinuch (even if they are otherwise talmedei chachamim and ehrliche yidden). Most yeshivos do not have a robust pre-hiring program to evaluate the educational skills of prospective teachers and in most cases, rely upon referrals to the rosh yeshiva or cursory trial shiruim. While it may sound a bit ruthless to weed out the lower performing rabbonim at the earliest possible time and not carry them over from year to year or allow them to migrate from one yeshiva to another, such a merit-based review and removal program is critical for out yinglach to succeed. While some kids will succeed even with bad teachers, the majority need the best and most talented rabbonim we can provide. As I’ve said above, don’t make yeshivos into employers of last resort for rabbonim that no one else wants to employ.


    Institute term limits.

    Avi K

    Shmerel, I find that hard to believe. A melamed who does not perform well can be fired without notice because the damage he does is irreparable. In certain case he can even be fired in the middle of his contract. You can also google חמדת משפט: פיטורי מורה בשל מחלוקת חינוכית עם הנהלת המוסד for another pesak din.


    This will not solve the immediate problem of underperforming rebbeim but it could prevent this problem in the future.
    Schools must offer mandatory professional development for their staff. I’d been teaching for 25 or more years when I attended classes that were true “game-changers”. They definitely improved my methods and gave me valuable insights into my students mind-sets. Yesh chochma bagoyim and if it’ll help us not only teach better but impart the sweetness of Torah, we should take advantage of every opportunity.


    <i>A melamed who does not perform well can be fired without notice because the damage he does is irreparable. </i>

    What is considered not performing well?

    The point is that it would wreck major havoc on the Chinuch system if Rebbeim can be fired so easily when they get older. That is a major Pseida D’Lo Hodder.

    (The secular laws in the US also make it illegal to fire older workers)


    A multi-million dollar fund is not needed at all. There is a simple solution: to have the guts to do what’s right and fire the underperforming rebbis.

    What do you mean they have no place else to go? Surely Hashem will provide for their livelihood somehow. There are hundreds of schools to apply for other teaching positions, and there are hundreds of other potential jobs that do not require a college degree.

    Maybe Hashem’s plan is that a rebbi is fired and then goes into business and is known mainly for his tzedakah rather than his contributions to chinuch? Maybe he will then become independently wealthy and become a full-time learner? Everything Hashem does is for the best, even going into a line of work that one is not suited for and having to switch careers at midlife.


    morahmom, yes that was my point!! Your comment was still awaiting moderation when I posted.

    Rabbeim must be trained as educators!


    There may be an elephant in the room. Many rebbeim are hired to teach after receiving minimal or no training in education. Perhaps we need a better system for educating the rebbeim to be great teachers in the first place.

    This is much less of a problem in girl’s education where most teachers receive some teacher training.


    <i>What do you mean they have no place else to go? Surely Hashem will provide for their livelihood somehow.</I>

    What a remarkable amount of Bitochen on yenem’s chesbon

    The little I know


    You nailed it. Incompetents in any field are let go. Why is chinuch different? Because those incompetents have zero training to find other employment? That is so far from rational that I would wonder whether psychiatric evaluation should be considered. If we return to the core issue – which individuals comprise the mission of the yeshiva, the students or the faculty – we can answer the question. Gedolim of earlier generations were not brutal to melamdim, but were intolerant of their talmidim being subjected to inferior melamdim.

    If I have tremorous hands, I should not enter careers where steady hands are a requirement. That’s not hard to understand. If someone lacks the skills to plan lessons, manage a classroom, or prioritize the needs of a student, then that person should NOT be an educator. I am sure there are other skills and talents that can be useful elsewhere. But the incompetent teacher will not have his way with my kid. The yeshiva, the rebbi, other parents of that class, and anyone with influence will know that.

    You introduced the ingredient of training for chinuch. That is actually critical. The trained melamed is always better than the untrained. And training, as in every profession, needs to be the requisite for entry into the field, and ongoing continuing education and supervision. I have yet to encounter a mainstream frum yeshiva that requires its applicants to have completed some form of training.


    Maybe we have a terminology problem here. Some posters suggest the issue is “age discrimination” while others say that its somehow “heartless” to fire an older rav who displays (over time) poor teaching skills as determined by the school’s administrators. The issue is one of competence, not age. Some of the best teachers in many yeshivos are the oldest rabbonim. Age is not a predictor of teaching skills. Firing them because they are the highest paid (as a result of age) is illegal under civil law. Not firing them even after becoming aware of their incompetence means the administrators are incompetent.


    Smerel: It is not illegal to fire older workers. It is only illegal to do so *because* the person is old. If the menahel believes, correctly or not, that the rebbi is not doing a good enough job, he has every legal right to fire him. It is also perfectly legal to fire people for no reason whatsoever. The general rule in American law is “employment at will” — people can quit at any time or can be fired at any time, as long as it is not based on race, sex, religious, age discrimination (and even if it is they get away with it unless they are successfully sued.) The exception is if there is a contractual provision that the person can only be fired for certain causes (which is pretty rare), or if there are company rules that there must be a procedure followed in terms of a certain number of warnings, etc. (more common in larger unionized companies.)


    So called “burnout” is not the primary reason that some rabbonim are not effective in chinuch (even if they are otherwise talmedei chachamim and ehrliche yidden). Most yeshivos do not have a robust pre-hiring program to evaluate the educational skills of prospective teachers and in most cases, rely upon referrals to the rosh yeshiva or cursory trial shiruim.

    The OP wrote, “I don’t know why it is this way but at some point, even a successful rebbi can lose his ability to be the best teacher of Torah. ”

    So you are talking about a totally separate issue.


    We get what we pay for. It’s a נס that we get so many qualified and competent teachers in spite of the salaries we give them. We should look at the cup being well over half full, and stop complaining that it is partially empty.


    ywcomment2 pointed out one elephant in the room – rebbeim generally receive very little training. Their counterparts in girls’ schools, by contrast, often spend years studying to improve their teaching skills before they start. Should we be surprised that in general they are more effective?

    Here’s another elephant. Many people who eventually become rebbeim have little education or training for any job (forget teaching), leaving them almost forced into becoming rebbeim. Imagine you can’t support your family on a kollel stipend, and aren’t qualified to work as an accountant, lawyer, etc, then you might turn to teaching, even if you’re not cut out for it. If “the system” provided a more robust education generally that allowed people to later pursue honorable professions, then in addition to alleviating tremendous poverty in our communities, we might also mitigate the oversupply of under-qualified rebbeim.


    This is not new. The rebbeim in my yeshiva high school ( mid 1960’s ) were products of Lithuanian yeshivas of the 1930’s who came to the US after the war. They had pulpits that didn’t pay much and taught Gemorah to supplement their income.
    They were were talmidei chachomim but were poor teachers and communicators. What they were good at was alienating most of the boys from learning and being frum. By the time we became seniors and had an effective rebbe it was too late. Two years after I graduated, that “senior” Rebbe was reassigned to the freshman to get them off on a positive footing.
    Note: I stayed frum ( barely ) but acquired an aversion to learning that took years to overcome . It also left me with at times a somewhat cynical point of view ( as you may have noticed)


    Most newly graduated “frum” rabbonim are not considered “professionals” in the way that most lawyers, MBAs, etc are from a compensation perspective. Newly graduated lawyers and MBAs earns upwards of $150,000/yr right out of school. Most secular teachers with a masters degree in education can expect to earn $45,000-$50,000/yr out of school in any large city school system. A newly minted “rav” having just left yeshiva cannot expect to earn anywhere near these amounts unless he is a superstar of major proportions in demand from the top yeshivos with wealthy supporters who fund such hires.


    Most newly graduated Lawyers do NOT earn upwards of $150.000 right out of school. Those days ended with the economic collapse of 2007/8. Top firms may pay that to graduates of the top schools, but may newly admitted lawyers are lucky to get a job paying $80,000. Many can’t earn enough to cover their student loan payments.
    There is a glut of lawyers on the market and salaries for beginning lawyers have fallen quite a bit.
    My firm is in one of the highest paying cities for lawyers. I hired 3 new associates this year (not counting daughter and son in law). All three came from Ivy League law schools, but were not top 5% of their class. They are starting at $82,500 plus benefits and do not have to produce the 2-3,000 annual billable hours that Wall Street and White Shoe firms require. That said, I don’t pay $150-180K, but had more than 200 applications for the 3 positions.
    What’s more these new hires know that they will never be on a partner track, only CTL family will ever be partners in my lifetime. The new hires can expect to learn a lot, get a living wage and after 3-5 years hang their own shingles or become an in house counsel for a large corporation or government agency.

    The little I know


    You talk of the cup being half empty or full. Your handicap is that you are addressing the issue from a statistical point. I happen to be quite involved in chinuch, and I believe the statistics are the opposite direction, but I won’t get into that debate here. The problem, which is certainly not uncommon, is that we have rebbeim in our yeshivos whose performance warrants termination. We can conjure up a list of excuses, the challenges in finding other employment, the poor salaries, the supply-demand issue, etc. We are still left with a classroom with a rebbi that cannot do the job, and this will impact negatively on all.

    One problem, rather off the track here, is that our entering rebbeim are inexperienced, untrained, and lack knowledge how to manage a classroom. Truly, a good curriculum with a well planned lesson will result in a rather well managed class. But unless someone knows how to do that, the alternative method is some version of discipline. There certainly is a role for that, but it has become the majority classroom tool, which it is not intended to be. This neophyte rebbi will likely resort to that approach. While it may contribute to decorum in the classroom, it is actually detrimental to the education. The average talmid who gets punished is more likely to associate learning with negativity. The mission of instilling אהבת התורה in such a talmid is doomed.

    I don’t want to get into that subject more deeply, as it probably deserves its own forum. But the underperforming rebbi is more apt to use other methods to “make his job easier”. And considering that this will not be done by giving a better and more interesting lesson, it will be in the direction of behavioral control and management. The result is not just poor education, but poor preparation for future learning, and perhaps a negative association. Yes, the talmid can be harmed by the poorly performing rebbi.

    Putting the numbers to the side, we have Reb Ploni here who is underperforming in Yeshiva Enkas Mesaldecho. The dilemma is this person, not the broader issue of how many such rebbeim there are. How would you guide this puzzled menahel to handle the situation?


    Can the menahel provide on-the-job training for the deficient rebbe, possibly by assigning a better rebbe as a mentor?


    Relieving an incompetent Rebbi of his job is a very rare occurrence in the chareidi world we live in. It’s not just the financial distress, it’s his self-esteem as a member of a kehillah. After having a number of my own children go through the yeshiva system as well as having tutored within the system over several years I can say without a doubt that this is one of the biggest challenges of Chinuch for this generation. There is no exit door for the underqualified rebbi, he remains teaching unhappily & unappreciated with no respectable way to leave. Along the way, countless boys are needlessly hurt.


    Haimy, from what you’re saying it sounds like it’s very important both for the underperforming rebbeim themselves and children that they are fired. A multi-million dollar fund may be unrealistic. So perhaps the solution is 1) make sure that menahalim know it is important to fire them, 2) encourage the community to help find them new employment, such as through an informal network of frum employers who can set them up at least with temporary jobs while they look for a new profession. The fact is, there are plenty of jobs that pay at least as well as rebbi positions that don’t require any college degree or more than a few months of training. Many frum people without college educations are very happy working in kashrus, business (including starting their own), real estate, computers, office jobs, various government jobs, even the trades. It completely normal nowadays to switch careers mid-life; few non-Jews nowadays work in the same field their entire career.


    The issue is simple to resolve but will not be unless the menahel is top notch.
    It’s called assessments. If a rebbe is assessed on a regular basis and given proper feedback, goals and benchmarks, they will realise right away if they are no good, and will quickly find another job.
    In addition, if assessments are documented, they will see a string of failures and will realise that they have been fired for good cause.
    Some rebbes suffer burnout, the solution is have them change classes or take a year long sabbatical. Although the latter is costly.


    To CT Lawyer:
    The starting salaries for all the major NYC firms this year (for 2L offers extended after last year’s summer associate offers were all north of $163K plus bonuses of $15k for those billing 2K hours. First tier investment banks were generally north of $150 for MBAs. You are correct that these are for top firms but those are the options that a first tier yeshiva bochur with a good analytic mind is foregoing by torah study. As you correctly note, these numbers may seem unrealistic and probably irrelevant for most kollel yungerleit going into chinuch but that is a sacrifice they willingly make. The problem of low market valuation for educators is society-wide and not limited to the frum tzibur. We read here on YWN a while back a story about how many NYC sanitation workers are routinely earning over $100,000 year with overtime while teachers are earning barely half that much.


    What is the bottom line after reviewing this excellent sequence of postings.

    1. More emphasis is needed on initial screening of rebbeim hired for teaching positions in our yeshivos.

    2. There needs to be a separate track for yungerleit pursuing semicha who want to teach so that they are required to take special course in educational methods and techniques and demonstrate proficiency in the nuts and bolts of preparing lesson plans, etc. This is as important as their mastery of t’nach, Talmud, meforshim, etc.

    3. Training programs should be established for rebbeim already in the system to provide some opportunity to improve their teaching skills.

    4. Decisions on termination of non-performing rebbeim should be made on a timely basis and not deferred over and over again.

    5. While some centralized “post-termination” job counseling and financial assistance program for those rebbeim who are not cut out for teaching would be ideal, I’m not aware of how such a program would be realistically be administered or funded given how decentralized and fragmented our yeshivos and mosdos are.

    The little I know


    You wrote: “Relieving an incompetent Rebbi of his job is a very rare occurrence in the chareidi world we live in. It’s not just the financial distress, it’s his self-esteem as a member of a kehillah. ”

    Good midos are a mainstay of living as a Torah Jew. No one can legitimately argue against that. But business is business. It is unconscionable to allow a poor rebbi to wreck my child, possibly for life, because of our concern for his self-esteem. I certainly advocate for preserving his self-worth, and I would never take someone whose problem is underperformance as someone to punish. But my obligation here is to prevent the severe damage that can happen to a child who loses a year of education, and possibly gets harmed by unnecessary and damaging discipline by someone who is in the wrong job.

    It is not likely that we will witness much perfection, not in ourselves, and certainly not in the chinuch system. But we are never absolved of the responsibility to seek improvement. There are punches that will happen. We might find milder ways to deliver the termination notice, perhaps with warnings earlier, and the idea of helping to find other employment sounds nice (despite being unlikely).

    In past years, there were multiple situations that achieved public exposure of rebbeim who were found to have been severely inappropriate with talmidim. They fought against dismissal, citing their families, needs for parnosoh, shidduchim for their children, etc. I found these forms of resistance intolerable, to the point of nausea. Should a pedophile be kept in a position of risk to countless others because he needs to marry off his children? Anyone with positive number IQ believe that? This thread is not about a criminal rebbi, but someone who just ain’t got what it takes to do the job. The primary responsibility is to provide a good rebbi to the class, not a salary to pay for his child’s wedding.


    TLIK, nobody here is going to argue that we should keep abusive rebbeim.


    Thank you Gadolhadorah for providing some of the important takeaways from this terrific discussion.

    Let me add one additional (imperfect) suggestion not previously mentioned. Many people pointed out the near-tenure-like status rebbeim have, where it’s very difficult to fire them. Even if we keep that, perhaps we should have a probationary period during which a rebbi is initially evaluated for “tenure”. That is, perhaps it should be made explicit that for the first X years, a teacher will be carefully observed and at the end of that period will be evaluated for a longer-term job. At that point in time, maybe roughly 50%, or 90%, or 30% of rebbeim will become “tenured”.

    This period will likely motivate rebbeim during those first few years to be excellent, look for feedback and training, improve, and become excellent teachers. With proper guidance this will be helpful even for the great rebbeim. Meanwhile, rebbeim that could be good or bad will be motivated to become good, and hopelessly bad rebbeim will know full-well from day 1, and through regular feedback, that there is a considerable chance that they won’t be kept around, and might allow them to plan accordingly. In many universities, professors who do not get tenure are given a year or so to find another job. This will relieve some of the stress that some rebbeim would certainly endure in being unemployed, and would hopefully also end the horrible practice where schools might notify teachers in the summer (!) that they won’t have a job in the fall.

    The little I know

    The underperforming rebbi is a serious risk of being abusive. The good rebbi makes his teaching enjoyable enough to the talmidim that motivates them to learn. They behave, and progress according to their capability. The poorly performing rebbi is not doing that. He is apt to follow the lead, and utilize discipline to beat his students into compliance through strict reward and punishment. It will assist in classroom management. But it will fail him academically. One must assume the poorly performing rebbi is at high risk of becoming abusive, if just to maintain some semblance of control. One does not need to get to the abusive level of molestation to be damaging to kids.

    Your idea of tenure just formalizes what occurs anyway. Nice try. But this is currently out of the box. Today’s hirings are done by the connection with the hanhala, not merit. “It’s who you know, not what you know.” That is as painfully true in Chassidishe yeshivos as in non-Chassidishe yeshivos. If quality were the main ingredient, then training, which is available but underutilized, would give one applicant priority over another. Sadly, that does not happen. Meanwhile, once someone has managed to stay at a job for a while, he has seniority. Perhaps no formal tenure, but the same result.

    I know my comments here sound quite cynical about chinuch. A word or balance is needed. It is wholly possible that a rebbi functions quite well for many years, and then slackens off. Aside from personal factors related the rebbi’s own personal life and aging, the population of students is undergoing great change. No rebbi I ever had was at risk of having his cell phone ring during class. Why? Won’t say my age, but it should be easy to answer that question. Kids today are living in an ever changing world, with new issues that did not exist when an older rebbi began working in chinuch. That’s a great explanation for the mandated continuing education that exists in every other profession.


    Your post to which I replied did not specify TOP NYC FIRMS. MOST newly graduated lawyers are not employed by these firms, especially frum lawyers who can’t produce all those hours because of Shabbos and Yuntif restrictions.

    MOST newly graduated lawyers are NOT in NYC and its commuting distance.
    I was in court today in Bridgeport, CT. It is one of the 5 highest paying cities for attorneys in the USA. There was a 2 hour delay in a case and I had coffee with a number of lawyers who own local firms of decent size. All had hired Ivy league grads this year, not one had to pay more than $94,000 starting salary, and that student was on the law review and in the top 3% of her class. She did not want to work or live in NYC.

    Because my new hires know they will never be in a partner track, I will never attract the top percentile of graduates from the top schools.

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