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Thursday
Jan102019

HISKASHRUS FOR THE LITTLE KINDERLACH

“Mommy, write to my morah telling her that I have a Tzivos Hashem room and I am a soldier and do a lot of mitzvos.” * In honor of the great day of Yud Shevat, we spoke with educators who put a lot into children, from the youngest ages, encouraging hiskashrus to the Rebbe MH”M in daily behavior, in exciting and creative ways.

By Devorah Leah Halperin

CONSCIOUS AND SUBCONSCIOUS MESSAGING

Mrs. Chavi Katz, shlucha to the Neve Savyon neighborhood in Ohr Yehuda, director of a daycare center for 12 years, and Mrs. Dina Turkov, who is the “Chassidic experience” teacher in the Ohr Menachem school in Tzfas, tell us what they convey to the boys and girls they work with and, through them, to their parents.

Chavi begins by quoting the Rebbe in the D’var Malchus for VaEira: “Every single person needs to commit to adding greatly in the actions, Torah and avoda of the baal hilula … especially in the bittul and hiskashrus to the Rebbe, my father-in-law, Admor Nasi HaDor, ‘The Nasi is everything,’ such that each and every one – his existence, all of his matters, bakol mikol kol, become sanctified to the Nasi HaDor by being permeated with fulfilling the shlichus of the Nasi HaDor.” We need to be permeated with the shlichus of ‘Kabbalas p’nei Moshiach Tzidkeinu’ and invest in chinuch and teach hiskashrus to the Rebbe MH”M.

Investing in chinuch in general and hiskashrus in particular at this age is divided into two parts. There is the subconscious investment, a long-term investment, that will make an impact on the child throughout the course of his life and then there is an investment in direct communication with the G-dly soul, openly, consciously, in the course of the day.

The internalized training in the performance of the customs that the Rebbe instructs us, is present at every step of the daily schedule. When a child comes with his mother in the morning, we ask whether he washed his hands or not, and if not, we wash his hands. Boruch Hashem, many parents adopt this practice. We greet the children happily and endear to them the practice to kiss the mezuza and the Rebbe’s picture, so we start the day on the right foot.

This week, for example, I stood next to the door with one of the mothers who is not yet religiously observant, to talk about the usual things, what her daughter ate, etc. The girl picked up her hand to kiss the mezuza and her mother was moved by this and hugged her. I was happy to see that the investment is paying off.

A CHASSIDISHE ATMOSPHERE

Another thing to be particular about is the atmosphere, that they hear Chassidishe niggunim, those that the Rebbe sang or others. I see that, after a while, the older children start humming the niggunim.

The daycare center is in my home and there are pictures of the Rebbe and s’farim which affect the atmosphere and the children’s chinuch. It’s very interesting that although they have shelves packed with children’s books with colorful pictures from which we read to them, the children love the shelf with the small Mincha-Maarivs and little Tanyas with which they shuckle and daven.

Of course, as part of the Chassidishe atmosphere, all the children’s books are “fixed up” and have no non-kosher animals, and we add Chassidic content to the books, as well as to the games and puzzles, with a picture of the Rebbe, a pushka, etc.

PRACTICALLY SPEAKING

A point that needs strengthening is the importance of knowing the halachos that pertain to little children and asking a rav about every detail. This is part of chinuch to hiskashrus and fulfilling the Rebbe’s wishes. There are many topics covering every aspect of raising children, like the age when to be particular about washing for bread, wearing a yarmulke, waiting between meat and milk, learning brachos – when to say Hashem’s name, tznius – for boys and girls. It is important to know the halachos themselves, not to be strict or lenient for no reason and to include Chassidic practices. Likewise, it is important to consult with a mashpia about personal matters and about chinuch.

Another area in which we educate to hiskashrus is being particular about the kashrus of food. Particularly being careful about chalav Yisroel, as the Rebbe explains that this will affect them through the course of their lives since it pertains to belief in G-d. This should be discussed with religious parents too, since not all of them understand the importance of this for young children, and despite the potential unpleasantness involved, the investment is worth it and a gift to them for life!

There was a child about whom I spoke to the mother for a long time about switching to a chalav Yisroel formula and about its effect on a Jewish child’s physical and spiritual health. After many conversations she was convinced.

Two years later, I met her and in passing she said that as a senior medical secretary she receives gifts from patients that often include expensive chocolates, some of which are not chalav Yisroel. Once she understood how significant this is, she stopped eating them.

I saw the power of the Rebbe. I had only spoken to her about the baby, but she applied it to all products that enter her house and even to gifts she receives!

Generally speaking, it is worthwhile going over the Rebbe’s instructions for children such as a letter in a Torah scroll and to discuss it with parents. In addition, to use opportunities, such as the end of the year or a birthday, and give each child a book and a pushka, and to do the birthday customs with children like making a good hachlata.

TO FUSE THE PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL

At this age, everything for children is clean and pure; there is no confusion. That’s why it’s important to build the right foundation that, with Hashem’s help, will affect the rest of their lives. Over the years, I’ve noticed that when the preschool morah presents the davening enthusiastically, it gets through to the children. We say the 12 P’sukim over the course of the day as well as chapter 41 of Tanya, instilling hiskashrus in every area so it’s not disconnected; connecting gashmius and ruchnius.

From the perspective of chinuch for hiskashrus on the conscious level, for Jews, the material and spiritual are one thing. We should emphasize in all of our communications with the children the greatness of being Jews and Chassidim. Whether it’s in sensory and motor development, or whether it is simply threading beads, and certainly with crafts that have Jewish-Chassidic meaning and content. The purpose in developing children’s knowledge and abilities is to do good deeds and hasten the Geula. For example, when singing the aleph-beis song, it’s good to add that these are the holy letters with which Hashem created the world.

With the story of the parsha of the week, holidays and Chassidic dates, it is important to convey the information from a Chassidic perspective. To teach using simple vocabulary in a dramatic way while using props for illustration, but with the pure view of the Rebbe. Even the youngest children can learn Chassidic values and we see how this filters into and influences them and their conversations.

CONNECTION AND HISKASHRUS

Another thing that we can instill in children and parents is writing to the Rebbe. One year, the preschool teacher who worked with me flew to the Rebbe with her family. We drew pictures with the children for the Rebbe. They were toddlers, a year and a half to two years old and we explained to them as they were chattering away that each of them should ask for a bracha for themselves, their families and for the Geula.

The next day, I wrote to the Rebbe about something personal and the answer I opened to had a postscript which said, “I received the pidyonei nefesh that were enclosed and blessings etc.” It was exciting that the Rebbe referred to this on the very day that the preschool teacher landed and went to 770.

We need to remember that a Lubavitcher represents the Rebbe. Sometimes, at the end of an exhausting day, at 4:00, when a mother comes to pick up her child and tells me about a problem that came up and she wants to write to the Rebbe, I have to muster the strength to do so happily, knowing that we are here to connect more people to the Nasi HaDor.

Strengthening the connection with the parents is one of the Rebbe’s instructions. We see that when children are happy and enjoy preschool, that the parents get the messages we say in school and in the nicest way.

A religious mother who sends her children to our daycare center told me that her three-year old daughter sat her little brothers down for tefilla, and she davened with them exuberantly. When she was done, she took a picture of the Rebbe from one of her arts and crafts and gave it to each child to kiss, like we do in school at the end of tefilla. The mother told this to me enthusiastically and I understood that if we are confident and convey the messages straightforwardly and happily, they will accept it from us.

The Rebbe writes (Igros Kodesh, 14, pgs. 71-72): “Surely, it is superfluous to emphasize the importance of engraving the laws and Jewish customs into the children’s memories. Even though for those of preschool age this is not done through instruction, we see that with little children, accustoming them to laws and customs is more determinant than the study of these laws and customs. Especially if you associate a story and suitable explanation to the fulfillment of the law and the custom.”

CHASSIDIC EXPERIENCE

Mrs. Dina Turkov, who teaches Chassidus in grades one to three, shares from her vast experience in instilling Chassidus in her students and the right way to educate for hiskashrus at this age:

Anything we want to teach, and all the more so values of Chassidus and hiskashrus to the Rebbe, needs to be done in an experiential way that combines visual illustration followed by the aural. “An eye sees and an ear hears.” Especially in this generation of ours. This makes the material memorable for life.

The learning in the “Chassidic experience” class is special, not the usual. We take Chassidic topics and the Chassidic dates around the year and bring them to life through stories with pictures, together with songs and plays on a special stage. This incorporates many of the senses into the learning. In addition, it lends itself to the students expressing themselves in various ways.

I take girls to record songs in a studio and afterward, they see the songs played up on the screen. The girls are full participants in the lesson and this is seen in their concentration and listening. Boruch Hashem, they behave during the lessons, really connecting to the world (“palace”) that we create here and have a hard time parting at the end of the lesson. It’s heartwarming to hear from a girl that her mother always reads another story from her file folder before bedtime, or girls who say that they read the stories at the Shabbos table.

PRINCESSES OF THE PALACE

The classroom where I teach is called “Armon HaChassidus” (The Chassidus Palace) and the girls need to behave in it in a way befitting Chassidic princesses and soldiers in Tzivos Hashem who guard the palace. On the walls hang the precepts pertaining to princess deportment such as: “A Chassidic Princess talks less, thinks more, and does even more,” and “A lamplighter lights up the faraway places.”

In my area, where the teacher sits, there is a microphone covered with gold along with a footstool and next to it is a lectern, also nicely covered, where I invite the girls to come. Even the broom is covered in faux gold. There are lessons in which they get ID tags which engenders feelings of belonging and Chassidic pride.

In accordance with the rules of proper conduct according to Chassidus, we maintain order and cleanliness. There isn’t a single paper on the floor and every desk is decorated with flowers and has on it a small hut topped with gold. Orderliness applies to the smallest details, such as file folders are placed to the right and pencil cases on the left and the girls sit with their feet down, modestly, like princesses. Attendance is also emphasized. In the Armon HaChassidus there are two clocks hanging that are always working (the battery is changed as soon as it’s used up) and the first girls to arrive get a star.

The year (the interview took place last year, 5778) is on the wall with the appropriate acronym (Tehei Shnas Eis Cheiruseinu) and in the Armon, every four girls form a group and the names of the groups change according to the year. This year, they start with the letter Ches: Chesed, Chassidus, Chochma etc. Each group has jobs. There is the reader who reads the story, the scout who reports and is responsible for equipment, etc. I ask them to work together and give the class a lesson or activity on the group’s topic.

I involve the girls in what I put into the Armon HaChassidus and lessons, and the girls feel it and try to behave the way a Chassidic princess would. We also have personal points, group points, class points and inter-class points. To do this, a teacher needs to be consistent and on top of things so that they hold up and are effective.

EFFECTIVE BREAKS

During recess, the Armon HaChassidus is open for productive recess activities called Chevras Chana. Girls who come during recess, read the periodicals or booklets that are in the room, enjoy the activity corners or participate in activities which are run by the directors and counselors of Chevras Chana from the upper grades, fourth through sixth, who miss the Armon.

The main emphasis in Chevras Chana is learning by heart. The girls learn and are tested on Jewish-Chassidic material. I sometimes surprise them at recess with popcorn or something else that’s nice in order to encourage the girls who use recess for positive things.

Chevras Chana has two theme songs with motions which the counselors teach the girls. Now, for Yud Shevat, the girls learned a song about the stories of Ahavas Yisroel that appear in Basi L’Gani 5711 and they act out the stories on the stage.

OPEN COMMUNICATION

Parents are communicated with constantly, throughout the year. Every girl, at the beginning of the year, gets a file folder in which she keeps all the Chassidic story pages which we learn, and two notebooks, one for the material taught in class and one the “Chassid ledger,” used to maintain the amazing communication that we keep with the parents. In the second notebook, parents write the good things their daughter did as well as Chassidic behaviors that are deserving of praise. The girls get coupons both for behavior in class and for their parents’ signature and comment about the reading of a story and good Chassidic behavior.

I sign that I read it; I have a special stamp which says, “At nesicha (you are a princess) – yashar ko’ach! From Morah Dina Turkov.” At the end of a semester, like this time of year, I count the collected signatures of all the girls. Seven outstanding girls from each class – about 100 in all, come to my house for a farbrengen and program which is run by the counselors of Chevras Chana.

LONG-TERM EFFECTS

Sometimes, I meet girls who were my students years ago who remember the content of what they learned, thanks to the experiential component. We had a guest who remembered the pictures we made and the project she worked on. Graduates tell me that they loved the lessons and parents tell me how their daughters are enthusiastic about the learning and the songs, and about how the content of the lessons brings an atmosphere of Chassidus and hiskashrus to the Rebbe into their house.

From the Rebbe (Igros Kodesh, 7, page 57): “I was pleased to read in your letter about your efforts to inform and inculcate into the students Chassidic stories and Chassidic topics. Surely you will increase the effort in this, for this is what man is all about and as it is written, ‘The end of the matter, everything having been heard, fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the entirety of man.’”

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