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Tuesday
May232017

MIVTZA CHINUCH

Over 40 years have passed since the Rebbe announced the Education Campaign, in which he said a Jewish education should be provided for all Jewish children, mainly those not learning in religious schools. * Beis Moshiach looks back at the beginning of the campaign which, over time, has regrettably become somewhat neglected, and the work that was done in Eretz Yisroel and around the world.

By Avrohom Rainitz and Shneur Zalman Levin

It was the end of Nissan 5736, at a farbrengen held on Shabbos, Parshas Acharei Mos, when the Rebbe announced theShnas Chinuch.” Before the announcement, the Rebbe explained that just as the president of the United States [Gerald Ford] had proclaimed an American Education Week, so too, an announcement would now be made about a year of education:

“It is being announced regarding this year as a Shnas Chinuch and Mivtza Chinuch, which is connected with the idea of ‘and you shall relate to your child’ - a matter of education, that there should be no boy or girl without a Jewish education. This is the announcement, that this year the emphasis should be on seeing to it that every Jewish child receives an education based on authentic Judaism.”

The Rebbe said to hurry up, and mentioned making a big deal in the media and forming a special committee to address this new campaign.

At that same farbrengen, the Rebbe laid out a practical course of action towards implementing the huge undertaking: Registering children in religious summer camps.

This matter of chinuch pertains to everyone, especially those who worked in this field previously or are working in it now (because then ‘all beginnings are difficult’ does not pertain to them) successfully. And even if there were some details that were lacking, they knew with whom to consult and clarify things etc. This pertains particularly to Jewish women, each of whom is the mainstay of the home and upon her depends the education of children, and also those who are preparing in anticipation of this role.”

The Rebbe added:

“The announcement is being made in a holy place (a shul and beis midrash) and the strength for it is taken from the words of our Sages about a person’s livelihood being designated at the beginning of the year (during the Aseres Yemei T’shuva), that as far as expenses for tuition (i.e. chinuch for boys and girls), whoever adds, has it added to him from Above.

“This is what our Rebbeim did regarding certain years, that they announced ‘Shnas Torah,’ for example, and like we find in a number of stories of tzaddikim and g’dolei Yisroel who used ‘customs of the country’ in the service of Hashem.”

TO DESTROY THE ENEMY

Everyone felt there was something “heavenly” behind this new campaign and this sentiment was reinforced when the Rebbe spoke about the enormous power that the Jewish children have to destroy the enemy.

The first time the Rebbe spoke about the connection between Shnas HaChinuch and destroying the enemy was a Thursday night, the eve of Rosh Chodesh Iyar 5736/1976. That night the Rebbe held a special farbrengen, most of which was dedicated to Mivtza Chinuch. The Rebbe spoke about the importance of the children themselves participating in Mivtza Chinuch in order to destroy the enemy.

“As was mentioned a number of times, one of the ways of tipping himself and the entire world toward merit is through ‘from the mouths of babes and sucklings You established strength’ as this causes ‘to dispose of enemy and avenger.’”

The Rebbe added that he meant not only an actual enemy who already attacked, G-d forbid, but also one who planned on taking revenge.

On this occasion, the Rebbe added specific details regarding the initiative. He enumerated six verses that every Jewish child needs to learn by heart. The Rebbe explained that these verses are easy to explain to little children. These verses should be printed and disseminated in every country in their language so that every child would be able to carry out the commandment “when you sit in your house and go on the way” with these verses.

Three days after the farbrengen, which was uncommon for that period, there was another uncommon farbrengen, which was held on Sunday, 2 Iyar, during which the Rebbe spoke at length about Mivtza Chinuch, and also included a number of special directives:

That there should be an effort that every person should get involved in the matter of chinuch;

To give children three coins for their involvement in the chinuch of their friends;

That every person should put in effort according to his ability, in every possible way, in Mivtza Chinuch, and especially in registering children for summer camps and in yeshivos for the following school year;

That it is an obligation on the administrations of the schools to accept additional students and not to let teachers go for lack of funding.

THE REBBE PUSHES FOR ACTION

From a brochure that was published at the time, we can glean some insight into what were the goals of the campaign:

Mivtza Chinuch – The education in the home is very important and is the first shaping of the child’s character. However, even at that point he is still not fully formed and it is necessary to impart to him a greater awareness of the questions that are already teeming in his mind: Who am I? Where do I belong? Where do I come from? The Rebbe contends that for questions such as these, the answer should be with a Jewish Torah education. The campaign is being carried out on many fronts, opening new educational institutions primarily in out of the way places, growing and expanding the existing institutions, setting up day camps and summer camps, and organizing Torah classes for those children who attend schools that do not teach about Torah and mitzvos.

The Rebbe himself began to “push” the Chassidim to hurry and begin the work. It is told that the day after the first surprise farbrengen, Friday Rosh Chodesh Iyar, the Rebbe asked one of the secretaries why the students of k’vutza from the Holy Land are not yet returning home (in those years, the k’vutza group would be by the Rebbe from Nissan to Nissan). The Rebbe explained his question in the following terms: There has just begun a “shturem” in Mivtza Chinuch, and they are not involved in this, neither here nor in Eretz Yisroel. In conclusion, the Rebbe instructed: Therefore, they should leave immediately at the beginning of the coming week.

A few days later, Thursday 5 Iyar, after Mincha, R’ Katz of South Africa was standing near the office of the secretariat. The Rebbe turned to him and asked about the time of his return flight, and then asked him if he agreed to be his emissary. When he answered in the affirmative, the Rebbe gave him two dollar bills for the purpose of giving them to tz’daka over South Africa, and said to him that being that he is involved there in matters of chinuch, he should make a “shturem” in regards to chinuch.

The Rebbe also gave two dollars to his wife, and told her that being that there is an organization there for women, she should consider getting involved in this. To their son, the Rebbe also gave one dollar, and then added another dollar, saying, “This is for your friends.”

 

During that month, R’ Chaim Gutnick from Australia paid a visit to Eretz Yisroel. As per an explicit request from the secretariat of the Rebbe, he was to be informed that the Rebbe wished that his visit be used for publicizing Shnas HaChinuch. The following is part of the text of the message that was sent regarding this matter:

R’ Chaim Gutnick has traveled to the Holy Land. He should be received nicely and he should use his influence. He speaks well and understands the issues … and to utilize his stay in the Holy Land in the best possible manner. He should speak before the crowd on Lag B’Omer in Miron. He was at the recent farbrengens and was influenced as far as the activities of Mivtza Chinuch, and he can influence others about this matter… to publicize about him in the newspapers etc.… to make it easier for him to focus on the activities. As per the request of the Rebbe shlita, he should remain in the Holy Land until after Lag B’Omer.

During the period that followed, the Rebbe used almost every opportunity to mention the special time. In a letter for the graduation ceremonies of Tomchei T’mimim in Montreal, the Rebbe wrote to be involved “in Mivtza Chinuch, which is an all-inclusive campaign that includes all the general campaigns [the ten mivtzaim].” In a telegram sent on 4 Elul 5736 to the educators of the Reshet Oholei Yosef Yitzchok, who held a gathering at that time, the Rebbe wrote, “And especially since this year is a Shnas HaChinuch for Torah and Mitzvos.” Similar mentions can be found in almost all of the Rebbe’s general letters from that period.

Even in personal letters the Rebbe often raised the topic of Mivtza Chinuch. In a letter that the Rebbe wrote to Professor Velvel Green, the Rebbe mentioned, “Judaism should be brought to every single Jew, primarily in this year of Torah Chinuch, in which everybody is called upon to do everything in his power in order to bring Torah and mitzvos to all the Jews, young and old, including those that are already not young in years but are still youngsters in Jewish knowledge and experiences.”

Similarly, when R’ Yosef Wineberg wrote to the Rebbe that he had spoken on the radio about Mivtza Chinuch and that he was traveling to Brazil, the Rebbe wrote him, “Certainly in all of the aforementioned, he will speak about this matter, and as mentioned with a ‘shturem’ … and all of the above should be in a manner of hyperbole of holiness.”

To a Chassid who wanted to leave his job in chinuch, the Rebbe wrote to him, “It is a moral lesson as to how great are the concealments in the darkness of exile, as specifically when it was announced about Shnas HaChinuch and the need to prepare in a timely manner for the summer camps, this plan came up.”

Before the beginning of the new school year, the Rebbe penned a special general letter for children, addressed to “the dear boys (and girls),” in which the Rebbe encourages the children to get involved in Mivtza Chinuch and to influence their friends.

THE CHASSIDIM GET TO WORK

Lag B’Omer, which was a short time after the Rebbe’s initial call, was a good opportunity to publicize the message to the broader public (although this was in the period before parades began to be held in every city in Eretz Yisroel). The main activities centered around Mount Miron, near the resting place of Rabi Shimon bar Yochai, where every year there were hundreds of thousands of Jewish visitors.

The regular booth of Tzeirei Chabad of Tzfas got a manpower boost in the form of the first group of shluchim that the Rebbe had sent to move to the Holy Land. The entire booth was adorned with signs about Mivtza Chinuch. The hundreds of thousands who came to visit the gravesite received explanatory brochures that were produced in honor of Shnas HaChinuch. These brochures had a number of rhyming slogans (in Hebrew) printed as headlines, such as; “The chinuch of our children to Torah, will take us out from darkness to light,” and “The guarantee of the survival of our nation, Torah chinuch for our children.”

R’ Efraim Wolf, the director of Tomchei T’mimim in Kfar Chabad, began to send reports to the Rebbe as early as 4 Iyar, detailing the meetings that were held among the activists, and the decisions that were made, including the practical steps to be taken and the division of labor. He also reported about the activities that were done with the staff and students of the yeshiva in Kfar Chabad, in terms of carrying out Mivtza Chinuch within the yeshiva in addition to their regular studies.

In the north of the country, the newly arrived young married shluchim that were sent to Tzfas, who were told to continue their studies in kollel, would travel around to cities, towns, and settlements, to visit the local schools on Fridays (kollelim in Eretz Yisroel have no formal hours on Fridays). R’ Aharon Eliezer Tzeitlin, who was one of the three unmarried bachurim that were sent along with the group, kept a detailed diary of all the activities that the group did, based on which he would send reports to the Rebbe. In the six weeks from after Shavuos until the end of the school year in Israel, he writes that “we managed to visit 941 schools, which serve 20,000 students.”

He goes on to list the names of all the towns and settlements where these schools were located according to the Hebrew alphabet: Avivim, Achihud, Elipalet, Dishon, Dalton, Chatzor, Teveria, Yesod Hamaale, Kerem Ben Zimra, Karmiel, Metulla, Miron, Maalot, Nahariya, Safsufa, Acco, Alma, Amuka, Kiryat Shmoneh, Rosh Pina, Shlomi, and of course, Tzfas.

Additionally, the Mitzva Tank from Yerushalayim was put to use to spread Judaism in the small settlements in the Galil region during this period. Every day, after their studies in kollel, a group would visit a different settlement with the tank, with some doing home visits and others manning the tank and distributing materials to the passersby. R’ Tzeitlin writes in great detail about the activities that they would do with the children. Also, on Fridays, the “tank” would visit local army bases to do outreach with the soldiers. There follows a day-by-day account from 17 Sivan until 22 Tammuz, listing the installation of hundreds of mezuzos, dozens of people putting on t’fillin, and many hundreds of children participating in Mivtza Chinuch related activities.

THE PHONE CONVERSATION WITH R’ CHADAKOV

It is interesting to note that although initially the Rebbe addressed his request to all the Chassidim, including the shluchim, it seemed that to a certain degree the Rebbe shifted the focus onto the small group of shluchim that had only recently arrived in Yerushalayim and in Tzfas.

The bachurim shluchim, those who learned in Toras Emes in Yerushalayim, became like family members in the home of R’ Chanoch Glitzenstein, and when they heard what the Rebbe had spoken about that first Shabbos, they consulted with him as to how to proceed. R’ Glitzenstein called the office of the Rebbe’s secretaries and asked for clarifications in the name of the shluchim, as to what was expected of them. The following is an approximation of the conversation that took place.

Question: In the name of the shluchim in Yerushalayim, most of who are currently present together with the faculty and Rosh Kollel, it was requested of me to ask the Rebbe shlita regarding Mivtza Chinuch as to what extent we should be involved. The situation is as follows. There are many suggestions as far as possible activities, creating a “shturem” throughout the Holy Land; visiting schools in Yerushalayim; making a gathering for children (at the Kosel or some other central venue); a day camp. There are those among us who are prepared to undertake any and all of the above, but it will take up the time of most of the day, at least by some of those involved or maybe even most or all of us until the end of the summer.

R’ Chadakov responded that the most important thing that the bachurim had to do was to keep to the learning schedule. “Immediately from the beginning, when the Rebbe sent you, the goal was that you should learn. Therefore, it is understood that it is impossible for you to only be involved in activities and not learn. You are to conduct yourselves as you did in the initial period, namely that all activities are carried out only outside of the learning schedule hours.”

As far as Mivtza Chinuch, R’ Chadakov answered, “This is a matter that has to be done in an orderly fashion. Mivtza Chinuch is not a local matter, but a campaign that needs to encompass the entire land. There is no place for the group (of shluchim) to organize things on their own. You can participate in the activities being done in Eretz Yisroel, but not on your own.” R’ Chadakov added this message to the bachurim, “With this you will bring merit to all of the Jews of Eretz Yisroel, all the Chabadniks and the T’mimim.”

MIVTZA CHINUCH IN THE USA

A few days after the Rebbe’s pronouncement, the Lubavitch Youth Organization sent out a letter to Anash and all those active in outreach, with a call to get to work as per the desire of the Rebbe. The letter was edited by the Rebbe himself and many copies were sent out. “We need to strengthen and expand the issue of chinuch by every single Jew; chinuch of actual children who are young in years, and the chinuch of those who are young in their knowledge (even if they are older in years). Each and every person must be involved in this education campaign with the utmost energy, until every Jewish boy and girl will receive a kosher education according to the Torah and its mitzvos.”

The letter goes on to delineate various ways of implementing the campaign in practical terms. One of the suggestions listed was to utilize the upcoming summer months to register as many children in kosher summer camps as possible.

“It has already been said many times that the advantage of a summer camp is that the children are under the influence of the camp throughout the entire day, without any influence from outside factors, and it is obvious that the influence on them is that much more powerful.”

It then goes on to say, “Along with the effort and emphasis on the education of Jewish boys and girls during the summer months, it is also obviously necessary to invest effort in their education throughout the year. And in preparation of the upcoming school year, we must already now put in tremendous effort to influence the parents to register their children in kosher schools for the next school year. When they will work at this with requisite energy, along with the effort directed at the children themselves, certainly they will accomplish that the greatest possible number of Jewish boys and girls will be registered in kosher schools that are founded al taharas hakodesh, and they will receive a kosher chinuch throughout the entire upcoming school year.”

In the letter, under the heading of “Be careful of the sons of the poor, for from them will go forth Torah,” it calls upon the administrations of the various educational institutions, including summer camps, to see to it that “at least” a tenth of the students are accepted tuition free.

In light of this letter, we turned to R’ Kasriel Kastel, of the Lubavitch Youth Organization, who remembers those days well:

“Following the sichos of the Rebbe on the subject of providing a proper chinuch, we set up a telephone bank that was manned mainly by girls from Beis Rivka. They contacted Jewish families throughout the New York area and tried to convince them to send their children to Jewish schools. This was not a simple and self-understood matter at all. In many cases this required great sacrifice on the part of the families.

“I recall that one day I received a call from an elderly woman who heard about our phone operation and she begged us to contact her daughter and try to convince her to send her children to religious schools. I asked her if we could say that she sent us, but she cried, ‘Heaven forbid. She will be angry that I am mixing into her life.’ So, one of the telephone operators called the daughter, and after she heard what the call was about, she said that she had been married to a religious man, but after she got divorced there was no money to pay for Jewish education, so she was forced to send the children to public school where she doesn’t have to pay.

“The girl from Beis Rivka took on this family as a personal project, and in a short time she succeeded in having the children transferred to religious schools. The connection between them became so strong that when that girl got married in Australia, the mother traveled there to participate in her wedding. Today, she is a shlucha somewhere in the USA and is still in contact with that family.”

R’ Kastel added that Mivtza Chinuch is still ongoing to this very day, “Every summer there are families that have difficulty paying tuition, who reach out to us and ask for financial aid, and in fact, we invest tens of thousands of dollars each year in this campaign. However, sadly, the amount of funding at our disposal is insufficient to meet the need. If we had the ability, we would save many more children and transfer them to kosher schools.”

The challenges faced by those who are active in this campaign are far from simple. Even when a family has been convinced to take their children out of public school and transfer them to religious schools, they are confronted with two major problems. First and foremost is the high cost of tuition, which in some schools can be more than ten thousand dollars a year!

What can you do in such cases?

“We determine how much the parents can pay, and at the same time we approach the administration of the institution and try to arrange a special discount, and whatever remains we try to cover, at least partially.”

In the special farbrengen mentioned at the beginning of the article, which took place on 2 Iyar, the Rebbe addressed the obligation of administrations of the schools to accept more students and not to let teachers go due to lack of funds.

R’ Kastel added an interesting anecdote. In one of the brochures that LYO put out in connection with Mivtza Chinuch, it cited the aphorism of the Rebbe Rashab, that just as putting on t’fillin every day is a mitzva of the Torah, so too, it is an absolute obligation upon every Jew to think a half hour each day about the education of children. In the Rebbe’s edits of that brochure, he removed the limitation of a half hour, and left it as a general obligation with no time limit.

Another person who was very active in Mivtza Chinuch in the USA was R’ Shraga Zalmanov, director of the Vaada L’Dovrei Ivrit (committee for Hebrew speakers). This group was in direct regular contact with close to a thousand Hebrew speaking families around New York. R’ Zalmanov recalls with great clarity that first period after the Rebbe launched Mivtza Chinuch:

“The first thing we did was to contact all of our mekuravim, and whoever had children in public school, we worked to convince them to switch their children to a Jewish school. Concurrently, we placed radio ads on a popular Israeli program about the importance of Jewish education, and asked people to contact us for more information. Additionally, in miraculous fashion, we succeeded in getting hold of an updated list of Israelis living throughout the USA, and we contacted them as well.

“We were operating seven telephone lines, and every evening bachurim from the yeshiva would head upstairs to the offices and conduct dozens of phone conversations. In the months from when the Rebbe began to talk about the topic in Iyar, until the beginning of the new school year, we succeeded in transferring 600 children from public schools to Jewish schools!

“When we produced a brochure about the campaign, we decided to go big and for the very first time put out a color brochure. In those days that was a novel thing and it cost four times the regular printing. The Rebbe apparently enjoyed this novel development very much as he sent out a note with thanks for the “beautifying” of the brochure. When we saw how much nachas this gave the Rebbe, from that point on every brochure we put out was in full color.”

R’ Zalmanov also spoke of the main problem that they faced, which was the money problem. Many families were unable or unwilling to take on the huge financial commitment, especially those that did not really appreciate the importance of a Jewish education. “We helped them with significant sums of money from a special fund that we set up,” he says.

The scholarships began to add up to huge amounts. “At a certain point, I thought of pulling the radio ads and limiting the mivtza to the community of our mekuravim, as many of those families were in financial straits and asked for help in covering the tuition fees. I wrote about this to the Rebbe, and the answer I received was to the effect that our work was analogous to a hospital, which needs to regularly advertise its existence. And if too many patients show up, it is necessary to place some of them in the hallways, and only if there is literally no space at all – only then do they stop taking new patients. Similarly, we need to continue advertising, and as far as financial assistance, we need to operate with careful consideration.”

Rabbi Kastel mentioned an additional problem that Tzach faced when they wanted children to join Jewish schools, “We had to contend with the mainstreaming of children with no religious background, directly into a religious program.”

R’ Kastel divides Jewish schools into two categories, “There are yeshivos which are generally attended by religious kids. It is very hard to put a child with no religious background into a yeshiva and have him fit in. Then there are Jewish day schools where most of the day is spent on secular subjects and there are basic Jewish subjects. It is easier to place a child without a religious background into a day school where the children are from religious-lite homes.

“We talk to principals and try to convince them to accept the children into existing programs, but it’s not easy. I once spoke to a principal and read him a letter from the posek, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein z”l, that calls upon principals to accept up to ten percent of children from irreligious backgrounds, because then the majority are religious and they are the influencers and not the influenced.”

NAASEH V’NISHMA
IN BRAZIL

The Rebbe’s call for Mivtza Chinuch reached Brazil too. The shliach there, Rabbi Chaim Binyamini, founder and Rosh Yeshiva of Machne Israel in Petropolis, sent a letter to the Rebbe that same month in which he detailed the first activities that he did, including:

The bachurim learn more and have made learning commitments regarding time and quantity of mishnayos, dapim, perakim, etc.

They put ads in the papers on behalf of the yeshiva and the michlala about their willingness to accept poor students at reduced rates.

Groups of talmidim went to Rio on Lag B’Omer and the Sunday afterward and worked in five schools and clubs with about 2500 boys and girls, reviewing p’sukim and giving out coins for tz’daka.

They printed a translation of the letter and distributed it to the parents and students in the hopes that this would also be useful.

Starting from Erev Shabbos BaMidbar, talmidim were invited to give a shiur on Erev Shabbos in Rio about Shabbos and the t’fillos of Shabbos.

A REQUEST AND A DOUBLE AND REDOUBLED REQUEST

To conclude this article, which only touches on a small part of Mivtza Chinuch, here are unusual words that the Rebbe used to sum up the special farbrengen that took place on 2 Iyar:

All those who listen to my voice or want to listen, fulfill the aforementioned suggestion as a request and a double and redoubled request.

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