I spent the day Sunday at a beautiful event organized very professionally by the Menachem Education Foundation. Read about it here. The team at the MEF are doing such critically important work that has been needed for a long time. A Groise Yashar Koach to all of them!
I just wanted to jot down some of my thoughts that developed as I was meeting with the many wonderful young educators starting their career in Chinuch.
One question that I asked many of those whom I met was – and I purposely worded it like this – “why are you seeking to work in Chinuch instead of ‘real Shlichus’?”. We’ve all been noticing the trend in recent years of shifting the focus in Lubavitch. Whereas the ideal, the goal, the dream of a typical Chabad teen was traditionally a life devoted to Shlichus, and B”H we’ve seen many of our greatest leaders go out and literally change the world, one community, and one Yid at a time, that ideal is morphing. It’s not that, Chas VeShalom, people are less interested in Shilchus, but rather – the way I see it – that many are beginning to understand that Shlichus does not only mean “outreach”, but “inreach” as well. We are realizing (maybe a bit late) that “Mekarving” our own children is just as important as other people’s children.
And I’m not only referring to those situations where children are “at risk”, but rather every single child in our community deserves that same full fledged devotion that Shluchim will go to the end of the world to provide to a stranger. Just think what would be achieved if the same effort, time, money, resources and minds were devoted to our internal Chinuch system as is invested in the Shlichus world.
And this is not new. This is clearly the Rebbe’s approach, although I’m not sure why it has been overlooked for so long. I personally was directed by the Rebbe not to go to a “traditional Chabad House” when I was offered the opportunity, but rather to remain in Chinuch. And there are many such stories. There is one that particularly stands out for me because of my close personal relationship with the Ba’al Hama’aseh, Rabbi Shaya Schtroks, A”H. As an educator, Shaya was a true role model for me as well as for hundreds of others, not to mention all those who had the Zchus to go through his class in Cheder Lubavitch in Morristown. Without exaggeration, I would say that his teaching ability and Chush to relate to his Talmidim was legendary. And the amazing thing for me is that he almost did not become a Mechanech.
Shortly after getting married, while waiting for the right Shlichus opportunity, he was teaching in Cheder Lubavitch in Morristown. When the offer for Shlichus – in Chicago, I believe (someone please correct me if I’m wrong in the comments below) – came up, he wrote to the Rebbe asking if he should accept this Shlichus, or stay in Chinuch. The Rebbe’s – now famous – answer was a marking on his letter. The Rebbe simply drew a circle around the word “Shlichus” and made an arrow from there to the word above “Chinuch”.
And that trend is already happening. With more and more resources, organizations, funding and awareness being directed towards Chinuch work, I think the next generation of our “work force” is getting the message that Chinuch is the future of our Shlichus just as much as traditional Chabad Houses and campuses. That was the message I was hearing form the Yungeleit at the job fair, and it was truly uplifting and inspiring.
Now it is up to the community to ensure that the Mosdos Chinuch are well supported, both financially, as well as in all other ways, so that we can accept these talented young educators into the schools, provide them with a respectable living, so that they can comfortably devote themselves to their Shlichus of raising our children.