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Chapter Fifteen

And Your Knowledge Will Soon Overflow

    I have discovered that here in Crown Heights the concept of Torah knowledge goes way beyond what a person learns sitting in a classroom. People here acquire Torah knowledge by observing, by participating, by interacting and simply by living here. Torah fills the air in Crown Heights. When you walk out your door you learn something about Torah. When you see your neighbors you learn something about Torah. When you talk on the phone or go shopping or take a walk you learn something about Torah. The Rebbe constantly encouraged all Jews to keep growing and to make every part of their being a vessel for Torah. It is because of the Rebbe's daily influence and physical presence here for many years that enabled Crown Heights to blossom into an atmosphere overflowing with so many wonderful ways to learn Torah.

     This includes all of the classes available each day on different subjects of the Torah. These classes are taught separately for men and women. Everyone learns something, whether they already possess a great knowledge of Torah or they are only just beginning to learn it. Most of the classes are taught in English for those people who do not understand Hebrew or Yiddish. And if you don't feel like going out to a class, information concerning Torah subjects is available over the phone, on the computer and in the many books and magazines you can purchase here.

     My husband and I have found that not only is it important to keep learning Torah to help ourselves grow spiritually, but we absolutely need to learn in order to keep up with our children. Actually, the older ones have already moved way ahead of us in many areas. And for all this invaluable knowledge they have attained, we credit the excellent yeshivas our children attend. Thank G-D the education here for our children has proven to be extraordinarily effective in helping them become the kind of Jews G-D wants them to be.

     When we first moved to Crown Heights we were especially worried about our oldest son, who had a difficult time learning Hebrew subjects. His problem began when we moved to Sharon and we were commuting to yeshiva. Unfortunately we were late almost every day and our oldest son missed a lot of the basics of learning to read and translate Hebrew. He was beginning to catch up by the time we moved here, but he still had difficulty. Also, since he was way ahead of other kids his age in secular subjects he was put up a grade in secular subjects but put down a grade in Hebrew subjects. This made it very hard on him socially, and in some ways caused him even more problems.

     During his second year in yeshiva here, he stopped going altogether and became extremely lethargic and depressed. I realized it was not the right yeshiva for him and I began to look around for a yeshiva that would be able to help him. I talked with many different people and I thought about many different possibilities, including home schooling, which I wasn't really prepared to do, and sending him to a yeshiva out of town. Thank G-D for my friend Chanchi Hershkowitz. She told me about a yeshiva right here in Crown Heights for boys over the age of Bar Mitzvah, dedicated to providing individual attention and a positive atmosphere. Chanchi is not only brilliant, she has a lot of common sense and is perceptive as well. Thanks to her, I called Chanoch Lenaar (the name of this literally life-saving yeshiva) and my husband, my son and I met with the head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Yaakov Bryski. We knew after leaving that meeting that it was the right yeshiva for our son. Rabbi Bryski fully understands the needs of teenage boys and he knows exactly how to motivate them to learn, to do their very best and to feel good about themselves.

     Because of Rabbbi Bryski our son thrived in his learning, thank G-D, and he made the honor roll not only in secular subjects, but more importantly, in Hebrew subjects as well. He also got along well with the other students there and, all of his teachers loved having him in their classes and enjoyed his enthusiasm for learning. Crown Heights should feel exceptionally proud to have a yeshiva here like Chanoch Lenaar which succeeds in accomplishing miracles in learning every day.

     Our second son Nosson attended the Lubavitcher Yeshiva on Crown Street. At that time the yeshiva was run by Rabbi Shmuel Fogelman, an incredibly competent man who stays on top of everything. He made sure that the boys in his yeshiva were well taken care of in every way. In addition to the excellent Torah education the students received in the classrooms, they also received a good education in how to behave properly towards each other and how to conduct themselves as a Jew should. Rabbi Fogelman constantly encouraged this much needed education in Midos, and I applaud his determination to turn out not only smart students but kindhearted and decent students as well. One day Nosson was coming out of the bathroom at school just as Rabbi Fogelman was passing by. He greeted Nosson warmly and asked him how he was doing. Before he went on his way, Rabbi Fogelman pointed to a paper towel on the floor and remarked to Nosson, "You're not planning on leaving that there, are you?" We are more than pleased that our son was fortunate enough to attend such a well-rounded yeshiva that taught him not only the words of Torah, but also taught how to put those words into practice.

     The other major yeshiva here for boys is Oholei Torah (renamed Oholei Menachem). I hear from my friends whose children attend school there that Oholei Menachem is a superb yeshiva. This yeshiva runs a fast-paced program teaching mainly in Yiddish, so a student really has to be strong in Yiddish in order to keep up there. Oholei Menachem has a reputation for turning out students who are well-educated Torah scholars and who are well prepared to be teachers themselves.

     There is only one yeshiva for girls in Crown Heights and thank G-D it happens to be a top-notch yeshiva. Associated Beth Rivkah Schools (also know as Bais Rivka) provides a warm and exciting atmosphere where learning can flourish. Creative projects, productions and contests are constantly used to encourage students to become more involved in their learning program. The school also encourages parents to participate in their daughters' education by giving instructions on how to help them improve their daughters' schoolwork. The teachers make themselves readily available and keep in constant contact with parents. We feel that in Bais Rivka, girls not only gain a great knowledge of Torah but they are also taught how to prepare for their adult life as Jewish women. I have now learned since my days at Bais Chana that it is of the utmost importance these days for girls and women to learn as much as they can and to put their talents to good use in helping to elevate this world to higher levels of life. Bais Rivka gives every student an excellent opportunity to learn everything a Jewish girl needs to know.

     The person responsible for holding Bais Rivka together, especially financially, is the incomparable and charismatic Benzion Stock (Yep, that's Shimshon and Martha's boy). He is doing one heck of a fantastic job, or should I say jobs. There are many jobs involved in running such a large and thank G-D successful school as Bais Rivka. We are thankful to G-D and to all of the principals and teachers at Bais Rivka who are dedicated daily to turning out Jewish girls who are true daughters of Israel.

     I wish for every Jewish parent the same kind of mazal we have had in finding the right yeshivas for our children. We are indeed very blessed to have so much nachus from seeing how well our children are learning here. But I think the biggest pleasure of all comes from our younger children. Whenever they say a word like Torah, which my husband and I are used to pronouncing with a long "o" sound, they pronounce it "Toyrah" with an "oy" sound. And every time we hear them speaking with a Yiddish pronunciation we thank G-D for the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who made it possible for children of parents who don't come from a religious background to receive the same Torah education as children of parents who do. He made sure Torah education not only remained alive but that it continued to spread out to the four corners of the world, enabling every Jew to remember Mount Sinai. I dedicate the following limerick I have written to all teachers of Torah everywhere for educating Jewish children and for educating Jewish adults and parents as well.

To a wise teacher so long ago
I remarked, "There's so much I don't know"
She replied, "Here's the key
Come learn Torah with me
And your knowledge will soon overflow."