April 24, 2024
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April 24, 2024
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Menachem Gottesman, PhD, Shares Insight into ‘At Risk’ Jewish Youth

“Not at Risk” tells the story of the Meled School, an alternative religious high in Jerusalem for teens “at risk.” Written by Meled founder Dr. Menachem Gottesman, it discusses the uniqueness of the school, including its educational philosophy, daily schedule and keys to success. Here is a Q&A sharing his thoughts.

MG: I see the largest problem—and not just among adolescents that are Jewish—is a lack of understanding of and communication with youth. We don’t relate to teens at eye level. This problem is not only a Jewish issue. Parents, educators, members of society, including those in the religious establishment, do not know how to communicate with teenagers on their terms. Nor do youths themselves always know how to express their thoughts and feelings effectively. Understanding where each adolescent is and communicating at his or her level is at the crux of the matter.

MG: Today, more than ever, human beings are viewed holistically. Formal education can no longer restrict itself to developing the mind alone, along with physical education. Thus, we propose a universal model that integrates Neill’s focus on freedom to choose vis-à-vis what and when to learn, Erickson’s affirmation of youth’s freedom to change—at many levels—and Soloveitchik’s commitment to adolescents’ freedom to grow spiritually, which can be fostered between students and their mentors, as well as between students themselves.

MG: The secret to Meled’s success is the connectedness between staff and students. The trust, respect and caring offered to students are no less than what they’re expected to offer their teachers and the school staff in return. Ultimately, there’s an underlying question on the cover: Who is supporting whom? The answer lies in the Meled story about both supporting each other en route to the future.

MG: It’s not my story—but the students’. I wrote this book to tell how kids, many of whom were misunderstood and/or rejected by the system, could become so great. Hopefully, by reading this book, it can become the narrative of far many others, as well.

MG: Grant them acceptance, unlimited support and a listening ear.

“Not at Risk” is published by Menorah Books, a division of Koren Publishers. It is available online and at your local Jewish bookstore.

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