July 22, 2024
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July 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

During my years in yeshiva Shaarei Torah a fellow named Moshe, who was not a student, would at times circle the yeshiva. At times he even sat in on a high-level Gemara shiur and would offer his comments. He was a pleasant person, so no one was too bothered by him.

On one occasion a group of high school boys were making a video about earthquakes, part of a project for their earth science class. They interviewed Moshe and asked him where he thought the best place to be is in case of an earthquake. He thought for a second and replied, “You really want to know? Yerushalayim!”

What about during a power outage? What’s the last place you’d like to be in if the electricity goes out? I would venture to think of a moving elevator. Getting stuck in a cramped dark confined room with no idea of what’s happening outside can undoubtedly be panic provoking.

A number of years ago, when I was the school social worker in yeshiva Bais Hachinuch that is exactly what happened. One afternoon a powerful fast-moving storm crossed our area and knocked out the electricity. At first no one realized someone was stuck in the elevator. But shortly after, two burly equipped firemen hastily entered the building, pickaxes in hand and headed towards the sealed elevator.

A crowd of excited students gathered in the dark hall and listened as one of the firemen rapped on the door and called out. Pressing his ear to the door, the fireman was able to hear a woman respond that she was trapped in the elevator. She had been heading up to the offices on the top floor when the power went out. The elevator was stuck halfway between the floor beneath the yeshiva and the floor that the yeshiva occupied.

It took the firemen a few minutes, but they soon pried the doors open and helped pull the woman out of the elevator to the excited applause of the young spectators who were then shooed back into their classrooms.

This week I had the pleasure of attending the chumash seudah of our twins Gavriel and Michoel, who are b’H now concluding pre-1A. It was a beautiful event with their numerous classmates seated alongside them on stage. It was stirring to see how each of the children sang on cue, bellowing passionately the words of the chumash and the songs they were taught about the sweetness of Torah.

There was not a child up there who didn’t want to ascend the rungs of Torah greatness and be a source of nachat for his parents and teachers. But unfortunately, in every class there are a few students whose growth “gets stuck.” They feel shut out and stuck in place even as they watch classmates continue to rise. There are many labels to explain those individual power outages, ranging from auditory processing, ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, lack of motivation, social/emotional/familial issues, etc. But the common denominator is that those stuck children often cry out wordlessly and inaudibly.

Then there are those special educators who can hear those cries and have the unique, priceless gift to reach every student. They are the ones who can pry open their student’s sealed doors and manually hoist their students up toward feeling a sense of accomplishment.

There isn’t an educator in any of our schools who isn’t a hero. Teaching is the most valuable and integral profession we have, despite the fact that teachers are often underpaid and underappreciated. But those educators who can reach students deemed “unreachable” are our superheroes.

As the school year comes to a close, let’s take a moment to salute the greatest heroes we have, the ones with whom we have entrusted the education of our greatest treasures.


Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a popular speaker and author. He is a rebbe in Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, and an experienced therapist, recently returning to seeing clients in private practice, as part of the Rockland CBT group. For appointments Rabbi Staum can be reached at 914-295-0115. Looking for an inspirational and motivational speaker or scholar-in-residence? Contact Rabbi Staum for a unique speaking experience. Rabbi Staum can be reached at [email protected]. Archives of his writings can be found at www.stamtorah.info.

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