Five Towns conference explores changing face of Jewish education


Five hundred people and 25 speakers considered chinuch from a variety of Orthodox perspectives, at the annual Five Towns Community Collaborative Conference, last Sunday at the Young Israel of Woodmere.

The day revolved around “the most important thing in our lives, our children,” said its organizer, Rabbi Reuven Taragin, dean of overseas students at Yeshivat Hakotel in Jerusalem.

Rebbetzin Shani Taragin said POMO (Post Modern) and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) are not new, but “our children are facing challenges that we were not exposed to.”

“People have a fear now that they’re missing out on everything that Judaism doesn’t have to offer,” she said.

“The messages they are given in yeshiva and midrasha are different” than those they get in university or through social media, she said, concluding that we need to “create one integrated overall framework, not a bifurcated world but one wherein we teach our children that Judaism is not only one of many truths but contains the greatest of the truths. That … through Torah they will learn other truths [and] universal values.”

Michal Horowitz cited our forefathers and four mothers as modeling our chessed but pointed out that ultimately “everything we do is modeling the actions of G-d.”

When doing chessed, “have in mind that you’re fulling a divine Biblical command,” she said.

And it’s important to both graciously accept  as well as give chessed. Give, “next time you have the opportunity to be a giver,” but also remember that “it’s a mitzvah to take,” she said.

Dr. David Pelcovitz bemoaned the fact that many parents find it “so uncomfortable making values explicit that the kids are left with no guidance whatsoever [and fill] in with their own moral relativism.”

Addressing the nastiness in public discourse today, he said, “We have tremendous hakaras hatov to President Trump for what he did [for Israel] … but how do we talk to our kids this week about the image of children being incarcerated?”

A key to raising a mensch is “how we present the perspective of others,” he said. “When we sit around the table on Shabbos, how do we talk about people on the other side, the perspectives of people who take views that we violently disagree with.”

“What most worries me is that there’s very little room for civil discourse, on either side, without facing very strong pushback,” he said. “How are we supposed to react to seeing behavior of deliberately misrepresenting the truth … making fun of disabled …”

Don’t avoid addressing ethical dilemmas with children, he said. “Bring it up, it’s there anyway.

Most of the speakers are pictured with this article. Their presentations can be heard at