A trailblazing new project “Hanaga Tehorah” was launched by the Merkos Chinuch Office some 18 months ago.
The new project is dedicated to writing curricula, training teachers and sponsoring programs which will help our young men in Chabad communities cope with the challenges they face while growing up.
More than a year in development, the curriculum is the first of a full series which will prepare talmidim in an unprecedented way to deal with the challenges of Chassidic maturity in the modern world.
“The time when our boys could be shielded from the worst that American culture has to offer has long passed,” says Rabbi Nochum Kaplan, Director of the Merkos Chinuch Office, who spearheaded the new initiative. “The street has invaded our pockets and is now available with the click of a button via all kinds of personal devices. Boys are being exposed to visual stimuli which are poisoning their minds and hearts,” he said.
While Chassidic literature has a great deal to say about what boys need to learn and internalize to be able to meet the challenges posed by this insidious yetzer haraah, we have always taken the approach that certain things are not discussed in public, Rabbi Kaplan explains.
In discussions with Rabbonim both here and in Israel it became clear that in the present situation, the very reason for privacy, which is to promote “tzniyus”, demands that we pay it more open and direct attention, Rabbi Kaplan says.
“Hanaga Tehorah” will initiate programs in Chabad mosdos to inoculate talmidim from a very young age with carefully chosen Chassidus ideas, thoughts and activities to confront an old/new insidious enemy.
After a number of initial meetings with select mechanchim, the Chinuch Office created a commission which included the menahalim of the major Chabad mosdos and a number of carefully chosen concerned mechanchim of teenage boys, to find appropriate approaches to helping adolescents understand and cope with the issues associated with their physical maturity from a Torah and Chassidic perspective.
Many months of discussions and input from multiple sources, combined with the annual Kinus Hamechanchim, helped the Chinuch Office accumulate a wealth of material for the groundbreaking project. Rabbi Mendel Edelman was retained to do the actual development of a curriculum, which took a full year to develop.
The curriculum will be piloted in a number of mosdos this fall, among them Oholei Torah, Lubavitcher Yeshiva, Cheder Chabad of Monsey and others.
The mechanchim who will teach the 30-week curriculum will be given both oral and written guidelines and instruction so as to make for a seamless experience for themselves and their talmidim.
The curriculum was formally unveiled on Monday, 9 Elul, August 24, at an event hosted by principals Rabbi Hershel Lustig and Rabbi Yosef Simpson, in the Beis Hamedrash on the second floor in Oholei Torah.
Representatives from six Chabad mosdos heard Rabbi Kaplan discuss the underpinning of the curriculum, and Rabbi Eidelman explained the details.
Plans are for a full program which will extend from the third grade through the second year of Mesivta (10th grade). The Chinuch Office has also begun to assemble a parallel group of mechanchos to develop a similar program for girl’s schools.
“It is growing increasingly clear that we do not have the luxury of assuming a position of a benign kind of neglect, a ‘wait and see’ attitude,” Rabbi Kaplan says. “We have been doing that, and it is leading us to potential disaster; something different has to be implemented and we must act urgently because the very lives of our children are at play,” he says.