“At this year’s Kinus Mechanchos we were informed and educated, empowered and inspired at the same time,” says Mrs. Shana Teichtel, principal of Beis Rivkah High School in Crown Heights. 500 Mechanchos from around the world joined MEF’s 6th annual Kinus Mechanchos at the Crowne Plaza this past summer. The Menachem Education Foundation (MEF) organized the retreat to give Chabad educators the Ruchnius and Gashmius boost they deserve for their hard work and dedication.
Attendees spent two days at meaningful workshops, talks and farbrengens, presented by noted speakers and educators, who addressed today’s most pertinent topics in Chinuch. MEF Educational Director, Mrs. Chanah Rose, together with Mrs. Nami Friedman, convention chairperson and assistant principal at Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh, and a committee of over 20 Mechanchos representing every grade level, demographic, subject and school type, worked to ensure that the Kinus met the needs of all who attended. Participants were able to tailor their schedule from specially curated tracks for Early Childhood, Elementary, High School and School Leadership.
Some of the interesting and informative presentations included “Chinuch through Connection, Not Control,” with Rabbi Yaakov K. Chaiton, and a Halachah and Hashkafah Q and A with Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gluckowsky, Rav of the Chabad community in Rechovot. Mrs. Sara Blau, artist, author and director of extracurricular activities at Beis Rivkah High School, shared practical tools from the Frierdiker Rebbe’s famous Maamar, “Klalei Hachinuch V’Hadrachah,” as well as a paint-and-learn session to inspire participants, and harness their creative sides.
Dr. Oshra Cohen, clinical and school psychologist and Dr. Debbie Ackerman of M.A.S.K discussed mental health issues in schools, and how to address them. Additional presentations consisted of subject and grade level specific sessions by Chabad’s finest educators. Mrs. Sara Morozow, Kallah teacher and Bayis Yehudi teacher at Beis Rivkah High school, explained why and how to talk about Bayis Yehudi, and Mrs. Hadassah Shemtov, founder of the Batsheva Learning Center and teacher at Ohel Chana High School, addressed differentiation and independence in text-based learning.
A unique discussion centered around the important Shlichus of Chabad General Studies teachers featured experienced Chabad High School principals, and was followed by Mrs. Natalie Rice, who shared her valuable perspective on how language and writing can be used as a tool to grow in Yiddishkeit. Rabbi Yossi Chesney of Slater Torah Academy in New Orleans taught how to access government funding and other resources, a necessary skill for school leaders.
The Kinus theme was מנוחה שלימה שאתה רוצה בה: Geulah in our lives and in our classrooms. Teaching and living Geulah was emphasized through talks by author and educator Mrs. Shterny Ginsburg, a panel discussion featuring approaches to teaching this topic, Chavrusa learning with Ms. Chany Katzman, and program MCs at every opportunity. In addition, the theme of Menucha and expansiveness was made experiential through the luxurious accommodations, spa amenities, gourmet food, full service babysitting and and more.
Mechanchos shared positive feedback on the diverse session opportunities, as participating teacher, Bryna Horvitz put it: “the entire Kinus was phenomenal, organized, practical, inspirational, and rejuvenating! I wish it was humanly possible to attend all sessions that were at the same place at the same time.” An online option was also offered, adding 200 remote participants to over 300 who attended in person. Many of the sessions are now available on mymef.org/videos, and complete recordings of the online track can be purchased here.
The banquet, with keynote speaker Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gluckowsky and MC Mrs. Zeesy Deren of Sinai Torah Academy in Cape Town, South Africa, gave that powerful push of encouragement to the Mechanchos to continue with their crucial work. Rabbi Gluckowsky said he was not merely addressing the Mechanchos in the room, but all the Neshamos that they impacted. The crowd felt deeply appreciated and inspired, and farbrengens lasted late into the night.
“We just want teachers to leave feeling amazing, rested, refreshed and appreciated before the new school year,” says Mrs. Rose, sharing her motivation for organizing the Kinus. Attendees agreed this goal was no doubt accomplished.