Longtime mechanech Rabbi Schmul Osher Begun has produced dozens of quality materials over the years which are used across the globe. What drives his untiring efforts?
By Anash.org writer
Rabbi Schmul Osher Begun of S. Paulo, Brazil is serious about chinuch. After years in the field, he knew something had to change, especially when it came to teaching children to read lashon kodesh.
“After using some very valuable books to teach Aleph-bais, I realized that there was still a gap that needed to be filled to make it easier for young kids,” Rabbi Begun said.
This is how Mealef ad Tof came about. The three volume set provides a simple, intuitive method of teaching the Aleph-bais and kriah to young students. The first book includes an introductory page for each letter so it can be seen and felt (it’s printed with a vinyl layer on top) and reading exercises designed for individual study and classroom use.
The second volume teaches the nekudos, and the third begins with reading exercises containing words with each nekudah, then moves on to lay out the rules for proper reading.
“The program covers every step of the way, mehakel el hakaved [from easy to difficult] and is suited for every child,” said Rabbi Begun. “I have used these books with children who have autism, dyslexia, and all sorts of learning disabilities with great success.
“The nekudos are taught in a fashion of א אָ ָ , according to the highest standard of chinuch al taharas hakodesh, as we know from our Rebbeim. Everything is laid out according to our mesorah- nothing in these books is my own invention.”
The kriah program, which is gaining traction among teachers worldwide, is perhaps Rabbi Begun’s most cherished project, but it certainly isn’t his only one. Over the years, he has produced many posters which bring various concepts in Yiddishkeit to life.
Rabbi Begun is driven by the belief that every child deserves the best learning experience, and therefore every classroom needs the best materials. When he comes across a void, he makes it his mission to fill it.
Sometimes, this involves investing a great deal of effort and even financial resources- like when he commissioned a drawing on each parsha from Reb Zalman Kleinman. At $150 per picture, the project would have costed over $8,000 had it been completed before the artist’s passing. Yet Rabbi Begun is not one to shy away from a challenge- especially one that will benefit fellow mechanchim and their students.
One of the most difficult projects, which has been years in the making, is now close to completion. It is a 6,000 year timeline of Jewish history and includes almost every person mentioned in Tanach. On a recent trip to New York, Rabbi Begun visited several schools and presented the first half of the timeline to the students. He hopes to have the project finished by next summer.
“The world is changing constantly,” Rabbi Begun said. “Kids growing up in this decade are used to colorful books and videos, and are exposed to a lot of information. Every mechanech must do his utmost to create a learning experience that is interesting, interactive and fun. The old style of teaching, where one stands in front of the class and pours out information, doesn’t work well anymore. These resources were created with this understanding in mind.”
Mealef ad Tof can be purchased in Crown Heights stores, or through Shloime Freundlich of Sol’s Books, who can be reached at (347) 833-9057. The posters will soon be available for purchase.
Rabbi Begun can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and will be happy to answer any questions about his materials.