Walk into Cheder Zichron Shmuel in Rockland County, NY, and you will find boys excitedly chanting Chumash and Mishnayos, girls reading from Yiddish books, and toddlers happy to be there. What is the secret to this incredible phenomenon?
Walk into Cheder Zichron Shmuel in Rockland County, NY, and you will find a bustling Lubavitch moisad with a boys’ division, a girls’ division and a preschool. Boys excitedly chanting Chumash and Mishnayos, girls reading from Yiddish books, and toddlers happy to be there.
Just in its second year, the new cheder is bursting at its seams. The high-level, Yiddish-immersion moisad opened its doors last year with only two classes comprising a total of eleven boys. Today, only one year later, the school boasts not only a boys’ cheder, but also a girls’ division and a preschool, totaling close to 130 students. Families drive from Pomona, across Rockland County, and beyond, to be able to attend this cheder.
What is it that makes this new cheder so popular?
One of the things that make Zichron Shmuel unique is their strong belief that a cheder need not water down the level of learning and chassidishkeit for students to love their chinuch. Instead, by inviting students to be willing and devoted participants in their own education, they thrive and excel. This approach has made Zichron Shmuel immensely successful, and a long waiting list of families wish to join.
In a conversation with Anash.org, Rabbi Moshe Gourarie, founder and dean of Zichron Shmuel, shared what motivated him. “Common thinking is that in order not to lose children who struggle academically, standards of learning must be downgraded. Some will suggest delaying Kriah, Mishnayos or Gemara, so we don’t lose those children. BH, I believe that we have disproven this theory. Our learning level is the highest standard, and yet we tend to every child and make sure they are staying on track.”
There’s an old saying that yeshiva is like a bed in the city of Sedom: If the person is too short for the bed, they stretch his legs; if he is too long, they cut them off. Students are often forced into a framework that doesn’t work for them on a personal level. Zichron Shmuel strives for the exact opposite: to maximize the potential of each individual student.
Rabbi Avrohom Schtroks, a popular melamed who taught in other chadorim before coming to Zichron Shmuel, notes that while many subscribe to catering to a child’s individual needs, he has never seen it applied as in Zichron Shmuel. “Here it isn’t just a belief, but a tangible reality,” he shared.
Indeed, Zichron Shmuel is made up of smaller classes: students who are on a higher academic level are taught at a quicker pace, and students who need more effort are periodically given private instruction to keep them on par with the students on the faster track.
“One of the beautiful things at Zichron Shmuel,” Rabbi Schtroks adds, “is the spirit of warmth and respect among the school’s staff members. This inevitably trickles down to the children, yielding warmer, more respectful students.”
R’ Levi Baruch has two girls attending Zichron Shmuel’s preschool, and he spoke of how the school addresses students’ needs as soon as they come up. “I noticed that one of my daughters were falling behind in kriah. I spoke to Rabbi Gourarie, and my wife spoke to Mrs. Markowitz, the preschool director. We immediately realized that they were already on top of the matter, and they gave us the tools to work with the child at home. Baruch Hashem, the issue was resolved. We really feel that this is a moisad where there is always someone to turn to, to address the needs of each individual child.”
Zichron Shmuel is now holding an online fundraiser to continue and grow the moisad. Please donate at Raisethon.com/ZichronShmuel