An Orthodox Brooklyn rabbi has come up with what might be considered an unorthodox approach to educating children: encouraging youngsters to spend more time on hobbies and other extra-curricular pursuits in order to boost their academic success. It is a method that seems counterintuitive at first, but according to Rabbi Yosef Leib Bornstein, a behavioral therapist and rebbi at Yeshiva Ohr Dovid in the Marine Park section of Brooklyn, the results have been impressive.
“As parents, we all know that success breeds success,” Rabbi Bornstein told The Jewish Press. “Many children don’t shine in the classroom and struggling in academics can give them, especially if they are boys, a feeling of worthlessness. Kishroni gives them a chance to shine and feel good about themselves. After shining in ‘their way,’ they will hopefully do better in academics as well.”
Rabbi Bornstein founded Kishroni a little more than a year ago with the goal of giving children a platform to display their G-d given gifts, no matter what they may be, as a means of boosting self-confidence, both inside and outside the classroom. Kishroni literally means “my talent.”
“Our motto is simple,” explained Rabbi Bornstein. “No child is rejected and no talent is refused.”
While some members have taken the opportunity to display their artistic abilities, their singing voices or their juggling chops, others have come up with unique activities including rock climbing, unicycle riding and computer programming.
Kishroni’s first major event took place last June in Brooklyn, setting the stage for its policy of everything “by kids, for kids.”
“The kids prepared everything themselves,” said Rabbi Bornstein. “Our logo was designed by the kids. They hung the signs around the yard. The only thing I did was run the stage together with our emcee, Yoely Karr.”
In addition to having five bands, well over a dozen jugglers and both live and pre-recorded acts, Rabbi Bornstein estimated that there were approximately 100 tables set up with displays made by the children and over 2,400 participants in attendance.
“The kids who were displaying set up their stuff and parents went around with their children from table to table,” recalled Rabbi Bornstein. “The parents were so nice and it made the kids feel fabulous.”
The response to the event, which also featured cotton candy, balloons, prizes, souvenirs and professional entertainment including Rabbi Maimon Elbaz, David Blatt and Rabbi Yitzy Erps, was overwhelming.
“Parents came over to me with tears in their eyes saying, ‘You have no idea what you did for my son. I wish I had this when I was little,’” said Rabbi Bornstein.
Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch, founder of the Living Torah Museum in Boro Park and one of the judges at last year’s inaugural event, had high words of praise for Kishroni.
“Judging the competition was hard,” said Rabbi Deutsch. “Some of the talent shown was incredible. Kids in the frum world need a vehicle that lets them bring out the talents that they have. Betzalel built the mishkan as a young boy. Hashem gave him the wisdom to do that. Today our kids are sitting in school and they need an opportunity to develop themselves in a creative way.”
“There was a group of kids who built a scale model of Auschwitz and we have it on display,” said Rabbi Deutsch. “When adults come and I tell them it was made by 11 year olds, they are in awe.”