Reclaim­ing Ado­les­cents: A Return to the Vil­lage State of Mind

Chaim Peri
  • Review
By – December 16, 2011

Teenagers, teenagers, teenagers! They are like­ly the most chal­leng­ing group of stu­dents for edu­ca­tors. But, this chal­lenge is mul­ti­fac­eted. In the ear­ly teen years, stu­dents are dri­ven by their hor­mones and a desire to be part of the crowd; as they mature, their minds and emo­tions devel­op and they begin to explore the world around them through a lens that con­stant­ly amazes their teach­ers and educators. 

This is the world that Chaim Peri entered many years ago at the Yemin Orde Wingate Youth Vil­lage on Mt. Carmel, just south of Haifa. Built as a res­i­den­tial edu­ca­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty for chil­dren and teens, Yemin Orde has proven to be a won­der­ful lab­o­ra­to­ry for Peri to devel­op a unique edu­ca­tion­al approach that deeply touch­es the lives of the stu­dents. After over thir­ty years as the Direc­tor and Head Edu­ca­tor, Peri shares the insights and phi­los­o­phy that have lit­er­al­ly changed the lives of hun­dreds if not thou­sands of young peo­ple who found their way to Yemin Orde. 

Most of the stu­dents came from dis­tant lands after painful sep­a­ra­tions from their fam­i­lies and home com­mu­ni­ties. They brought with them the typ­i­cal prob­lems and chal­lenges of chil­dren whose lives had been total­ly dis­rupt­ed. Thus, they need­ed an envi­ron­ment dri­ven by a set of val­ues ground­ed deeply in the Torah and filled with love and under­stand­ing and patience.

In this small vol­ume, Peri pro­vides insights into the approach that he has devel­oped in work­ing close­ly with the chil­dren and teens. Woven through­out the text are sto­ries that will touch the reader’s soul, as they reflect the intense emo­tion­al expe­ri­ences of the teens and the staff as they learn to inter­act with each other. 

Per­haps the sin­gle most impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion is the under­ly­ing theme of his approach, which ties Tikkun Olam, mend­ing the world, to Tikkun HaLev, mend­ing the heart. These two con­cepts are the guid­ing forces that every edu­ca­tor must embrace to bring out the best in young peo­ple, whether in the class­room or in their dai­ly lives. 

Although the read­er will be inspired by the sto­ries and the approach to edu­ca­tion born out of a unique envi­ron­ment, I must note one aspect of the book that pro­vides a chal­lenge to the read­er. The edit­ing process leaves in many words and phras­es that are mis­used or out of place, result­ing in a text that occa­sion­al­ly caus­es the read­er to take a sec­ond look to fig­ure out what Peri real­ly meant.

Paul A. Flexn­er, Ed.D., is an Instruc­tor in Edu­ca­tion­al Psy­chol­o­gy at Geor­gia State Uni­ver­si­ty, a vet­er­an of 35 years as a Jew­ish edu­ca­tor and a mem­ber of the Board of Direc­tors of the Jew­ish Book Council.

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