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We Have The Greatest Happiness
By P. Pinsky
A special interview with two women shluchos who are educating “Moshiach’dike children” in the final days of Exile. * Mrs. Chaya Niselevitz, principal of the Shneur School in France and Mrs. Miriam Kalmanson, educator and curriculum director of the school.

Describe your family background.

Mrs. Chaya Niselevitz: I was born to the Kalmanson family, a longtime Lubavitch family who, after the war, moved from Russia to France and settled in Aubervilliers with another fifteen families. At first, the members of the community thought they were the only Jews living there, but after contacting the Rebbe, it turned out that there were 200 Jewish families in the city.

Slowly there began to develop communal ties, especially in Jewish matters, but the main problem for my parents was chin uch. My father wrote a letter to the Rebbe in which he said that he sent his five daughters, starting from the age of five, to the dormitory of Beis Rivka, but that he wanted to send his little girls to the non-Jewish school for a few hours to play.

The Rebbe sent him an express letter which said, “In that country [i.e., Russia] you didn’t have to send, but here you have to send!?”

My parents understood from this that they had to work on Jewish education. My father, R’ Shalom Mendel Kalmanson, bought a piece of land and built a school, which my sisters directed, though with great difficulty.

My sister, Shterna Deitsch, was the principal before me. After she married she wanted to move to Eretz Yisroel. My father reported this to the Rebbe and offered three suggestions for a new principal, including the name of my brother-in-law, R’ Mendel Deitsch.

In his answer, the Rebbe circled his choice of R’ Mendel, who is still the general administrator of the schools in Aubervilliers. At a later point I joined the staff, first as teacher, driver, lunchroom facilitator and director of cultural events. Later, my work centered on administration, and today I serve as educational principal of the Mosdos Shneur, which serve 600 pupils.

Mrs. Miriam Kalmanson (formerly Greenberg): I have seven children. This is my most important profession, in addition to my involvement in other educational endeavors. As a girl I worked at Beis Rivka High School in Kfar Chabad, Beis Chana in Minnesota, and at the Beis Rivka High School and Seminary in New York.

After my marriage, we went on shlichus to Australia, where I was a teacher in the high school and seminary. Today we are on shlichus in France. I teach twelfth grade and work on the curriculum for the Shneur School.

Mrs. Kalmanson, you have an impressive educational past in which you were able to observe many Chabad schools. Can you point out anything they have in common?

The point they have in common is their goal: to teach girls to be a Chassida of the Rebbe and to do everything to bring Moshiach. Of course, the means of doing so vary according to the school and background of the pupils. When the focus of the teacher is on the goal and not on the self, it is easy to adapt to educating people from varied backgrounds.

The school operates according to one standard – Moshiach! To learn Moshiach’dik, behave Moshiach’dik, and live Moshiach’dik. How can this be implemented and taught within the framework of school?

Mrs. Kalmanson: When Moshiach will come, the world and the Jew in particular will achieve perfection in daas, as it says, “and the world will be full of dei’a (knowledge) of Hashem like water covers the sea.”

As a preparation for this, in our times it is essential that a Jewish girl know Tanach and be well-versed in it. I consider it important that the girls know about Trei Asar, Iyov, and Koheles. In other words, we emphasize a broad base of knowledge as well as a deep understanding that includes analysis and commentaries.

The principle of living with Moshiach guides us not only in the way we learn but also in what we learn. We select most chapters of Tanach based on their connection to Exile or Redemption. In this way we foster a cognitive awareness and sensitivity towards the subject matter.

Mrs. Niselevitch: Our message to the girls is clear. The Rebbe informed the world that we are living in a new era. Moshiach is already here and knocking on our door. We just have to open our eyes! The natural outcome of this information is a fundamental change in all areas, particularly in chinuch. The purpose of Redemption is to recognize Hashem’s oneness and to attain the application of “I was only created to serve my Maker.”

Today, there are no longer concealments and you don’t have to seek the truth, for you can see it and sense it. Twenty years ago when I was a student, education was much more difficult. I remember how girls made fun of the religious girls who hadn’t developed a taste and appreciation for the pleasures of this world. Today, twenty years later, when you take a look, you see who really has nachas, who gets to celebrate brissin, bar mitzvos, and weddings... Today, after the process of refining the world is over, everything is open, and we must educate our girls for Redemption in a way that is 100% - without compromising the slightest bit.

In times like ours when the truth is revealed to all, we must give our students the tools with which to properly decide to go in the way of Redemption, and not, ch’v, back to Exile.

Your task in life is to raise “Moshiach’dike children.” Is this practical considering the manifold educational difficulties we are encountering today?

Mrs. Niselevitch: I don’t know what you mean when you say educational difficulties. Chinuch was always fraught with difficulties, and at the same time there was always siyata di’Shmaya. We can raise Moshiach’dike children if we give them the tools, i.e., Chassidus, Torah, and hiskashrus to the Rebbe. That, with the knowledge that the responsibility for chinuch lies on the Rebbe’s shoulders, makes me feel absolutely at ease, knowing that the Rebbe is protecting us.

There are practical expressions of this. For example, I don’t isolate my children. I send them to birthday parties of non-religious children (with certain conditions, of course) in order for them to do a shlichus, say a sicha, teach them about Redemption, etc. I am aware that my child could be exposed to things he never saw before, but I am confident that when he returns home he’ll say, “Ima, despite all the good things they have, we have the greatest happiness.”

Our children are educated on the principle that the Torah doesn’t limit us. On the contrary, it frees us, develops us, makes us smart, and most importantly, it gives us pleasure and joy.

Mrs. Kalmanson: You’ve touched on a sensitive area. I must admit it is fraught with many challenges. Chinuch is our game of life. It is a war of survival. But, of course, we are not prepared to be content with just surviving. If Hashem wants a dwelling here below, then we want chinuch even in the most decadent of societies. In our case, this is France, which is connected on the one hand with Beis Moshiach and the letters “u’faratzta,” and on the other hand is the most decadent country of all.

I remember that when I came here I thought to myself: here is where I will be educating children to Chassidishkeit, to eidelkeit?! I have to say it hasn’t been easy.

The Rebbe always adjured us to keep the atmosphere pure around our children, starting from the earliest ages, even before birth. This, however, creates a conflict, for I want to protect my children as much as possible, but it’s almost an impossible situation. To be specific, we know that Chazal say that the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt because they did not change their names, their language, and their clothes. In other words, one of the signs of assimilation is using the local language. I speak only Yiddish with my children. That demands a lot of effort and perseverance. I am not complaining. We work hard and baruch Hashem we see results.

Mrs. Kalmanson, please tell us more about the challenges you have to contend with.

Here are some examples:

The family, for one. My husband, like other shluchim, is very busy and we see him less than we would like. Sometimes the children complain. It’s hard for me, too, because with all the desire to be a shlucha, I always dreamed of a nice and orderly family life.

Clothing – our children always have to be different than their friends. They all have long hair and our children must have decent haircuts. The girls all wear clunky-looking sneakers and our girls cannot.

Socially and educationally it is difficult. I have boys and I want the best for them, the most pure. I realize they have to study secular subjects, but here in France it’s a real problem. In France, the education department requires philosophy (secular, of course), and there is an emphasis on being a “good citizen.” We don’t even have to mention the science subjects, which include outright heresy. Sometimes a gentile teacher isn’t careful and she ridicules the children for not going to discos and the movies.

The children were tested in physical education recently and my students, into whom I have put so much for three years, had to wear pants. It really hurts.

Do you have any solutions to these problems?

Of course. I only described this in order to emphasize the role of the shaliach in educating his children and students, despite what’s going on out there. I think that after overcoming the difficulties, our children are far more immune than other children. We fill in for our children in all the areas that are lacking.

It takes a lot of conversation, plus lots of loving bonding, non-stop investment and hands-on involvement. I don’t think there are other children who approach the bookcase as quickly for HaTamim or Likkutei Dibburim, for their own reading pleasure, as ours. This is standard fare for us. Our children listen to many tapes that enrich their knowledge of Torah.

The girls don’t learn from the same books as the rest of their class. They read a lot in Yiddish and Hebrew and feel they have an advantage in this over others. The interesting thing is that teachers tell me that my children look different; they are more pure and more refined.

Most importantly, we try to implement the principle we saw in the Rebbe himself, being a personal example. I remember a story of a person who asked the Rebbe for a bracha for his son, that he should grow up to be a talmid chacham. The Rebbe answered: “[You] start learning and your son will become a talmid chacham.” When a child sees his father falling asleep over his Rambam, he will learn Rambam, and when a girl sees her mother dressed properly and tznius’dik, she will follow in her footsteps. And above all, the prayer and the brachos of the Rebbe are what lead to the desired results.

Mrs. Niselevitch, you don’t have much choice when it comes to government-mandated curricula. How do you approach the matter? Do you think this contradicts the great investment in the area of chinuch?

I’ll give you a somewhat surprising answer. It bothers me more that a teacher in the limudei kodesh department has a hard time answering a question that a girl poses than when a non-Jewish teacher says a line like the one mentioned earlier.

That gentile teacher, from her perspective, offered advice (i.e., discos and movies) on how to enjoy life! She doesn’t understand how you can enjoy life without going to these places. In her opinion, this is the ultimate in possible pleasures. Our girls learn Chassidus and they are, baruch Hashem, developing the proper sensitivities, which helps them understand what true pleasure is.

Perhaps it is specifically a gentile teacher who develops our feeling of “ashreinu, ma tov chelkeinu – how fortunate we are!”

I think that when a teacher of Jewish subjects doesn’t communicate the proper commitment, the damage is far greater. Our students have to sense that our way is clear, without inner battles of permitted and forbidden. I can say from my own experience that when you work that way, you end up in a situation the opposite of Moshiach. All the teachers, Jews and l’havdil non-Jews, religious and secular, sit together around one table and discuss how to bring the children to the highest levels of behavior and education.

Mrs. Niselevitz, from what you said it sounds like a good chinuch is established mostly from the home. We know that is true, for we know that the power of the messenger is greater than that of the message. But what do you do in order to protect your children and educate them in a spirit of taharas ha’kodesh?

First of all, the Rebbe gave us a great gift, which is called the Seifer HaShluchim. The truth is that I cannot explain this rationally, but the facts are simply amazing. My children don’t stop looking at these volumes. They feel that Lubavitch is one entity and that we are all in the same army with the same mission in the same war and with the same challenges. This gives a sense of confidence, responsibility, pride and maturity.

Secondly, a deeper matter. Shlichus develops the ability to rise to a challenge, to develop the inner soul. We all learned about the concepts of iskafia and is’hapcha; my children have become accustomed to living with them and being strengthened by them. When they encounter indecent images, for instance, they lower their eyes and give nachas to the Rebbe.

Thirdly, on a more positive note, I try to give the children everything they need. I try to be generous with them as much as possible, so that they feel good and not deprived. For example, I am particular about their appearance, etc.

On the personal and spiritual level, perhaps there is room for concern when it comes to chinuch, but I never thought I would be able to provide a complete chinuch. From the beginning, I relied on Hashem and the Rebbe.

I don’t take on comprehensive chinuch projects because each situation is unique. Each issue has to be judged for itself. The main thing is that Moshiach is about to come and we may and must rely on him.

Perhaps we should expose our children to the world in order to immunize them.

Mrs. Kalmanson: Ch’v! Should we learn the hard way? Even angels cannot withstand that, so how should our generation?

I don’t need to prove whether or not it’s possible to become immunized. Evil, unfortunately, doesn’t have to be taught. I don’t know whether you can be protected or not, but I will do all I can so that my children don’t learn from gentile teachers, don’t learn from textbooks with immodest pictures and with impure text, and don’t appear in inappropriate clothing. I received the best in chinuch and G-d willing I will do the same for my children.

Mrs. Niselevitz: Hashem gave me free choice and one is forbidden to rely on miracles. Those things I have control over, I take care of. But when I don’t have control over a situation, I do my part and Hashem does His. Baruch Hashem, we enjoy great success. In the past, our city was desolate. Today, thanks to the chinuch, the situation has changed tremendously.

You represent very different approaches, one chesed and the other g’vura; one milmata l’maaleh and the other milmala l’matta. How can this be?!

Mrs. Niselevitz: Outwardly our approaches are different, but really they complement one another. For example, my son is happy to take the shortest haircut because his Kalmanson cousin does. My daughter is waging a battle for Yiddish because in her cousins’ house they speak only Yiddish.

At the same time, Mrs. Kalmanson can do all she does because she isn’t the only one. There are other families who educate their children al taharas ha’kodesh, too.

In the era of Moshiach there must be many success stories. Tell us about some of them.

Mrs. Kalmanson: Success is a relative term. For me, success means standing off to the side and seeing your student handling life issues properly. The students know a girl who is thinking about intermarrying. They know couples who don’t live together al pi halacha, and they have to decide for themselves where they stand.

I’ll give you a few examples. A student approached me and asked me to learn taharas ha’mishpacha with her sister. This request reflects great maturity and I am sure it comes from the chinuch at school.

This week I received a telephone call from a former student applying to be a counselor in Gan Yisroel. I asked her why she was interested, and she said, “My parents found a job for me for summer vacation, but it requires working on Shabbos. What should I do when I don’t want to work on Shabbos?”

Once, we took pictures. One of the girls I had put a lot of effort into told everybody, “Stand, smile, and say ‘Yechi!’” For me that was real nachas.

Mrs. Niselevitz: Ten years ago a modern-looking man entered my office. He had long hair and an earring. He stood there silently and waited. I looked at him in surprise and asked him what he wanted. He said, “I want to send my children to school.” I replied that our school has certain requirements; our school is a Lubavitch school.

He knew that, he said. “I am a graduate of Shneur and even before I graduated, I decided that I would send my children here.”

We took care of all the formalities, and his son was accepted in the school. On his first day I received a frantic call from my sister. “Chaya, what did you do? There’s a man standing here who doesn’t fit in at all and he says you accepted him into the school?” I quickly told her that everything was fine and it was a special case.

About a month later I passed by his house. To my surprise I saw a sukka built on his porch. I immediately called him and remarked at how quickly he was making changes. He explained, “My son came home from kindergarten and said that the teacher had told them to build a sukka and I couldn’t say no, so I built the sukka.

Baruch Hashem, today he is a loyal member of the Chabad House, drives a mivtza tank, and works devotedly to bring Moshiach.

A true story with an eternal message about how investing in a child’s chinuch is never for naught.

After such a special interview, please take the opportunity to give words from the heart to our readers.

Mrs. Kalmanson: Today, in the era of Moshiach, there is no contradiction between the concepts of p’nimiyus and chitzoniyus. We must adopt this reality among ourselves. I make this plea from the depths of my soul. The Rebbe requested and demanded a high level of tznius. Please, let us all wear this crown as Chassidishe daughters and as nashim-shluchos.

Mrs. Niselevitz: I have two main messages: In my home I was raised not to talk about others. It was during my childhood when the problems with Satmar began. I remember how my father always forbade us from talking about them, even a word. It wasn’t because he was afraid of the prohibition of lashon ha’ra but because Lubavitch has to act better than everyone and must show the way for everyone else. I think this message is a necessary one for our times – respecting everyone as they are.

My second point is about the sicha of Ki Seitzei 5748, when the Rebbe spoke about simcha. I think we did all the avoda, but simcha is lacking. We must rejoice over the very announcement of Redemption. In that sicha the Rebbe said to try it out and see for yourself [that it will bring the Geula].

I prefer to live with Moshiach. This way I am much happier than I ever was. Don’t lose out!


I am aware that my child could be exposed to things he never saw before, but I am confident that when he returns home he’ll say, “Ima, despite all the good things they have, we have the greatest happiness.”





My children don’t stop looking at these volumes. They feel that Lubavitch is one entity and that we are all in the same army with the same mission in the same war and with the same challenges. This gives a sense of confidence, responsibility, pride and maturity.




The Rebbe informed the world that we are living in a new era. Moshiach is already here and knocking on our door. The natural outcome of this information is a fundamental change in all areas, particularly in chinuch.


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