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Reach. Not Preach.

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Brazilian Educator Found School Based on Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Timeless Wisdom

A traditional Chassidic leader, with teachings and insights grounded exclusively in ancient biblical reality, has become the inspiration and success factor in the recent establishment of a progressive school. This would almost be a paradoxical phenomenon were the reader not to remember that there is nothing new under the sun, and therefore the keys to human productivity always have and still will open to the same truths.

Ms. Lilian Prist, an accomplished educator, writer, and linguist in Sao Paulo, Brazil recently founded a foreign language school for those ambitious children and even adults with their eyes on the future. With classes from early morning until late evenings, more than 150 students, ranging from the age of seven to seventy, come to expand their horizons in a pleasant and effective atmosphere.

Ms. Prist, fluent in Latin, Italian, French, Portuguese, and English, has been involved in teaching foreign languages for the past 30 years. Her experience as a teacher for many years along with the training she received in the University of Reading in England, led her to realize that a second language must be taught as a tool for real use, not as an academic exercise. A foreign language should be learnt following the same priorities the brain sets for the mother tongue; drawing on rhythm, body language, and global understanding before focusing on the actual words, she explains.

In 1984, she authored a book titled, “Personal Computer Shock” in which she compares the intimidating task of familiarizing oneself with a personal computer to that of learning a second language. It is that same culture shock which can overwhelm a person if not approached in the proper way, she explains.

With these general ideas about education, and foreign languages in particular active in her mind, Ms. Lilian came across a book entitled “Toward A Meaningful Life, The Wisdom of The Rebbe,” based on the teachings and philosophies of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.

Head of the Lubavitch movement for more than 44 years, and one of the foremost religious leaders of our times, Rabbi Schneerson taught that a life of virtue and meaning is not beyond the grasp of any human being. Applying age old truths to contemporary times, ‘The Rebbe,’ as he is called by many, offered universal definitions for fulfillment and happiness. By naming the truth in every issue, from something as trivial as fitness to something as fundamental as family life, the Rebbe brought into focus the moral way to perceive and react to our roles and responsibilities, thus allowing the earnest seeker to achieve a harmony and a consistency that is essential for a healthy and meaningful life.

His teachings, as adapted by Rabbi Simon Jacobson, the director of Vaad Hanachos Hatmimim, the organization responsible for publishing the Rebbe’s talks, have been compiled in the above mentioned book that can claim worldwide distribution, with translations available in English, Hebrew, French, and Spanish. Featured on Publisher’s Weekly religion best seller list, and now in its sixth printing, this book has captured the interest of earnest individuals looking to improve the fiber of their life.

Throughout his 4 decades of leadership the Rebbe established more than two thousand educational institutions across the globe. In 1978, the United States government designated the Rebbe’s birthday to be celebrated as Education Day USA, and continued this practice for every subsequent birthday. The Rebbe saw the urgent need for an effective educational system because he realized that the whole fabric of society depends on the moral quality of the education we offer our children. Education is more than imparting facts and skills to the next generation. True Education is when the child is taught the knowledge and is then given the sensitivity to use what they have learnt to better humankind and improve society.

Reading this book was a revelatory experience, as Ms. Lilian puts it, finally putting her in contact with a world visionary who seemed to understand the human psyche and what it needs to function at its best. When she came across the sentence quoting the Rebbe, “True education is something that reaches deep inside a person empowering us to use the information we absorb to be more productive from within,” Lilian knew she had put her finger on the soul of her new-found school. This would be a different kind of school. A place where teachers would not be viewed solely as sources of information; they would not be talking textbooks, rather they would be responsible for training the students to think intelligently, morally, and independently. The student would be trained to find answers based on the principles he was taught, and not be dependent on a parent or peer to solve a dilemma. This school would operate on the educational and moral standards as defined by the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

With this newly found inspiration, Ms. Lilian named her language school Reach, based on the above mentioned quotation of the Rebbe. In fact, in the entrance of the school stands a prominent plaque bearing these sagely words. ‘The Rebbe has captured in essence my purpose and reason in starting this school. There is no better way to say it,’ she explains.

However. more than this one sentence has influenced the ambitious educator. ‘This whole book is simply amazing,’ she describes, at loss for a more descriptive word. ‘Any time I have a problem I flip to the relevant section and I find answers. Solutions that ring so true that they seemed to have come from deep within me.’

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