Students around the world learn how to prevent negative speech

Thousands of students join worldwide initiative to promote positive speech.

Yoni Kempinski ,

Positive speech educational initiative
Positive speech educational initiative
Yoni Kempinski

On Tuesday, the last day of study in the Chafetz Chaim Heritage Fund’s worldwide initiative for guarding one’s speech (shmirat halashon) took place.

During the days of the counting of the Omer, the Chafetz Chaim Heritage Fund held an international project crossing continents, in 23 countries, during which students participated in a daily hour of learning about guarding oneself from negative speech about others (lashon harah), together with learning the letters of the Chafetz Chaim, for whom being careful not to engage in negative speech was the primary focus within his capacity as a guide of ethics and Jewish law.

The initiative also took place in Israel, where it was held in cooperation with the Religious Education Administration (Hemed) and the Ministry of Education's Department of Jewish Culture. The aim of the initiative was to raise awareness about guarding against negative speech about others and engaging in positive speech, but also to convey value-based educational content on the topic of guarding one’s speech.

The Israeli project saw the participation tens of thousands of students in grades 5 to 9 in national religious schools across the country. Every day during the Omer-counting period, the students stopped their daily schedule at 10:00 a.m. to study for a full hour about positive speech.

A special content team prepared material for the project in Israel for an extended period, with each class and educator receiving materials intended for the corresponding age-group for which they were responsible.

One of the tools developed by the project's content team is the daily riddle, which thousands of students throughout the country worked to solve.

In addition to the lesson plans and content distributed to the students and the educational staff, special events will be held in the local authorities throughout the country about guarding one’s speech, all with participation from Ministry of Education's Department of Jewish Culture.

“This is something irregular, which we are used to dealing with in yeshivot and places for ‘heavy-duty’ study of Chafetz Chaim, and here the kids are exposed to very special experiential study dealing with guarding one’s speech,” Rabbi Itiel Bar Levi, head of the Ministry of Education's Department of Jewish Culture, explained.

“We thought that it would be a hard topic to integrate into the discourse of the teachers, but we see that, specifically because of the desire to struggle with the difficulties of Facebook and the internet, people are excited to talk about it, in order to acquire tools for speaking in a positive way.”

“I have no doubt that, in coming years, we will reach new communities and schools, maybe the [nonreligious] national schools, and that we will get very far with this initiative.”