Who Destroys a Single Jewish Life…

Dr Marvin Schick wrote a very thoughtful article in this week’s Jewish Press and he was kind enough to allow us to publish it here.

The November 1999 issue of The Jewish Observer, Agudath Israel’s magazine, was devoted entirely to children at risk, the spreading phenomenon of youngsters from religious homes who stray from Judaism, at times by indulging in anti-social behavior, including drug abuse.

The discussion was meaningful and moving, touching on a subject that many of us sensed yet had no clear understanding of. The articles examined the nature of the problem and how to deal with it, including a significant essay by the eminent mashgiach (spiritual guide) Rav Shlomo Wolbe, who died last year. He observed that the Chazon Ish regarded the expulsion of yeshiva students a matter of life and death and therefore could not be decided by a single person.

The Jewish Observer has now reexamined the issue. We are moved once more by stories of tragedy and loss and comforted by the prospect of return and redemption. Our hearts cry for parents undergoing the at-risk experience and also for their children. There is gratitude for those who engage in the always difficult and too often painful efforts to reach out to at-risk children, giving them a lifeline of heart and soul and enormous empathy, even as they know that while some will be saved, too many will be lost.

The term “at risk” encompasses divergent situations, including children who have already been lost and engage in behavior that is hostile to Judaism and social norms, youngsters who have abandoned religious life and those who exhibit tendencies indicating that they may fall through either the Judaic or societal safety nets. It is impossible to know how many children from Orthodox homes fit into these categories and it is important not to exaggerate. If we consider all three categories, the number certainly is in the thousands, and it is growing.

There is a parallel at-risk phenomenon in Israel in haredi or fervently religious families and it may be more serious than what we are now experiencing here, if not in numbers then in the degree of hostility toward Judaism and destructive behavior.

What causes religious children to be at-risk? Obviously, there isn’t a simple explanation and in some situations there apparently is no explanation. There are parents who are terrific at parenting, showing patience and wisdom and seemingly doing everything right who have children who fall through the cracks and add to the toll in our community. There are other parents who seem to violate all of the good parenting rules whose children evolve into gems.

Overall, good parenting yields good fruit. This means being patient and caring, despite disappointment in how a child is doing in school or behaving at home. Even so, the results may not be what parents had hoped and prayed for. In all situations, care must be taken to strengthen and certainly not weaken a child’s self-esteem. This is the single factor that can provide protection against the emergence of at-risk children. Where self-esteem is lacking, it can serve as the germ that results in children being at-risk.

In pinpointing the crucial role of self-eseem, I am not dismissing other possible factors, such as the rejection of religious life or a child falling in with the wrong crowd or friend. Yet, where self-esteem is present, children can overcome emotional, educational and social setbacks. Where it is absent, even trifling issues can turn into crises.

Self-esteem or its absence is to a large extent part of a person’s nature, something that is there like an ear for music or physical agility or not there. We see kids who are confident from nearly day one. They may not turn into good students and yet they feel good about themselves, while there are children who seem afraid of their own shadow, irrespective of how well they do in school or in friendships or at home. What life brings can alter a child’s outlook, adding to or subtracting from the reservoir of self-esteem. Children who are emotionally fragile are inordinately affected by what occurs in their lives, by whether their emotional underpinnings are challenged or fortified.

Schools exist to educate clusters of children. Perhaps inevitably they operate at times in ways that counter the paramount precept of Torah education, chanoch l’naar al pi darcho – that each child should be taught in the manner that best ensures his advancement. It is difficult for educators to focus significantly on each student’s individuality, on each student’s particular circumstances and capabilities. If our schools are not equipped to devote time and resources to obtain optimum results for each student, they remain obligated not to undermine a child’s self-esteem.

This isn’t an easy task. Tests, grades and report cards are instrumentalities for the measuring of educational progress and not for the promotion of self-esteem. Much the same can be said about the rules and procedures that abound in all schools. They seek to establish conformity so that the school can go about its core educational mission. Inevitably, they suppress individuality and punish students, perhaps only emotionally, who do not conform. In the process, they may shake the confidence of those who are emotionally fragile.

In addition to their core educational responsibilities, our schools have the collateral task of religious socialization, of molding children so that they emerge as responsible and capable adults who live good Jewish lives and function well in society. This task mandates greater flexibility toward weaker students, students from marginally observant homes and students who are emotionally fragile. Yeshivas and day schools must practice what they preach by showing patience toward such students. Our educators routinely counsel parents to be patient, but the same quality is too infrequently practiced by school officials. “Do as I say and not as I do” is apparently the motto of some educators. In the process, they add to the at-risk ranks.

There was a time when yeshivas went the extra mile to attract and retain students, accepting applicants from homes that were not up to religious standards. Their hope and even expectation was that they could bring about Judaic growth. Our schools also kept students who were not up to par academically. They served as instrumentalities for outreach, in a sense taking children who were at-risk Jewishly or in other ways and they strove to reinforce these students’ religious and emotional foundations. Some of these students have become outstanding religious leaders, while many more have become wonderful religious adults. Had the attitudes that prevail now been in place decades ago, many of these children would have been lost to Judaism.

Now, the attitude in too many of our schools is to reject applicants, as if this demonstrates that they are stronger Torah institutions. They also are quick to expel students who do not readily fit in. I have heard principals say that they never expel a student until they have found a substitute school, as if expulsion alone is not sufficient to destroy a child’s confidence and emotional underpinnings. In my experience, the truth is usually otherwise and students are expelled even when there is no other school that will accept them.

While the yeshiva world’s attitude in years past was “Let’s open our doors wide so that we will attract students who otherwise would not be taught Torah and lead religious lives,” these days the doors are shut in too many places, even at schools that have seats to spare. These schools are afraid to risk their reputation by taking in non-at risk youngsters who do not come from ideal religious homes or backgrounds.

Is it any wonder that today there are more defections from Orthodoxy than there are those whom we are attracting through kiruv? We do a good job bemoaning the expanding at-risk population, while at the same time we contribute to this expansion.

Students who are harming other students should not be retained and there is no point to a yeshiva high school admitting boys who are not capable of keeping up with the class. What we are experiencing goes far beyond these situations. There are parents who say that their children will not go to a particular school if such and such a child is also admitted. These parents transgress the prohibition of lo ta’amod al dam re’echa – do not cause another’s blood to be spilled – and they engage in lashon hara.

It is said that at-risk behavior arises from the impact on young people of a promiscuous society and culture; that television, cable and the Internet exact a high toll. It is therefore necessary to uproot every potential bad seed, lest others be harmed. I will not defend the world around us, nor deny that there are kids who are ensnared by its debased standards. I will challenge the view that this is the primary cause for at-risk Orthodox children and the collateral view that fear of potential harm justifies exclusionary policies.

Fear is a dynamic force, a mindset that respects no boundaries. It feeds on itself, creating fantasy scenarios that do not correspond to reality and yet may result in harsh actions. In Justice Louis D. Brandeis’s haunting language in a reference to the Salem witch trials, “Men feared witches and burnt women.” We fear the outside world – rightfully – and we are ready to harm children.

As much as we must be concerned about the impact of popular culture and social permissiveness, our at-risk problem arises far more from the erosion of self-esteem through what occurs at school and often at home. This is confirmed by the at-risk situation in Israel. A significant number of youngsters from fervently religious homes have abandoned their religious lifestyle, engaging in severe anti-social behavior, often including violence. The actions of these youths called shababnikim cannot be attributed to the Internet.

A 2001 article in Azure, a respected Israeli journal, quotes Chanania Chulak, the director of Ezer Mitzion, the volunteer organization that assists haredi families, as saying that shababnikim have turned Bnei Brak into “a crime center reminiscent of New York City’s Harlem. People are afraid to walk the streets. Violent, criminal gangs in this city do whatever they please.” After the article appeared, I called Chulak and he verified the quote.

In Israel, where exposure to popular culture in haredi homes is extremely limited, it is understood that at-riskness arises primarily from students not being able to keep up with the intensive yeshiva regimen or not being interested in religious studies or other similar school-based or home-based factors. But because modernity and its sins are a convenient and for some an irresistible target, we choose to ignore the role played by educational factors and attribute our losses to the Internet. It is convenent to ignore how exclusionary policies beget at-risk children.

I am appalled by the announcement by Lakewood yeshivas and Beth Jacobs that all children in homes that are Internet-accessible and have not received the requisite approvals from local rabbis will be expelled. All children! The very thought should be repugnant. In order to possibly prevent some children from being at risk, we are prepared to take innocent Jewish children and make certain that they will be at risk! Not only is this wrongful policy announced, it is lauded in the recent Jewish Observer issue devoted to the at-risk problem – and by a respected Torah personality.

The “if in doubt throw it out” attitude that used to be applied to food products is now being applied to Jewish children. This attitude must be challenged. I know this entails a risk, but it is one that must be taken in the face of unfolding tragedies in Jewish homes. If but one child is saved because of this protest, the risk will be worthwhile.

This exclusionary attitude is contrary to what transcendent Torah leaders taught and practiced in this country a generation or more ago. Thirty years ago, in response to my question whether the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School should admit students from marginally observant homes, Rav Yitzchak Hutner, zt”l, the great rosh yeshiva of Chaim Berlin and a genius in understanding students, responded that he had encouraged such students to go to the movies and even take their parents along because this approach would benefit them and make their transition to fully observant Jews more likely.

Yeshivas must get back into the business of kiruv rechokim and out of the business of richuk kerovim. The place to start is to abandon the exclusionary mindset, the notion that throwing out or rejecting a Jewish child is of minor consequence. They’re gone and the yeshiva world continues in its self-congratulatory mold, even as our losses mount.

I suspect the Lakewood announcement is mainly rhetoric, that children will not be expelled, no more than they were several years ago when a similar pronouncement was made about a minor league baseball stadium. There are serious admission/retention issues that the Lakewood community must address and there is unfortunately an at-risk problem in this sacred Torah center. Whatever the situation in Lakewood, the message that is being sent is that expelling Jewish children is an appropriate course. This message will have a collateral effect elsewhere in justifying the already wrongful policy of closing the doors on marginal children who have the capacity to grow in Yiddishkeit.

There is a Brooklyn-based program that raises funds to take Jewish children out of public schools and place them in our schools. Some time ago, the program announced that public school students would not be sent to Orthodox coeducational day schools, irrespective of whether there were other religious schools available for these children to attend. They are now going a step further by cutting off support to the leading yeshiva for students from families who came here from the former Soviet Union because this respected institution has separate boys and girls divisions operating under a single roof – and that isn’t kosher. As a result, the school is experiencing substantial hardship.

I have spoken out for years against our exclusionary tendencies, admittedly to little avail. The situation continues to worsen. Aren’t there any yeshiva deans and rabbis who are willing to take the risk by protesting against policies that put our children at risk?

Marvin Schick wrote a weekly column for The Jewish Press for many years and continues to write regularly about American Jewish life. He has served for more than thirty years as president of the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School and is senior adviser to the Avi Chai Foundation. Many of Dr. Schick’s essays and columns are accessible at mschick.blogspot.com. Dr. Schick can be contacted at mschick@mindspring.com.

21 comments on “Who Destroys a Single Jewish Life…

  1. Bob–I agree with you completely that we need our schools to be community institutions. It would benefit us in terms of admissions as a “district” would hopefully find a place for each student, rather than parents applying to one (or more) schools and getting rejected.

    It would benefit us financially and academically/vocationally as certain programs could be run on a district level (possibly vocational programs that we desperately need, curriculum development, special ed). Right now each school tries to run their own programs and it is not cost efficient, and it is limiting. Right now, we might have 5 kids in one school who could use a metalworking class and 10 kids in various other schools with the same needs. Yet, no school can fit the classes into their programs and no school can afford it. With more coordination and cooperation, we could meet more needs.

    (Note: My public high school had shared vocational classes with the rival high school and offered all sorts of classes including classes in construction. If each school was on its own and couldn’t afford to offer the classes, there would be plenty of kids without direction and skills).

  2. Steve,
    I was not alluding to nepotism. It’s the competitive environment that causes private schools to recruit, admit and retain only the “best”, to try to improve their reputations and thereby boost their income. A responsible community structure would not be able to cherry-pick in this way. It could operate a set of schools (or departments within schools) tailored to different learning styles, career objectives, streams within Orthodoxy, etc., so that all kids could find their proper place. The vital question is how to achieve unity these days, to be able to move forward. When I see all the intergroup sniping on many blogs, I wonder how we can ever get there.

  3. To tag onto Steve’s comment “caters to the gifted, expells the troubled and ignores the silent majority who do well, pose no problem but also would appreciate some attention”

    Oftentimes the schools even punish excellent students they do not meet the vision of the administration. The fact is that kids have different goals and aspirations and by being completely unsupportive of these aspirations and even punishing them for having such aspirations, they alienate some fine students for life.

  4. Bob is correct that our schools should be under a unified roof. This alone would allow better utilization of administration and help us take advantage of economies of scale. It would also help in distributing funds.

    And, for the life of me, I can’t understand why we still can’t educate students whose parents have different expectations under less roofs. Public schools have clientle that ranges from kids who will go to prestiguous colleges and want a high level of general education, to kids who will be headed to the nearest military recruiter or trade school and just want the basics, to kids who are seriously remedial and need an almost purely vocational track.

    If public schools can keep such a diverse student body under one roof, it is incredulous that we cannot keep a more diverse body of shomer shabbat students under one roof (especially if it offered financial savings and the ability to offer more classes geared to a variety of levels and interests, including vocational classes that are desperately needed!).

  5. I think that obligations and entitlements are way too demagogic to describe the expectations of parents. First of all, parents in different schools have different expectations re the quality of the secular education. Some parents view it as a step towards a high level college preparation. Some parents view college as a necessary evil. Some parents wonder why there is so much Limudei Kodesh, especially with Regents, APs and SATs. Some parents wonder wny their kids have to have any secular studies at all. These factors all depend on the school and parent base.

    Most parents have varied expectations re Limudei Kodesh. I would hope that all parents view Limudei Kodesh as a means of inculcating values and textual literacy that can’t be done at home as a common denominatator. Some parents can supplement what they deem an inadequate, boring or even poor experience in the classroom. Yet, to the extent that a parent’s skills are limited, I believe that a parent has a reasonable expectation to expect that a yeshiva will give the child the Torah equivalent of buidling blocks-Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim. R M Salomon and R N I Oelbaum both have decried the trend towards “Gadol building” instead of educating all kids to their needs.

    It is easy to call education an obligation. Yet, the goalposts in fulfulling that obligation are pushed backwards from the goalline when the commuity and the school adopt a de minimus role towards educating all children , hides behind budget and tution problems and caters to the gifted, expells the troubled and ignores the silent majority who do well, pose no problem but also would appreciate some attention.

    One factor that Bob alluded to was that many schools and yeshivos are indeed the educational variety of a family enterprise that appear quite nepotistic to an outsider or even an insider.

  6. In many cases, the “Orthodox Jewish community” in an American city is at best a loose alliance of voluntary subgroups served by competing, privately owned and operated institutions with a shaky bottom line. The big challenge is to create out of this chaos a true community that can own, operate, and fund its own institutions under unified leadership for the common good.

  7. Josh-Thanks for your response. I think that my answers were reasonable.

    1) Since none less than the CI is machmir on the issue, I feel that I am in good company in stating that anyone who would expel a child with ease simply should think about whether they are in the correct profession. That being my firm position and based upon the views of many Gdolim,what would you do if there were no other available local options for the parents?Who would you draw into a discussion as to whether a kid should be expelled?

    2) Of course, Chinuch is a communal obligation that must be provided by the community. On the other hand, when you talk about providing places for every child, it is easier said than done. If Lakewood required R Elysahiv to issue a special decree about its schoools, that should tell you that it is far easier to darshan and say pilpulim about the mitzvah than to implement it, especially when a “not in my yeshiva” attitude is prevalent in many schools and communities.

    3) I am not sure that you agree or disagree , in whole or in part , re my answer re “acceptable standards of family behavior.”I think that standard is one that can only be based on the locality and the parent/student base.

    I disagree with your use of the terms obligations and entitlements inasmuch that begs the issue. Since the days of R Yehoshua Ben Gamla, yeshivos, et al have assumed the primary means of inculcating Torah Judaism beyond the basics that parents inculcate.

    Of course, Judaism is a system of obligations. Yet, we have always believed in educating everybody to fulfill his or her obligations as a member of Klal Yisrael . That is clearly a focus of the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah and the seder. Every child is entitled to become an educated Jew to fullfil these obligations solely by dint of his or being a member of the Jewish community-regardless of ability.

    Yet, look at the programs for special ed, etc-they were not developed by the community. They were founded and created by the parents because the existing schools in the community , for cost or other factors, basically told these parents that their kids’ education was their problem and not that of the community at large. Many rabbinical leaders spolke out against this factor, but their clout was ignored on this issue, as opposed to others where it was requested. Once these programs were launched,the existing yeshivos were willing to shep nachas for the PR as long as they weren’t required to do anything more than offer space. If we had to wait for the community, none of these programs would have ever taken off.

    One of my Roshei Yeshiva, R Moshe Besdin ZTl once pointed out that when you pay teachers peanuts, it should be no surprise that the products are monkeys. Of course, budgets are a huge problem in almost every school. Yet, tuition has reached a crisis while at the same time, we see Pesach in the most exotic locales as a multi-billion dollar businesss and a distinct willingness by many gvirim to invest their time and money in almost any mosad other than a local school. The question remains why. Perhaps, they were so turned off by their own experience as children that they are looking for venues where they will have more control and a better return for their Tzdekah dollars.

    One of the other factors that is never discussed is that chinuch is not viewed as a lchatchilah track by many avrechim for a lot of reasons. It is a lot harder to teach beginners Chumash or Haschalas Gemara than to say a chabura or help write a sefer, etc. Many do have difficulty in answering hashkafic issues. Many don’t know how to relate to parents and kids who may not be on their own spiritual level.

    I don’t see Jewish literacy as an unreasonable promise or expectation.Again-why should parents who may have limited schools depend on the yeshivos for assistance? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate form of kiruv and chizuk as opposed to just helping the best kids? Any school should be able to consult with a professional re ADD and other issues. If a kid graduates with a distate or loathing for the study of Torah at the Bar or Bas Mitzvah age and/or is functionally illiterate, it takes a lot to undo the damage. I know many parents who supplemented their kids chinuch on the side either with tutors if they could not keep up or who learned with their kids if they were capable if they felt that the school was simply inadequate. Yet, why should these cases excuse the obligation of a school to hire competent teachers who can impart a love of Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim into kids?

  8. Steve

    The context of my question was to determine whether there was room for reasonable discussion with you. Here is what a reasonable answer might have looked like:

    1) Of course there exists cases where expelling a child is the correct move, but because of the Pikuach Nefesh aspects of such a decision it has to be the absolute final cause of action, with much deliberation among responsible parties.

    2) Of course all children should not be admitted to all yeshivos, but I think it is an obligation on the community to provide and find a place for every child.

    3) Of course it is appropriate for schools to set acceptable standards of family behavior. Who decides those standards, how they are enforced and how and when exceptions are made is the difficulty here.

    In answer to your question, first of all I see Torah Judaism as one of obligations and not entitlements.

    But even if I would agree that parents had an entitlement for qualified staff which produced only observant children, the practical issues of student to teacher ratios (more than 1 to 1 creates an issue already), shoe string budgets and the real deficiencies existent in every human being, make that a guaranty only a fool would make. And that’s without even bringing in the bechira factor which every human being is endowed with it.

    I think yourself and Dr Schick have excellent points, and on occasion you admit there are no easy solutions.

    The bigger problem is that the way that you present your postions (as a lawyer and not as a judge) marginalizes your position as one of unreasonableness and we all suffer as a result. The positions get relagated to blogs and the press and are not clearly articulated where the decisions are being made, because they are presented in an unreasonable and uncompromising way.

  9. Alter: “If a parent feels that their lifestyle does not fit the community they live in, then they are free to pick up and move to a new community or send their child to a different school.”

    That’s great! Just move out of town. Find another job, find another city to move to. All expenses paid, I presume? It’s not like they knew about this when they bought their homes and found their jobs. Now they’re stuck. Free to leave? Ahhh….Nothing like having choices!

  10. Josh-in what contexts and in which communities are you posing your query?

    1) I do know that no less than the Chazon Ish viewed expulsion of any child as a question involving pikuach nefesh considerations. The Alter of Slabodka never exposed anyone despite all of the raging “isms” that plagued the Jewish world.I would hate to be in the shoes of anyone who expels a child. I could not sleep knowing that I had expelled a child and thereby contributed to his or her thereby developing a anti Torah hashkafa.

    2) Since most parents lack the skills to educate their children beyond the basics, we have yeshivos to provide a Jewish education for all applicants. Dr Schick has written a series of articles in which he decries the shift in emphasis in chinuch from providing a Jewish education for all applicants into a private school with Jewish education that is governed by many considerations that cannot be reconciled with the priorities set forth in the Talmud, Shulchan Aruch and Poskim

    (3)”Acceptable family behavior” is a very vague phrase which is and should be community based. The standards “acceptable family behavior” for a community based school in an “out of town” school are not the same for a school that is “al taharas hakodesh.”

    Let me ask this question-are parents entitled to have qualified teachers and guidance personnel for their children and can they reasonably expect that the child who enters in pre-one way will graduate as an observant and educated Jew?

  11. Steve

    Which of these can you agree with:

    1) I can never imagine a case where a child should be expelled from a Yeshiva

    2) All children should be admitted to all Yeshivos

    3) Schools have no right to set standards of acceptable family behaviour for the children in their schools

  12. Alter and Belle-just curious-how do you account for the presence of the ben harasha at the Seder? Isn’t he or she entitled to a Jewish education, as opposed to what Alter calls a “private school”education presumably with Torah content? I will be expanding on this issue in my continuing series on the Fifteen steps of the seder.

  13. My response to Dr. Schicks otherwise excellent article is that it is unfair to compare today’s situation with that of 40 or more years ago. Kids from marginally Torah observant homes then were largely from otherwise intact and stable families. Or if they were children of divorce etc their exposure to the underside of life was usually minimal. All of society was on a higher level then.

    Today, when you talk about children from “marginal” families, this can run the gamut from good kids to real problem kids. These children do not yet belong in mainstream bais yaakov type schools, they belong in kiruv-type schools first.

    Similarly, when schools face the problem of children in their schools having free access to internet and other media, they are facing the new situation of children exposed to a world of smut that simply did not exist on the screen of a child 40 years ago. It’s a different battle, and it’s unfair to compare their responses to those of schools in the last generation. And believe me, as Michoel wrote no one wants their own child in that exposed kid’s class.

    It happened to my child at AGE 10- a girl in her class decided to verbally describe to my (very innocent) daughter in great detail a scene she saw on the ‘net of two men….How would anyone here like to deal with the trauma that ensued? Of course we took it straight to the principal. Did we have rachmanus for that other child just then? A little, but primarily we cared about our daughter and of course the school cared about the 19 other girls in the class more than the one with the problem. But that’s appropriate. (PS she wasn’t thrown out, just mandated therapy).

    The risks to others are REAL. There are no simple answers. And while I don’t support the Lakewood ban because it’s too extreme, I understand it, and if I were a school leader, I would certainly mandate strict filters, etc. All it takes is ONE exposed child to muck up other children’s lives.

  14. Dr. Schick is on target, as he often is.

    The issue has been identified. The challenge is to get our schools to accept it as a problem and to get them along with parents (parents cannot be content with identifying issues and simply throwing them to the schools) to look for solutions.

    IMHO, parents and schools need to identify areas, other than pure academics, where their children can excel. This could be a particular hobby or skill or even a sport. They then must provide a medium through which that skill can be employed, praised and rewarded. Too many of our children who are not academic superstars are not given the praise and appreciation necessary to foster self-esteem.

  15. I happen to like a lot of what Dr. Schick wrote. However the following quote doesn’t hold water:
    “I am appalled by the announcement by Lakewood yeshivas and Beth Jacobs that all children in homes that are Internet-accessible and have not received the requisite approvals from local rabbis will be expelled. All children! The very thought should be repugnant.”

    Whose fault is it that those kids might be thrown out? The parents for not following school rules. If a school can not enforce its policies then they have lost control and might as well fold up. If a parent feels that their lifestyle does not fit the community they live in, then they are free to pick up and move to a new community or send their child to a different school. In no way should a school be forced to let kids in or stay if they don’t fit the criteria. That is called a private school. The parents who don’t fit the criteria have other choices. They can’t hold all the other kids and the administration hostage because of their views. Whose putting those kids at risk? The parents who don’t want to comply with school rules.

    Parents do their children a tremdous harm when they teach the kids to “rebel” against school rules. Eventually those kids learn to rebel against all authority and that means the parents themselves. If a parent feels that a school is too “narrow” then they have a right to choose another school. But don’t force the parents who want the more “narrow” approach to put their own kids “at risk” with the kids exposed to the internet.
    In the old days the “worst” kids were going to the movies or watching TV. Now adays the “worst” kids are doing drugs and having intimate relations with those from the opposite sex. Do you want your kid exposed to that?

    Of course we need to try to bring closer every kid to torah and especially be warm to the kids at risk however with that said we need to guard our own precious children and make sure that they don’t get “tainted”.

    I can almost guarantee everyone reading this that if in their own kids class there was a kid always acting up, disturbing, using foul language and talking about the “forbidden”, almost everyone would call the principal and demand that he be thrown out of the class. Our own children can’t be korbonot too. What is the solution? I don’t know. I leave that for the “experts”.

  16. I am an avid reader of Dr Schick’s articles on education issues and more. In my opinion, this is by far the best article that he has ever written and it should be a must read for parents, educators, and community members alike.

  17. Michoel-We discussed the issues raised by Dr Schick extensively.I am just sorry that this excellent article wasn’t available during the discussion on this issue.It summarizes all of the various contentions that I mentioned and I think that it speaks for itself in that regard.

  18. “It is said that at-risk behavior arises from the impact on young people of a promiscuous society and culture; that television, cable and the Internet exact a high toll… I will challenge the view that this is the primary cause for at-risk Orthodox children…”

    Dr. Schick is a great writer and clearly a very compassionate, intelligent person. He needs to provide a source showing that someone actully said that television and internet use it “the primary cause.” I have never heard or seen that anyone said that, not in Lakewood and not anywhere else. I believe that the ban in Lakewood is more rooted in the idea that internet has the ability to bring down many peeople in the ruchnius, even without putting them into the official at risk categories. It also can be a factor in causing at risk children. No one says that other causes are not more significant, in most cases. If Rav Matisyahu Solomon would get up enact a ban on marrital strife, it might more directly address the at risk problem, but it would be rediculous. Internet abuse is something that we we can address so why shouldn’t we?

    I think Dr. Schick is using a bit of a staw-man argument.

  19. Excellent article by Dr. Schick. He reveals some key issues regarding our Yeshiva education system. Unfortunately, I think the solutions will be much more difficult that identifying the problems. I believe that many parents have a “NIMBY” (Not In My Back Yard) attitude. In other words they’ll be sympathetic to the problems but not willing to risk their own kids in trying to find solutions.

    I’d like to add something which I think is related. Dr. Schick mentioned the concept of “chanoch l’naar al pi darcho”, teaching a child according to his way. In addition to the educational setting I think this also need to be applied to children in regard to hashgafa. As baalei teshuva we’ve worked hard to find a place in Judaism where we fit philosophically. Naturally, we’re going to try to impart this hashgafa to our children through the communities we choose and the schools we send them to. But just because we chose it, doesn’t mean our kids will be comfortable with it. (Naturally this applies to FFB’s also.)

    Some huge problems one sees are when parents, as a result of a feeling of rejection, become inflexible when their children show a desire to follow a valid, yet different, path. This goes both ways. Sometimes you see children from more modern homes show a desire to move to the right and become more yeshivish or chareidi and visa versa. You see kids driven out of Yiddishkeit altogether when their parents don’t realize that their hashgafa may not be a perfect fit for their children and try to force them to remain in school and on a path that is not right for them.

    Here’s an example of a parents who handled it right. Both are BTs and are now chareidi, border line Chasidim. Their eldest son went through a typical chasidic chedar. In high school he began rejecting the tightness of his environment. Had his parents not been flexible he could have easily been lost. Instead they sent him to a modern high school. He excelled there, went on to spend a year in Israel learning, and is now at YU solidly into his learning and also hoping to become a doctor.

  20. The crux of the issue would be the fact that everyone is so busy pruning their own apple trees breed specific (many times cutting the branch to spite the tree) its easy to lose sight of the fact that their is a general universal all encompassing apple orchard to uphold . Whether ure Right wing Mcintosh,Left wing Winter Banana , Modern Orthodox Granny Smith, Baal Teshuva Red Delicious , Born Again Bal Teshuva Golden Delicious , Not Religious Summer Rambo , Hassidic Hubbardston’s Nonesuch or Liberal Pitmaston Pineapple , being snobby and self rightous is a waste of mental energy and effort cuz at the end of the day/harvest the inner core would still be considered an apple … .Pruning ure own tree ie school system down to the bare pure bred unbruised apples will not facilitate in the growth process( unlike rose bushes) of the inherent tree. Instead of chucking for the slightest bruise gotta learn to fix the bruises and allow for apple healing before chucking the apple . my “favorite” elementary school lesson would be my second grade introductory speech ; the teacher sternly explained to us eight year olds the rotten apple parable and how if one apple in the basket happens to start rotting u have to remove that apple right away lest the other apples become rotten – very productive,comforting, appropiate and growth oriented first day of school speech for eight year olds ….. theres nothing like rotten apple parables to facilitate in the self esteem process .Another (controversial) aid in preventing the erosion of self esteem would be the use of medication when needed to facilitiate in focusing and proper channelling of misguided energies . Its not just the local objective ,focus and perspective that needs adjusting , the global focus needs some dosage tweaking too .

Comments are closed.