Orthodox Assimilation On Campus – Part 2

By Yaakov Weinstein – Part 1 is here.

Strategies for a rebbi, teacher or pulpit rabbi:

1) Never give up on a student! Let us say a rebbi tries to convince a student to skip college totally or attend Touro/YU. What happens when the student goes against the rebbi’s suggestions (due to his own thinking or forced by his parents). Well, sometimes the rebbi ‘gives up’ on the student. Since you’re going to college anyway, you may as well throw your yarmulka away… (note the rebbi may not word it this way but this may still be the message the student gets). It should not have to be stated (but unfortunately it IS necessary to state) that this is the worst possible thing to say. Besides the fact that it is utterly false (many great Orthodox leaders of all streams attended secular universities),the student might believe what the rebbi says. The student will get to college and think – I’m already going to ‘burn in hell’ for being here in the first place – why bother getting up for davening, learning a seder, dating a Jewish girl. My dear reader may find this outrageous but it is not – this has happened to good students from wonderful yeshivos.

2) Students can grow in learning, spirituality and all else good, on secular campus. Believe it. Anyone who became frum on campus should already know this. But it is not only ba’alei t’shuva who can grow on campus. Rather then give up on students for going to the ‘wrong’ place, give students the means to grow – book lists (see post of R’ Hirsh for some good books), curricula, email shiurim to them, talk to them in learning when they’re home. Do not be surprised that they learn, expect it from them.

3) Don’t give glib answers to sincere questions. If you think you can answer who wrote the Torah or the evolution ‘problem’ in a one minute conversation keep it to yourself. You merely show that you are not taking the question seriously. Also, don’t say a question is stupid, and if you don’t know something, admit it.

4) Email students, visit them, talk to them, volunteer to give a shiur on a campus near you, invite your local Hillel’s orthodox students to your house, invite students over for a tisch when they are home for winter break. Be active! PLEASE! A quick story from my time on campus: a friend was clearly upset. He told me about a girl in his class he was acquainted with and who was irreligious. That day he had been walking through campus and noticed the campus Chabad rabbi handing out Purim paraphernalia (hamantaschen and the like). He decided to take some for this girl to help spread Purim cheer to someone who, he thought, may need an extra reminder. When he offered the stuff to her she reacted very graciously and said, “Oh, but I already have everything I need. My (Reform) synagogue sends out care-packages before the every holiday.” “A shul sending out care packages to kids on campus?” my friend exclaimed, “Can you even imagine an Orthodox shul doing that? Of course not.” A notable exception to this is R’ Bieler of Kemp Mill Synagogue in Silver Spring, MD. Here’s a description of some of what he does – and students who I have known from his shul truly appreciate it (the rest of the discussion is interesting too).

Strategies for parents:

All of the above applies doubly for parents – the ultimate ‘rebbi’ for their children (whether the parents think so or not). So go back and read those suggestions again! After you’ve read the above twice here are some additional suggestions:

1) Care about the kodesh. Before college – don’t rely on a college advisor who doesn’t REALLY know what’s going on Jewishly on a campus. Instead, get on the Hillel website and talk to the Hillel’s Orthodox rabbinic advisor. While your child is on campus – Keep in touch with him religiously too. When your kids are at college ask them how their learning is going, maybe you can even learn with them on the phone. Keep the number of that Orthodox advisor.

2) Demand strength in high schools especially in Tanach. Kids don’t need to learn about the Documentary Hypothesis in high school. But they do need to see how Tanach works. Insist that students see the majesty of Tanach as can be gained from serious study of Rashi and Rambam but is brought out clearly by R’ Hirsch and R’ Hertz. Do your kids know why different names of the Almighty are used in the Bible?Their Judaic studies professor does (and you won’t like the answer)…

3) Humble skepticism – teach your kids to question unproven statements but realize there are people a lot smarter than them (I must thank Mike Berkowitz of Alon Shevut for this wonderful formulation – see it here.

4) I was told by a Brigham Young University student that at BYU (Mormon) before being allowed back on at the beginning of a semester a student must have a signed letter from their cleric (Mormon or not) that they’ve been keeping up with your religious duties. I have never heard of a Jewish parent who stopped paying tuition because his son or daughter was not learning enough Torah.

5) There are kind, moral, and religious people who are not frum and not Jewish. B”H, on this website I should not have to convince anyone of this. Make sure your kids know this too.

Strategies for students:

1) Time management – students have lots of free time. They’re not in class much, all their food and other necessities are taken care of for them, and, especially liberal arts majors, don’t have much homework. But the free time may be scattered throughout the day and it may not line up with other people’s free time. Students need to learn how to maximize their free time for useful endeavors.

2) Know what situations you might be in and know tha answer before-hand. I’m not a fan of speculating on every possible thing that can happen but some things have a good chance of happening so think about it before hand. Here’s an example: you’re working on a group project. If the project goes well there’s a decent chance someone may suggest going out as a group to a restaurant or bar. Should you go at all? If you go can you eat or drink anything? Thinking about this in advance will help you answer properly when the situation comes up. Another example: you learn with a non-frum chavrusa in the “Study with a Buddy” program. Your chavrusa may invite you to a party, a get-together, or some other event. Do you go? If you go, how much do you participate? Will you walk out if something happens that you do not approve of?

3) Learn practical halacha (especially laws about the kitchen) – you’ll need it.

4) Intense secular studies needs intense Torah studies. There is a lot of chochmah on a college campus. It’s intricate, complex, beautiful… and it can make Torah seem dull by comparison. Unless you can see the beauty and complexity of Torah. Study Torah deeply and intensely! Do not settle for superficial learning. Make up a goals per week and per semester – but be realistic. You can finish shas mishnayos while on campus. You can finish gmara mo’ed. You can learn all of Shulchan Aruch! See how long it is and how much needs to be done on average each day (it’s not much) … Understand that you won’t learn that much during mid-terms and finals. Know this in advance and get back into learning afterwards. If you pull all-nighters for work, pull all nighters for Torah (after midterms or finals please)!

The above are only a few suggestions that people may want to utilize in preparing for a studenton a secular campus. The list is not exhaustive and, of course, individuals need individual preparation.Another series of suggestions from a different approach can be found here.

I have a picture of the ideal Orthodox community on a secular campus. It’s made up of students who are impeccably honest, selflessly helpful, and fiercely proud of their religion. This community is a beacon of moral clarity on a landscape of moral relativity. Jews in this community treat others with respect and dignity while strongly protesting secularism and moral relativity. This community sanctifies the name of God and is a true ‘kingdom of priests.’ To such a community, others would come flocking. There is truly a thirst for knowledge on a college campus – and only a truly religous community will demonstrate that this thirst is a manifestation of the ultimate thirst – “Not a thirst for water, but to hear the words of the Lord” (Habakkuk 2:14).

48 comments on “Orthodox Assimilation On Campus – Part 2

  1. my son chose to do a research paper along the same lines as this topic. he is a modern orthodox student at a secular college in his first year after doing yeshiva in israel.

    our son just finished missing class for rh, sukkot and simchat torah. so now i’m helping him to catch up since he’s now faced with papers and tests that he couldnt prepare for over the chagim. i came across your article while helping my son by researching the issue of the integration of orthodox students on secular college campuses this is an issue that is of great personal concern to us being that we are parents who want our kids to remain in a strong orthodox environment at college (son now at umd 1st year after yeshiva in israel) and daughter now in 12th grade working on applying to seminaries and colleges that supposedly have strong ortho student populations, kosher food, and are not so much more than umd in state tuition. (it was a challenge just to find schools that meet this criteria). also my son has chosen to write his english paper on this same topic (integration of orthodox jews on secular campus–how to or challenges of remaining committed orthodox jews on secular campus and support that may be available to help ortho students integrate and keep up with studies while remaining committed to orthodoxy…something along these lines). are you familiar with any “academic” articles or other sources that would be acceptable for a secular university english class on this issue that he can use for his research position paper? thank you so much. r s

    i wish i knew how to contact you privately and not publicly thru this blog with some questions on this same topic. maybe you could email me off-blog.

  2. Alter, thanks for the input – I do indeed have a plan, and going to university for 4 years only helps that plan, it doesn’t hinder it.

    DK, of course, my parents want me to go to university, so at least we agree on something! Now if only it were that easy on the religious stuff :p

    Yaakov, the university I’m looking into has a wonderful hillel, and a rabbi and rebbetzin who run a shul in the student neighborhood near the school. I am already in contact with them and they will help me if I need it. So, I would have wonderful support there, no doubt.

    I have another year after this one in seminary, and then it would be off to university. I know it wouldn’t be so bad because I’m not leaving the city. The universities I’m looking at are here where I live. I would still be around the religious community, if I wanted.

  3. I think that Ron Coleman and Bob Miller have underscored many of the issues that Yaakov highlighted at in his posts. Denial of these issues IMO by arguing against the purported tactics of NCSY or other kiruv groups is a disservice to the discussion of whether the behavior described actually exists, for which there is ample proof in the article and in a visit to any college campus or a casual surfing of any college newspaper such as the Columbia Spectator and the antics at Yale during one week that I don’t want to mention on this blog. Until rabbanim, educators, and students realize the gravity of the issues involved and think through the consequences of the decision, we will see more stories of student gradually or quickly dropping observance and more essays devoted to this issue.

    I think that Ron adds a perspective that either a YU educated person who would only orient their children towards YU/SCW or Touro , the only Ivy oriented parent or someone resolutely againts college does not have-he attended the best and most elite undergraduate and graduate schools-yet, he recognizes the environment as socially not conducive to growing in Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim.

  4. I’m liking the hareidi kiruv child-snatchers thread given my own background… I dropped out of uni before coming to Israel (frustration @ decades of problems in school mostly) and did 2 years of part-time sem here, one hareidi place and one mixed. Now my hareidi teacher is pressuring me like mad to finish my degree, way more than my parents ever have. Seriously, I love her but now I’m afraid to go see her b/c I didn’t start classes this semester like I said I might. So yeah, not all hareidi midrasha teachers are against university, some are even very for it. VERY very for it.

  5. That’s true, DK. And in fact, really, anyone who doesn’t know what college life is like in our day and age really has his head in the sand.

    I’m not ambivalent, by the way. Yes, I have had many doors opened to me by virtue of my elite college and professional degrees. But I will never send my children to live, or even in all probability learn, in environments such as the ones at the schools I attended. Why would I even bother killing myself to send them to the kind of schools I do now to throw it away by sending them to such places? That’s unthinkable.

  6. Bob, you wrote,

    “Painting chareidi kiruv as a threat in itself will not fly.”

    It should fly just fine if parents think their teens are getting something else.

    Ron, leaving aside that your own views on college are at worst, ambivalent, the issue isn’t just about college or no college, but that is considered such a huge issue when no hint is offered that this will be a major, major point of controversy by the time the year in a many haredi BT yeshivas and seminaries ends.

  7. Yeah, they should.

    Meanwhile, though, since we know the real truth, you can reconsider your (dare I say obsessive?) holding up the university as the shining goal of every Jewish teen from which he or me she may be — horrors — diverted by virtue of those sneaky NCSY child-snatchers.

  8. Regarding DK’s comment of March 22nd, 2007 19:00 :

    In fact, college administrations are very defensive, but about the issues they really care about, not about students doing drugs and sex.


    You, DK, would be more credible if your frequent comments showed the slightest bit of understanding that kiruv organizations and personnel within each Orthodox camp vary widely in their practices. Painting chareidi kiruv as a threat in itself will not fly. You have the misfortune that many readers have seen counterexamples to your simplistic arguments—in their own lives.

    Yaakov has seen and commented on some of the same phenomena you have, only he has perspective and you don’t.

  9. Ron,

    Well, if we do that, then the colleges should then claim they have no idea of any such thing happening on their campuses!!! They should demand “proof” of drugs and sex on campus, and dismiss all proof brought as unacceptable and insufficient as evidence. They should declare anyone who claims such a thing exists is a “conspiracy theorist.” Additionally, they should call anyone who claims such a thing occurs is a “secular-basher,” and question the person’s sanity, invoke the Holocaust, and insist that the only people who have a right to question campus life are those who are currently in it and very happy with it. Also, the campus should not discuss in public any of the problems claimed by people, but rather, should “just ignore” their accusations in hopes they go away.

    Oh, and any and all deception should be dismissed as irrelevant and okay, since they are saving the world.

  10. DK, I think colleges should also have, right in the admissions material, their own disclaimer:

    Your children will be immersed in an atmosphere of promiscuity that, despite your own experiences as college students a generation ago, would curl your hair if you had any insight into it. Casual sex on our campus is so widespread that it will be statistically and morally remarkable if your child graduates without having had multiple sex partners, many while drunk. We are pleased to report that most of our students do not, however, actually have abortions, though they are available at our health services clinic and you will know nothing about them, nor the birth control devices or prescriptions we may issue to your children. Speaking of drunk, though, please be aware that your child will be encouraged by peer pressure beyond your own experiences to not only drink to excess, and frequently, but to experiment with drugs that you have not even heard of. All the foregoing are of no interest to us as an institution; short of getting in trouble with the local authorities, the less we know about what your children do on or off campus, the better, as long as your check clears and they sufficiently simulate scholarship to get through with the “gentleman’s B” routinely given to all but the most destructive undergraduates and adopt the outrageously left wing — and uniformly anti-Israel — political views that are the only permitted types of expression on our campus. Please also be aware that the odds of your child actually meeting and deciding to marry a Jewish student at our college is extremely small, but after the social and emotional experiences he or she has here, marriage will almost certainly not be on his or her agenda for many years, anyway.

    A caricature? Barely.

  11. “Bob, be careful about determining which Hillel’s are good and which are not. Times change.”

    I have no illusions about this. The organization is only as good as the management team.

  12. Yaakov also mentioned situations where kiruv people have withdrawn their support from students who went straight to a US college. I agree that this is wrong, and can even be a betrayal, but its bad effects can be mitigated.

    Students headed for college should try to find ones with not only an Orthodox presence on campus but also a thriving off-campus Orthodox community. That way, the student can find adequate local support from people with no axe to grind, and does not need to maintain contact with a kiruv group that is no longer helpful.

  13. Bob, be careful about determining which Hillel’s are good and which are not. Times change… Ten years ago my wife went door-to-door to help get minyan at Brandeis which now has a huge Orthodox community. Rutgers and Univ. of MD (College Park) are on the ascendency. Other universities are falling…

  14. Yaakov noted, “Also, check out R’ Pollack’s (director of BU Hillel) article in Jewish Action dating from arouond 2003-2004 for BT’s versus FFB’s on college campuses.”

    I’ve heard and seen only good things about the Hillel program at Boston U. In 1997, when I was working in NH, they ably co-sponsored the simulcast of the NYC Siyum HaShas at BU’s Morse Auditorium on Comm. Ave. Before the simulcast, we heard some brief local remarks, including Rabbi Pollack’s. We also davened our own mincha service in the auditorium. Just before mincha, the movie screen was moved away to expose an aron kodesh! This was there because the auditorium had been built as a Reform temple. What a turn of events for this old building!

  15. Ok, I’m behind by a days worth of comments but I’ll start with this…

    This is directed primarily towards Aliza, Alter and DK. After writing this essay I showed it to a close friend of mine who suggested I add a paragraph about kiruv organiztions. You see, he had (personally – and he is not a BT) experienced some cases of students who did not follow the wishes of the particular kiruv organization that had helped draw them closer to Torah true Judaism, i.e. they went to college and did not go to Israel. Due to this infraction, their entire religous support structure was removed and, not surprisingly, these students lost all of their previous gains. And, of course, the kiruv organization, can now say, “Look what happens when you go to college…”

    Now, I have a particularly negative attitude towards people in kiruv who treat those they have helped as sheep who must unthinkingly follow their lead rather than human beings with a tzelem elokim. So, I wrote an additional paragraph. It turned out too harsh even for me (I do my best not to mince words but this was really bad) so I left it out.

    Aliza, I could not give personal advice without knowing you. But, as opposed to my friends experiences, the BT’s I knew in college – specifically the ones who bcame frum before attending a seminary or yeshiva – were the backbone of the Orthodox community. They were best equipped to deal with the challenges and were an inspiration to me personally and to the entire Jewish community. Unfortunately, you must realize that, if you do attend university, some of your support structure including mentors and friends may disappear. Make sure there is another one in place. Also, check out R’ Pollack’s (director of BU Hillel) article in Jewish Action dating from arouond 2003-2004 for BT’s versus FFB’s on college campuses. You can download it from the OU website. However, Aliza, some arguments against secular college are sound (like the ones in the first part of my essay). Listen to them to know what to look out for.

    Alter, you’ve read my essay and know when to give advice – this is good. Surverys consistently show that the overwhelming majority of students attend college in order to get a good job. Given that college grads are much more in demand on the job market than non-college grads the piece of paper is considered worth the headache.

    DK, to get back to your original comment. Obviously, an institution has a right to be against secular college. And if they say so up-front that’s great. Some institutions brag that their students attend the best universities (in order to lure parents) and then try to convince their students that it is forbidden to attend these universities (or university period). This tactic is odious and deceitful. Other institutions encourage students to attend top-rate secular universities (though the student may not be prepared) in order to enhance their own standing. Or institutions may advertise that their students have attended such highly acclaimed universities though these students became irreligous on campus. I find this disgusting. I’ll go back to my basic premise, you have to know the student, honestly advise what is best for the student, and try not to have an agenda. Commenting on the strengths and weaknesses of a particular institution is fine, giving personal advice is a different ballgame.

    DK, I also agree that parents should know their children better than anyone else. But parents also need to be honest, not have an agenda, or live vicariously through their children. And they must keep the religous values of their children in mind. If parents fulfill the above they should not relinquish their claim on knowing what is best for their child.

  16. DK-I never made any claims or defended the Derech program because I did not visit it. I stand by my comments re the Center program in their totality. As I have mentioned here and elsewhere, IMO, YU is rebuilding JSS as a Mechinah progam and is working hard on recruiting NCSY alumni and others who want to learn “it and not about it” and get a first rate college education.

    WADR, your claim that NCSY “recruits” for any yeshiva is your own theory, without any facts or evidence supporting the same.Other websites list other yeshivos and seminaries. That is by no means proof that they recruit for them. WADR, that is a conspiracy-theory logic, as opposed to what we call evidence of anything. We have been thru this issue with both Gershon Seif and myself showing that your claims simply don’t stand up under any careful analysis. The same list that you mentions includes a disclaimer that states very clearly that “inclusion does not mean endorement.” Once again, you interpret a website link, as many mistakenly include a Wikpedia entry, as proof.

  17. “I saw the students who attended the Winter OS Center program.”

    Yes, the Center program. Not the Derech program, for high school graduates. You went to the wrong program in regards to public school students going to O.S. immediately following high school. That program is the Derech program — that is the one NCSY reruits for. Do you not understand this, or is this intentional? Frankly, I have trouble believing you don’t get this through your head.

    This is the link to the program you did not go to: http://ohr.edu/yhiy.php/study_in_israel/derech/

    Derech. Here it is listed on NCSY’s list of approved yeshivas. Look for Derech. It’s number two on the list. Not Center. Center isn’t on there, cause it isn’t for high school graduates. Ready? Here: http://www.ou.org/ncsy/projects/yeshivas/boys_schools.htm

  18. DK- Obviously, we disagree and will continue to do so as to how , where and what type of secular education, if any, is proper for any student in a BT yeshiva or seminary. You paint a stereotype of total hostility to secular education of all sorts. IMO, the issue is far more nuanced-many students who attend yeshivos and seminaries returm to the colleges where they have a taken a leave of absence, etc to attend the yeshiva or sem in question. These colleges include the Ivies, etc, which don’t grant any or anywhere near the credits granted by YU, SCW, Touro or even Queens. Some atttend YU, SCW, Touro or excellent no dorm schools such as Queens, Towson, etc. A more difficult issue is faced by a student who has developed into a Ben Torah. Where is that person’s future? Is he capable of serving Klal Yisrael in any of the Klei Kodesh or his future that of an educated layperson? Different yeshivos that deal with Americans who spend a year or so approach this issue differently. IMO, it is an urban myth and stereotype to claim that all of these mosdos look at these issues in the same way. Yet, if our communities have not dealt with the issue of whether students attending college after 12 years of education have a sufficient Jewish education to remain a Shomer Torah Umitzvos, then the problem is even more manifest for a BT. IMO, one cannot say that a kosher dining hall or Judaic studies taught by someone who looks religious but lacks the requisite emunah in many elements of Hashkafa can serve as a substitute for the Torah studied and lived in EY.

    I saw the students who attended the Winter OS Center program. They knew what they were involved in and were in the process of what I would call an exploration of living like a Jew. I do think that a Jewish college student should be offered the ability to explore those aspects of Jewish life of which he or she has only seen negative stereotypes, namely the Torah world. Unfortunately, WADR, your negative experience IMO prevents you from observing and commenting in an objective manner on this issue.

    However,I would agree with you that I have my own reservations about trips to Eastern Europe, but not for the reasons that you have mentioned, but in terms of whether they serve any positive educational value.

  19. Steve,

    1) No, my approach assumes that haredi faculty and other students — if they have hostility towards BTs attending college — may not know best.

    2) If there is such a bias against college, parents whose kids attend such yeshivas and seminaries have a right to know of this policy BEFORE they send them there, not at the end of the year. This also includes summer and winter trips to such places under the vague guise of “exploring your heritage” and the like.

    Steve, do you think disclosure — to both parents and students — is not needed?

  20. Like it or not, both parts of this article pointed out that noone has a monopoly on where a student should attend college and that neither rabbis, educators, parents or students are free from doing as much as possible to make the right choice and help the student remain observant.

    DK-welcome back.The issue of whether a seminary returning student and BT should attend college is a related issue but clearly warrants more input than just parents-regardless of whether the parents support, oppose or neutral to a child’s lifestyle choice. That being said, IMO, your approach is patronizing to a young adult and assumes that parents know best when in fact, their knowledge of what is available in terms of maintaining one’s identity as a Shomer Mitzvos may be nowhere as extensive as the child and her newly acquired mentors and friends.

  21. Re: comment 18-

    Used textbooks are less expensive if bought online, rather than from the bookstore. Half.com is usually where I head to find everything, and only buy from the bookstore if I see nothing online. (Though you have to wait for it to arrive, so it depends on the class whether or not you have time in which to do that)

  22. Bob, you wrote,

    “I’m just more optimistic that students won’t easily get pushed around.”

    That isn’t optimistic, that is unfortunately counter to the reality. People are in new territory, and divesting of some of their values and goals, but many go too far, by their own standards later, and they were encouraged to do so. It is understandably confusing during this period, especially for young people at such a place in their lives. Some of the choices made over and over again by BTs–if made — are consistently regretted later, and it certainly isn’t the right thing to pretend this doesn’t happen, nor to decide it’s “their choice,” so it’s okay. The responsible thing to do when we see patterns emerge over the same issues is to attempt to change those patterns.

    Why not own that?

  23. “…“Amalekites,” (is my quote in context, Bob?)…”

    You’re bitter but far from an Amalekite.

  24. Bob Miller,

    If haredi kiruv yeshivas, seminaries, and of course, youth groups, decline to be forthright about what they stand for, and what they stand against, it will be done for them. And in the off chance that deception is substituted for their true goals and positions, this will also be clearly and duly noted. And if you think this concern is only shared by bitter ex-BTs and “Amalekites,” (is my quote in context, Bob?) this only goes to show how radical you are personally, because clearly there are some firmly in the Orthodox and kiruv worlds who have the same concerns.

  25. In DK’s fantasy world, every yeshiva prospectus or brochure comes with a long list of warnings, like the booklet with a new vacuum cleaner (maybe even a “DK’ logo like the familiar “UL”). Ain’t gonna happen, but independent-minded students aren’t just putty in their teachers’ hands anyway. They can make allowances for strongly held views, and solicit other opinions, just like we all do.

  26. DK (most recent comment) – in my opinion such people are hurting their students and klal Yisrael as a whole… I have more to say on this but later…

  27. Yaakov, you wrote,

    “I wrote that a pre-requisite to giving any advice to an individual is personal knowledge of that individual. So I agree that’s the basis.”

    But that frequently isn’t the reality. Haredi faculty, particularly in Israeli yeshivas and seminaries, clearly often have a strong aversion to their students attending a secular college, and consider it in pretty much against every individuals personal and spiritual interest to attend a secular college.

    That simply isn’t advising a person according to his/her individual needs. That’s policy. And in the case of secular parents or incoming students who are not informed this is the general policy, it’s a deceptive policy.

  28. Steg – I mean militant secularism which denies objective morality and equates a human life with that of a dog or cat.

    David, my concern in this essay is students who are already frum and are attending or planning to attend a secular college. Thus, the lack of kiruv emphasis in this part essay. Most parents want what is best for their children which includes having enough money. Getting money generally entails having a job and getting a good job means going to a good college (in the perspective of many people). So many parents show they care about their children by encouraging them to go to a highly rated college. Unfortunately, this may come at the expense of their childrent’s religous growth. Of course as an introduction to this whole section I wrote that a pre-requisite to giving any advice to an individual is personal knowledge of that individual. So I agree that’s the basis

    Kiruv on campus is a separate and worthwhile topic. An addendum to this essay may be “Should college students do kiruv on campus?” (my personal answer is complex so it will have to wait until I actually write – if anyone is interested). Another addendum would be a “Guide to Orthodox Jewish Organizations on Campus.”

    Ron, you’re giving away my secret! Essays like this are (besides their main function) my way of saying our high-school education is very weak. While I don’t think Hertz or Hirsch have to be learned in high-school, a yeshiva graduate should have the tools to read them or R’ D.T. Hoffman. A 6th grade knowledge of Nevi’im Rishonim just doesn’t cut it. My personal Tanach education in high school consisted of learning the parsha with Rashi. Divrei HaYamim? Never heard of it…

    More later…

  29. Aliza,

    Only talk to your parents. They are your most important and reliable advisers in major life decisions like this; much, much, much, much, much more so than people you have known for only a year or so at your seminary. Surely they will give you their consent and blessing. And remember, used text books are cheaper than new ones, but you have to get to the bookstore early in order to get them!

  30. I apologize for my lack of participation. B”H, it’s for good reason – my wife and I had a baby boy this past week. IY”H, the bris will be on Wed. in East Brunswick, NJ (email for directions yaakovweinstein@juno.com). I will try to reply to some comments over the next few days
    May we share many smachos together…
    Yaakov Weinstein

  31. Aliza,

    For anyone of us here that doesnt know more about your background( how long are you frum, what was your path,etc,..) it would be a crime to advise you. However, since you are in seminary then I am sure you have wondeful Rabbi’s and Rebbetzins to consult with on the matter.

    Before even a secular person goes to college the 1st question they need to ask themselves is Why do I want to go? Am I going because that is what the world does and expects ? Am I going because I have a real plan of action and my degree will help? Am I going because because I will avoid life for 4 years? Going to college for 4 years without an objective and without a plan to figure out that objective could end up being a waste of time & money. Yes, a person might discover him/herself in school however many people I have seen dont discover themselves and just get swept up in the thing that everyone else does. They come out 4 years later with nothing but a headache and a piece of paper that says I was there.

    Just my 2 cents on the matter.

  32. I’m a ba’alat teshuvah, and I currently go to seminary. I also had been thinking about what I’m going to do after seminary, and I really want to go to university.

    Many people have been telling me how hard it would be to stay frum if I do that, but after reading this article, it makes me see how very possible it is to go into university and still come out frum.

    Thank you.
    I’ve made my decision – I shall be going to university after seminary, and that’s that :D

  33. Ron-no argument-However, in the absence of any real awareness of the issues, I think that the article is a great wake up call for rabbis, educators, parents and students.

  34. You’re actually not arguing with what I said, Steve. I’m not getting into the merits here; the post is, what do you do about that kid who is going? I’m just suggesting that it’s a pretty ambitious wish list and would probably improve everyone’s hoshkofah and preparation for the next level!

  35. Ron-as much as I view the average campus as inimical in its contemporary academic and social attitudes to a seriously committted yeshiva high school graduate, the facts on the ground are that YU and Touro couldn’t handle all of these students if it tried. OTOH, for students to essentially exit their formal Jewish education without the reinforcements suggested by the article would be IMO a message that these students and their future observance are being written off with respect to their potential to remain observant in a an environment which can either be hostile or conducive to religious growth, depending on the values and attitudes that are stressed by rabbis, mchanchim and parents and picked up by students.

    As far as the study of Chumash and Nach, WADR, IMO, one has to begin with the text, Rashi, Ramban, Ibn Ezra, Sforno and such commentaries as Meshech Chachmah to grasp Chumash especially on an adult level.Learning one on one with a rebbe or morah can be an excellent supplement to a class situation that is too parve for a student who wants and needs something for enrichment beyond the classroom setting.

  36. The strategy involved is pretty far reaching, such as improving orthodox high school education, giving a firm grounding in Tanach (with Rabbi Hertz’s commentary? Does any frum school teach this? Does anyone in our generation appreciate the literary refrences?)-both systematic and also requiring a lot of advance planning and extra-curricular study. Is the idea that a student will agree to all this-the same student who insists on a non-Jewish college experience?

  37. As the beneficiary of having an Orthodox presence on a secular campus (that presence included Yaakov), I thank Yaakov for composing these guidelines that can allow Orthodox students to continue their beneficial presence at these colleges. College remains one of the best locations for kiruv — students have little to no responsibilities, are questioning their previous outlook and looking for answers, and looking for free food (though Chabad tends to supplement this with free drink).

    College friends (and their families) provide excellent role models for BTs — proudly frum, engaged in the world, people one can relate too. While the issues Yaakov has addressed are real (and may be too much for some students), anyone concerned about the future of the Jewish people should recognize the continual need for a strong Orthodox presence on many college campuses.

  38. The idea of the article’s first strategy for parents was that parents should care enough about their children to set them up in campus situations that enhance their kedusha, and not the opposite.

  39. I don’t think Care About Kodesh is to the exclusion of caring about the student. But as parents or future parents of college students I think this is great mussar. We need to be able to communicate to our children that we care tremendously about their learning and observance.

    I have met a number of recent college grads and am quite impressed with many of them, their commitment to learning, and their commitment to observance. If there is good advice out there on how we can help out own children turn out like some of these students, I definitely want to hear it.

    Yaakov-Great piece. Hope you keep writing.

  40. I applaud Rabbi Weinstein’s levelheaded and thoughtful approach to maintaining the effort toward ‘not giving up’ on a student.

    The paragraph directed toward parents had a big impact on me. It said, “Care about the Kadosh”.

    I laud that statement, because its indeed so important to care about kedusha and limud Torah.

    And I laud the statement because it highlights what was so glaringly lacking in the essay:

    What about caring about the student?!

    All of the talk in the column was focussed on caring about frumkeit and learning. It’s ironic, because our Holy Torah says, “Kadosh you will be, Ani Hashem”

    Maybe ‘care about the Kodesh’ should really be talking about the student. His/her neshama in all it’s complexity. And maybe that’s what the priority needs to be. Caring about the human being who happens to be ‘off the derech’. That’s what brings people back.

    I just had the priviledge to hear a story from a Baalat Tshuvah mother of two whose Son and Husband had been adamantly opposed to making the home kosher. He went to a pre-Purim shiur at the home of a local rabbi. After the shiur he came home and said, ‘Mom, let’s make the house kosher!’. I asked her ‘what shifted for him’. She said, “well, he found the learning so alive and engaging. He didn’t know Torah was so alive. But the thing that most impressed him was that everyone was so nice to him, and respectful, and they didn’t even know he was my son…”

    So what moved this young man was a sense of engaged and committed Jews caring about him. We’re all so hurt and scared inside. What we all need is caring and love. For sure we also need Kedusha and Limud Kodesh, and so on.

    The way to bring Jews back, and to keep them as part of the committed Jewish people is to care about them. And let them know it. We will always come home to the place where we are cared for.

    Good Shabbos

  41. Yaakov Weinstein noted the problem that “Well, sometimes the rebbi ‘gives up’ on the student. Since you’re going to college anyway, you may as well throw your yarmulka away.”

    What he rightly criticizes here is really a primary argument of the Soton or Primeval Snake: “You’re beyond repair, so give up already; who cares anymore what you do?” This is the twisted thinking that our Tzaddikim came to save us from.

    I once saw a commentary on the night prayer Hashkiveinu, where we ask HaShem’s help to keep away the Soton before us and after (or behind) us. The latter was explained as the Yetzer Hara’s attempts to con us into believing that our past misdeeds have caused too much damage for us to correct now.

  42. I applaud the author for discussing the pluses and minuses of a potentially volatile subject in a calm, logical and rational manner. For those who are communal rabbis in the vicinity of a college campus, yeshiva high school educators and guidance counselors, parents and students who will be applyimg to a secular university where one will be dorming regardless of whether one attends yeshiva or seminary in EY, IMO, this two-part series is mandatory reading and the basis for a serious discussion that should begin towards the end of the 10th grade. That’s when schools and parents in many communities start thinking about seriously about whether a student will proceed along a YU/SCW/Touro or Ivy oriented track vis a vis courses, APs. etc.

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