Shepping Nachas From Graduation

When a son or daughter graduates any stage of the yeshiva system in North America, one should contrast it with what passes for Jewish education in the heterodox Jewish community and indeed shep nachas. As a BT, you should have a great degree of nachas that you have raised a son or daughter who probably has a lot more Jewish textual knowledge and appreciation of what a committment to Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim are all about. For some students, there is no doubt that ideals such as Achdus take on a more real meaning in summer camps, where divisions and cliques that sometimes develop during the school year can dissipate as a child makes new friends that can last for a lifetime.

It is equally tempting for parents to be triumphalistic if their children did well in school and seem well on their way to becoming Bnei and Bnos Torah-especially if they compare them to relatives whose children do not appear to be headed in that direction. However, I think that while such a view may have a temporary and fleeting sense of achievement, IMO, all a BT parent has to do is to realize that there are so many Jewish adults and children whose knowledge of wnat it means to live as a Jew committed to Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim is based upon either urban myths or stereotypes about Torah Judaism.

Much has been written about the role of yeshivos and seminaries in EY in shaping the committment of American Torah committed high school graduates across the Torah spectrum. I firmly believe that while at one time “the year in Israel” may have been indeed a luxury, that it is a necessity. Like it or not, high school across the range of the hashkafic spectrum often is not that spiritual and the competition for grades and who is in charge of various wholesome extra curricular activities can detract from spiritual growth. It is no coincidence that many students who either were barely committed or went through the motions in their school years discover and develop a love for Torah in EY. Even if your child did well in school in terms of developing on the spiritual, academic and social levels, IMO, in most cases, the student who spends a year or more in a yeshiva or seminary in EY returns afterwards with a far greater committment to Halacha, even if his or her hashkafa may be somewhat different than his or her parents. IMO, the key is not how a child appears or acts upon his or her graduation or departure for EY, but rather their demeanor and appearance in the arrival area after landing at JFK. I have long been of the view that parents who visit their children should not just take them shopping or out for dinner in Jerusalem’s malls and restaurants or provide them with R & R in a hotel room. Rather, a parent should sit in on a shiur, chabura or chavrusa and really attempt to see what their child is accomplishing on a spiritual level. IMO, if more parents participated in their children’s education in this proactive manner, we would hear more nachas about our children and less complaints about the so called “slide to the right.”