A College Education?

A blast from the past. Originally posted on June 13, 2006.

I’ve seen many comments in response to “Sam Smith’s” “Financial Realities in the Frum World” that talk about the undesirability of sending one’s kids to public schools. Specifically, part of Alter Klein’s comment #169 stood out to me:

“If we send our kids to public school it is like offering them up as korbonot (sacrifices). Yes, they could turn out ok, however odds are against it. Don’t stand by while your brother’s blood is being shed. The so called colleges that many kids are going to are also destroying many of those kids. ”

While I do not have kids (nor am I even married), and am therefore not yet thinking about educating them, I’d like to offer an opinion from the “other side.”

It seems like many of you perceive secular university as a threat, though also sometimes a necessity in order to find a well-paying job. I cannot speak for every school, but there are definitely many schools that have thriving Orthodox communities. The Orthodox Jews have an opportunity to interact with other types of Jews at Hillel. And I’ve seen at least at Penn that because of this positive influence, many people “frum out” while they’re in college. Many more start taking on more mitzvot, though they choose a different path, such as Conservative Judaism, which although you may disagree with the movement, can you disagree with people becoming shomer Shabbat and shomer kashrut? Either way- free kiruv with the purchase of a college education.

And is it so wrong to have a field of study that you love that is outside the realm of the holy? At Penn we have people who love engineering, or English, or history, or business, or law, or archaeology. I’m sure that all of them will become successful some time after they graduate, and hopefully they will enjoy their work, and they can use that income to help support the frum community. Not everyone is meant to learn in Kollel. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Yes, there is a risk that your child might go “off the derech,” but that can happen even in a closed environment. But I would argue that the majority, who stay on the path, are stronger because of it. If one can sustain their Judaism in an environment where there is regular interaction with non-frum values, all the more so in a place where everyone else is Orthodox.

If we all live in our bubbles, how can we ever hope to reach out to the rest of klal yisrael? How can we expect other Jews to want to live a frum lifestyle if we are closed off and unwelcoming? How can we be a light unto the nations if we lock ourselves in the basement?

Obviously, every parent has their own choice to make, and I’m not advocating that everyone should go to secular college. It isn’t for everyone. But it is for some. And that”some” should have a chance at higher education if it’s possible for them.

117 comments on “A College Education?

  1. We have some tough questions here. Yes, it is important for kids to get some kind of parnasah training. Usually that means a college education. I believe that the frum community has responded to this need by partnering with colleges and universities to create programs that are tailored for frum Jews. For example, there is a master’s degree program at Adelphi University that meets only on Sundays and weeknights (not Fridays). Touro College and its affiliated institutions (such as Machon L’Parnasah) have focused since 1971 on training frum Jews for professional careers. There is a new program called TTI (Testing and Training International) which helps seminary and yeshivah graduates complete their college degree requirements.

    I believe that even in the non-frum and non-Jewish world there is greater emphasis on taking college education seriously as tuition costs skyrocket and loan burdens climb. One fraternity converted its party room into a library for studying, explaining that parents were no longer willing to tolerate partying instead of studying: being a nerd is now the norm.

    Hillel and Chabad have extended their Jewish programs on campus so that students away from home need not go without kosher food or a Shabbos atmosphere. Also, most importantly, there are opportunities for Jewish students to socialize with and meet other Jews rather than just non-Jews.

    Every family has to make tough choices. Everyone nowadays has to calculate whether that degree is going to be worth it in the long run. Unless your child is already writing Java applets and renting servers to support his/her own website, most probably there will few opportunities to earn a decent parnasah without the right degree.

  2. Are we the parents of a generation of weaklings? How about the massive potential for kiddush hashem, and exerting a strong moral influence on the surroundings? How about the fact that at 22 or 23 years old, our “children” are now adults, and need to grapple with the ideas put forth by the world they are entering — which is, frankly, the world we are leaving.
    “Always a BT” – stating that “Sensitivities were subtly diminished” — you wanted to be the sensitivity police for your own children? You wanted to dictate their hashkafa? Their emotions? You think that depriving your other children of college, that you will maintain more control over their minds and hearts?

  3. Hi. Shh, don’t mind me, just adding this latest gem — which I actually believe contains a bit of over-generalization (as I say in the comments) — to the collection.

    “But still.” Excerpt:

    If you’re the parent of a high-achieving high school student prepared to spend whatever it takes to send your kid to an Ivy League college, authors Claudia Dreifus and Andrew Hacker have some unlikely advice: Don’t do it.
    Dreifus, a New York Times writer and an adjunct professor at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, and Hacker, a veteran political science professor at Queens College in New York, spent three years interviewing faculty, students, and administrators and crunching statistics for their book, Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids — And What We Can Do About It. Their finding? That many of America’s colleges and universities — especially the elite — aren’t worth their tuition and serve faculty over their undergrads.

    More outrageous, they say, is that tuition nationwide has jumped at more than twice the rate of inflation since 1982, so many kids graduate deeply in debt. “Tuition is probably the second-largest item you’ll buy in your lifetime, after your home,” Dreifus says. Given that, the authors suggest you consider the following as you bear down on the decision of where your child will spend the next four (or more) years. . . .

  4. I’ve had 2 kids (both girls) survive public college. They were 20 & 21 respectively when they started and had 1-2 years of seminary under their belts as well as a solid Yeshiva education. One lived @ home & one went to college out of town (& lived with a frum family). Yes, they both came out with valuable degrees that enabled them to move on to successful careers. Personalities aside, it definitely took its toll on their ruchniyus.

    The daughter living at home held tight, got her education & got out as quick as she could. Sensitivities were subtly diminished, but BH, she finished relatively unscathed.

    Although it’s now been many years, the daughter living away had a major crisis of faith during college despite the safeguards we thought were in place & sufficient. After her ordeal she has steadily been on the mend, albeit slowly, even though she’s moved on in life. She’s still not quite at the level she was before college & I’m not sure she ever will be. But, BH, she’s frum and I hope that as she matures she will continue to move farther away from gashmiyus and closer to ruchniyus. The whole experience took a toll on the entire family and I’m still not sure it was worth it.

    I will not make the same mistake of sending my younger children away to college. The daily dose of parental input is vital when kids are thrust into the secular world. We can read articles about what goes on in colleges today, but I believe most of us middle aged parents would STILL be shocked if we actually spent some time on campus. What we saw in the 60’s, 70’s & even 80’s doesn’t even come close. The subtle messages and erosion of morality is an even bigger threat than the blatant lack of mores. “Anything goes & if it feels good, do it”. This pervasive attitude is toxic to anyone who leads a Torah life. Online classes are great, but not without potential pitfalls as well.

    BH, we now have many other options & it’s getting easier for our kids to get college degrees.

  5. The current issue of Time magazine:

    The kids are coming home to roost.
    Surprise, surprise: Thanks to a high unemployment rate for new grads, many of those with diplomas fresh off the press are making a return to Mom and Dad’s place. In fact, according to a poll conducted by consulting firm Twentysomething Inc., some 85% of graduates will soon remember what Mom’s cooking tastes like.

    Times are undeniably tough. Reports have placed the unemployment rate for the under-25 group as high as 54%. Many of these unemployed graduates are choosing to go into higher education in an attempt to wait out the job market, while others are going anywhere — and doing anything — for work. Meanwhile, moving back home helps with expenses and paying off student loans.

    The outlook isn’t sunshine and roses: Rick Raymond, of the College Parents of America, notes, “Graduates are not the first to be hired when the job markets begins to improve. We’re seeing shocking numbers of people with undergraduates degrees who can’t get work.”

    Guess moving back home isn’t limited to philosophy majors anymore.

  6. Actually this statistic testifies to the increasingly high-tech nature of all jobs. Without the modern employee having some knowledge of physics, for example, the trajectory of a flipped burger or tossed pizza dough or thrown garbage bag might be off, with incalculable repercussions.

  7. Hi, I’m back. Don’t mind me. I’m just using this thread as a virtual shoe box for my clippings off the Internet about the continued college degree crackup:

    The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) has unearthed what I think is the single most scandalous statistic in higher education. . . .

    Here it is: approximately 60 percent of the increase in the number of college graduates from 1992 to 2008 worked in jobs that the BLS considers relatively low skilled—occupations where many participants have only high school diplomas and often even less. Only a minority of the increment in our nation’s stock of college graduates is filling jobs historically considered as requiring a bachelor’s degree or more. . . .

    All of this supports the notion that credential inflation arises from a perceived need by individuals to demonstrate potential employment competence through a piece of paper, i.e. a college diploma. Employers are using education as a screening and signaling device, at a low cost directly to them (although not costless because of the taxes they pay to sustain much of this), but at a high cost to the perspective employees and to society as a whole.

  8. Gary #107: Thanks. I particularly remember reading a newspaper article about one fraternity, previously infamous for its wild keg parties, which had converted the largest common room in the frat house into a study hall and library for the use of frat brothers before final exams. The fraternity head explained that with yearly tuitions soaring past 40K, there was far more pressure on the students to take college seriously and not waste their parents’ money. This was not coming from an Orthodox Jew, this was coming from an ordinary average American college student and fraternity president who was rejecting the party mentality and wholeheartedly embracing what used to be disparaged as “nerdy” behavior.

    If there is such an atmosphere pervading that particular campus, where every student is focused on getting great grades to make it into a top law school or medical school, then it is far easier for the frum young man or young woman attending that university to avoid distractions and temptations.

  9. Judy, I have capitalized my favorite part of your comment in # 105.
    In addition, there will always be peer pressure in a dormitory environment away from home to attend unsupervised parties and experiment with drugs and alcohol. However, EXPECT A BALANCE COMING FROM THE STUDENTS THEMSELVES toward concentrating solely on high academic achievement in order to get accepted into competitive graduate school programs.

  10. Ron, Re # 104

    My discussion about the Times article was tangential, but topical. We need to have an emphasis on secular education all the way through a child’s school career. Can we honestly say that the majority of our kids after graduating high school would pass the test given by Ben Vue Laboratories?

    If we choose not to send our kids to college, we should at least give them a very solid high school education.

    When I went to college in the 70’s there were drug overdoses galore, and there were no sexual mores.

    My example of our ultimate success was to show that our life experience and our current adherence to a moral code based on the Torah (under which many of us have raised our children for all of their lives) give us a mechanism to — but not a guarantee that we will — guide our children to proper conduct while attending an appropriate college.

    One cannot major in Civil Engineering or Construction Site Management at YU or Touro. Those fields are legitimate career aspirations for our children and those services are a necessity for our communities.

    The former major is offered by Cooper Union in New York City. The crime and drug scene on St. Mark’s Place is a fraction of what it was 20 or 30 years ago. The same can be said about the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, where Pratt Institute offers a degree in Construction Site Management. (The Hasidic neighborhoods of Williamsburg have also expanded towards Pratt, which will be a source of spiritual support to some students.)

    I am not advocating laissez faire or deliberately indifferent parenting while our kids attend these or other secular colleges. However, I cannot agree with the broad dismissal of college as an option that is prominent in this thread.

    I heard a d’var Torah last night about the addition of the letter “vav” (for the sound “v’…”) to a past tense Hebrew verb (e.g., v’hayah). We are able to turn our past experiences — good or bad — to a hopeful, successful future.

    I will add to the speaker’s words that the name of the Hebrew letter “vav” means “hook,” a symbol of unity (This is mentioned in commentaries on the construction of the Mishkan/Sanctuary). If we maintain unity with our children, we can use our past experience to help them develop a meaningful future.

  11. Commercial driving (which includes such occupations as bus driver, truckdriver, limo driver, taxicab driver, owner/operator in a car service, etc.) has long been a popular career choice for many men who love cars and who don’t particularly love school.

    Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway has started a vocational career track that is very popular with their high school students who want a parnasa but don’t want to go to college. It is extremely hands-on, the boys actually get to do real electrical, plumbing and carpentry work under the supervision of skilled tradesmen.

    At any college campus, there will be anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and anti-religious elements. In addition, there will always be peer pressure in a dormitory environment away from home to attend unsupervised parties and experiment with drugs and alcohol. However, expect a balance coming from the students themselves toward concentrating solely on high academic achievement in order to get accepted into competitive graduate school programs. Parents should gauge their child’s maturity and religious commitment, as well as his/her goal focus (i.e., why is he or she going to college? to become a doctor or to waste time and money finding an identity?)

  12. Gary, I don’t see the connection between the college discussion and the article you linked to. That piece is about the need to find people with with what is (obviously unrealistically) identified as a ninth-grade education.

    I also don’t understand how you can say, It’s okay, we all went to college — be it in the 60’s, 70’s or ’80’s — and it was pretty wild then (though, really, there are profound cultural changes that have taken place in the last ten to 15 years, especially with respect to sexual mores, that it would be a mistake to ignore) but hey we turned out okay … and then segue to, Our kids have us for examples, without realizing that you are making my point for me!

  13. Bob, re # 102:

    1. Yes, a great deal of care is required in college selection.

    2. Not only don’t I have any objection to the skilled trades, but I would strongly encourage all those with an aptitude for that work to pursue it. Local tradespeople are an integral part of any viable community. I would be proud to have my daughters work in a skilled trade, civil service, etc.

  14. Gary,

    1. Would you agree that parents must select colleges/campuses with extreme care?

    2. Do you have any basic objection to the skilled trades as an alternative for some?

  15. Most of the college graduates on this site didn’t have the benefit of observant parents, and more than a few of us attended co-ed schools in the 1960’s and 1970’s, when there was quite a bit going on that was “outside the dalet amot (beyond the parameters of Torah).” We got to where we are today despite these challenges.

    While I know that nothing guarantees that our kids will maintain their present levels, or even better, grow in their commitment to Torah and Mitzvot, they do have us as examples and supporters!

    All honest and honorable work has intrinsic value. That being said, what one is paid for one’s work is not a factor to be ignored. Education still matters in achieving salary goals.


    Factory Jobs Return, but Employers Find Skills Shortage (excerpt below)

    “Here in this suburb of Cleveland, supervisors at Ben Venue Laboratories, a contract drug maker for pharmaceutical companies, have reviewed 3,600 job applications this year and found only 47 people to hire at $13 to $15 an hour, or about $31,000 a year.

    The going rate for entry-level manufacturing workers in the area, according to Cleveland State University, is $10 to $12 an hour, but more skilled workers earn $15 to $20 an hour.

    All candidates at Ben Venue must pass a basic skills test showing they can read and understand math at a ninth-grade level. A significant portion of recent applicants failed, and the company has been disappointed by the quality of graduates from local training programs. It is now struggling to fill 100 positions.

    “You would think in tough economic times that you would have your pick of people,” said Thomas J. Murphy, chief executive of Ben Venue.

    As described in the article, there are new industries with many vacancies. Although there are more applicants than jobs, the industries are having a hard time finding enough qualified applicants to fill these jobs. The pay may not be great to start, but perhaps there is possibility for advancement in these fields.

    There are many factors that a young person faces in deciding which college to attend, if any. As our population grows, our kids will move into some of the new industries.

    To the extent that some of us will discourage our children from attending college, we should be certain that they will be able to place at the top of the list when applying for the “cutting edge” jobs that require a high school diploma to start.

  16. Charlie,

    Was the lettering on Rishonim-era varsity jackets and sweatshirts done in “Rashi” script??

  17. Parents who haven’t been on a college campus for 20 or so years might not realize the real scope of what you mean by “PC” Bob, so I’m going to lay some of that out here, mainly with reference to issues of Jewish interest. Here’s one choice quote from Abraham H. Miller, an emeritus professor of political science and a former head of the Intelligence Studies Section of the International Studies Association::

    The generation of young Jews on campus is not controlled by AIPAC’s alleged Zionist monolith, but is immersed in an environment dominated by progressive Jews who are as anti-Israel as they are anti-American.

    From Hillel to the classroom, the progressive vision dominates. Whatever problems exist in the Middle East are Israel’s fault, be it Arafat’s looting of the Palestinian treasury or the surge of West Bank honor killings. If the Israel Defense Forces have one of the lowest rates of rape among the world’s militaries, then it is because the inherent racism of Israelis prevents them from raping Arab women.

    If you are a Jewish student on an American campus, you are repeatedly and inexorably made to feel alienated from Zionism, if not Judaism, by other Jews. . . . In reality, what stifles Zionism is the anti-Zionist progressives that control the campus narrative and play an increasingly prominent role in Jewish communal organizations.

    For what it’s worth, I think he makes a huge mistake, especially for a political scientist, ceding the concept of “progressive” to the far left wing.

    On a less severe note, but related, is the issue of how orthodox kids fare on campus in general. It’s related because the hostility to Israel, from what I see now, makes many Jewish kids want to be as un-Jewish as possible on campus and even go to extremes to show how PC they really are — feeding inexorably into intermarriage. Are orthodox kids immune from such pressure? Here’s a piece by Marvin Gantrow, former president of the Orthodox Union. It’s old, but there’s not much in it that rings false 12 years later:

    As parents, we take a great gamble when we allow our children to attend secular universities where the university Weltanschauung often is antithetical to a Torah lifestyle. While a great many Orthodox students not only thrive, but also exert a positive religious influence on their peers, it is also sadly true that the road to a secular diploma is strewn with broken commitments to Torah hashkafah and lifestyle. In an ideal world, institutions as wonderful as Yeshiva, Stern and Touro Colleges would have several undergraduate branches throughout the United States.

    But this is not an ideal world, and it is time our community dealt pro-actively with the realities confronting our college youth.

    One of those realities is that the majority of yeshivah high school graduates in the United States enroll in secular universities or colleges. Studies indicate that this group of students is concentrated mainly in 31 universities throughout the United States.

    Another reality is that the overwhelming majority of Jewish students on campus are not Orthodox and have little or no Jewish background. . . .

    Those universities with large Orthodox student populations, such as the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, provide activities and facilities to meet many of the needs of Orthodox students. In other universities, however, Orthodox students often feel abandoned.

    My conversations with students from various campuses revealed that many feel they receive no support from national Orthodox institutions. In addition, Orthodox students in commuter schools do not have the benefit of daily minyanim and dormitory facilities that help forge camaraderie among campus collegiates.

    They also experience hostility from non-Orthodox campus groups, primarily on the issue of pluralism. . .

    And finally, while Charlie gathers up his research on varsity Rishonim, another nod to the “disgusting atmosphere” issue. Without adopting any labels, here’s a recent discussion, brief but frank, of the reality of orthodox Jewish life on campus that most of us have been aware of even going back to our own days in college:

    Jews who strictly abide by the regulations of the Torah and Talmud avoid premarital promiscuity, which includes any physical — and particularly sexual — contact with individuals of the opposite gender — called shmirat negiyah in Hebrew. With these restrictions, marriage is never far away.

    Despite those norms, however, the vast majority of Orthodox college students are unmarried at graduation and many lead active dating lives during their four years on campus. These students live in tension: they want to act according to the laws and mores of Orthodox society while living on campus, one of the least conducive atmospheres to the Orthodox way of life — especially regarding sex.

    Students respond by finding ways to negotiate that tension, either by discarding the norms of Orthodox observance for those of a secular college campus — or vice versa — or by attempting to live with both. Through these negotiations, the approach of Orthodox Jewish students to laws of premarital relationships has developed into three categories: those who observe shmirat negiyah completely, those who observe it in public but not in private and those who do not observe it at all.

    Incidentally, the issue of orthodox students’ experiences on secular campuses was treated with great insight right here on Beyond BT about three years ago.

  18. It’s rather hard for one of today’s not-totally-committed Jewish youth to avoid being smothered by the PC environment on campus. Excuses and evasions are many, but facts are facts.

  19. Also Charlie — which Rishonim went to universities? Or which of their frum friends?

    And which ones went to coed universities during the time of the Rishonim?

  20. The “disgusting” environment in universities has been around for centuries and that did not stop frum Jews from attending them — even back in the time of the Rishonim. While it is a hard job market right now, it is far worse for people with no advanced secular education.

  21. 2008, 2009 and 2010 were certainly horrible times to graduate law school. Even the perpetually perky alumni bulletin couldn’t hide the bad news that many top grads had to accept deferred hiring from their law firm prospective employers, meaning that they would be out of work at least another year or until the economy improved (like short sale or troubled asset, deferred hiring was a phrase not commonly heard prior to the current meltdown). Some law grads not caught in a financial bind by having no job simply shrugged their shoulders and enrolled in master’s degree programs, or took unpaid internships at agencies delighted to have free legal talent. Others, well….

    I mentioned spaces because the passage originally had continuous sentences that somebody chopped into short paragraphs (which actually improved the readability, thanks), but the comment doesn’t have spaces on my screen either.

    In this economy the best advice for those frum young adults who can afford it may very well be to work for free at a law firm willing to accept your talent and energy in a field of law that you aspire to practice in one day. The opportunity to actually see what intellectual property attorneys do (as well as the chance to informally find out what career paths they took to get there) is valuable even though it hurts not to get paid for hard work. There is always the carrot dangled that one day a paying job may open up for those who contributed free work (although don’t count on it, those who do are usually disappointed).

  22. Sorry, I kind of lost track of this. Let’s see…

    Well, Bob, assuming that someone really wants to practice copyright law (not too many people are really “copyright lawyers” per se but I was just called one recently — and I’ve been called worse), Judy Resnick’s formula seems pretty good.

    But it reminds me, unfortunately, of Steve Martin’s old joke: “How to make a million dollars and not pay taxes! First, get a million dollars….” Not too many people get to go to Harvard, as Judy did, or NYU, much less make law review or get a Circuit Court clerkship. (I didn’t achieve any of those things.) And the fact is that the legal profession is awash in law school graduates now, even from better schools, and it has not been a worse time to be a young law school graduate looking for work for a long time.

    As that link demonstrates even many of those who did get into top schools — the ones who are a year behind those who populated a large portion of the 96 summer associate slots at Weil, Gotshal & Manges last year — are, given a stunning reduction down to 20 such jobs this year, not loving their career situation all that much right now. Their parents are guaranteed to kvell for the rest of time over these impressive achievements, but if they paid for those fancy law degrees hanging on their children’s walls — walls located not on Park Avenue but in their parents’ homes — well . . .

    That’s why, again, any discussion of “career education and choices for frum kids” cannot be taken out of the context of what is going on for all the other kids.

    (How come Judy’s comment doesn’t have “spaces” on my screen?)

  23. This is something that I’ve been going back and forth about recently. I just graduated with a degree in engineering, but I cannot picture sending my kids off to the the insanely secular and often disgustingly sexual environment that I went to college in… Maybe classes online?

  24. Whoever. Whatever.

    I did want to add that NYU Law School, a very well-regarded law school especially in the field of intellectual property and copyright law, does accept students from Beth Medrash Govoha, which I assume means that those individuals received a B.T.L. or B.H.L. or other baccalaureate equivalent for their Talmudic learning so that they could go on to take the LSAT and qualify for admission even to a top law school such as NYU Law School.

  25. To Bob Miller #88: It’s OK. I thank you for adding spaces to my long paragraph, which makes it 200% more readable.

  26. Judy, please do not be depressed. I thought Ron should also add his perspective, which in no way negates your fine presentation.

  27. You know, it’s kinda depressing.

    I am a 1990 graduate of Harvard Law School, one year ahead of President Barack Obama.

    I am admitted to the Bar of the State of New York, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the Fifth and Ninth Circuits, and the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York.

    I have worked more than fifteen years with an attorney whose husband and son are partners in a distinguished patent law and intellectual property law firm.

    I spent more than ten minutes of my time carefully crafting a well-thought-out answer to the question of what a young frum man in high school should do next if his eventual future goal is to be a copyright lawyer.

    And the only response I get is, “Comments, Ron Coleman?”

    Yup, it’s pretty depressing.

    Have a Good Shabbos!

  28. To Bob Miller #83: Here’s my recommendation for a future copyright lawyer:
    Do as many Advanced Placement courses in high school as possible to obtain college credits.
    Apply to Lander College for Men, a division of Touro University.
    Get exact information about what their policies are on accepting Yeshiva Gedola learning as general humanities credits.
    Go after high school and learn for two years at a Yeshiva Gedola that is acceptable to Lander College.
    Enter Lander College for Men as a junior having already completed 64 credits through Advanced Placement credits and Yeshiva Gedola learning.
    Take engineering, chemistry, biology, and physics to qualify later to sit for the Patent Bar Exam (which requires attorneys to have substantial undergraduate science and engineering credits).
    Intern during the school year and summer vacation at an intellectual property law firm (copyright and patent law).
    Get a top score on the LSAT.
    Do some feel-good community volunteer organization work like setting up a new location for the Masbia soup kitchen or helping developmentally disabled adults gain employment. (Law schools prefer a leadership role in this rather than being just another volunteer, in other words, setting up a brand new organization or taking charge of and giving new vitality to an established community organization).
    Apply to a top-notch law school such as Yale, Columbia or NYU.
    Get great grades in law school and make Law Review.
    Continue interning for an intellectual property law firm during summers and breaks in the school year.
    Apply for a clerkship with the D.C. Circuit (which handles all patent law questions).
    After law school, sit for both the New York and New Jersey state bars plus the patent law bar.

  29. Ron,

    Let’s say a religious Jewish student now in high school wants to embark on a career as a specialist in copyright law. What path could you recommend?

  30. The two points in the link I posted above are that (a) a college degree, or even a law degree, no longer even remotely guarantee employment to graduates, and (b) the cost of higher education is wildly out of proportion to its economic benefit. When you add these together you have many profoundly debt-saddled graduates who have little to show for their four years. Those years were spent getting, perhaps, some or a lot or little education, but seldom any useful experience. Those who are working in jobs or even careers for which the degrees earned are not required, which is more and more common, can also chalk up a full four (plus three more for law school) years of lost income.

    None of this is specific to frum kids. (Nor does it apply across the board. College pays off in many ways for a lot of people, even still, and there can be in purely employment terms a huge difference between graduating as chemical engineer and as a non-science liberal arts major.) But parents entertaining four-year university are weighing the cultural, halachic and hashkofic costs of college for their frum kids as against the “religious risk” of putting them on a campus, even in “only” to attend classes. (Someone who doesn’t even acknowledge the fact that there is such a risk is not having the same conversation as I think we are here.) Such parents owe it to themselves and their children not to employ circa 1960, or even 1980, conceptions of the value of a college degree (much less its direct financial cost) in the job market or a career.

    For all the talk about the free-floating “value of an education” and “learning how to think,” it would be pretty ironic for us to take our finely-honed bachelor’s degree minds and ignore the cold, hard facts about college as they are now, as well as the trends that suggest where they’re going. We shouldn’t grant college attendance the status of a religious tenet, after all — which for the generations that produced us, it pretty much was. After all, we’re the reality-based community here.

  31. Maybe I’m really out there, but I went to a a liberal arts college (yes, ivy league too)and while there was a lot of partying and sleeping around, one could avoid it, by living at home and refusing to participate in the on campus social life. Granted that isn’t an easy choice, and certainly not one for everyone but it may be the only way to come away with a liberal arts education–a broad knowledge of history, philosophy, the humanities, which is not terribly respected today with many so called universities functioning as high priced trade schools. While college was not an easy place to be, I’d like to suggest that with the proper social support, our young people could take what they like and leave the rest.

  32. The fact that experience can get you in the door does not “negate” the need for the college degree should you want to advance or move into management.

  33. High schools should significantly increase the amount of time they spend teaching tech related skills. There are still a lot of tech jobs out there, and they pay well. And although some of them require a college degree, many don’t, or will count experience in leiu of the degree, negating the need for a college degree at all in this field.

  34. Just to add a few points to this (relatively) ancient thread: There are now (in secular year 2010) more options than there were even four years ago (in secular year 2006) to gain a bachelor’s degree or professional certification in a kosher environment. Prospective doctors and dentists can get blanket humanities credits for their post-high school Yeshiva or Seminary year, and concentrate on completing pre-med or pre-dent science courses at an undergraduate college such as Touro or Yeshiva / Stern that’s compatible with a frum lifestyle. Some post-high school Yeshivos Gedolos even offer the B.T.L. or B.H.L. degrees, so prospective lawyers can continue learning, get an undergrad degree and go on to take the LSAT and be admitted to law school.

  35. “Hopefully we raise our children with a love and appreciation or yiddishkeit, that will guide them through all steps in life.” – I meant to write of not or.

  36. While I am not married, and no kids that I know of (joke), I plan on raising my children open to the outside world (the good, bad, and plain old ugly). I feel that if a belief system can’t stand up to the outside, it becomes irrelevant. Yes, outside has many temptations, and it’s not the worst thing for children to experiment with it. That’s a way of learning about your own needs and pathways. Yes many leave, but many more stay, and become stronger and passionate for it. After all, we here, experimented with a torah lifestyle.

    Hopefully we raise our children with a love and appreciation or yiddishkeit, that will guide them through all steps in life.

  37. I think that even those of us who are wary of the moral atmosphere at the Ivies should respect Rachel for beingt able to grow even at Penn. Yet, if you read newspapers such as the Jewish Week, every June, some MO schools shep nahas over acceptances to schools that just are known either as not being schools where one can grow as a Ben or Bas Torah. The notion that such schools are all inherently better than YU/SCW/Touro in their offerings in secular studies, regardless of the high level Torah component, is IMO a shibboleth that MO must revisit as a community. While there are exceptions such as Rachel and Avidan, IMO , Penn , as represented by Rachel and Avidan, may very well be the exception that proves the rule. IMO, the facts are that every major frum group ranging the OU to Charedi oriented groups are fairly alarmed over the cultural and moral milieu of the average Ivy and similar type college campus and would not be so if the same was a “Makom Torah.”

  38. The suggestion that everyone should open a business is just not realistic. Everyone has different skills and abilities, to open and run a small business requires a certain set of skills that not many people have. The fact is that over 80% of small busiensses fail. In addition, small business owners work very very hard. I am a successful professional who could never have succeeded as a small business owner nor would I have been happy.

    In the modern world a college degree is becoming more and more essential to being able to make a living. I am very surprised that Microsoft hired someone without a degree, I know that all the major technology companies that I have worked out only hire people with degrees.

    A college degree doesn’t guarantee financial success, however, it opens up a lot of doors.

  39. A personal anecdote regarding the refusal to associate with non-Jews: I have worked for 3 frum companies and in each case it was imperative that the office team worked cooperatively with non-Jewish :coworkers, clients, suppliers, contractors, affiliates, etc…This seemed to occur almost effortlessly.

  40. Rachel, thank you for bringing up this topic. After growing up with the Reform/secular Jewish mantra, “Of course you will go to college, it’s hard for me to believe that as a parent, I would question it now. However, I have seen the changes in my two children (my son is 13 and my daughter is almost 10) after two years in a yeshiva day school. Despite the fact that they are both very bright, I can’t imagine having them live in a dorm at a secular university. Although we still have a little while to go before college becomes an issue, I hope that they can both pursue whatever higher education and training that will be right for them while remaining in a Torah environment. We’ll see…


  41. SL,

    Unintentional omission. Guess I was thinking from the perspective of my present situation: Orphan closing in on 40.

    But good point to present. No matter how far removed a BT might feel from a parental viewpoint, it’s imperative to keep the communication going.

  42. How this translates into personal decisions such as how to pursue one’s parnassa is of course between the individual and his/her rabbi, rosh yeshiva, moreh derech, etc.

    I hope you would include PARENTS in this sentence. Just scares me when they are left out!

  43. Perhaps a thought to consider, within the hashkafos presented in this string, is the applicability of a pasuk we’ll read in the parsha next month.

    In Bilaam’s parable:

    “Hen-Am L’Vadad Yishcon” (For they are a people who dwell in solitude) is in fact considered to be a BROCHA.

    How this translates into personal decisions such as how to pursue one’s parnassa is of course between the individual and his/her rabbi, rosh yeshiva, moreh derech, etc.

    However, to muse on a matter of thought:

    Are we measuring the “realities” of life in 21st Century America with the yardstick of Bilaam’s parable or are we doing the opposite?

  44. Charnie,

    Just the opposite, the complete opposite. Don’t know how it was interpreted otherwise.

    The basis of my point to Avidan was to dispute the assertion that a BA and the accompanying dorm life experience was necessary to learn how to live with and develop a respect for, among others, non-Jews.

    In some work environments there have been colleagues who completed coursework at COPE and in addition to the valuable work skills, I did not observe on their part any expressions of negative behavior or self-developed impediments vis-a-vis developing positive working relationships with the non-Orthodox and non-Jewish coworkers.

    I presented a DEFENSE of trade schools like COPE.

    If anything, I’m in complete agreement that COPE is often at the receiving end of unfair criticism, snide remarks and other baseless barbs based on baccalaureate snobbery.

    No need for further elaboration since your entry resonated well with my viewpoint.

  45. Avidan’s points are all well taken. Look at his points this way- Neither YU , SCW or the Ivies are for everyone and one should carefully investigate the availability of kosher food, minyanim, shiurim, frum roommates and floors if one considers the Ivies or similar schools as the best option for the major of one’s choice. However, merely choosing the Ivies solely because of their presumed intellectual superiority is a highly questionnable proposition. No less than David Brooks, William Safire’s successor at the NY Times, and the NY sun , have written numerous articles demonstrating that Harvard and the Ivies are the repository of the radical left and the havoc that they have wrecked upon the political, social and moral fabric of the US since the late 60s. IMO, that factor should not be minimized, ignored or treated as if the the Ivies of 2006 are identical with the Ivie of 1956. That is wishful thinking of an almost disingenuous nature.

  46. Jacob (#58) – don’t knock Cope. For just learning a skill that will enable one to have a parnossa, it’s intensive and focused, and certainly a “kosher” place. I opted for their certificate program over a comparable one at NYU because this way I’d have off for Yom Tovim and Sunday lab time. I still recall my mother’s “schock” that I was going to a “Jewish” school. But I got a bonus from it that I hadn’t anticipated. As an at the time, very MO leaning BT, being around such lovely heimeshe young women facilitated my growth as well. They were, without their realizing it, exemplary role models, and we joyfully attended one another’s simchas. Of course, when Rabbi Barish addressed the class about what awaits them in the workplace, I was sort of tuned out, having already been in the workforce for many, many years. But I’m glad he was telling the girls about reality, with the assumption that they’ll be in contact with the secular world. Very few people are fortunate enough to be able to make a good enough living in frum companies – there just aren’t enough of them around and they tend to play way below the general going rates in the market. Whether we’re BT’s, FFB’s or whatever, we do have to live in this world, with all its faults. Even a Yeshiva bochur may occasionally have to take a bus, go to Manhattan, etc.

  47. DK: You sure you’re not thinking of Christianity? Dinosaur bones are not a problem in Jewish thinking. Many frum people believe in evolution (we know that Hashem created all of the species, but we don’t know how, maybe through the process of evolution), and those who don’t still believe in extinction, as there are extinctions mentioned in the Midrash.

    In general, I want to add a bit of a personal background to my comments in this forum, since I think I came across as anti-university, which isn’t true. I am studying in university now, as a matter of fact. I’m in the dati leumi community in Israel, where the vast majority of kids go on to some kind of higher education, usually a 3-year university (we don’t do four years here, too long for impatient Israelis). My haredi friends have all gone on to higher education as well, usually at haredi institutions, but often at regular universities. So overall, there’s not really an anti-university tendency in the frum world here.

    However, there are some important differences between Israel and the states. One is the near-complete lack of a campus party scene here. Campus is a place to learn and sometimes to live, but it doesn’t become the students’ entire life the way it seems to in America. Also, the students are older and usually more self-aware. University isn’t the first big opportunity to be away from Mom and Dad and develop your own personality, everyone did that already in the army/ seminary/ national service/ India/ etc.

    Basically, school in the states seems to be much more about figuring out who you are and what you want to do. Here it’s assumed that you know that, and you start right away learning in your chosen field. So while I would have no problem at all with me/my husband/our kids (in 22 years, that is) going to university here, in the states it seems to me to be a different story (I was in university there, for a year, and I grew up on college campuses as a faculty brat). 18 is such an important age, it’s when kids are first deciding for themselves what to do in life, and who they want to be. I hope my kids will choose to do that in a Torah-friendly environment, and in my experience, the vast majority of American campuses are anything but.

    Anyway, that was a long long explanation which can be summed up easily here: I may be anti-AMERICAN-university, but I still very much support higher education in general.

  48. DK,
    Interesting perspective ……….definitely not run of the mill or anything .
    Did no-one ever teach you , to always take everything you learn (life) with a grain of salt, a slice of lime and a shot of tequila ;-).”nepotistic community” wow pretty harsh or negative connotations generally associated with nepotism. Mostly though its all in the perspective i guess or what you want to focus on .Supposedly perspective shapes reality or so i’ve heard.

    Life/reality/ does get sort of harsh sometimes and I guess i’ts the wrong connections and the wrong teachers or supposed lighthouses keepers that help facilitate in the disconnecting forever and going way off course or adrift phenomonen.Although personally I havent really found the perfect figuretive connections or lighthouse keeper or lighthouse for that matter and i generally disconnect on a monthly basis …….. its always a good thing to sort of use the lighhouses that one comes across during and along the way. Even though you may disagree with some of the lighthouse keepers actual ideals and ways of showin the light you can utilize the basic inherent concepts and create your own version of light. It could even be more sparkly and exciting like twinkling pink or blue christmas lights or just a different color like a pretty aquamarine light bulb for lighting the way towards a brighter more meaningful tommorrow .I guess thats what everyone really wants in the long run .Just a meaningful life with purpose, clarity and understanding of why they are in this world to begin with.

  49. Rachel,

    You have hit the nail on the head. Too many frum Jews discourage college education, not just for their own children, but worse, for ba’alei tshuvahs who need such training to attain a career, as their religious enclave won’t provide adequate connections, as it is a most nepotistic community.

    P.S. Don’t take any biology courses! Remember, dinosaur bones were planted in order to test our faith! So don’t believe the lies! All scientists are pagans intent on destroying our faith.

  50. Jacob, you make a valid point and I’ll add a clarification. I am not suggesting that the only way to gain that experience or interaction is college. I’m saying that said interaction shouldn’t be regarded as the reason to NOT go to college. Does that make sense?

  51. Avidan’s remark

    “I have seen too many Jewish people refuse to interact with non-Jews or if they do, have no respect for them which is a huge chilul Hashem.”

    To paraphrase an earlier rhetorical question presented to Rachel: Is refinement of character and midos, and learning to live by the axiom of Kavod haBrios (respect for ALL of Creation) contingent on a baccalaureate and full-time residency in a university setting?

    To suggest that the “tavlin” (antidote) for such cases of Chilul Hashem is immersion in environments generally antithetical to Torah precepts is in my opinion off the mark.

    Perhaps there are some luminary individuals in our kehilas qualified to make a case for a potential need to fix things up regarding the fundamentals of Derech Eretz; but for many it’s a hard sell to convince that even the best of the university professors are more suited to the task than our rabbis.

    A personal anecdote; In my work experience mostly in financial environments, there have been “representatives” of “black hatters”.
    In the majority of cases they were well aware of what I call the “burden of representation” i.e. that their actions no matter how seemingly mundane could potentially
    reverberate and crystalize an observer’s opinion on Orthodox Jews and Judaism.

    I find it relevant that most of the above-mentioned either earned a correspondence degree or completed coursework at trade schools such as the Agudah’s COPE.

    No, not every “black hatter” necessarily fits this mold, but conversely can it be asserted fairly and accurately that every individual “worldly” kipah-wearing graduate of Penn, Brandeis, etc has necessarily been a beacon of Kiddush Hashem?

    Granted you wrote “too many”. Perhaps our collective opionion agrees that even 1 case of this is “too many” but the tone of your piece suggests otherwise and to me it’s an unfair and one-sided accusation bordering on generalization.

  52. I know @ Queens College, there are no dorms (yet), but the Frum students still live home (at least a lot of them do, I’m sure), so the issue of dorms is non-existent there. Add to that the presence of Hillel, EMET, and Chabad on campus, and lots of Frum students, I would say that QC is a good choice if you are wondering if you should attend a Secular college.

  53. I find this discussion interesting because I had a similar one when I was taking a year to study in yeshiva (Shaalvim). I am a fellow student at Penn with Rachel, though I’m studying engineering not archaeology.

    I admit that my background is rather different than Rachel’s; I’m what you would consider an FFB. While I don’t think that’s necessarily relevant to my points, it’s just good to know where I’m coming from. Also, I should add that most of my observations are based on when I visited colleges in 2003, some things have changed since.

    First, I think it’s important to realize that not everyone is cut out for YU or Stern. I, for example, am one of them. Sure, I have a background and experience in Talmud Torah, but is that what I want to do all day? No. And I personally would find it detrimental to me and my nature.

    And therefore, to say that everyone should go to Stern/YU is ridiculous to me. Is it really worth 4 years of being unhappy for the POTENTIAL of avoiding issues? Furthermore, anyone who says that there are no issues of immorality or “non-tznius” at Stern/YU are sorely mistaken. Have you ever been to NYC? There’s enough out there to begin with, let alone the campus.

    Next, I think it’s unfair and downright wrong to make a generalization about all colleges. Every university is different. Penn’s Hillel is well established and has a very strong Orthodox community. On the other hand, a place like SUNY Binghamton is still getting off the ground. Each college has its own nature and community, so to say ALL colleges are bad goes too far.

    I got into many universities with better engineering programs than Penn. But when I chose my school, it was based on the religious environment above all else.

    Dorm life, I will grant you, is the more valid concern. At Penn, most of the observant Jews are in the High Rises (as Rachel said above) which are independant suites, thus not being as much of a problem. Some of the freshmen are in the Quad which certainly has a higher “risk” of risque behavior, and I will agree that there are issues there. It’s one of the reasons I went out of my way to push for a freshman housing assignment in the High Rise, which I got thanks to the Hillel rabbi and the House dean.

    In other universities, dorming might be different. I know that Brandeis has a few single sex floors for the Orthodox community which they pushed for as well. Each school should be investigated before a conclusion is reached.

    In general, I think college is a useful experience. Much of the frum community is incredibly isolated from the rest of the world, and frankly this IS a bad thing. We interact with non-Jews, get used to it. And I have seen too many Jewish people refuse to interact with non-Jews or if they do, have no respect for them which is a huge chillul Hashem. Prior to college, I never had a reason to deal with non-Jews in my personal life, save some friends of my family. I had one major encounter in HS when I was at a convention with over 100 HS and MS students, and most had never met a Jew before or had major misconceptions. There is an advantage to seeing the “real world” in my mind, and college is at least a place where you can do it with peers.

    Finally (and if you’re still reading, kol hakavod), while I don’t disagree that there are kiruv opportunities in college, I certainly wouldn’t make it the reason I go to college.

  54. To the end that, as several people have pointed out, a colllege education may be necessary for many young people who cannot go into “business”, the following d’var Torah by Rabbi Meir Goldwicht underlines the importance of working from a Torah perspective.


  55. When my kids were young I strongly held the, “secular college is treif” line. Having dormed and graduated from NYU I was exposed to things that I never imagined that I wanted my kids exposed to. (And our dorms were fairly “luxerious” in that each room had its own bathroom!)

    Now that a couple of my children are adults (19 & 20) I have a different perspective. I see that they are capable of handling themselves. They have been fortified with a life of Torah and hashkafa. They are each very different, yet very strong.

    I still would not want to see them in a dorm, but if they had a strong desire to get a degree and/or advanced degree in a field that they love and have an aptitude for then I would be fully supportive.

    If YU/Stern/Touro were at a high enough level in that discipline then of course they would be preferable. But if they needed a specific secular university to actualize this potential then I would support that. (I don’t know who would pay for it. :)

    I general I’ve found that the protectiveness (over-protectiveness in many cases) that I felt my children needed when they were younger waned as they emerged as adults. I know this seems obvious, but some of you young and not-yet parents may not realize it as you’re in the “thick” of things.

  56. Rachel A.- regarding your point “the comment discussion will go where everyone takes it” that is exactly the point I was trying to convey amid the sidetracks……..(I would never want to be classified as a keeping the focus in blogging comments advocate).

    On a brighter note -your post is great .Awesome valid points .

    Charnie : great choice for extracurricular activities during breaks.

    S-Lady , good point on not all woman being cut out for blue collar work – which would limit options available without degree ,though there are other color collars besides blue that dont need a degree for wearing .But blue collar or pink collar not all woman r pregnant , but I guess men generally have more energy for blue collar type of work ,though it does seem like there are more woman in hard hats and Lincoln Tech type schools than there used to be .Maybe its the hyperactivity being put to good use or maybe they are just noticed more often than their male counterparts.

  57. And, SephardiLady I had never thought about women not being cut out for “blue collar” work, but now that I think about it, I think you’re right…

    Chances of a pregnant woman fighting a fire, climbing under an automobile, or constructing a home are pretty low, considering it is near impossible to keep up with regular floor and bathtub scrubbing! :) :) :)

  58. Rachel-Your comments illustrate that you have a strong sense of emunah that thrives, as being opposed to being stifled at Penn. Halevai that more undergraduates had that level of emunah.

  59. These long discussions are so fascinating! Obviously, the entire gamut of subjects pertaining to education, both secular and Torah, strikes a loud chord with many of us.

    Imagine how I feel about this… one of my most precious gifts from Hashem, my dear daughter, is about to embark upon her “Israeli Experience year”. After which, she’ll probably return to the states and pursue her love of art. She’s uniquely talented, but believe me, sending her into the art college environment is none to thrilling. BH, she’s a strong girl, who’s very sure of who she is, well grounded. Perhaps for many of us who are BT’s, our children have had somewhat of an advantage (for lack of a better word) of some exposure to the secular world through encounters with not-yet frum family, etc. Personally, I was very glad to be able to attend the Agudath’s Cope Institute when I decided to go into the technical field. Maybe when she returns from Israel, her interests will be different. In the meantime, her brother who’s now in Beis Medrash won’t even think about college for another few years, and probably will opt for Lander when he does go. Their philosophy of sticking to just what the guys need to know to pursue a livelihood makes a lot of sense, and hopefully more colleges like this will open as we see an emerging generation of young men who want to spend several years just learning. It’s a point I’ve made before in this blog.

    Guess this makes me one of those who posts to BeyondBT during breaks!

  60. JT, SephardiLady, etc.

    I think the comment discussion will go wherever everyone takes it. People will talk about what they want to talk about. One thing I’ve learned from my years of blog experience is that I never have much control of anything in the comments, unless it’s my own blog and things get out of hand and I decide to disable comments… But it’s near impossible to moderate a discussion online…

    I can’t even do it in school (I once had to lead a class discussion, and the most I did was introduce the subject, call on people to talk if I thought that they weren’t getting a turn to speak and needed me to help interject, and give a few quotes. The teacher said afterwards that I had done a great job, but in my mind it was like “but…the discussion…it flew out of my hands!”)

    So if you want to talk about wheres and hows, then talk about wheres and hows, but that won’t stop people from talking about ifs…

    And, SephardiLady I had never thought about women not being cut out for “blue collar” work, but now that I think about it, I think you’re right…

  61. S Lady, regarding your opening statement in comment #47
    “I’d prefer to keep the discussion of attending colleges to the wheres and the hows as opposed to the ifs “……..

    Well , I’d prefer to keep the discussion or whatever is left of it – to whatever is on AnyoneS mind related to the main question and Post. Keeping things focused on the Obvious (a college education should obviously be the default setting on the path choice drive) ,doesnt allow for critiquing of different mindsets or Understanding the viewpoint of others and why they do or dont do stuff – however naive and unfocused and incorrect they may or may not be .

    Its real awesome that ure so focused and have a PHD in decision making/comment structure /organization/focus and how to incorporate an 80% increase by default on the bright factor in commenting. Part of being bright as i’m sure u know is to let the focus stray a little and utilize the god given ability to listen to what everyone has to say.Whether its “heartwarming small business success stories” finding Judaism at Princeton ,Marketing Judaism at Harvard or designing gemstone Blackberry cover designs at FIT , refining the plumbing system of NYC ,or refining the soul in Jerusalem.

    Hyperfocusing exclusively on the “wheres” and “hows” wont give you an all encompassing proper understanding and perspective on the “ifs” of stuff even though the “ifs” may never be part of the formula -sometimes certain components on the “ifs” can be applied to improve and facilitate the “wheres and the hows” process .

  62. Thank you.
    I’d prefer to keep the discussion of attending college to the wheres and hows, rather than the ifs. Most people will need to pursue an education beyond a high school, either through a trade school, college, and University, and I don’t think it helps to say “do you really need a college degree,” or tell people to “just open a business.” Having a degree or a certification is the door to a profession (and with the prohibitive costs of Jewish living, it is a disservice to tell our kids they don’t really need an education-they do!). While it is always heartwarming to hear success stories about those who “made it” through alternative means, the only reason they are stories, is because they are rare.

    For those that prefer less risk (or cannot tolerate risk), pursuing a trade or profession through traditional means should not be a question. How to pursue it, deserves our attention.

  63. Yaakov Astor , Interesting point on the prayer for knowledge, I forgot about the prayer for chachmah and binah- I guess that would facilitate with decision making. Appreciate the prayer for clarity it arrived in crystal clear timing.The ability to discern right from wrong is not always crystal clear from the get go. Sometimes initially all ten paths seem perfect for traveling but the right or wrong could surface way later in the choice experience .As for “peer connection” advice 80% of current peer selection connections have a way worse figuretive sense of direction than me the other 20% just chose the wrong path initially … as far as “teachers guidance” -way not applicable – 99.9% have classified me as obnoxious & un-teachable. I always keep my intuition open for the missing percentage.Great point on the “Real knowledge is knowledge that is being returned to the heart concept”.Thanks!

  64. I personally hope that our children will choose to commute from home and stick to the hard sciences or finance, business, etc. College.

    That said, I want to deal with Avrohom-Moishe’s comments below:

    Do you really need a college degree?

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but part of what sparked this thread was the association of college educated == BIG $$$$….

    Is that true?

    Of course one does not need a college degree to achieve success or make money.

    I highly doubt that anyone here believes that college will bring a person the big bucks!

    But, college programs, especially professional programs in the therapies (PT, OT, Speech), nursing, sciences, engineering, accounting, finance, law, education, etc, combined with utilizing the opportunities provided through a university career center, increase the chances that a person will find an open door to a career with a steady income, benefits, and opportunities for advancement and increased salary.

    Can a person achieve success without a college degree? Of course. (The stats will show a college grad will earn more over their lifetime). But, let’s not forget that one cannot just enter any field and that many doors will be shut.

    Why not open a business?

    I hear this argument a lot. It certainly is easy to rattle off this sentence!

    But, let’s face it, not everyone has the accumen or a market they can enter. In addition, let’s not forget that MOST small business fail (I believe the number hovers around 80%, and that is fails. Few of the other 20% become successes).

    You need capital to open a business, sometimes more capital than is required to get through college. If you don’t have access to capital, you aren’t going to get very far.

    Self-employment may not pay off for many years, and if a person intends on marrying and having children, they may (rightfully) prefer to have health insurance and other company benefits that their self-employment may not afford them, at least in the initial stages.

    Some people prefer the certainty of employment, rather than the uncertainty of self-employment. Not everyone has the kishkes to take the ups and downs of business, especially when they are trying to figure out how to pay their mortgage and tuition bills.

    Also, many people do phase into self-employment after learning a market, which is often a side product of their education and experience. A high school grad cannot run an accounting or law practice.

    If one can succeed in business, gezenterheit. But, I prefer the stability of professional employment, despite the lack of lucrative dollars.

    What about the belief that it’s Hashem that provides parnossa while our task is to fashion a kli – is the only kli to $$$$ a college degree?

    Hashem provides parnasah, but there is no reason not to put in the hishtadlut necessary.

    Hishtadlut doesn’t need to be college by definition. There are trade schools and other fine options. (As the posters on this board know, I am a huge advocate of vocational education in high school and think it is sad that frum schools do not offer such as a rule).

    But, one must have a plan, and for most people, pursuing a college education is the best path towards an enjoyable career.

    (One more note: Colleges are seeing more and more women and less and less men. From my experience, women seem more risk-adverse and would rather a steady income. Women generally also are not cut out for “blue-collar work and therefore do not have the same options that a young man might have).

  65. JT.

    The first request in the Shmoneh esrei is for knowledge. That’s because it’s the most important thing. People think it’s money, bracha. But that’s down the list. Knowledge is first because, you’re right, without it the whole free will thing is overrated. What’s the point of having choice if you don’t know what to choose.

    The knowledge we ask for is not only book knowledge, but real-world knowledge, Torah knowledge filtered down to the level of the practical and every day.

    And the truth is that often we know what to do. But we don’t do it anyway. Real knowledge, though, is knowledge that is “returned to the heart.” Viyadata hayom v’hashevosa el livavecha: Know today (raw knowledge) and return it to your heart (emotional, real, experiential knowledge).

    Listen, it’s hard. No one’s denying that. And I’m not one to speak. I’ve made plenty of mistakes — some perhaps avoidable and some perhaps not. But it’s a tenet of faith that we have to be able to somehow discern right from wrong, what’s good for us from what’s bad for us. Otherwise it is Russian roullette. Maybe you need more connection to peers and teachers for guidance. Maybe you need to commune with yourself more. We all do. I send you a prayer that you should gain some clarity.

  66. Yaakov Astor- the problem with free will and choice, aside from the no prayer availablity factor ,is how does g-d expect one to make a wise choice or smart free will decision when half the facts are missing ,unavailable or misconstrued.Making an informed decision requires knowledge that is unavailable to us period . Often times there is way not enough information for a proper informed decision ,Other times its in the giving over of the information.Praying for conditions that facilitate in proper decision making never ever work . So basically the whole concept of bechirah and free will is like playing russian roullette at Mohegan Sun or Atlantic City and the odds of smart choice/decision making are 50/50. So what color makes you happier red or black, I would definitely place some on green for the Emerald or Jade effect.

  67. Ora:

    Steve Brizel said,
    I am also skeptical about the role of Hillel. Of course, Chabad and a new OU program ( the Jewish Campus Initiative) provide an alternative to Hillel for frum students.

    That’s what I was responding to. There are dangers from the “inside world” as well as from the “outside world”.

    Re: messianism, you have heard about Chabad ‘mishichists’, haven’t you? The ones who believe that their deceased last rebbe is the mashiahh? There are Chabad shluchim at college Chabad Houses who teach this to the students they come into contact with. I was lucky that my local Chabad House was run by generally good and sane people, but there are other college Chabad Houses where they say the mishichist credo “Yehhi…”, and teach the students to do so as well.

  68. Elisheva: Maybe I’m just missing it, but I don’t recall any reasons that were given to go davka to a secular university. There are many wonderful religious colleges and universities, some in the states and a ton in Israel. This isn’t a question of kollel vs. higher education, it’s a question of whether particular institutions (secular American universities) provide a healthy environment for a Torah lifestyle. IMO the orignal article presented somewhat of a slanted question. At Bar Ilan there are also people who love engineering, history, and law. Just because someone chooses to get a degree doesn’t mean they have to choose a school where Jews are a minority and secular American culture is the norm.

    Steg: Why on earth are you bringing Chabad into this? Who but you mentioned Chabad at all? Also, “messianism” is a word often thrown around in order to discredit various groups (around here, usually the followers of Rav Kook), and along with “extremist” is usually pulled out only when the opponent is completely out of valid arguments.

  69. I’d like to object to the portrayal of Chabad as a positive influence on MO students. Chabad has their own derekh, which is not that of R’ Hirsch or R’ Soloveitchik, and does not reinforce the MO ideal that Godliness can be expressed through Biology, Geology and Literature in addition to study of Tanakh and Talmud. (Chabad espousing Ma‘aseh Bereishit Literalism, for example).

    My Jewish experience at a secular state college was much more negatively influenced by the hegemony that Chabad had over the Orthodox community than by the non-halakhic things and non-Jewish ideologies being expressed by people/professors/friends in the general college environment.

    Not to mention the dangers of messianism; I’ve known a number of people who were convinced that it’s perfectly fine for someone to believe in a dead messiah — R’ M.M. Schneersohn, specificly — by Chabad representatives who aren’t even mishichists themselves.

    And then there’s all the underage drinking…

  70. Ora,

    “also, the question isn’t just “why not go to university?” it’s “why go to university?” For most Americans, the answer is “Because that’s what you’re supposed to do after high school.” For Torah-observant Jews, that isn’t enough of a reason.”

    I will agree with you on that point, but I sincerely doubt that anyone who is seriously concerned about their children’s religious growth would send a child to a university strictly because “that’s what is done”. Parnassah is a big deal and, perhaps this is unfortunate, many professions require a college degree.
    The question, of course, then becomes “why secular college?”
    There are numerous answers and numerous rebuttals. I hesitate to list them because other people have explained them with far more eloquence than I, but I wish to just observe something. If those answers resonate with you, if you understand the appeal of higher learning and being in an environment with potential for growth, both intellectually and spiritually, then Rachel’s article is a welcome addition to your own validations.
    If, however, you find the answers to be disturbing, dangerous even, then this choice is not right for you or your children. There is no reason to justify your own choices, they are perfectly valid as well.
    So, perhaps the question should lose the “why” and the “why not?” at the beginning. it is neither the obvious choice that must have rebuttals to dispel or the obvious road not to take, requiring ample proof of its benefits before venturing down it.
    So, should you send your children to secular college?

  71. . I appreciate Rachel’s advising us of her unique major, etc and her ability to ignore what passes for “campus life.” Obviously, being “evicted overnight” from her apartment is not the issue.

    I Googled the authors of the pamphlet without success. I will scan a hard copy tonight. WADR to Rachel, while she has the requisite emunah, etc. IMO, many frum students in her situation just can’t handle the combined stresses of the cultural, academic and religious stresses that are present in and out of the classroom.Penn’s Hillel is obviously an Orthodox run Hillel. That is not the case on many other campuses, both Ivy and otherwise. That was the main point of the pamphlet.

    I suppose that one can do in-campus kiruv and chizuk. That is one of the reasons why the OU began its Jewish Campus Initiative-which places young frum yeshiva educated couples on campus as role models, etc. However, such a program would be unneccesary if the campus was not such a disaster area for frum kids-even those who have had the benefit of “the Israel experience.”

  72. I heard last Shavuos from Rabbi Moshe Weinberger (Woodmere, NY) that a frum doctor once spent his vacation in Radin (home of the Chofetz Chaim). After a few days or a week learning, right before he left, he went to speak with the Chofetz Chaim. The doctor said, I can’t believe how I’ve wasted my life. There’s nothing better than learing Torah. These yeshiva students I’ve seen are much closer to Hashem, than I’ll ever be.

    The Chofetz Chaim responded: Which tree was closer to the center of Gan Eden: The Eitz HaChaim or the Eitz HaDaas? They were of equal distance. The Chofetz Chaim went on to tell that doctor that by being a doctor has allowed him to help and save countless people.
    Each of us has a purpose and and mission. Don’t think, said the Chofetz Chaim, that you are any further to Hashem than someone these students in Radin.

  73. Ora,

    Yaakov A: Interesting points, but while they may apply to me, they don’t explain the other phenomena I described, of friends who became frum and then lost it again while in university.

    Nothing explains bechira other than each of us chooses our own fate, anti-bodies or no anti-bodies.

    What it boils down to, is that we daven for things surrounding our ability to choose — e.g. for conditions that will make the right choice easier, the wisdom and strength to withstand our challenges — but there is no prayer that exists to make a choice; there is no substitute for just doing it, as they say. That’s what makes life so interesting. No robots allowed.

  74. sarah m: Chazal warn us to watch the company we keep. Yes, Torah is strong, but that doesn’t mean that every 18 year old can handle four years of being in the minority, of having their beliefs constantly challenged, of being immersed in secular culture, etc, without some weakening. It’s human nature to be effected by one’s surroundings, and denying that will get us nowhere.

    Also, the question isn’t just “why not go to university?” it’s “why go to university?” For most Americans, the answer is “Because that’s what you’re supposed to do after high school.” For Torah-observant Jews, that isn’t enough of a reason. And while we may occasionally find reasons (parnassa, or just a very strong desire for a certain profession) to pursue higher education, there’s really no reason to deliberately go to a secular place; all the more so to live in the dorms. What’s gained by the exposure to dorm life?

    Yaakov A: Interesting points, but while they may apply to me, they don’t explain the other phenomena I described, of friends who became frum and then lost it again while in university.

    Rachel: There’s a difference between having non-Jewish friends, which is not detrimental, and being immersed in secular culture, which often is. If I were in America (and had the money) I’d be fine with going to university there, but I wouldn’t live on campus, precisely for that reason. I’m not saying you shouldn’t choose to live on campus, but for many people it would be a challenge.

    Also, you are completely right that a lot depends on your major. IMO, majoring in, for example, philosophy at a secular university is usually a waste of time. Humanities in general can be trouble, it tends to be much more anti-religious/leftist. But hard sciences are usually fine.

  75. Dear Rachel,
    Just so you should know, I in my “previous life” got my degree in archaeology from the Univ. Of Arizona.

    Ken Bloom,
    The word korbon comes from to bring closer however it is often freely translated as “sacrifice” in hebrew and modern hebrew. Please feel free to look it up in a hebrew dictionary.

    Steve Brizel,
    If you could put up the link for the booklet written by those two graduates that would be awesome.(one is named Weinstein)

    To all,
    It is worth reading Rav Moshe’s tsheuvas on college in the iggres moshe. The reasons he gives there against the idea apply today even more than in his time. Obviously, every individual case is different and needs evaluation.

    When people talk about being strong and why are we so insecure I remind them to open Pirkei Avots, Chapter 1, #7-“distance yourself from bad neighbors, don’t associate with a wicked person, etc…”. There is obviously a reason chazal warns us about this in more than one place. Reality is reality and people are affected by their environments. The greatest have stumbled.

  76. sara m (comment 19) wrote: all this talk about antibodies and such makes me wonder why everyone is so insecure about all the torah that they’ve been teaching their children the past eighteen years. Do you really think that its not strong enough to stand up to a one semester course in ethics….
    I was actually inclined to say the same thing as you, and that’s why my daughter had the green light from me to attend that course.

    Even so, I can explain the other side too with a famous story:

    The Maggid of Dubno was once passing by Vilna and the Vilna Gaon requested that the Maggid give him some rebuke. The Dubno Maggid asked him ” Do you think it’s such a kuntz (trick) to be the holy Vilna Gaon, all locked up in your little room only studying Torahwith your stidents. Come out into the marketplace with all the temptations of the world and remain the holy Vilna Gaon. That would be a kuntz.” As the story has it, the Vilna Gaon responded that’s it’s no mitzva to be a kuntzmacher (trickster).

    In other words while one may remain observant despite influences around him, it is virtuous to to be very solid in one’s complete acceptance of the entire religion. If a 20 year old girl hasn’t studied all the philosophy and such needed to counter all the arguments of those who oppose Judaism, she might remain observant, but now she’s got a bunch of bagge to deal with.

    In my case, knowing my daughter, I was OK with that, because she’s sharp and because I’ve been involved in outreach for a long time. I figured we’ll have a good time learning some new things about the world together and seeing what Judaism has to say about them. Even so, I’m proud that she chose to ask advice from her mentor. That too has been part of what I’ve tried to teach her.

  77. When contemplating the future -Only g-d (no i dont get the free will -nights and weekends and weekday option that came along with the destiny package) really knows how strong an individual is really to make that choice based on answer /(assumption) of, will i screw up/ will i remain miss goody two shoes or who will leave or become the proverbial religious miss goody two shoes . In any given life choice at any level college/life/work/ …….destiny is complicated and free will/ choice/ impulse/ mood/flowers/stars /luck and cute classmates or coworkers ,can screw up or enhance the path to destiny.

    The obvious problem with path choosing is you never know the characteristics of the rocks strewn along the path which is why everyone has a bright opinion of what they think is brighter in terms of education or any choice .The correct answer is not narrowing the paths or getting off the freeway of life only on “no college” or “yes college” exits .It does sort of mean getting off on the weighing the pros and cons and doin a spiritual and literal evaluation of where one is headin exit ,which is a long name for a exit cuz there r alot of different energy origin stations available.But that soo is not a reliable sort of exit cuz you dont really ever know how strong or weak you can be so whats the point of pretending you do and basing choice on that ???

    The correct version of the absolutely yes or no college question can be applied to other things like the average workplace & subsequent temptations/friendships. Similar not “frum” oriented concepts like will you go drinking with your coworkers for celebrating partnerships /deals / or drinking for thought ie : discuss thrilling business concepts at the bar or religion and incorporate them into your personal life or integrate everything into your personal life and party nights and weekends and become one big happy family which can be awesome or end up with everyone sleeping with each or other (fork in the road).Or will you incorporate minyanim and lunchtime hashkafah shuirs and spend the rest of your lunch blogging comments on beyondbt.Some will do hashkafah some will blog on beyondbt , some will party and sleep with their coworkers ,some will have affairs with their bosses ,some will help their bosses becoe religious, some will teach their coworkers hashkafah and some will switch to more fascinating religions.It doesnt have much to do with the workplace or dorming in a college.its more like a personal/ spiritual/ brain thing.how low will you go/ or high will you fly oh and what kind of high, the kite kind is not usually a good thing/ neither is the spiritual cloud thing for long periods of time.No living in a holy vacumm or kollel is not the correct answer. there is no correct answer -other than trying to choose whats right but that has its flaws cuz how do u really know whats right for your soul.you can spend all day and night asking yourself the whats the better choice for my soul but you wont really know for sure .

    The same figuretive rock on the path may cause some to stumble/trip and be classifed as a stumbling rock could at the same time be a catalyst for catching the falls of others in the form of reflecting the spark of holiness or whatever and figuretively turning into Topaz/Sapphire/Emerald/Jade or maybe even Pink Diamonds but that would be pushing it. Basically the same rock labeled “looking for happiness” that has individual A) stoned and looking for new highs can have individual B) hooking up with judaism .Its how the person perceives / classifies / integrates the rock happening mostly.

    Forget about a simple personal choice, its a multifaceted could go in so many different directions depending on so many different things and levels choice half of the knowledge needed for choice is not available .Experience can either be the greatest teacher or your worst nightmare or combination of both . But lack of experience is always the mother of dull and glitterless and the father of boredom/ rote and regular functionalism.and you can never know which path is better for you unless one has finished traveling .

  78. Can anyone offer a more nonsectarian colloquialism for “devil’s advocate”?

    Elisheva wrote

    “In reading some of the responses, I got the impression that there are those viewing secular college as good or bad; Either it is good and everyone in the orthodox world should be enjoined to follow that path or it is a terrible place and we should do our utmost to keep our children away from it.”

    If you pardon the pun, it’s not so black & white. Granted you included the word “most” as a disclaimer but here’s another viewpoint.

    My initial rejoinder to Rachel was challenging her assertion that by eschewing the college experience one is ergo closing themselves off to kiruv opportunities. I was not necessarily disagreeing with the idea that college might be a necessary option for some. Granted, a calculated risk fraught with potential difficulties but nonetheless an option.

    If Rachel was suggestion that l’hatchila all should pursue a degree than I take exception.

    This reply also doubles up to answer Reb Avrohom-Moishe’s suggestion of self-employment through one’s own business since parnassa is predetermined anyhow.

    An answer to both of you is that I know that I’m completely devoid of business acumen and opening my own store would likely lead to nowhere.

    I’m not an expert on such divrei machshava regarding the machinations of Shomayim but I know there’s a necessary hishtadlus (endeavorment) for all to work in a fitting vocation.

    Furthermore, one should not be hasty to assert that there’s a blanket issur (forbiddance) on obtaining a degree amongst ALL strata of the Orthodox and yes the yeshiva world.

    One of my rabbeim would likely be considered a “rightist” in the Orthodox spectrum but he also has a doctorate in economics. Why? Because his rav in yeshiva recommended academia for his vocation. Granted, this was 30+ plus years ago, but the point being, that things are more textured than commonly believed and assumed.

    A second rejoinder regarding Rachel’s belief that presence of Orthodox students in a university provides terrific opportunities for kiruv.

    1. First and foremost your idealism is a beautiful thing.

    2. An “academic” response would be like it’s in the brachos before Sh’ma “Lilmod u’Lilamed”. Learn and teach. One requires a lot of learning (experiential as well as textual) before they can take on the assiduous assignments of kiruv.

    3. Can someone in the midst of college already make a real experienced and objective observation and calculation that they’re up to the challenge?

    4. Personally, I really like the metaphor of one opening the door of their heated abode to warm up the weather outside.

    5. Perhaps some admired your courage in asserting the darker side of the Merchant of Venice; but (I’m talking to myself as well) let’s be careful when viewing the role of self-importance vis a vis perceived self-sacrifice and as Bob Miller mused, that professor might have thought that now you were demanding the pound of flesh.

  79. As with most things on this board, education is a very heated topic. I think the most important thing that has been said is that it depends on the child. Chinuch is about teaching each child Torah in his own way.

    I went to a secular Jewish school where I managed to maintain a very high level of observance, similar to the Bais Yaakov girls. My brother went to the same school, and did the same, while my sister was at a more religious school, hated it for social reasons, and has now slipped a bit at our school. I’m now at university where I am in a mainly female department, but still I’ve been exposed to things I didn’t want to know about. On the other hand, if I had not been in the class, the other 8 Jews (out of 54) would not have fought not to work on Yom Tov, and at least 3 would keep less Mitzvot.

    As with everything in life, each option has it’s benefits and risks; without that free choice would be negated. Each individual has to decide how strong he is in any particular area, and act accordingly, asking for the guidance of Hashem every step of the way.

  80. And I guess it wasn’t so clear in my response #25, but even if it were convenient for me to transfer to a Jewish school, I wouldn’t. Sometimes I may get fed up with my community’s lack of singing and spirituality, but nonetheless I love the people in the community, I have a lot of friends, and I don’t feel tempted or attacked by the outside world. Frat parties are just a nuisance, not an attraction [loud music and drunk people in the street can be annoying], it’s perfectly easy to keep shabbat and kashrut here, and I have a lot of non-Jewish and non-observant friends who I wouldn’t have met at a frum school. I don’t think interaction with non-Jews is a detrimental thing.

  81. Avrahom-Moishe-

    In my case, I really do need a college degree in order to be able to become an archaeologist. It’s not about money, because I know that I’m not going to make a lot (I coined the phrase “starving archaeologist”), and I could just as easily take over my Dad’s hardware store and make quite a comfortable living. In fact, by pursuing this career, I recognize that I have to give up the comfortable lifestyle I live.

    But owning a business is not what I want to do. I really love studying archaeology. I’m supposed to be on break from school right now, but instead I’ve been finding more and more sources for my thesis. And I enjoy working on it. This is what makes me happy.

    So my point is that college gives many people the opportunity to study what they enjoy, and to get a job in that subject. Not everyone needs a college education to be successful, but it does help a good deal of people.

    Elisheva- I totally agree with you.

  82. I’m going to try and respond to as many people as I can.

    To everyone- I only write about secular university, and not about public primary school. I’m not making the arguement that one should send their child to public school. I’m only talking about college.

    Jacob Haller- I’m not saying that one needs a BA for successful kiruv, or that it will make one better at kiruving. i can’t make such an arguement, nor would I necessarily agree with it. I’m talking about kiruv that is done within college just by the presence of a strong community of Orthodox Jews in that college. I really do think that having this community available for non-Orthodox Jews to interact with sets a great example for them, and helps draw them closer. I would never have known yiddishkeit had I not met any of my Orthdox friends at Penn.

    Bob Miller- It all depends on what the student majors in. Someone who is a biology major, studying to be a doctor, probably won’t run into problems with radical leftists. Most of the hard sciences are politically neutral as far as I know. Being a Jewish Studies and Anthropology major myself, I’ve never really run into problems where I had to agree with what my professor was saying. Maybe I just lucked out, but Penn is pretty liberal.

    As for the coed dorming and promiscuity- it’s always an option to go to a local school and board at home, or board with another frum family. [Unless you’re at Yale…] I have a friend who did that for her Junior and Senior years.

    But coed dorming has never been an issue for us at Penn. True, frum girls and guys live on the same floors of the highrise, but everyone has a bathroom in their apartment and thus does not need to leave the room to take a shower, and it’s more like an apartment building than anything else. And young singles live in apartment buildings in washington heights all the time. There’s potential for promiscuity there, but no one says not to live in the Heights.

    Steve Brizel-It’s not fair to generalize about all colleges, or even all Ivy leagues. I’ve never visited Harvard, but from what I know, their Orthodox community is nowhere near as large as Penn’s. [And MIT’s is almost non-existent] Some Hillels are very liberal and are not a good place for an observant Jew to be. I have friends who have been in bad situations. But it depends on the Hillel. Ours is predominantly Orthodox, and most of the events are run by the Orthodox community.

    As for transferring to Stern or Touro or taking a leave of absence- I’m going into my senior year at Penn. At this point it would be too late for me to transfer and still graduate on time. And neither Stern nor Touro has a strong Anthropology department [or even any at all]
    that would be adequate for me to continue my studies. And I’m already starting on my 2 senior theses, and am going to graduate school (b’ezrat Hashem) in archaeology in Israel next year. I’d gain nothing by transferring at this point.

    Gershon- the fact that your daughter decided to call up the head of her seminary and ask what to do about that class shows how successful you are as a parent in teaching her Torah values. There are a bunch of students at Penn who just don’t take classes about religion since they don’t feel they could handle it. That’s always a valid option.

    Miriam- I don’t disagree with your decision to decide about each child individually whether or not they would be able to go to deal with the unlimited autonomy that comes with going away to college. But- if Brown allows students to live off campus, couldn’t your kids stay at home and take classes there, or PC, or URI?

    And I don’t see myself as rebelling against my parents. Most of the family arguements about my practices are between me and my brother. My parents try to be neutral, but they were never opposed to me keeping kosher (after all, they kashered the house for me) or shabbat (or spending all of my shabbats away from home) or anything else, even if they don’t practice Judaism the way I do. I see this more as a respectful break from the way my parents practice Judaism…and their Judaism isn’t static either- they switched shuls a year ago, and recently my dad started going to minyan every day. So I don’t know what I’d do if my future kids decided to practice differently than I do. I would hope I could respect their decision, no matter what it is, and I hope that I would raise them with a love of Judaism that would make them want to at least stay observant, no matter what denomination [if any] they end up in.

  83. Someone can indeed become more interested in Judaism while in college. But what are the odds, and how well do students know themselves (or parents know their children) going in?

  84. In reading some of the responses, I got the impression that there are those viewing secular college as good or bad; Either it is good and everyone in the orthodox world should be enjoined to follow that path or it is a terrible place and we should do our utmost to keep our children away from it.

    I will concede, of course, that not having children puts me in a different position than most people here, but I do not see why this needs to be viewed in such a starkly contrasting manner. Yes, secular college is a place filled with ideals alien to our own and it is something that one must be cautious about, but education does have its benefits. No, not everyone belongs in a secular college but, by the same token, not everybody belongs in a kollel.

    Secular college is an choice and, like all choices, has good and bad ramifications. It’s a trial by fire. For some, it melts away doubts and leaves them better people. There are any number of people, as Rachel pointed out, who actually become frum because of college.

    There are others, though, who can be hurt by the flames and who have no need to be subjected to this test. Perhaps this is a poor analogy since I do not want people to assume that I’m saying the former group needs purification or the latter group is too weak to withstand it. It is merely a matter of what is going to bring you to the best path for your life. And that is a decision that you and your children must make individually.

  85. B”H

    It seems the consensus is that the “Cons” of attending university as a single far outweighs the “Pros”……

    A question:

    Do you really need a college degree?

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but part of what sparked this thread was the association of college educated == BIG $$$$….

    Is that true?

    Why not open a business?

    What about the belief that it’s Hashem that provides parnossa while our task is to fashion a kli – is the only kli to $$$$ a college degree?

    On a personal note, I was fortunate enough to spend my years ages of 18-23 in Yeshiva [that was an accredited college] & earned a BA in Theology. Later, I was hired and worked at Microsoft as a programmer until 2002 [self-taught] & earned “an executive income”….

    So many doors and ways to make a kli for parnossa – university can be bypassed….

  86. Ora,

    Your situation could have several variables. It could be that your first university presented a different set of challenges than your present one: e.g. mixing socially vs. subtle apikorsus. In the first one it was a question of attending a party; in the second one it was the question of a professor knowledgable of Hebrew and Tanach who proposes something antithetical to Torah.

    Or, in the first one, you might have thrived on the me-against-them syndrome: being the lone representative gave you a sense of pride and/or motivated you to try harder to be true to an identity that was unique on campus. In the latter situation, perhaps you more easily take it for granted because most everyone is observant.

    Or, it could also be that you are simply working much harder and/or the demands are harder at your present university.

    In the end, I think there is such a thing as spiritual “anti-bodies.” I just wouldn’t say they guarantee immunity, as perhaps they might in a physical sense. Rabbi Dessler talks about the bechira/free will point; it moves as we grow like the front line in trench warfare moves. You always have free will, but hopefully as you develop some challenges are in the past and not really challenging you any longer. It could be in your first university you had developed “anti-bodies” to inappropriate social mixing and so it seemed easy. Had you been “attacked” by a barrage of educated apikorsim you might not have fared so well because you may not have developed the anti-bodies for that. If so, just because you found it easier there wouldn’t mean you would find it in a new place where the daily challenge in more apikorsus than social mixing (I’m only using those as examples).

    What I’m saying is that I think each of us has spiritual anti-bodies. BTs will probably have some that FFBs do not. Yet, that is not enough of a reason to have “faith” that they will automatically protect in a time of need. The challenge of free will never slackens. Therefore, take precautions and always keep your neshama in shape with regular, daily workouts (see your local orthodox rabbi for an exercise regimen to fit your soul).

  87. all this talk about antibodies and such makes me wonder why everyone is so insecure about all the torah that they’ve been teaching their children the past eighteen years.
    Do you really think that its not strong enough to stand up to a one semester course in ethics, to alcohol and hooking up?
    If the only way we can assume our children will stick with observant Judaism is if they have no other options, then Judaism looks pretty weak.
    Do the parents here really think that they haven’t taught their children the value of meaningful relationships rather than using peoples bodies? The value of quality time with friends and responsible behavior over drunken parties? The value of careful assessment of new ideas rather than swallowing blindly what the teacher says?
    FInally, why is choice such a bad thing? Every BT here has made a choice to live their lives differently than their parents. Teach your children the best that Judaism has to offer, then let them make their own choice.

  88. Rachel, I see what you are saying, but I think you don’t have the bigger picture yet.

    I went to public school. I remember my 9th grade Spanish Language class had 21 students. only 2 were not Jewish. Of the remaining 19, 2 of us kept Kosher in our homes and out, another 2 in but not out, and the rest did not keep Kosher. None of us kept Shabbos. (This came up because of a class trip to a Spanish Restaurant.) So I was raised in a very Jewish but very not frum environment.

    I went to an IVY League university. Because I kept Kosher in my house and out, I sought out the Kosher Dining Hall and fell in with the Orthodox students who ate there. I stand before you today a frum woman. One of the other members of my 9th grade class also went to the same IVY, but was one of those who kept Kosher in his house but not out. College translated to “out” for him. I don’t know what became of him, but I rarely saw him at Shabbat Services or at Kosher Dining.

    The problem with dorming at a secular university is that for the first time, there is no outer discipline being imposed on you. No parents telling you what to do, no one watching to make sure you come home on time, no one noticing if you come in at all. At the same time, there are the endless “keg parties” and sorority and fraternity parties all around, alcohol available in abundance, even if you are underage, and, yes, other people with much looser morals. And that’s before you consider the classes!

    College is the time when you take a look at yourself and your parents and think “Was it just their influence, or is the way I am the way I want to be?” Yes, some people “frum-out.” And some go the other way. For frum teens, the question may become “Am I Shabbos observant because my parents made me be, or because I truly want to be?” I know a young lady who asked this question, and decided that she did indeed want to remain Shabbos observant, Baruch Hashem! But she asked the question.

    Our job as parents is to give our children a firm enough base that they aren’t questioning their commitment to Judaism at such a vulnerable time in their lives. As BTs, it’s even more of a challenge. How many of us are kept up nights wondering if we’ve done a good enough job. After all, WE rebelled against our parents and the way we were raised to become frum in the first place. What if our children feel compelled to rebel against us in the same way? Which way will they go? Will they stay frum but embark on some esoteric branch of chasiddus? Will they become more “Modern” than I am? More “Black Hat?” Or, chas v’shalom, leave the derech altogether?

    Will my children go to college? I’m not completely ruling it out. When I was growing up, college was what you did after high school, no questions asked. But for my children, it will absolutely depend on the child… and I will have to give serious thought to an individual child’s personality and what he or she is likely to do with sudden unlimited freedom before allowing him or her to dorm at school.

  89. There has to be a better way to learn a profession.

    Before you go out into the real world and face its inevitable challenges, why risk reinforcing your yetzer hara by exposing yourself to its most concentrated theory and practice?

    If you sincerely want to learn, you waste time facing down the constant distractions of the body-antibody conflict.

    Learning is harder yet where the standard course material itself has been been falsified according to today’s academic party line. If you have somehow gleaned the truth and expressed it, your professor will often reject it and you.

    If there is still a clientele for higher general education in the spirit of Torah, this may be the next growth industry.

  90. Gershon-many schools, especially those that under the auspices of non Jewish religions or religious orders or even “parve” auspices view such courses as part of “diversity.” Your solution strikes me as a reasonable solution in which you provide “antibodies” and allow your daughter to get an education as well.

  91. JT,

    Good point that no one is immune to it, as the Gemara says: Ain apitropus l’arayos; no one is immune to the temptations of the flesh.

    However, maybe it’s me, I just find it hard to imagine two rabbis bragging to each other about their extra-marital affairs within or not within earshot of a potential someone in an adjacent room.

    I think even a very jaded person, topaz or otherwise, would agree the mores of general society tend to be looser and hence allow for greater incidences of such behavior, even if it is true that individuals in an insular Jewish society can and are effected by such mores and behaviors.

    And that, of course, is regarding professorial-types and higher-ups. Regarding the rank-and-file, boasting of sexual conquests and prowess is almost a religious principle in some parts. And although I don’t have firm statistics on it, I imagine it is much more common in the halls of public schools and colleges than BY’s and Yeshivos. Which, of course, is not to be so naive as to say it doesn’t ever happen there. Still, I’d like to believe the differences are categorical, even if not absolute.

  92. Rachel, good post but its not clear how far through college you are. It doesnt seem like you are faced with a choice but rather are trying to understand as mentioned in #9 if there could be a stigma attached to college some time in your future? If this is so, then I’d say realise this is the Yetzer speaking! Its one of its best tricks – making us unsettled about 1. now and 2. the future. (it tries this one on me nearly every day!)

    Ok, college, like the rest of the world we live in, has a lot of potential for kiruv and kiddush Hashem. But we need to clearly understand the pitfalls of mixing in a world that will constantly & subtlely challenge everything we hold most dear to us. Not just the students but even the professors themselves!

    Also, as is often here, dont forget about making yourself a good Rav. In fact Rabbi Klein himself brought this up in an excellent post recently:



  93. Here’s an interesting situation, somewhat related. My daughter is wrapping up her prerequisites before applying to some nursing schools. Some of them require a course in ethics so my daughter signed up at a local college for an ethics class. She attended the first class last week, only to discover that it was more of a “learn about all religions and let’s fight it out and see who’s right” course than she would have ever expected. She called the head of the seminary she had attended in Israel, who advised her to drop out.

    I wasn’t going to tell her to do that. Had she decided to remain in the class, I was ready to roll up my sleeves and look up sources with her whenever she had questions that arose. But it seems the head of her seminary determined for her (as Yaakov Astor wrote), you need lots of those antibodies.

  94. One more point. Any of us who went to a college other than YU, Stern or Touro recieves lots of alumni mail including various achievements, etc of classmates. IMO, a detailed reading of the same should lead any rational person to conclude that an Ivy League education inclusive of what passes for “student life” and “campus culture” is basically hostile to maintaining a committment as a Torah observant Jew. I would strongly reccomend that the author of the post consider transferring to SCW or Touro or taking a leave of absence and studying at any of a number of seminaries.

  95. Yaakov Aster, excellent point. There are definitely opportunities for people to pursue higher education without immersing themselves in the secular university environment.

    I’m not sure what I think of the idea of “anti-bodies.” I see what you mean, but I think there’s more to it. Somehow, when I was first becoming religious, the fact that I was in university–and this was a university with a miniscule observant population–didn’t seem problematic to me at all. It was only after taking some time off to learn in seminary that I realized how much I had been effected by the negative environment. The university I’m in now has a relatively huge observant community (and, being Israeli, is probably about 85% Jewish), but it’s actually somewhat difficult for me to maintain my level of observance while studying there. Does that make any sense? I’m not sure why it is.

    It could be that the initial excitement and newness of Torah, in school #1, helped me to basically ignore my surroundings for a while. Whatever it is, I know other friends who’ve unfortunately faced the same thing. During their first year or so as BTs they were fine in uni, but if they didn’t take some time off to learn in yeshiva after that, or at least separate themselves from the campus environment, they slid back downhill. It could be that there are “antibodies” that each BT gets as a gift for their first couple of years, but after a while even BTs are not immune to the social pressures and overwhelmingly non-Jewish values of college life.

  96. The biggest difference between a BT who went to public HS going to university and someone who was raised in a Jewishly observant home & schools going to university, is *what* the new horizons are: for someone who has already learned to ignore or turn away from the garbage that exists in today’s culture, the opportunity to pursue Jewish avenues may be the new thing, while for the FFB, who doesn’t have the same “anti-bodies” (comment 7), the partying and other nonsense may be the new thing – to check out, because they have the freedom to do so.

    Being observant in a college dorm environment, even one that offers “popular” frum options (Penn Hillel, Cornell’s “House”, BU Hillel, SUNY Binghamton’s Chabad, . . ), still needs to be a conscious choice for each student. And not all will make that choice.

    I definitely don’t see any advantage to dorming for a child from a frum background.

  97. Rachel-Two MO graduates of Harvard and MIT have written a well-circulated pamphlet advising MO parents not to send their children to the Ivies even after a year or two of study in EY because of the religious, cultural , moral and academic risks encountered to the average student and his or her committment to MO. They view the Ivies as acceptable for a married couple in graduate school, but the average single who will be exposed to kol davar assur and thereby encounter major obstacles both inside the classroom and campus life in remaining a Torah observant Jew. When you read about the kinds of events that student activities fees sponsor that are anti Israel, anti Torah, etc, I think that it is fair to say that diversity and pluralism are what rules on campus today, as opposed to a strong Jewish life. Anyone who needs more proof in a graphic form should read either the pamphlet or Tom Wolfe’s “My Name is Charlotte Simmons”, which describes “campus life” in a way that I doubt that many, if not all, of us would want for our children

    I am also skeptical about the role of Hillel. Of course, Chabad and a new OU program ( the Jewish Campus Initiative) provide an alternative to Hillel for frum students. Yet, Hillel’s emphasis on pluralism and incorporating all Jewish students IMO cannot be rationally reconciled with the goals of helping a MO student maintain his or her faith committtment.

    Look at it this way. Both the Talmud and every other secular legal system that I am aware of do not view walking into a collapsing building with any favor. IMO, those schools and parents that kvel about Ivy League admissions and assume that there is no threat to being observant really IMO are pretty ignorant of the facts of campus life for students today.

  98. Yaakov Astor, quick sidetrack note regarding the concept of unfaithful higher up faculty members in college putting a damper on a pure holy bais yaakov soul. Faithful but straying and married but looking higher ups and authority figures in the Educational system probally exist in every school of thought and institution of higher or regular learning for that matter .And spanning all religions on the available religion spectrum.The bright sparkly glittery side of that is there may already be antibodies existing in the holy souls or any souls on avoiding stuff like that .The higher ups and authority figure straying thing is Probally just a new Smirnoff Blackcherry twist on the Midlife crisis phenomenon albeit career specific.

  99. Rachel, you really know how to pick a topic. I predict lots of comments for this one.

    Anyway, among the distinctions that need to be made is between a college education vs. dorming at a college. In non-Chassidic, very orthodox communities it is increasingly common for men and women (women more than men) to take classes, on-line and/or off-line (in a perdominantly or exclusively orthodox institution), for college credit toward earning a degree. The stigma of a college degree, where there was one, is falling away. That’s because these people can get themselves or their children an advanced education leading to increased opportunities to support a frum lifestyle without exposing them to the challenges of a college campus.

    You have to realize that to someone like you, who came from a secular background and voluntarily took on mitzvos, has built-in “anti-bodies” to things that someone from a fully observant upbringing does not. I, myself, spent my senior year in college, after becoming frum, and found the challenges daunting. How can we expect a person without that to stand up to the challenges?

    Hence, I imagine you might agree that it is prudent for those who raise children in an observant environment, and who want them to have the best chance to make a decent living at something honorable that they enjoy, to make the distinction between the degree and the dorm.

    Of course, if a Torah-observant person — whether raised FFB or a BT — finds themselves dorming at a university they should do the best to make a kiddush Hashem. (I remember in my senior year standing up in class to a Shakespearian professor who claimed a particular passage in “Merchant of Venice” was not anti-Semitic. Afterward, however temporarily it lasted, I became a type of hero to some otherwise marginal Jews.)

    Nevertheless, for someone without the “anti-bodies” (and even for many who think they have them in sufficient quantity) it is generally not a great idea to think one will change others on campus more than the campus will change them. It’s kind of like opening the door to a house on a cold winter day to heat up the world outside. It’s probably not the outside that’s going to get warm, but the inside that’s going to get cold.

    Just yesterday my wife told me of a friend’s daughter (not dorming) who is taking pre-med courses at a renouned university and overheard a conversation between two men in another room talking about sleeping with women. It turned out these men were married, high-up faculty members in the school. This is not to say that all secular people are filanderers. However, even if they had been fellow students it’s not necessarily the environment you want your Bais Yaakov educated daughter to attend.

  100. That’s a total misuse of the word “korbonot”. Korbonot does not translate to “fire offering”. It comes from the root “to bring near”. We *want* our children to bring us closer to Hashem.

  101. Despite the practical, career-related utility of college or university studies, there are increasingly drawbacks for anyone who enters and is not firmly anchored in a frum circle. Some of these are most serious for those who live on campus.

    The problem areas in many institutions include:

    1. Undergraduates at some institutions are placed into coed dorms whether they like it or not.

    2. All types of organized and unorganized promiscuity happen at all times all over the place.

    3. Overwhelmingly leftist, anti-religious faculty members are eager to push their social, political, and philosophical agendas in class.

    4. Islamic radicals are often present in the faculty or as invited speakers or in officially recognized student groups. Administrations in it for the money have established Saudi-funded chairs, departments, institutes, etc., that push an anti-Israel and often anti-Jewish line.

    5. Some entire disciplines have fallen into “PC” thinking and only those in lock-step with this thinking can have successful careers.

    These trends have accelerated since the 1960’s.
    Details of academic political abuses are often posted at

    Whatever you choose to do, first do your investigative homework and proceed with eyes open.

  102. To deconstruct some of the ideas presented:

    “If we all live in our bubbles, how can we ever hope to reach out to the rest of klal yisrael?”

    A claim that a college education is a necessary prerequisite for successful outreach is less than convincing.

    There are FFB degree-less kiruv pros who are very successful.

    “How can we expect other Jews to want to live a frum lifestyle if we are closed off and unwelcoming?”

    Once again, how is refinement of character and accessibility towards fellow Jews who want to learn more contingent on a baccalaureate?

    A personal anecdote: While experimenting with taking on Yiddishkeit, there were Shabbos meals hosted by warm and welcoming families (residing in communities you would likely define as “bubbles”) without a single BA amongst them.

    Simple piety and an outlook of “Kol Yisrael Areivim” was their advanced degree and in this case it went pretty far.

  103. Ora,

    My oldest daughter has gone “into the basement”, so to speak, and is admired for it!

  104. Rachel, there’s a big difference between public schools for kids ages 5-18 and secular university for a kid who’s been raised religious. The first one is a major obstacle to raising a healthy child with good values (I know plenty of secular, non-Jewish parents who don’t want to send their kids to public school–it’s not just a “frum” issue). The second is actually quite accepted in the frum world. In fact, my impression from the talkbacks was that most people on this forum are university graduates, and wouldn’t have a problem with their kids choosing university as well (as long as there’s a decent Jewish community there).

    About being a light to the nations: Am Israel has the potential to fill her role as a “light to the nations” not by spreading out into the world and participating in foreign cultures, but davka by living together in Eretz Israel (in a bubble, some might say) and creating a holy culture from the Torah for other nations to look to and emulate. Of course, wherever we find ourselves in the meantime, we must do our best to bring the light of Torah into that place. The point is, the process of becoming a light to the nations involves separating from the nations, not mingling with them further.

    Two more comments, which I’ll try to make quick:
    -Not going to secular schools doesn’t make us “unwelcoming.” “Unwelcoming” would be if we didn’t welcome other Jews into our communities. As it is, we’re just not all very outgoing.
    -One could say that it is secular society which is “in the basement.” Kol hakavod to those with the strength to go into the basement and try to spread some light there, but it’s not a job for everyone.

  105. Rachel,

    I know what you mean. My oldest is going from a public hs here in Queens, where there aren’t many Jewish kids, yet she has remained true to Torah, to Queens College, where there is practically a “Kollel” of Frum Jews all over the campus. Both my girls went to PS, yet I saw to it that, as I got more Frum myself, they did as well. I always say it starts @ home. However, my youngest will be attending a Yeshiva HS for girls that takes PS girls who have never been to Yeshiva before.

    I know what Mr. Klein said about if we send our kids to PS, it’s like “sacrificing” them. It depends on the school, the environment, how the kid is brought up, and kid itself.

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