While there are some universities that have an excellent Jewish presence that enables students to remain observant there are many that don’t. If they do not pick up any enthusiasm for their Judaism in high school, they can easily go OTD. It seems to be a big problem. I’ve addressed this issue before.
Memo to Jewish educators: While it is vitally important to have organizations like NCSY to fill in the ‘inspiration gap’ left out in the schools, it is perhaps even more important to ask why that kind of inspiration is lacking or insufficient in the classroom. And then try to do something about it.
Among the many things Judaism can do for you is to give meaning to your life. Judaism is more than about following Halacha and believing in God and His Torah. While those are the essential elements of Judaism – they may not be enough for some people to keep adhering to the sometimes difficult task of being observant in a society that values freedom above all else. Without understanding that Judaism provides meaning to one’s life, one can end up rejecting it. But even with that knowledge motivating observance may fall short if there is no reinforcement by one’s peers and friends.
Sam Love who recently wrote so poignantly about his own journey in and out of observance contacted me again, recently. Among other things he said the following which I think sums it up:
We are born, we go to school, we work, we get married, we get divorced, we retire and we die. If life in this world is not our ultimate goal, what is the purpose of living? The purpose of living is to prepare for our ultimate goal – olam haba. It just makes sense. And what can prepare us for our ultimate goal in life? Religion – yiddishkeit. That was my (original) reason (for becoming observant) and even today, secular society seems so vacant and pointless. Yiddishkeit and NCSY do not seem vacant and pointless. My experiences in the Frum world (Chabad and Yeshiva) seem more dismal than secular society.
I am now going to school in Toronto. As you may know, there is a huge Jewish community here, and I think it is safe to say that not everyone here is Luvavitch or yeshivish – yet I haven’t been to shul here in the nearly 2 years that I have been here, and I don’t plan on going to any in the near future.
Why? I can’t quite put my finger on it, but if I had to guess, it would be that there are most likely going to be bad people at shul and it presumably (based on past experiences) would be an uncomfortable environment, so why would I want to put myself through that and go?
Need I say more?
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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