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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/27/06

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Dear Rachel,

I want to fight tooth and nail for our children’s rights! I want to stand up and shout, “What are you doing to our children!”

Let me explain why I am so angry.

I refer to the yeshiva system of our day, the same yeshivos your son/daughter attends from nursery school till 8th grade when suddenly s/he is rejected for high school.

You see, your average Yossi may be a good boy with great midos, but he is not the best student in his class. Or he may not have that yeshivish look they are seeking. Or his parents may not have enough money to bribe their way.

The yeshiva has to maintain its reputation of picking only the best, and that means that your child is not worthy because he did not know the Gemara on the level the yeshiva expected him to. Only the shiniest apples get picked.

We are living in a fake world – either you act out your part or you are out.

Why are so many of our kids out in the streets and off the derech? It always begins the same way: either a kid was thrown out or s/he was rejected.

There are three partners in a child’s life to help him/her grow – Hashem, the parents, and the teachers. The parents’ responsibility is to provide a safe and healthy environment for their child to grow up in. They choose a yeshiva as a partner, to help in the process of raising their child in a Torah way. And then when s/he grows into his/her teens, the most sensitive time in a child’s life, a time when self-esteem is being built and maturity is setting in, s/he is halted at the big gate with the sign that reads, “Do Not Enter! Only the Best Can Come In.”

Just like that, your child is being tossed out like garbage.

Dear Rosh Yeshiva, why isn’t your yeshiva built to deal with all types of students? How dare you reject a child just because he wasn’t able to recite the Gemara on your level? Why do you cast aside a child who spent most of his life in your yeshiva and does not want to change his safe environment and the friends he’s grown close to? Why do you accept children from the outside and not your own? Is the reputation of your yeshiva more important than saving a Jewish life? Or is it that you don’t wish to deal with having to open a class with a lower level of learning, at a slower pace, for the not-so-smart boys.

Yes, I know it takes a bit of caring and an increase in expenditure to cater to the not-so-average students, but the reality of life is that nobody is perfect. “Chanoch l’naar al pi darko” – educate each child according to his way. And that means not every boy or girl is able to be a talmid chacham – that perfect child or that little tzaddik you wish him/her to be. But every child is able to be a good person, to do chassadim, to be a mentch.

Most of the more modern yeshivas have a low percentage rate of children being ousted. For they make sure that the years spent in their schools are happy ones. The children partake in activities such as sports, crafts, and chessed programs that teach them to volunteer at hospitals, old age homes and so on.

Understandably, not every child can withstand sitting and learning all day. If only your yeshiva would invest in instituting various programs for those who need them, students would be so eager to come to school and would perform better. Think of the many children you would be saving. “Kol hamatzil nefesh achas m’yisrael ke’ilu kayim olam maleh” – one who saves one soul of Israel is as if he has set up a whole world. Help save Jewish souls; don’t throw them out to be eaten by wolves.

Some of our biggest luminaries, like Rabbi Akiva and the Baal Shem Tov, maintained an aura of simplicity and what great tzaddikim they turned out to be! You can never know what big neshamos you may be pushing away.

Do you, dear Rosh Yeshiva, have the right to reject a boy for the reason that he did not do so well in his entrance bechinah, or didn’t read the Gemara to your satisfaction? Is he not entitled to as good a future as the other boys? Apparently midos do not count when it comes to choosing a talmid for your yeshiva. Is this what our fathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov would have wanted to see for the future of Am Yisrael? Where is the Ahavas Yisrael – the love and caring for all of Hashem’s children?

Please, I beg of you, do not allow our children to get lost in this bad system. Love each and every child who wants to continue in your yeshiva. Accommodate every kind of child.

If you feel a desperate need to expel a child, do so in a respectful manner. Leave the child’s dignity intact. Keep in touch and make sure that s/he has a good place to go following expulsion from your yeshiva.

Countless of parents and children are in so much pain due to a faulty yeshiva system. We must not sit idly by – something needs to be done!

I appeal to all the gedolim and caring rabbonim to please now allow such abuse to take place in our community. The rabbonim in Lakewood do not let the girls’ seminaries open till every girl is settled in a school. So too must every boys’ yeshiva assure that no boy is lost…

Please open your hearts to change.

How can Moshiach come if our own leaders do not practice Ahavas Yisrael? There has to be change and it has to be now!

A Heartbroken Mother who refuses to give up on her children’s future

(Response next week)

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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