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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 3/31/06

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Dear Rachel,

This is in reference to the letter from “A Heartbroken Mom who refuses to give up on her children’s future” (Chronicles,1-27). I am a Life Coach, a Teen Mentor, and a Student Advocate, and I wholeheartedly agree and support her perspective and concerns.

The Yeshiva system today, in its race for perfection – which is a business concept and not a chinuch one – has gotten so out of control and so far removed from what is Torah’dik and proper. In its attempts at selection and dismissal, it has managed to destroy not only self-esteem, but the basic connections between good-natured and Torah-abiding kids and their association with Hashem, Torah and mitzvos, as well.

Yeshivos have had a major hand in chasing our children away from frumkeit, and they refuse to take accountability for it. What’s more, the public refuses to discuss it because chas v’sholom we don’t dare say anything against the Yeshiva world or the rebbeim. But without bringing it into the forum of discussion, how can we possibly slow the tide and stop this horrible phenomenon of Kids-at-risk, cause and effect? Yes, there are other causes, but this is a big one and we can’t ignore it anymore. We can’t sweep it under the rug and hide from it. Too many of our children and too many of our families have been destroyed. Whole families have taken severe nosedives as a direct result of these situations.

When a child is “dismissed” from a yeshiva and is not assisted in finding a new environment, it is literally like putting a label on that child that reads “garbage.” No other yeshiva wants them either – their philosophy being “if he is not good enough for them, he is not good enough for us.” Who said Hashem wants everyone to be perfect? Who said all the rebbeim and mechanchim are perfect? Who said all the yeshivos are perfect? Moreover, who said these children are not perfect in their own way? Has Hashem appointed any one of these rshei yeshivos as judges? Does Hashem allow any of us to judge each other in such a fashion?

In my generation there was always an Aleph, Bais, and Gimmel class, according to the child’s capability, and everyone was happy. Who said a yeshiva can only function with all Aleph students? And who coined the phrase “metzuyan?” Must everyone in the yeshiva be “metzuyanim?”

Should we then demand that every rebbe and/or Rosh Yeshiva be tested – and if they don’t measure up to the level of, let’s say Rav Moshe Feinstein, z”l or Rav Avraham Pam, z”l, then should they all be made to relinquish their positions? After all, if the kids are expected to be perfect, shouldn’t their mechanchim be perfect? Shouldn’t only the best and the most qualified be their role models? And even more so, shouldn’t we have a committee walking through the yeshivos to make sure our standards are upheld and no mistakes are made, ensuring that the mechanchim are above reproach – just like their talmidim?

Maybe the old world wasn’t so bad after all, because the Vaad Hachinuch had the right idea, and maybe we really need to put it back in place. Many yeshivos are privately owned, and we have no one to speak to – because the owner is the “Rosh” and basically it’s his baseball and if you don’t like the game, go home. In many cases, it’s a matter of “kovod,” and no one wants to mess with that. Or it’s just a matter of beating everyone out to the top, which is about money. If you can buy your way in, you’re in – if not, you’re out of luck. In any case, this has nothing to do with what’s best for the children or what the Torah teaches us – which makes us a bunch of hypocrites. And without a doubt, kids can spot a hypocrite a mile away.

You can’t teach Torah and Torah values on one hand, and be a hypocrite on the other. This doesn’t affect just the kids who are thrown out, it affects the other children, too – because the yeshiva threw out their friends, brothers and cousins – kids whom they have known all their lives – their chavrusos, their buddies, and their pals. How does that make them feel?

This practice is very far reaching. Our shidduch society looks down upon families whose sons have gone through this process. And, chas v’sholom, if there is a shidduch aged child in the family, that process becomes much more difficult. Consider the strain on the shalom bayis in the family – the parents blaming each other, “you could have done more you let him get away with you should have studied with him or paid more attention. you babied him etc.” Think of the increased financial burden due to new schools and therapy sessions. The selfish opinion of a Rosh Yeshiva can turn the entire workings of that family and household upside down – simply by refusing to work with that child.

The yeshiva has as much responsibility to a child as do his parents. And they moreover have more of an influence and more of an opportunity to observe the child. Many of the choices and decision-making opportunities are taken from the parents who must abide by the decisions of the yeshiva. The yeshiva is absolutely obligated to work with a child – their child – and they have no more right to abandon him than do his parents.

It is natural for a parent to love his child unconditionally. The child understands that love and accepts it as normal. When a yeshiva loves that child, it makes all the difference in the world to him. This is what gives him the impetus to keep learning and growing. Now . . . imagine the impact of having that love taken away.

Leadership without Responsibility is pointless

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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