Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

I know I should have written sooner but I didn’t know what the end game would look like. Now, I find myself in a very troubling place and don’t know how to proceed. To make you better understand my predicament, it would be best to take you back a ways in time so you can follow the progression of my dilemma.

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I am the middle child of five in my family sandwiched between two older and two younger brothers. I just graduated high school this past June and even though my two older brothers went to learn in Israel, my parents had no desire for me to go to seminary there, and I never pushed the issue in my first three years of high school. I had no real desire to go away from home, after spending two awful summers in sleep-away camps, so I was done with going away from home, especially so far away that coming home would be an issue.

During my senior year, all the girls suddenly spoke of nothing else! Which seminary to go to, which interview to fight for, what clothes to take, books and so much more. At the beginning of it, I just sat back and listened to the chatter with my three friends who also weren’t going to go and we just took it all in. Then, one by one, each of my close friends came around to the idea because their older siblings had gone, so their parents insisted they had to pick and apply to go also. I was absolutely shocked to think I would be the only one left behind while my whole class went to seminary in Israel, so on a whim right before Purim, I also applied to interview for the seminary my three friends were going to and two others. I didn’t tell my parents about this until I received conformation that I had been accepted.

That night, five weeks before I graduated, I excitedly told my parents that I had been accepted to seminary in Eretz Yisroel and that I was excited to be going. My parents were shocked and very displeased that I had gone ahead with these plans without consulting them. They said they were not of the mind to send their only daughter to Israel, especially now that the coronavirus was running rampant both here and abroad. I pleaded, begged and cried until they finally gave in, sent in the tuition and the paperwork along with doctors clearance, booked the flight and everything was set.

Life, however, changed drastically during those five weeks. My grandfather passed away from the illness, two aunts and one uncle also passed and many in my extended family and friends became ill. Hearing that in Israel there was an upsurge in the virus casualties did little to calm my own nerves and I began to question my choice of leaving my family at this time. Surprisingly, my parents insisted that I should ‘follow my dreams’ and go. But with each passing day, I became more and more afraid to go and regretted my decision. I was thrilled when all the flights were cancelled and the Israeli government forbade yeshivos from accepting the foreign students from abroad to enter the country. I thought my fears has been heard and that I wouldn’t have to go after all.

For awhile I stopped thinking about it as I had already accepted the fact that I would not be going, when everything suddenly changed. A small window of opportunity opened which would allow students to enter Israel and go into quarantined in their respective schools. Quickly, all the schools were readying the flights for immediate departure to beat the chance that the government would have a change of heart and cut off the incoming students. My mother, just up from shiva for her sister, quickly packed and got me ready to go on the 25th of this month, while I was cringing with fear not wanting to go and not being able to say anything to anyone because I was the one who fought so hard to go to begin with. Please help me deal with this and tell me what I should do!

 

Dear Child,

My heart aches for you and the problem you are grappling with. I know you are probably about eighteen-years-old and think you are all grown up and able to make decisions for yourself, but there are still those moments when eighteen might as well be eight and the fears and heartaches are very real. Compound this with the most bizarre and terrifying year where nothing is sane and reality is twisted, There are a multitude of reasons why you are so lost in yourself and the idea of leaving your family after suffering so much loss of life and health, it is an understatement to think you should be thrilled to leave.

Please understand that what I am about to suggest to you is what I feel would be best for you at this time. I know that you are torn over your decision to leave your family, but this is precisely the time for you to go and start spreading your young adult wings, be with people your own age and experience this year now, because it can never be experienced in this way again. I truly believe your parents understand this and want this for you. If, indeed, after giving it a fair chance for a few months, you find you do not want to stay and really, truly want to return home, I’m sure your parents will see their way clear to fly you back.

This comes not to give you any guilt should you choose to return home, just the clarity of mind to understand that most things in life are not easy and almost all decisions we make, even after giving them much thought, have the chance of backfiring. Those poor choices are not failures, they are learning experiences from which we draw understanding and insight so as not to repeat them. My feeling is that if you don’t get on that plane and give the seminary year your best try, you will always regret not having followed through. This is the year you evolve and learn that no choice is a bad choice if you haven’t learned anything from having made and completed it.

So, try to relax and find the excitement you had when you found out you were accepted to seminary, speak to your friends who are going with you and make plans to have the greatest year ever. And chances are you will have the most wonderful adventures on which to build your new adult life on, as you leave your childhood behind. Take lots of pictures and send them to me so I can enjoy that year with you, because I never got that privilege. And remember that this is a privilege that not all young women get to have, so make the most of it, get in touch with your roots, your ancestry and your history. This year is a gift of a lifetime, use it well and come back at the end of it a little bit older, a lot wiser and most grateful that you made the right choice even when you thought you didn’t.

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