Who’s Putting Kids At Risk?

22 Aug
Exhibit A: the At Risk Hoodie

Guest Post by: Ben Kaye

So I’ve heard plenty about the Kids At Risk crisis, seen bits of it, but mostly just stories from rebbeim and beis midrash guys trying to scare us into staying on the straight and narrow. Hearing these stories as I first came to yeshiva in ninth grade, I applied and intended to go with the idea in my head that attending a yeshiva was a privilege. I, and other bochrim, would be going to learn our heritage, study bchavrusa, and get closer to hashem.

That sounds like something normal, correct? As it turns out, I could not have been further away from the truth. Sure there were good kids, but suddenly it made sense as to why there were so many punishments and loopholes and rabbi crackdowns.

Students should be in a yeshiva because they WANT to be there. They should respect the guidelines set in place so that they may improve themselves and secure their spot in an environment that allows them to flourish.

Then why is it that this cat and mouse game is always played?

Parents of children expelled from yeshivas in New York, BEGGING yeshivas out of town to accept them, claiming it is their child’s only chance. Yeshivas out of town accepting them, to only then kicking them out a few weeks or months later as the school gets fed up with threatened expulsions and suspensions. These types of kids do not have a desire to do well in a yeshiva, and even arrive at their new dorm publicly voicing their desire to get themselves expelled as soon as possible.

Really? Is this where we come from? Is this the Jewish peoples’ model for chinuch? Hundreds of years ago, at Volozhin yeshiva, entire towns of people would give tzedakah in order that one student could afford to go and learn torah. I am sure that a student of Volozhin would treat every minute like gold, and that an expulsion due to breaking basic halacha was unheard of. Yes, I know we were much holier back then, but should we as Orthodox Jews really design the entire chinuch system to ensure that kids who want to rebel and go off, can do so while being forced to stay in a “yeshiva” enviroment? Why do they have to hop from yeshiva to yeshiva bringing down the kosherness of the enviroment with them?

Seriously, it’s simple. Teach your kids about Judaism. Chinuch them, day schools, the whole shebang. But when your kid gets kicked out of his yeshiva for whatever reason and fights against being religious, just stop. Seriously. Your not doing anyone a favour.

Either your kid wants to be in yeshiva, or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, tell him to GTFO.

Note: I know, just because you break rules doesn’t mean you should leave, I mean the kids who have no overall appreciation for what they are receiving by being in a Jewish institution.

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8 Responses to “Who’s Putting Kids At Risk?”

  1. J August 22, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    Many people in Volozhin were far from model Orthodox citizens.

  2. Gutman Braun August 22, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    It’s hard to disagree with common sense, but let’s discuss a couple points:

    Before we even start, It’s hard to look at Volozhin (or that time period altogether) as a model. Remember that pre-Volozhin there were no large Yeshivos to speak of, anywhere. There was an essentially closed society where the vast majority of people worked and knew very little, and those select few who were knowledgeable simply learned in the Batei Midrashos.

    With the arrival of the enlightenment (and the general attitude of public education), society began to open up, and Yeshivos like Volozhin and Pressburg were formed as a result/response. Volozhin was especially known as a hot-bed of maskilim, as intellectual stimulation was appealing and offered them opportunities to pursue intellectual pursuits and educated peers. Subsequently, many Yeshivos developed with varying approaches – and varying success – to provide intellectual opportunity and keep people in the faith. Of course, those less intellectually inclined had no need for yeshivos and they remained laborers, businessmen etc.

    Fast-forward to today: The battle with the “Haskala” continues and is a losing endeavor – because society is only more open than Volozhin’s day, and there is no longer a place for the simpler working/professional class. Public education is considered an inalienable right and necessity, therefore yeshivos must be for all – or else the likely scenario involves losing vast numbers of the next generation to secularism.

    Personally, that’s fine with me – but not fine for an Orthodox Jew who is concerned with Jewish continuity.
    What can the Frum establishment do to address this? I really don’t know, and neither do they…

    • bendkaye August 22, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

      Of course yeshivas should be for all, but why accept a kid and make him hop around going from yeshiva to yeshiva if he just doesn’t want to be there?

      I doubt we would be losing hundreds of yiddin by NOT accepting these people, forcing those types to stay in institutions and environments that they despise would only further them from a path of torah and harm others along the way. Plus make it harder for good guys to do normal things without restrictions, like not being allowed to walk on Main Street in Queens during school hours because the girls school is there.

      Of course, restrictions are necessary, but more extreme ones would not be, (ie drug testing, room searches, etc.) if it were not a prominent issue, and it becomes a prominent issue usually by guys who have no interest in being in the school at all.

      I picked Volozhin as a model just for examples sake, I did not mean to reflect on a previous society, I needed an example of a place where people were there because they wanted to be there, not their parents or rabbeim.

      • Gutman Braun August 23, 2011 at 9:24 am #

        I understand – but what would you real-life practical alternative be?

        • bendkaye August 23, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

          co-ed schools 😉

          • itchemeyer August 23, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

            Yeah baby. Actually that might solve a lot of other problems as well.

            • bendkaye August 24, 2011 at 2:57 am #

              Like the surprising amount of gay people?
              And the sexual tension when a girl walks into a room?

              • itchemeyer August 25, 2011 at 2:44 am #

                Bingo. Both of which contribute to screwed up marriages.

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