Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Charedization of our Youth

There has been much talk about the year or two spent in Israel post high school. And the pros and cons have been discussed many times by me and by others, most recently by Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum in Mishapcha and cross posted to cross-currents.

The truth happens to be that the Israel experience can be one of tremendous growth for a young person. They go from the cocoon of a home or school environment with a great many distractions that leave them in most cases hamper their ability to grow into independent and responsible adults. On the other hand we all know of the pitfalls of living 6 or 7 thousand miles away from home without the watchful eye of a parent to make sure that a child stays on the straight and narrow. In some cases a propensity for getting into trouble can be severely enhanced in such quarters. That’s why there has been a proliferation of schools ion Israel that deal with these kinds of problems. But, for the vast majority of young people, the Israel experience in incomparable.

The fact is, however, that the vast majority of high school graduates, especially males who go to Israel immediately post high school are those from non-Charedi homes and schools. Those who come from very Charedi homes and schools, like Philly or Telshe, tend not to go to Israel post high school. At least not for a few years if at all and then only to Brisk if they can get in. Or the Mir if they can’t.

But for the non-Charedi Schools like HTC’s Fasman Yeshiva High School it is automatic. It wasn’t always this way. When I graduated HTC’s high school back during the Pleistocene era (Class of ‘64) only a few hardy souls dared to take the challenge of leaving all the comforts of home and living 7000 miles away for a full year. Why is it so automatic now?

I think it is directly related to another problem, the inability to have enough non Charedi Mechanchim in the system. Charedi Mechanchim have just about taken over all areas of Chinuch in the United States. Including many Yeshiva high schools that are not Charedi. And they most decidedly preach a Charedi approach and lifestyle for their students.

During the four years of high school, they know they aren’t going to really have an impact on most students due to the influences of the home. So they bide their time push right wing Yeshivos and seminaries in Israel on their students. And of course the market place has responded. A plethora of Charedi Yeshivos and seminaries geared to the student who has been immersed in American popular culture.

These young people with their minds full of mush go to Israel still relatively immature and very attached to American popular culture and return anew as “born again” Charedim, whose views of the world have been drastically changed from what the parents had worked to instill in them. Not all students “buy the farm” to be sure. But many do and in far greater number than on would have expected. And this has caused much stress and disappointment in many good and decent parents. They send their children to Israel in the hope that they will mature into responsible young adults and in the process of becoming mature they also come back with radically different Hashkafos.

And that’s not a good thing. It is in essence a high-jacking away from the parents of their child’s education. It is an indoctrination of Charedi values and ideals that most of these homes do not have and do not want their children to have. In some cases they can be weaned from that Hashkafa to some degree and can be convinced to return at least somewhat to their original Hashkafos. But in some cases they can’t and there have been some real big family disruptions. Many parents suffer great motional pain because of it. Parents who have invested many dollars in their children’s education, sacrificed many years of time and effort... truly having experienced Tzar Gidal Banim, now see a product they barely recognize.

Most parents just throw in the towel after a while and just go with the flow. They do after all love their children. But they did not raise them, the way they turned out to be. And that is just plain unfair.

This phenomenon, along with many others is why I believe that I am a dinosaur. My Hashkafos of Torah U’Mada will not prevail. But neither will Torah Im Derech Eretz. And neither will Torah U’Parnassah, or any other non-Charedi Hashkafa. Those Hashkafos are denigrated by the right, especially in Israel.

Someday things will change and secular education and Parnassa will once again be given a higher value than they are now. But I think that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. The bottom will someday fall out. The Charedi community will run out of money. When that finally happens, things will begin to change. But I'm afraid to see what will happen in the interim.