Friday, February 05, 2010

The Pendulum Swings Back

I predicted it. And it has begun. The pendulum is swinging back. The right wing Charedi philosophy of learning Torah to the exclusion of all else for all eternity is slowly being eroded. Not that Learning is being devalued. But that there are limits to how much of one’s life one should spend doing it - and at whose expense.

There is no better evidence of this than a post on a blog from a Lakewood resident, who I gather was once an Avreich and now works for a living. He still buys into that philosophy and strongly objects to an incident that occurred in one of their Beis Yaakovs:

In the course of discussing tuition for one family who’s father learns full time in kollel, and the negotiations were getting intense. So the adminstrator tells the father, “It’s time for you to leave kollel, get a job, and pay tuition just like anyone else.”

Remember this is Lakewood - the community that houses Beis HaMedrash Gavoha (commonly called Lakewood). Lakewood is the prototype Yeshiva for the Hashkafa of Talmid Torah 24/7 - 365 for eternity as a goal for every male Jew. This Hashkafa dominates virtually the whole community and extends to similar communities all over the world. I’m not entirely convinced that this was the intent of its founder, Rav Aharon Kotler. But that seems to be the philosophy now. Here is the response of this blogging former Avreich:

… a school’s success is largely dependent on the makeup of the parent’s that choose to send to that school. Kollel families generally are of a higher caliber…

Yes friends – this is the old ‘2nd class citizen argument’ for working people. This blogger who now supports his family after having been an Avreich is now a sub standard human being. I predict that this attitude too will change with time. But for now, this ‘happy working man’ remains a 2nd class citizen in his own mind.

The good news is that school administrators are not having any of that. They need money. And large Kollel families who generally require huge scholarships are not going to provide it. I further assume that the administrator is a card carrying Charedi. He works for a Lakewood style school and almost certainly has Daas Torah behind him. School administrators in schools like this do not say things like “go get a job” to Avreichim without the backing of ‘The Gedolim”.

This is a radical departure from the past. The attitude has always been that if you can do it – stay in Kollel. Don’t’ worry about the money. We will raise it. No Charedi educational institution would have ever dreamed of telling an Avreich whose family is relatively stable with no Shalom Bayis issues to get up from Kollel and get a job. This was unheard of. And yet, it happened.

I’ll bet this was not the first time. And it won’t be the last. It will happen more and more as parents with increasingly large families come in expecting scholarship money that just isn’t there. They are going to have to get jobs.

This change in attitude may be happening by way of a back door policy. It may even go unnoticed by the world at large – for now. I’m sure that is how the rabbinic leadership of places like Lakewood want it. But it does seem to be happening if this is any indication. And to that I say, ‘Hooray!’

Note to the Lakewood leadership - Now if only these Avreichim had some skills or professional training under their belts. Think of the possibilities...