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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Why are the Yeshivas throwing out Jewish Children without giving them a chance?



The following is a letter from a "frustrated mother" to Dr. Respler in this week's column in the Jewish Press! I will not print Dr. Respler's response because the letter speaks for itself and there really isn't a satisfactory answer until the Menahlim and the Roshei Yeshivas take immediate action to stop this. They are the direct cause of children going off the derech, not the parents. The "Mechanchim" would like to blame the parents, the children, TV, Cable, Wireless Phones, Computers,etc... everyone and everything but their own actions. The Yeshivas have to face the fact that there is a new world now, and learn to deal with it, otherwise they should close up and hand the yeshiva buildings over to people that have know how and the motivation to deal with all types of children... 
In an interview with the Editor of Ami Magazine (September 7, 2011 edition) Rebbetzin Malke Feinstein, the esteemed wife of the noted posek and Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Dovid Feinstein, said the following in reference to the attitude of today's Chinuch Institutions. "Years ago, doors were open for any child who wanted to learn. No one was afraid that a child would spoil those around them. If a child wanted to come to a yeshiva, then he belonged there. We are so busy protecting our children today, yet more and more children are going off the derech. Why? Because they are made to feel like second-class citizens."
When Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter the Editor of Ami asked her, "How, then, should a school develop its policies? Where should they draw the line in terms of whom they accept?" Her succinct response was: "There shouldn't be a line." She added ..."Reputation, that's what they're concerned about. There's too much of an emphasis on chitzonius (outward appearance) today. "


Dear Dr. Respler
What motivates menahalim to discard students who don't "walk the line?" Is there a place in chinuch for kiruv?  Must things always be "black and white?"


I am a mother of an 18-year-old son who had a roller coaster ride for his high-school journey.
 He attended a mainstream elementary yeshiva, coming in with an eagerness to learn and to grow. He was not all knowing and perfect - he wanted to gain knowledge. 
When my son came to school with a Harry Potter book, it was snatched from his little hand as if it were a weapon of mass destruction (although I am certain that in the heimshe velt, it was a well read book).
 The school lost the opportunity to have a warm discussion about appropriate reading material, in a loving manner, in which the student would be embraced and treated with respect


But even this pales in comparison to what ensued after he was accepted into a yeshiva high school.   It was before school even began when we received a phone call saying that the yeshiva had changed their mind about accepting him and we should look elsewhere.
 The reason: someone had seen him talking to girls on Shabbos.  We explained that it was his sister and some cousins visiting from out of town - but to no avail. 

We  began to look for other options. However, no yeshiva would accept him, because the Schools talk to each other.  I worried for my son and how he was really taking things.  He was cooperative through the process, but it was hard. In the end our original choice of school accepted him - on probation. Baruch Hashem he excelled - he was learning all day and when he came home he went to learn with his chavrusa
 Then in the beginning of 10th grade he was caught with his cell phone in school - which was against the rules - and he was immediately expelled. I reached out to a known Rosh Yeshiva  during this fiasco and when I got him on the phone, he actually said that he picked up the phone by mistake and hung up on me.There were those who offered to help, but they were not effective. 


Is it any wonder so many of our youth go off the derech?
I had little choice but to enroll him in a school in Manhattan that was quite modern. He didn't do well with his newfound freedom and all that was available to him in that arena.  I poured as much understanding and love as I could to keep him in the mainstream. As difficult as it may have been to accept, I knew that I had a son at risk. 
Baruch Hashem, my son came though it and is going to Israel to learn. He said he is seriously considering becoming a rebbe - I bet it has something to do with righting so many of the wrongs he encountered in the yeshiva world.
Please explain why so many of our cherished children are thrust to the side, when they should be treated like the treasures they are?


Frustrated mother







12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your son B"H survived his roller coaster ride, many do not. Our child had the unfortunate experience of being told by the principal at the time they were asked to leave, "You are not normal, you need medication, even a public school wouldnt accept you", all screamt loudly and angrily for the entire school to hear. This principal, even if he was 100% right, (he couldnt possibly be, because he had no way to know about whether meds are needed, because he's not a psychiatrist), only served to further hammer and solidify the hate and disdain for Yiddishkeit and Jewish "role models", an already weak child was facing, and will have to answer for that after 120.

frumteenmom said...

Chinuch is a process. The Yeshivos are where it takes place. We do not send perfect children to school. The Rebaim are the role models & mechanchim. In my experience the Rebaim of my child were looking for a cookie cutter talmid. Perhaps more concerned with the reputation of their school then the outcome fo their actions. There was no tolerance for any deviation. We are all studying the same Torah but yet we do not all behave & dress the same. There is room for individuality. We ought not judge ones level of frumkeit based on appearances & an occasional mishap. The talmidim that walk through the doors of their Yeshivah should feel safe & cherished. Not judged & cast aside if they make a mistake. My son felt that way for a whole year. "ON PROBATION", was a feeling of being temporary & uncertain. I wouldn't blame a Yeshiva for not accepting every student but once he was accepted, they should work with the talmid. In my case, the action of the menahel almost caused my son to turn away from frumkeit. No thanks to him or any of the local Yeshivas, my son found his way through the hypocracy. B'H

Zalman Lachman, LCSW-R said...

I don't need to be anonymous. I'm a licensed clinical social worker and I have worked with adolescents and their families across the broad spectrum of the tzibbur, both at Project YES and in private practice. While I am certain, as this post states, that there are some yeshivos and mechanchim who have been less than expert in their task of chinuch, it is a gross oversimplification to place the blame on our educators and our educational system. My experience has been that there is no single cause that fits all cases. We all have a need to feel connected to Hashem, Torah, community and family. That need can be filled by nearly any positive model whether it be a parent, mechanech, mentor, a neighbor or any other source. When an individual with a lower level of resilience (due to a variety of causes, not the least of which may be genetic, and no one's fault at all), with minimal family support (for a host of reasons), also has negative experiences in school and community and is also exposed to the myriad of temptations and blandishments of the secular world, then we are most likely to develop an at-risk situation. But just when you think you have it pegged, along comes another child with all the same risk factors that somehow does well-enough in spite of everything. Not so long ago, someone published a book with interviews of adolescents off the derech. Each described terrible experiences and claimed that as the reason they went off. My experience is that people choose what they will do and only later create explanations to rationalize the behavior. Self-report may help us understand how an individual's thought processes work, but that does not necessarily reflect causality. I am not here to defend the yeshiva system, mechanchim, nor to blame the victims or the parents, but rather to caution against the rush to an easy explanation that is simply not accurate. Frankly, we are still finding our way as a community, and to some extent have not completely come to grips with how successful we have been. One way of describing it might be that as the circle of the tent enlarges, there are more people on the edge. Yes, we must deal with the issue of retention of our youth in the culture, but just as individuals differ broadly, so will the solutions need to be multi-faceted. That's where professional help can be useful, but even that doesn't always produce the result a parent wants. One size does not fit all and neither will blaming only one area of our cultural inculcation process.

Anonymous said...

Dear Zalman Lachman,LCSW-R. Your credentials are impressive. Your reaction to this article sounds a bit evasive & blurry. You don't blame the yeshivas or the mechanchim if a talmid is expelled. Yet, at the same time, you seem to show sympathy towards the individuals who have suffered as a result of the "system". To say that is are no two cases alike is quite true. To some degree we will have to include talmidim who were rightfully dismissed with those who were victims of the "system". There are those boys who may have a negative influence on the others & need to be removed but then again, in the right circumstances, they could be positively influenced as well. And just to throw in another stone, there are boys that look & act the part but are a bad influence. I am actually not referring to an extreme case of "at risk" in my article. My son was frum & not into drugs...he went to voluntary night sedar with enthusiam, and followed dress code. The incident of the cell phone was not major to warrant expulsion. We walked through a maze until we were forced to settle on a yeshivah that we would never have considered for our son. This is not a blaming game. It's "take accountability & responsibility" . Like I wrote in my article, B"H my son found his way & is learning in Israel. But why did we have to go through all this? It could have been a very different outcome. "Kiruv" should be for people who do not come from frum backgrounds. Is the current system causing boys (& girls) to find alternate lifestyles? That is the question. What can our "spiritual leaders" do to avoid adding more names to the list of "at risk" children from frum homes?

Anonymous said...

Some might say that I (Anonymous I shall remain) am “lost”, a former at-risk youth, and now an at-risk adult. I consider myself found. I was born a Jew, and I will die a Jew! There have been phases of my life where I was not religious at all, now I am Shomer Shabbat though not observant I was raised. Yet I now strive to serve g-d because I WANT TOO, not because I HAVE TOO!

We (Those of us alive) are all at risk, young, old, and in between. Our children who “go lost” may in fact not be “lost at all” but “fighting” or better stated “living” life on a different battlefield. When a child has been born into a secular Jewish family, they are not considered lost, but rather a person to be found! (I strive to love Hitler’s version of who is a JEW)

Arabs have managed to overcome the inbred desire to live, using self rigorousness as a reason to die. Our educators (Parents first and schools second) have much too often supplanted love and security with force and threats, resulting in those that can’t make it “in the system” to resent themselves and try to find a more peaceful existence. (Very few of us FFB rebel against g-d we rebel against the pain of our reality) The blame game while true got me no where. It did not provide me with any answers, or piece.

Our school system and parents are primarily made up of untrained educators who are often in the business as they can’t work elsewhere or worse for the glory of it. Parents in our community (myself included) often become parents at 18-25, long before we even realize who we are and what we are capable of! Blame is silly…

Our religious Jewish life is by its very nature complex, difficult, and ultra rewarding, all in one. I think the best I can do as a father is love my kids and instill the confidence in them that they are precious! The best I can do for my fellow Jew is listen, hear, and offer my heart, love and if possible a helping hand. If you agree with me, than you too can be see that your child, friend, or parent, is not lost at all, but in fact found!

Let’s accept each other and make this day count!
Shabbat shalom

Ezra said...

Disingenuous and misleading to use that picture for this story.
Your claim of closed mindedness and narrow educational thinking was about a certain sector (less modern) as you pointed out that a "more modern" school did accept the student. While the picture you chose was of a more modern yeshiva. Not fair or honest.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree with Ezra. The class of orthodoxy represented above is far from an accurate reflection of the "mainstream" Yeshiva that the article critiques.

Anonymous said...

HOW ABOUT A BOCHUR COMING FROM A POOR FAMILY WENT TO HELP HIS GRANDFATHER IN THE BUSINESSN DURIN BEIN HAZMANIM. THE bOCHER HAD BEEN ACCEPTED TO A GOOD YESHIVA. COMES MOTZEI SUCCOS THE BOCHER AND FAMILY ARE PACKING HIS BELONGINGS, PREPARING HIM TO LEAVE TO THE YESHIVA. THE TELEPHONE RINGS"hELLO" THIS IS SO AND SO INFORMING YOU THAT YOUR SON IS NOT WELCOME IN OUR YESHIVA. PLEADING AND QUESTIONING TO NO AVAIL AT THE END HE RELENTS AND SAYS SOMEONE SAW HIM WORKING!NO AMOUNT OF TALKING HELPED.THE BOCHER WAS LEFT WITHOUT A YESHIVA.NEEDLESS TO SAY WHAT HAPPENED NEXT. mOVE FORWARD A COUPLE OF YEARS. A YUNGERMAN COMES BEGGING FOREGIVENESS "HIS LIFE DID NOT TURN OUT AS HE EXPECTED! hE WAS THE ONE WHO INFORMED THE YESHIVA OF THIS BOCHER WORKING BEIN hAZMANIN FOR A SUIT THAT HE NEEDED FOR YOM TOV, WHICH HIS PARENTS HAD NO FINANCIAL MEANS TO GIVE HIM. TOO LATE! THE BOCHER IS STILL SINGLE TODAY! A VERY NICE BOY WITHOUT A YESHIVA!NOW YOU TELL ME THE YESHIVA IS NOT RESPONSIBLE TO CHECK OUT INFORMATION GIVEN TO THEM! AND JUST EXPELL SOMEONE BECAUSE SOMEONE THINKS THEMSELVES HOLIER THAN THOU! hOPEFULLY THIS GEM OF A BOCHER WHO BY NO FAULT OF HIS OWN WHO BY NOW IS ADVANCED IN AGE WILL FIND HIS BESHERT VERY QUICKLY AND BE ZOCHE TO HAVE DOROS YESHURIM! THE SYSTEM IS CORRUPT!

Anonymous said...

The system stinks!They check out a 2 year old as he would be running for president!

Anonymous said...

My son has been having a roller coaster ride through school. He has been treated terribly. Our approach has been to support him totally. The rebbis and school administration is not considered always right in our house and in fact we say out and out to our son that he is being treated unjustly. When we feel he is wrong, we dont' give the school any indication of our support but speak to him at home about the incident as the school can't be trusted. He feels loved and supported. Now going in to high school we are sending him to an excellent public school and we can only hope he catches up due to the terrible standard of education in the frum system, but either way he will be better off there and see what derech eretz really means. What an indictment against the frum system he will encounter. He is strong in his Yiddishkeit and does everything right and I have no concern at all that he will stay on the derech and thrive. My feeling is that anyone who goes off the derech after leaving the frum system was already on their way there to begin with and was probably due to the frum system anyway. My son will not be having a girl friend, but feel pride in his frumkeit and he feels empowered by our support and because we don't feel trapped by system that he was in.

My advise: take courage and dump the horrible system you are being held hostage to. It doesn't have to be that way.

M garfield said...

If enough of these ignorant yeshivas keep kids out, they will have to close their doors and kids can then go elsewhere to get an education. Too many Yeshivas are toxic environments who teach nothing of value.

alexander shekhtman said...

Although I do not children yet, I do see what goes on. I see how parents talk to children. How rabbis talk to children. And I can only assume how teachers talk to children. And not just talk, but act as well. Kids are very keen on double standards and hypocrisy. It only takes one bad act of someone they love or respect to lose trust in that person. I am not talking about a little argument or misunderstanding or some hurt feelings. I am talking about something big that to the child is unforgivable. As an example of something that is not even a sin: a child knows that a teacher does not smoke because he believes it is unhealthy and the teacher even makes it a point to tell others not to smoke in his presence, but one day the child sees the teacher smoking (and really enjoying it). What should the child think? I would think, what else has this teacher lied to me about? And so will the child. So he will be watching the teacher's every action very carefully. Pretty soon no more respect for this teacher. Is this too far fetched that eventually the child goes off the derech all because of one teacher smoking?