Wednesday, May 27, 2009

someone who gets it

This article (link) is worth reading. I don't necessarily agree with her prescription for the solution, but the writer does a great job explaining the "kids at risk" problem. Key quote:
When R’ Yom Tov Glaser was here from Israel lecturing for B’Derech we spoke to a group of (formerly) chassidish young men in Monsey. They all exclaimed that they have no idea what it means to be Jewish. In their view, it’s all about money and a dress code. As long as you either give money or wear the right clothes and appear on the outside as frum, then you are accepted, regardless of what is going on inside your heart. Rabbi Glaser, who is a Baal Teshuva, returned to Eretz Yisroel shattered by what he saw and heard. Rabbi Glaser said that Chassidim have 90% of Yiddishkeit intact; but, that we’re missing the first 10% -- the essential foundations of Yiddishkeit!

I would say things are not much different in the modern community other than the conformity in dress revolves aroung the latest secular styles instead of the jacket/hat uniform. The question is why with all the awareness, the yeshiva programs that have been developed, the lectures given, the funds raised to deal with this problem of "kids at risk", nothing is really working and the problem is getting worse. The answer (as the quote above reveals) seems to me to be that you can preach to kids all you want, but when they see that in the "real" world of our society all that matters is chitzoniyus, what do you expect their attitude to be?


  1. Looking around Passaic, there are a lot of children of still-idealistic BTs who also go off the derekh. I think we can't overly generalize about causation.

    That said, we're nowhere near the first generation facing this problem. Which means that one can't rely on parents to relay that 10% -- we have no guarantee they have any of it themselves!

    And her proposed solution won't work. It's nice to say every kid deserves a mainstream Jewish education. It's another to face the realities that a child who is rebelling and disruptive makes it impossible to have a mainstream class for the closer-to-mainstream majority.

    So now what?


  2. Your critique of her solution is exactly on target, which is why in the post I wrote that I don't necessarily agree with her perscription. Her whole proposal is to "dumb down" the system to make everyone is successful. She does not seem to realize that a system that is so "dumbed down" will be definition not be appealing to those looking for a more challenging or sophisticated approach.

    >>>So now what?

    That's why the post has a comment section : ) -- let's generate some suggestions!

  3. See

    Similar to our approach (but exclusively about middos with no appeal to machashavah) is the ACTT program backed by the rabbanim of Highland Park for their community.

    People more chassidus-oriented could go to Eish Kodesh in Woodmere and take notes. Or the Aish Kodesh's Benei Machashavah Tovah. Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh also defines an approach to the "first 10%" that is catching on like wildfire.

    Stop your children's principals from punting on inspiring your kids, relying on the "Year in Israel".

    R' Gottleib at MTA had a great idea by hiring R' Schiller, your BIL and R' Saul Zucker -- three people with very different hashkafos would would be very vocal about it. (Although RSZ didn't work out; he was only there for a year.) It creates a culture where machashavah is a hot topic that's "in the air".

    Middos curricula fail, in the sense that no one will learn yir'as Shamayim (eg) from a curriculum. However, they do succeed to the extent of keeping the notion of yir'as Shamayim and actively working to get there in the dialogue.

    A doable first step: Organize a Shabbaton for your shul. Not the usual "inspiring speaker", but a program designed to give the members something to do starting the following day. So that it's not just a marketing impression of qedushah, but something life-altering, even if that first alteration is tiny.

    Happy 2,321st (+/- 168) anniversary!

  4. It all starts with the parents.
    If the parents don't treat chinuch as a serious (but subtle!) enterprise with serious consequences from the very beginning, then they are playing Russian Roulette hoping their kids will fall into the right crowd or be inspired by the right rebbe or learn the right sefer.

    Everything we are doing at this late point in the game in terms of new programs for these kids is just damage control.

  5. . . . and an ounce of prevention can be more effective than a pound of cure. Is it any wonder some kids go "off" when they get such mixed messages. Their parents send them to a school that preaches strict adherence to all the rules but bend them to their own convenience. On the one hand, the school preaches that Torah is all that matters, and tznius is a way of life, etc. Then they see that the people with money -- even if the money is based on selling clothes or status symbols and such that are the antithesis of the value of tznius -- are recipients of honor at their yeshivas. And they learn pretty fast that there is one set of rules for those with status and another for those who do not. They would have to be rather stupid not to question that status quo in a society that claims that there is only one ultimate set of rules in the Torah while behaving differently.