Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Why Do Centrists Send Their Kids to Extreme Charedi Yeshivos? The Answers!

In this post I would like to finally address a question that I raised several months ago. There are many thousands of wonderful families in the Centrist and Modern Orthodox communities. These are people who value the State of Israel, one of the greatest miracles of Jewish history. They also value modern science, which has unlocked so many mysteries of the universe. These people also share the values of Chazal and the Rishonim in rating it as very important that a man work for a living and support his family. And Baruch Hashem, there is no shortage of wonderful yeshivos in Eretz Yisrael which share and teach these values. Why, then, do so many of these people send their children to yeshivos which teach the exact opposite?

These are yeshivos in which students were encouraged to attend a rally and pray to Hashem to pour out His wrath upon the State of Israel for somewhat equalizing the burden of military service. Yeshivos in which the Roshei Yeshivah, the revered heads of the institutions, attend Satmar anti-Israel hatefests. Yeshivos in which modern science is disparaged and students are taught an anti-rationalist outlook. Yeshivos in which students are taken to the Kosel to davven that their fellow students should not be forced to attend YU. Yeshivos in which it is drilled into the students that they must spend endless years in kollel, and rely on their parents to support them, rather than training for a profession. A student at one yeshivah told me how, when he told his rebbe that he was leaving, the rebbe took a Gemara, spat on it, hurled it to the ground, and said, "That's what you're doing to Chazal!"

Why do these people send their children, at a highly impressionable stage of their lives, to be immersed in an environment which teaches the exact opposite of the values that they hold dear? I would like to suggest several explanations for this disturbing phenomenon. (Note: I am addressing the topic of post-high school yeshivos, not yeshivah high schools.)

1. They don't do proper research into the yeshivah

This is probably the most common, albeit least excusable, reason. I was speaking with someone recently whose son is in Toras Moshe. The parent was horrified to discover the extent to which Toras Moshe is rabidly anti-Zionist and anti-YU. The mother said to me that she assumed that since Rabbi Meiselman has a PhD and is a nephew of Rav Soloveitchik, then Toras Moshe must be a YU-type place. Good grief! You really don't have to do too much asking around to find out what kind of place it is!

2. The yeshivah misleads them

Sometimes, the parents are misled by the yeshivah itself about its nature. Of course, rabbonim whose goal it is to steer students away from university and towards kollel, or away from Zionist hashkafah to charedi hashkafah, are not going to advertise that as being their goal. People need to know that they have to do independent research about the yeshivah.

3. The starter yeshivah sends them

There are several starter yeshivos which cater for students from centrist homes, but which have charedi-oriented rebbeim or roshei yeshivah. These rebbeim often encourage students to spend more years in yeshivah, and since this yeshivah is only designed for a one or two year program, they send them to more "serious" yeshivos. In order to avoid this problem, parents must be sure to check that not only is the student body of a centrist hashkafah, but so are the faculty.

4. They overestimate their children 

Some parents are aware that they are sending their kids to a place where the rebbeim have a very charedi approach, but they are convinced that their child will not be affected.  This is naive. Most people would probably rate me as being intelligent and independent-minded, yet I was completely and utterly brainwashed in yeshivah. People do not realize the extent to which the yeshivah environment is immersive, and the power of pressure exerted by revered rabbonim.

5. They are under the impression that Charedi Judaism is Torah-True Judaism

Many people are under the mistaken impression that charedi Judaism is authentic, traditional, Torah-true (TM), "real" Judaism. As I have shown in several monographs and countless blog-posts, this is very much not the case. But it is going to take a lot of outreach by a lot of people to correct this popular misconception.

6. They feel that the "level of learning" is the most important factor

Some parents feel that they should be looking for a place which as a good reputation for the level of learning, and that other things are not so important. However, they fail to realize that these other things often determine whether their children will be gainfully employed in twenty years or desperate for hand-outs, and can also determine whether their grandchildren will receive a secular education. I would add that if a yeshivah's rosh yeshivah is someone who expresses poor middos or hateful attitudes, then what is the value of the "high level learning"?

7. A combination of the above

There are countless families of a centrist hashkafah whose children end up living an extreme chareidi lifestyle, and many of these instances are due to a combination of the above factors. They send their kids to a yeshivah or seminary that has rabbonim who are on the chareidi side, but they don't see it as a big deal. At the end of the year, the kid wants to spend another year in Israel, which they agree to. Then the kid wants to go to a more serious yeshivah, and the parents, who are reluctant to get into a serious confrontation with their child, begrudgingly agree. Before you know it, the kid is married with children and the parents are fully financially supporting them with no end in sight, and the grandchildren are learning in a Talmud Torah with little or no secular education.

That's the stage where many parents come to me and ask me what to do. But at that point, unless you want to threaten cutting off all financial support and risk your relationship with your child, there's not much to be done. You have to be vigilant in advance!

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there is, Baruch Hashem, no shortage of wonderful yeshivos in Eretz Yisrael where the faculty share and teach the values of Torah, Zionism, and chachmah. If you're not thinking about sending your kids to one of those yeshivos, think again. The stakes are higher than you think.

101 comments:

  1. This might be in your top 10 blog posts. You hit the nail (s) right on the head. I too was a "victim" of rebbeim with an anti-Zionist, anti-university agenda. Let's hope that you can help to enlighten some parents with this.

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  2. In terms of "Level of learning" there are indeed many wonderful Haredi Yeshivot with a very high level of learning. There are also many others which do not have a high level of learning (which is necessary in a world where everyone must stay in learning - even those who are not on a high level). There are many non-Haredi yeshivot with a high level of learning and many with a lower level. People should not assume that "black means better" in terms of yeshiva quality.
    In addition, even if a yeshiva has a higher level of learning, if it is not the right place for the student, it can do far more damage than good. In my (albeit limited) experience, less prestigous Haredi yeshivot and all non-Haredi yeshivot are better at dealing with students who do not fit exactly into the box. Even a brilliant child may not be suitable for a specific yeshiva. It is unfortunately a fact of Haredi education in Israel that students are regularly expelled. Assuming that will not change any time soon, the question for parents is how does the yeshiva help the student who is being expelled. Do they help him (or her) to find a more suitable framework? Or do they kick him (/her) out and slam the door?
    Many parents (often correctly) assume that their children are brilliant, and will be able to cope with the demands on them. But what happens if your child (for whatever reason) does not fit in? What does the parachute look like?

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  3. There's a similar issue regarding header yeshivot. Because many American olim identify with the political right as represented, say by Habayit Heyehudi, they send their boys to yeshivot on hitnachluyot whose rabbis, while Zionist in outlook, are so far to the right religiously as to make them virtually haredi. A place such as Har Bracha comes to mind.

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    1. This is true, except for one thing: The furthest to the right Religious Zionists are still not in favor of full-time learning for everyone. For some, certainly, but not nearly all. The students spend some time in yeshiva (combined with IDF service, of course, because these places are still Zionist, which is also important) and then head out into the world. This has an added effect of even the rebbeim being more open to science, culture, and so on- more than you'd think in many cases.

      To be sure, the faculty are often firm believers in a form of da'at torah (their own, of course), may have neutral to negative attitudes toward secular knowledge, and often have an inferiority complex about charedim, all of which I strongly disapprove of, but it's not quite the same as the charedi places.

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    2. As someone from Har Bracha I can say that you couldnt be further from the mark.

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    3. You have mistaken a yeshiva that sends 95% of its' graduates to university/college with some othe strawman

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  4. This post obviously refers mostly to people coming from abroad to Yeshiva in Israel.

    I think that another factor in all of this is that many parents in Chu'l are conditioned to their kids being taught Limudei Kodesh by Charedi types in elementary school and high school. Even in some day schools, they're used to seeing men in black hats teaching their children (and those people may be fine teachers). But those are much more controlled environments, where the overall derech of the school is more MO and Zionist and the Charedi Rabbanim in those institutions know that they can't try to make Charedim out of the kids. This obviously isn't the case in yeshivas in Israel, but parents who are used to seeing these people teaching their kids don't make the distinction.

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  5. Avigdor M'BawlmawrNovember 4, 2015 at 6:20 PM

    It would be nice if you provided some links, or names of, dati yeshivot geared for Americans, especially beyond those particularly well-known.

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    1. Yes this would be nice especially given how the alternatives have been trumpeted by this post. A list of quality seminaries would probably be smart too.

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    2. Some sources that might be helpful are a list of study programs (yeshivot among them) published by the Jewish Agency at:

      http://www.jewishagency.org/opportunities?field_what_do_you_want_to_do_target_id=2336&field_age_group_target_id=648

      Another useful list is Yeshiva University's list of schools in Israel for men and women at:

      https://yu.edu/israel-program/gis/

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  6. I agree with the thesis of this post. However, it's not only 'Centrist' parents who have experienced the effect of Israeli yeshiva/seminary attendance of their post high-school children. I consider myself a LWMO type with connections to Rav Avi Weiss' institutions (my wife is more 'Centrist'). We didn't try to force an ideology on our children although I didn't hesitate to criticize aspects of their yeshiva education. As a result, we have kids over the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy. We did seek out a good torah study experience for children doing the 'gap year' thing in Israel. One daughter went to BJJ and got strongly influenced by the Chaim Berlin people who ran that serious seminary. She came back Hareidi and has remained such over the years. We had no idea that this excellent student would opt to forgo college education as a result of that 1 year experience. Our youngest son, an outstanding and advanced student, was influenced by his high-school/bet medrash rebbe and mentor to choose Medrash Shmuel for his Israel yeshiva experience. We interviewed Rav Moskowitz prior to our agreement and decided that he was a reasonable man who would not seek to impose his views on our son. Well, 1 year turned into over 3 years of serious yeshiva study. At the end, however, he decided to pursue a dream of becoming a doctor. After a false start with one of those accrediting institutions that some yeshiva guys use, he settled down to serious premed studies at a university. He graduated college, then med school, and is now a resident physician. He has continued his daily Talmud studies throughout this process. He can be considered a 'success' story although I was uneasy with the amount of time spent in yeshiva studies as opposed to starting on a career path. Yet, I highly valued Jewish education and I could not, in good conscience, insist on bringing him home to start a college-based career. Other children had more conventional 'gap year' experiences and subsequently attended college. The daughter closest to my viewpoint spent 2 years in a Hareidi seminary (having been influenced by her high-school principal and mentor) before opting for college, graduate school, and then an advanced seminary for women where she graduated from the scholar's program. Such is my experience and I second R' Natan's point that MO parents need to consider carefully before agreeing to a gap year Israel experience for a child. If you don't want to be surprised, choose an institution that better reflects your values. I can't recommend a suitable yeshiva for boys, but we had a good experience with a daughter who went to Midreshet Lindenbaum some 18 years ago (they had 2 tracks, Talmud and Tanach - she chose the former).

    Y. Aharon

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    1. Midrash Shmuel alumnusNovember 4, 2015 at 7:26 PM

      "We interviewed Rav Moskowitz prior to our agreement and decided that he was a reasonable man who would not seek to impose his views on our son."

      I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

      There is probably no rosh yeshivah in the world who is more dedicated and cunning in seeking to impose his (highly unreasonable) views on his students.

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    2. I don't mean to start a discussion about the personality and modus operandi of Rav Moskowitz. A short interview is obviously insufficient to judge character and intentions. I asked a few leading questions about the attitude towards college and the style of Talmud study. His answers were acceptable. The fact is that my son was determined to go there and we wouldn't deny his wishes unless something about the rosh yeshiva was off putting. I had interviewed another rosh yeshiva previously for a different son and was put off by said rosh yeshiva looking me over in my Shabbat Hareidi style dress and trying to pigeon-hole me. In any case, our dealings with Medrash Shmuel were entirely satisfactory.

      Someone mentioned Gush as a reasonable place to send a son. While that may well be true, it also had the reputation of being very selective. Another son was interviewed by Rav Lichtenstein and turned down. This son had shown little interest in the limudei kodesh studies in our 'out-of-town' yeshiva so that we hired a tutor in his senior year to get him up to speed. Well, that was insufficient for Gush despite his high intelligence (he became a straight A student at the local university and then a tenured physics professor).

      Y. Aharon

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    3. Midrash Shmuel alumnusNovember 5, 2015 at 11:50 AM

      "I asked a few leading questions about the attitude towards college and the style of Talmud study. His answers were acceptable. "

      If he said anything other than that he tries his hardest, using every technique of psychological and emotional manipulation, to brainwash and browbeat his students against going to college, then he was being dishonest with you.

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    4. It seems like the choice of high school is very critical, as at that stage the students already have teachers/mentors who have just as much influence on their Israel yeshiva choices as does their home environment. Frequently, communities outside of major metro areas with large Orthodox populations (i.e. "out-of-town") have schools with (1) no clear hashkafa as they survive on a diverse student body and (2) even if they are MO on paper, their rebbeim tend to be chareidi because they're often willing to take low paying jobs at out-of-town small high schools that their YU counterparts won't go for. I would add that the importance of school choice starts at middle school, because I've seen kids being sent away to chareidi yeshiva high schools like Ner Yisroel because the middle school teachers have already had their influence. While Ner Yisroel may seem moderate with their Bet Midrash / UMD program, they encourage their high school students to go to yeshivas in Israel like Meiselman's Toras Moshe.

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    5. Alumnus his "highly unreasonable views" in your opinion. (As an alum, I'm sure you caught the subtle difference in my wording)
      The Rosh Yeshiva shlita, who R' Natan himself owes tremendous Hakaras hatov to, (I remember the day "lying for truth" got honorable menation in shiur) has one agenda only and that is Emes. As he himself says so often the truth can be painful. His message is powerful and some interlopers can't take it and end up posting thier emotional take on him anonymously on blogs. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of his talmidim are balanced enough to decide for themselves if they will choose a life immersed primarily in Limud HaTorah, or move on albiet, with a more realistic view of Neshama, Olam haba and our real purpose here, to other fields.
      I'm sorry that you felt browbeat or manipulated. But lacher meah vesrim you will not be able to blame him for he certainly made the truth known to you.

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  7. Rav Slifkin, you make excellent observations (though I'm a little surprised that #1 is actually #1 - and I went to Toras Moshe!).

    However, you leave out a very important - perhaps the most important - factor and that is the lack of alternatives in the Modern/Centrist world. With the exception of KBY, there are no options. And KBY is only for the high level, (mostly) self-motivated learner. The average students have a lot of options, but they are mostly stocked with Chareidi-leaning, or at least -sympathizing, rabbis.

    This is part of a much larger problem in the Modern/Centrist world, which is the lack of Torah study among the general population. Come to Teaneck on any given Sunday or weeknight. The number of people learning in any one of the dozen shuls is rarely more than single digits. Collectively it's a pathetically small number. Yes people turn out for shiurim. Yes people learn in the privacy of their own homes. But the Modern Orthodox community fools itself if it thinks that the quantity (forgetting quality) of Torah Study in its community comes to more than a small fraction of that in neighboring Yeshivish communities.

    So it's no wonder that serious Torah study (not in terms of academic level but in terms of importance to one's life) is understood to be the realm of the Chareidi world - for better or worse. Parents who want their children to become Talmidei Chachamim (as I do) want their children to be exposed to a culture - and a yeshiva - that values that.

    (It's also important to point out that you are obviously discussing Post-High School Yeshivos in Israel for Americans. I initially thought, from the headline, that this was an article about Anglo-Israelis sending to Chareidi middle schools and high schools.)

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    1. You are assuming that every high school graduate *has* to go to Israel to learn full time for a year. Why?

      You also assume that "serious" learning is something for every Jew. Why? Less than a hundred years ago, in Eastern Europe, probably 99% of Jewish adult men never opened a Gemara in their lives.

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    2. 1. Nothing in what I wrote assumes HS graduates have to go to Israel.

      2. Serious Torah study - not in terms of academic level but in terms of importance to one's life - IS something for nearly every Jew. This is not my assumption, it is a fact. I am not impressed by "proofs" from Eastern Europe. The Gemara talks of a time when you could not find anyone "from Dan to Beer Sheva" who wasn't learned.

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    3. "You also assume that "serious" learning is something for every Jew. Why? Less than a hundred years ago, in Eastern Europe, probably 99% of Jewish adult men never opened a Gemara in their lives."

      A point that has to be stressed over and over and over. The Gemara itself, as well as the Rishonim like Rashi, make it perfect clear in many places that it never expected itself to be read by the public. It would never included many cases of "its permitted, but don't tell it to the general public" if the same general public was expected to read those passages. Just one out of a hundred ways of proving the point.

      So important, because a lot of people are frankly wasting their time going through what is called "learning", very much including a high percentage of tens of thousands of people in kolel supported by the public. [As the tile "rabbi" does not convey the status of talmud chacham, being "in learning" does not mean one actually is "cut out" for learning, much less actually learning.] It's an aberration.

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    4. You are deluding yourself if you believe that the Hamon Am is supposed to stay away from Talmud study.

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    5. > The Gemara talks of a time when you could not find anyone "from Dan to Beer Sheva" who wasn't learned.

      The gemara exaggerates a lot. 1500 years ago most Jews, like most everybody, were illiterate farmers.

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    6. I think CJ Srullowitz is making a good point thar R' Slifkin is ignoring. As someone who went to what would be called a Modern Orthodox HS (although I didnt fit the mold even when I was there) I will say that guys who were serious wanted to go to Yeshivish places. Even if they planned to go to YU (and other places like that) after. The culture of learning and centrality of Torah was felt in Chareidi Yeshivas and maybe KBY.

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  8. Rabbi Slifkin,
    Great post. Can you please recommend some yeshivas in Israel that are geared toward American boys.

    Libby Ba'Mizrach

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  9. you need to add high schools which are complicit.

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  10. Why is "cutting off all financial support etc." with respect to a newly Haredi child different from ditto with respect to a newly Christian child?

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    1. Are you making a positive comparison or a negative one?

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    2. Are we going to start that "two religions" thread all over again?

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  11. I think sometimes parents do not know what questions to ask. I did not grow up in the yeshiva world and naively believed that the yeshivas in Israel must believe in Israel, any questions I asked were not going to uncover the truth because I had no idea what to ask. High schools and the Israeli guidance counselors in the centrist yeshivas do not sit down with parents and tell them what to look for or the subtle differences. I made aliyah the year my daughter went to seminary and the Rosh Yeshiva convinced her that she would never get married if she did sherut leumi, and although I spoke to him and did not want her to go back to NY since her brothers and I were living ehre he decided he knew what was best ad went against me. There is no recourse. the damage is done. Parents need to be educated in terms of what to look for and what to ask.

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  13. This post reminds of a quote I read of Jewish talk show host Dennis Prager, who is partially traditional and non-affiliated, explaining why he sent his kids to Orthodox schools: "I can de-Orthodize them a lot faster than I can fix the damage of the decadent popular culture and leftism".

    I think some parents send to Chareidi yeshivos because they believe they can de-Chareidize the kids a lot faster than they can fix the damage of decadent popular culture (and maybe even some leftism), which are certainly more of a problem in non-Chareidi institutions.

    Andy

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    1. They're not a problem in most of the Dati Leumi places in Israel.

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    2. I (respectfully!) disagree. Only don't examine it from a right or wrong perspective, but from a cultural perspective. A lot of people, including many readers of this blog, find many things in the agudah/yeshivah world absurd, but are still more comfortable in that environment than in a modern orthodox setting. They'd rather send their kids to black hat schools and try to influence them to be normal from home, rather than send them to more left wing schools and then try to change their hashkafas to the right. This factor is far more important than anything RNS identified.

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  14. Ty for this post- while your list of reasons rings true on many levels, I am afraid that I am not finding the myriad of institutions you speak of in your final paragraph..I would love to access it! As someone who has made it through my childrens' chinuch BECAUSE we are "out of town" and have benefit of having very erlich Rabbaim and teachers who do not push an agenda, who are not zionists per se, but who support Israel (go to walks, rallies, etc) and are more moderate in many ways, they do not discourage university education entirely, etc...(we also sent to chabad for years and they are supportive of the state)

    Ideally, we want to send the kids to post HS programs in israel that will provide a strong daati leumi perspective. We are finding that the schools which host the english speaking programs pull in more of an "American MO" group that likely went to co-ed schools, and are just in a different place observance-wise than what we are looking for. The places that are known as the "most serious" among them tend to be very text based; and that is not for everyone... this was true when I was becoming religious 20+ years ago as well; very few BT places that were not haredi and they did not offer the same level of inspiring lectures etc, IMO, and while I think gamara learning is ideal for some women, I do not think that it should be a requirement ... (frankly, I think there are many men that would do better with less focus on it as well) SO; Is centrist synonymous with "super academic?" We want thought provoking, inspiring... but super cerebral is not for everyone....and leads to another question- actually pertinent for haredi men as well; how are we engaging the "right brained" among us? BTW_ this OFTEN includes deep thinkers; they are just ignited via different vehicles of ideas....

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    1. > Ideally, we want to send the kids to post HS programs in israel

      Why?

      If it's hard to find a program that you approve of, why send them at all? It's not like one of the mitzvos is, "Thou shalt go to yeshiva or seminary in Israel for one or two years after finishing high school."

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    2. Do you mean vs a program in US? or sending them at all?

      We feel that the opportunity to have that year is potentially one of the most identity forging windows of a young person's life. Being more on their own provides them a chance to find their own way and integrate values and practices in their own daled amos.

      We are both BT and being that Israel and our learning there truly was the bedrock of our identities as Torah observant Jews- we feel particularly passionate about it... and, it is also an opportunity to strengthen their love, connection, and commitment to Israel.

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  15. I don't know what kind of yeshivot are available in Israel, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that modern Orthodox yeshivot are unusual and hard to get in to.

    I went to high school at a very well respected day school in the New York metropolitan area. We studied Torah every morning until lunch time, and then had a full day of secular education after lunch until dismissal (in the early evening) with some students electing for additional Torah study as a part of an after-school program.

    In the New York area, there were (and I assume still are) several such day schools, in addition to those that focus on Torah to the exclusion of secular studies.

    When I moved to the Washington DC area, however, I was disappointed to discover that there don't seem to be any yeshivot that provide both a solid Torah education along with a solid secular education. Web searching seems to indicate that what I see in the DC area is fare more typical than what I experienced in the New York area. Much to the detriment of every frum family that wants their children to go to college and have a career in addition to knowing how to study Torah from the original sources.

    If this same pattern is the case in Israel, then students and families may not have any other option. The may be forced to decide between an anti-secular yeshiva and an purely-secular high school, neither of which is good.

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    1. Except the same pattern is not the case in Israel.

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  16. As a parent faced with this exact dilemma, I think you completely glossed over THE number one consideration: retention rate! The typical yeshivish/chassidish school has a much higher retention rate to orthodoxy than the modox schools. It's a simple "worst case scenario" choice.

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  17. If "wonderful yeshivas" you are referring to are of YU style, no surprise the parents who want their children remain truly observant don't them there.

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  18. CJ Srullowitz,

    Why do you want your child to be a talmid chacham as opposed to an ehrlich yid or a baal habos with yiras shamayim?

    (The problem for me is the lack of kedusha among MO institutions, but I speak only of the U.S.; I don't know Israel's MO community.)

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    1. I want my child to be a Talmid Chacham IN ADDITION to being an ehrliche yid and having Yiras Shamayim!

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    2. If that is your desire, fine. But in my humble opinion, that is the desire of way too many people nowadays. As far as I can tell, very, very few Jews until this generation ever wanted their kids to be talmidei chachamim. Look at Orthodox Jews over 60. Most are ehrlcihe Jews who contribute to their community and lead overall wholesome Jewish lives. I'm not sure why we've abandoned that model. Why is being able to learn Gemara, Rashi, Tosfos so vital to you? And what if your kid couldn't learn Gemara Rashi Tosfos (as is the case of most baalei batim over 60)? What exactly would he be missing? It certainly doesn't seem central to me.

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    3. If Torah study is not central to you, then you need to review some of the basic tenets of Judaism before we can begin a conversation.

      One of the unfortunate consequences of the Chareidi attitude of "Limmud haTorah uber alles" has been the denigration of Torah study in many corners of the Modern Orthodox community.

      But let me point out that if you gave me the choice between a son who was a major Talmid Chacham, but arrogant and not particularly good to people (let alone dishonest in financial matters) versus a son who rarely picked up a sefer but had impeccable middos and honesty - I would choose the second son ten times out of ten.

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    4. One more thing (and this is for Nachum above as well), I'm not interested in comparisons to previous generations. They had far less than we do (particularly in Europe) in terms of resources - money, books, teachers. We have far fewer excuses for not learning than they did. And I don't know anyone, even from those generations, who doesn't see Talmud Torah as a value, even if they themselves weren't capable of achieving it for whatever reason.

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    5. "One more thing (and this is for Nachum above as well), I'm not interested in comparisons to previous generations."

      Do you realize the irony of what you just said?

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    6. CJ Srullowitz,

      There's a difference between valuing talmud Torah and desiring that your son be a talmid chacham (which is no mean feat).

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  19. I think you are scare mongering.

    Colleges and workplaces in the US and England are full of people who went to "extreme charedi yeshivos". Yes they spend a few years post marriage learning, but many many do leave eventually to work/study with very little negative points to show for it.

    Some impressionable youths, maybe all not that stable themselves or from stable families may be brainwashed. But I doubt the "problem" is nearly as bad as you make out.

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    1. This post is largely about Israel. In my 15 years in Israeli hi-tech, I have worked with exactly zero colleagues that come from an Israeli Haredi background, which stands in stark contrast to the percentage of Dati colleagues (around 10%, which is the statistically expected representation).

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  20. You are absolutely 100% right. Each point is spot on. While I love love and respect all Rabbis whether cared or not , the majority of chare do rabbis even if they tell you they aren't going to change your sons know it will happen.It won't be by him but by his charasmatic rebbeim and staff.This is exactly the same issue with NCSY. For the past 30 years while the Modern Orthodox slept most if the advisors were coming from the charedi yeshivot and them convincing the ncsyers to go to their yeshivot. The parents lost the control right there and the cycle towards charedism has begun.

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  21. You should provide a list of your recommended yeshivas.

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  22. There another big factor that you leave out. In America, for the most part, the single sex schools are more right wing. If you are not left-wing enough to tolerate/embrace co-education (and the resulting halachic issues), then you are going to end up in a more right wing place. To make it more explicit, if you don't want your kids to be having discussions among their peers on whether or not be "Shomer", then you send them to a single sex school.

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  23. (Aside to Rabbi Slifkin: A number of commenters here clearly think you are discussing Israeli yeshivot for people living in Israel.)

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  24. In response to CJ Srollowitz, who stated that there "is the lack of alternatives in the Modern/Centrist world" -- that's simply not at all true. But I guess that's part of the problem: that parents don't know yeshivot in Israel with American tracks are available in the Zionist/MO world.
    There are many, and it would be good if others added more to this list:
    For boys, there are innumerable choices: Reishit and Ashreinu in Beit Shemesh, Torat Shraga, Netiv Aryeh, Orayta, Yeshivat Gush Etzion, and for LWMO: Maaleh Gilboa.
    For girls: Lindenbaum (as mentioned), Amit -- and I imagine there are others.

    I am an Anglo-Israeli, so I am not fully informed. But -- in reaction to the comment by Lawrence Feldman -- there is one thing I do know that may be less known overseas: the existence of "Chardal" hashkafa and yeshivot. "Chardal" is short for Charedi AND Dati Leumi (Zionist) and there are many Chardal yeshivot, including Har Bracha, Ateret Yerushalayim/Cohanim (Rav Aviner's yeshiva), Mercaz HaRav, and many others. Even KBY is pretty right-wing, though not to that extent. ASK AROUND -- and know that Zionist does not necessarily mean MO at all.

    But

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    1. While I cannot speak of all the yeshivot on your list, one thing jumps out at me: The difference between them and the Toras Moshe type places is not just chareidi/centrist-MO. The dedication to mitzva observance of the student body in the vast majority of the yeshivot on your list (again, certainly not all of them) is lacking, and I say this as one who has spent significant time in at least one of them. And please don't jump at me with the "chareidim are not dedicated to mitzva observance either, because they accept money to learn in kollel/are not Zionist/lack ahavat yisrael etc.; I am referring to dedication to mitzva observance in terms of the Shabbat/kashrut/tefilla/shomer negia type. My point is that for families who are looking for a place that they can be sure that the student body will keep all of the above, there are in fact not that many options.

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    2. Torat Shraga runs into problem #3 above - charedi rebbeim who push the kids to go on to charedi yeshivos such as Tomo.

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    3. Actually several of the yeshivot have problem #3 including Lev Ha Torah in Bet Shemesh. Great DL yeshiva with a few Charedi pushing rebbeim.

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    4. Tamar,

      I was waiting for someone to get on my case for making such a bold statement. Thank you for stepping up!

      While I don't know all the yeshivos, my impression is in line with many of the replies above - that while the student body they attract may be Modern/Centrist, the rabbeim still push a Chareidi agenda, even a somewhat watered down one. The question is: What do these rabbeim consider their biggest successes? The boys who come home after two years of learning, go to college, make a living to support their families, and are kovei'a itim; or the boys who stay in E"Y, put on a black hat, move on to "major league" yeshivos - and eventually become the next generation of rabbeim for the newly arrived post HS Modern Orthodox Anglo?

      My guess is they are proud of both, but more proud of the latter.

      Also An Observer is also correct that some of these schools take in boys who after 12 years of yeshiva education are still deciding (or more likely, starting to decide) if they are going to take Judaism seriously or not, and even if they are going to remain religious at all or not. They are not necessarily the place for a solid, religious, Centrist kid, who just doesn't have the grades to get into KBY.

      Finally, Gush is a whole nother story. Comparable to KBY but with very Right-Wing Zionist Kool-Aid.

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    5. By "Right-Wing Zionist Kool-Aid" I assume you mean fervent Rav Kook messianism, which gush has relatively little of compared to the majority of hesder yeshivot. Rav Lichtenstein ztz"l actually was against soldiers disobeying orders during the Gush Katif expulsion. I can't think of any yeshivas with programs for english speakers that preach "Right-Wing Zionist Kool-Aid."

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  25. Some have alluded to the following: parents figure if their kids will be different from them, then let them be frummer. So going hareidi is the safe choice.

    But Natan does not discuss the big problem in Israel: Hesder means that the boys are in a holding pattern for 5 years with no chance at building toward a future.

    Dave in Jlem

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    1. My son went to KBY's Israeli hesder program. His experience opened the doors to an amazing job working in the defense industry, and his time spent in learning and the army prepared him exceptionally well for the real working world in Israel. Almost all of the men from his shiur are hard at work in great fields or continuing onto higher education while simultaneously being kovea ittim and staying connected to their KBY rav. In the army my son learned extremely valuable skills that he could never have learned in any university. (Anyone who has been to both will very likely agree with me). My firsthand experience of having a son go through this system and seeing the positive results of the training he received, I can only highly recommend hesder as an ideal step on the path to success.

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  26. I am one of those kids who's mainstream parents sent to charedi schools. I believe there is an additional problem you did not confront. It is very hard on the kids when they are getting two disparate hashkafas. They see one thing at home, and told their parents are goyim in school. Kids will many times accept what their role models say and become brain washed, but even the kids like me who fought it, it was a terribly difficult fight. Being told every day the the values you and your family hold are wrong takes its toll on a young adult. Parents should be mindful of this before deciding to send their kids to yeshivos with conflicting hashkafic views.

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    1. This is the most important comment on the entire thread.

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    2. I second that. Although the post isn't actually about this, I also had a similar experience at the high school level (which then continued in Yeshiva). There is a large population of people like me and Benyomin Zev in Israel who have gone through this unique experience. The best way I can find to describe what it is actually like is this: As a teenager, I was regularly going through existential crises that wouldn't have shamed Sartre.

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    3. @ Benyomin Zev Wolf - The parents are "goyim"! if they lead a promiscuous lifestlye!

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    4. @ CJ Srullowitz - The reason why Modern Orthodox sends to charedi Yeshevot is because Modern Orthodoy is Bankrupt! The whole "movement" is an oxy-moron. How can you have Judaism without passion?! How can you have a movement that preaches to be less then par in the service of God! Incredible that Modern Orthodoxy can even be considered a legitimate venue of Torah True Judaism!

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  27. Send them learn with Rabbi David Bar-Hayim...Does he have a learning Yeshiva..?..If not he should

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    1. Although a graduate of Merkaz ha Rav, R'Bar Hayim is not a fan of learning through a yeshiva. Probably because the current instititution, as well as its predecessor, the Babylonian academy, are creations of the Galut.

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    2. Do you know what model of Torah study he advocates?

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  28. Excellent post. I also blame the Israel guidance departments of many any centrist and modern orthodox yehivot. For the past 30 or so years These high-schools often push students to attend Hareidi yeshivot with the hope that the yeshivot will succeed where they have failed - at making the kids frum and teaching them how to learn independently.

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  29. The solution is very simple. Reject the Chareidi notion outright that there should be full-time learning post-high school. And reject the whole concept of a gap year, which is sold as an opportunity to solidify a kid's Jewish education but in reality is often an opportunity for RW authority figures to convince kids that the way they were raised is wrong and they need to become "frummer."

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    1. No one in the yeshivah world sets out to do this. They become rebbeim because it is the only possible job open to them, not because they are trying to do kiruv work on already frum kids. And few actually try to convince anyone. It happens naturally, like it happens to college kids, because certain kids are apt to be followers. They have close sustained contact with their rebbeim - something they do NOT have with anyone else. The only people they've spent time with which to evaluate the life of a ballaboss is their parents, and Lord God, what kind of teenager wants to emulate their dumb parents??

      The solution to this is to make sure the kids have ample and sustained contact with role models beyond the yeshivah. Not just having such a person address them once a year on "career day" - perhaps a weekly class by a local CEO or professional. Friday night dinners at such houses. In my experience, when kids see a well put together balleboss with a nice house who can ALSO learn, they are more impressed with that than they are with koilllel avreichim or rebbeim. (Underline last sentence) That's a simply programme I would like to see Board Members present to their schools for implementing.

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    2. Most of these kinds of things aren't deliberate attempts to cynically control people. As you say, it happens naturally, evolving out of circumstance. Nonetheless, deliberate or not, the result is the same. And yeshiva/seminary in Israel is not at all necessary. or even a good thing.

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    3. I'm sorry, but I call BS on this. The Rebbeim in the Charedi post high school programs absolutely set out to convince kids to become Charedi. Perhaps they didn't take the job in the first place in order to do this, but it is very very much a conscious effort. It doesn't just happen by osmosis. I actually like your suggestion though.

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    4. Maybe it's not a deliberate attempt to control people but controlling people tend to control.

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  30. Dear Rabbi Slifkin,
    I am afraid a disappointment in "haredism" caused you to overestimate "religious Zionism". Religious Zionism is not about to be wise, to be closer to authentic Torah. Religious Zionism is about to be "dati" at home and to be "average Israeli" at street. A fact that they accept science does not mean that they have less distortions - their distortions simply have another nature and come from another corner.

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    1. I think that we are talking about very different branches of religious Zionism.

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    2. That's a really biased view. Most Religious Zionists are perfectly religious people.

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    3. Mr Brodsky

      I believe you are thoroughly uneducated regarding the hashkafah of MO. You would do well to educate yourself on the subject. But let me give you a head start, just because there are people that do not lead Torah lifestyles but claim to be MO, doesn't mean MO claims them.

      Rabbi Slifkin,

      I believe there is one other, perhaps slightly more legitimate reasons you left out and it follows on from what I said to Mr Brodsky above. One of the problems with MO is that there is no copyright - anyone can use the name. People and groups with minimal commitments to Torah and/or perverted commitments to using to Torah to advance liberal agendas call themslves MO and there is a fear that MO yeshivas will have these "not-really-MO" people leading them. It takes some investigation to be reassured that that is not the case. As a connected aside, there is, in my experience, and Anglo-Israeli divide on this issue. With exceptions, the majority of English speaking MO communties in Israel are "not so frum". Learning is rare etc. There are very few Torah MO English communties in Israel. You may br biased because you live in one of them. On the other habd there are many Israeli dati leumi communties that are very commited Torah Jews, but these are people your average American, even an oleh, would never talk to because they often don't speak a word of English.

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    4. We made aliyah 29 years ago, identify with Religious Zionism, learned to speak Hebrew which is not only a must if you want to live a full life in Israel, but is also mandatory if you want to really understand the Torah. We live in a town that has Americans but we consciously decided not to go to a largely American shul in our area. Our shul has some Americans and other olim but is "Israeli". The people are DL mostly ba'alei batim, some of whom go to the shul's Daf Yomi and other shiurim. The important fact is that almost all the kids who have grown up in the shul are religious, some have become Hardalim and even Rabbanim. This is an example of a successful DL community of people who are serious about Torah in their daily life but they don't feel they need to take on all the humrot that the Haredi community emphasizes. DL works. Of course parents need to take an active role in the children's education, and, most importantly, must be a role model themselves. I view this as just as "authentic" as the Haredi approach.

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  31. Natan, in your entire blog you have never suggested once that Charedi Judaism is a cult. With the possible exception of some chasidic groups.

    We are talking about highly intelligent and students from centrist MO homes with a solid broad based intensive education. Are you seriously suggesting that these people are brainwashed in only a couple of years if at all! They are trained in academic scepticism!

    Maybe, just maybe, they like what they hear and chose it out of their own free will.

    I suggest you exaggerate the numbers here.



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    1. Um, they're eighteen year old kids from a comfortable background who have faced few if any real challenges, and had no real in depth study of any topic, and certainly not "academic skepticism."

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    2. The kids aren't starting from a standstill and being "brainwashed" in one year. They're starting from a position where, for various reasons, they already see the Chareidi world as more "authentic," already see Chareidi gedolim as great leaders imbued with mystical powers, and have already spent years with mostly Chareidi rebbes as their mentors.

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    3. Bang on G*3. This is the missing piece of the puzzle. The basic attitude in most of these centrist family homes is a kind of complacent assumption that the Charedi world basically agrees with them, but is just more intense. They also teach their children that all Jewish though is essentially one, so that they assume that anything that is in a Sefer is binding Jewish doctrine. The Charedi Rebbeim then acquaint them with sources in the Seforim that explicitly and completely reject many of their parents values. The kid from a centrist home simply has no defense mechanism against this.

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    4. Very good point. The weight of seeing something "inside," in a sefer in black and white, is huge for impressionable youths since they, like you said, think that "all Jewish thought is essentially one" and that everything written in every sefer must be adhered to. Both these myths must be dispelled. They lead to problems both in halacha and hashkafa.

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  32. "ISRAEL is one of the greatest miracles " since when do u believe in miracles??

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    1. Well, I started believing in this particular miracle after I left the charedi world.

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  33. In my view, the reason that non-hareidi learning institutions (and by extension communities) often lack in the "evangelical" power required to impress and attract those who have strong desires for limmudei kodesh is that the notion of limmudei kodesh these institutions have inherited is from the Hareidi dictionary. We need a new pshat on limmudei kodesh that enfolds and encompasses important questions--psychological, sociopolitical, philosophical, scientific, etc. There is no reason not to extend a serious treatment of a sugya in, say, mikvahs, to a little curriculum on hydrology or ecology, or oceanography, or the psychology of cleanliness. Bittul? Aderaba. This is our world, this is G-d's Creation, and this is the physical and social and psychological metzius from which Torah sh'b'al peh is continually arising and to which it is continually called to address.

    The Great Wall between limmudei kodesh and limmudei chol is useful for promising professionals who want to segregate and order their domains, and it is useful for hareidim who want to stay entirely on one side until the maskilim are all washed away (G-d forbid!). But it is not at all useful for young people, particularly spiritual our creative young people, who are looking for something enlivening and unifying and new, that speaks to the hitchadshut of our time, of our moment, from the Holy One, which we claim to believe in, and claim to teach them to believe in.

    There is more than one pshat to:
    המפסיק מלימודו ואומר מה נאה אילן זה כאילו מתחייב בנפשו
    And indeed I might add that the "pshat" that is easily readable and that some Jews wield as a big club against other Jews--or against themselves--with terrible consequences, doesn't really make sense.

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  34. Your comment either echoed or intuited the outlook of R' Samson Raphael Hirsch, in nicely summarized form.

    In fact, Rav Hirsch explained your quote of Pirkei Avos in an interesting way: one who PAUSES in his Torah study to appreciate nature, instead of appreciating nature as a G-d-given extension of his Torah study, has damaged his soul, because in reality both are aspects of the oneness of G-d's creation.

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  35. One thought I had as to why there are fewer modern Orthodox options: The product (place of full time learning geared towards the general population) itself is a chareidi product. Complaining that there aren't enough modern Orthodox yeshivot is like complaining that it's so hard to find litvish farbrengens. Maybe modern Orthodox Jews should revisit whether it sends the right message in general to send your child away to study Gemara full time.

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  36. Shouldn't Sha'alvim be added to the lists of "good" places (for both Israelis and people from chutz)?

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  37. I heard a Shiur by a local Rav, wonderful open minded Talmid Chacham talking about how EVERYONE should have hakaras hatov on Yom Yerushalayim, even chareidim and pointing out that they go to the kotel. He told us of how disturbed his son was that his Chareidy Yeshiva was Smashing Yom Yerushalaim, and asked in the Shiur why do we send our kids to Yehivas like this.
    So when the Shiur was over, I asked him good question, who do YOU send your kids to those places. He didn't really have an answer. At least he recognized there is a problem.
    I think he is scared that a Dati Leumi place may not be frum enough for him or may be worried what others think of him if he sends his kids there.
    Someone should start a support group addressing this.
    something like: "Frum and Normal" have a high standard for tora education and a normal hashkafa.

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  38. Kol ha-Kavodh! I really enjoyed the accuracy of this post, and especially the emphasis that "Charedi Judaism" is not actual Judaism. I think that this may be the main and over-arching reason why Centrist and Dati Leumi parents send their sons to these institutions; they simply do not understand, or most likely, cannot fathom that such centers of "Torah learning" could actually not represent authentic Jewish values. Haredi Yeshivoth and Kollelim are, by and large, centers of damage to our youth. They are schooled with a mentality of competition and are pitted against one another, they are immersed in halakhic texts that are only related to their daily life in largely superstitious fashion, and - probably the most damaging of all - they destroy the industry and self-respect of young men, replacing it with a sense of elitism and entitlement. They exit "beis medrish" with absolutely nothing to show for it and completely unprepared to live a productively Jewish life. And the ironic thing is that many times after finishing Shas and engaging in in-depth learning of the Shulhan Arukh and its commentaries, they are still unable to make daily halakhic determinations without a "rebbe" because they have been systematically emasculated in the process and told that they are not allowed to determine halakhah on the basis of their learning! This hollow and bigoted system is inherent in EVERY Haredi institution by definition. But when the stereotypical image of a Jew is still that of a Brooklyn chasid, everyone else feels funny rejecting that image and replacing with it with an authentic one. It's a Galuth mentality (i.e. the way it has been for a long time is the way it really must always be). Now, to be sure, I am NOT against yeshivah or Torah learning, has wa-shalom. Our young men MUST learn Torah and halakhah, but they must be taught derekh eress and middoth tovoth first. They must be empowered to handle their own halakhic decisions in a real world, leaving only the larger questions to a "rebbe" or rosh yeshivah. They must be made to feel like they are meant to be players on the field, not just spectators in the stands. And they must be finally told openly that it is wrong to support yourself from public charity while learning Torah in order to neglect being industrious and responsible young men. Thank you, Rabbi, for putting this together.

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    1. Well said. Sad and true. I also love the term, "forthodoxy." Nice touch.

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    2. Thanks. And I think that I coined the term. It is the name of my blog now.
      www.forthodoxy.wordpress.com

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  39. Binyomin Zev Wolf raised a very important point about the conflict 'liberal" parents are going to confront when sending their children to a very "black" educational insttitution.
    I read Dr Marc Shapiro's biography of Rav Yehiel Yaakov Weinberg and what I learned from that is that the Haredi hard-liners always win out in the end, and the ideological moderates in the Haredi world end up capitulating to them because they want to be accepted by them and to have their children marry into their families,. I heard a story from Rav Riskin who told of when he was getting involved in intensive Torah study, he had a mentor whom he looked up to who was both a talmid hacham and who also taught mathematics IIRC. Rav Riskin viewed him as a role model. Years later, Rav Riskin decided to look up his children and grandchildren in Israel.. He found that they were living is a super Haredi neighborhood. He discovered that the young children were studying in all-Yiddish speaking hadarim with no secular studies.
    Over at another Orthodox blog there was a heated discussion during the conflict over Haredi conscription. A liberal Haredi rav who posts there decried all the extremism and name-calling. I asked him what he was doing about it and he said he taught his students that this sort of extremism is wrong. I then pointed out that if he is doing this, he is putting his students and even his own children into an insoluble dilemman...they are hearing from other educators and Rabbanim that the Gedolim (at least the ones they are following) oppose the views of this liberal Rav who is also the father of his children. I asked how he can deal with this dilemma. He refused to post my comment.

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  40. Because the daati leumi can't keep those damned televisions out of their homes. That's why.

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  41. "Rak ain yiras Elokim bamakon hazeh". Pretty much every single study of Jews in America demonstrates how the Modern Orthodox world is losing their kids to the secular world with over 70% of them attending secular universities and most of them leave the fold. For some reason the Modern Orthodox schools have failed at teaching students how to make a leining in gemara and how to be passionate Jews. Unless the student goes to Israel for a year that child will likely not be shomer shabbos. Parents are pragmatic enough to understand that they need to send their child to a place where they see people passionate for yiddishkeit with the hope that some of it will stick when their child returns back to the Modern Orthodox world. Sure there is a danger of the child becoming Chareidi, but the alternative of being an apathetic Jew who possibly attends shul on Shabbos morning and almost for sure will not daven 3 times a day, and is a lackluster yarei shamayim is much worse. I don't understand why this author is proposing for more Jews to leave the fold which is the inevitable result of his hypothesis. He clearly is not schooled in the sociological reality of American Jewry and the sad state of the Modern Orthodox educational system.

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    1. Yarei Shamayim, I don't know that your 'statistics' about MO high-school graduates 'leaving the fold' is correct. Of course, that also depends on how you define 'leaving the fold'. Most would agree that dropping Shabbat observance would qualify - much less, marrying a Gentile. However, not davening 3 times a day does not make one non-Orthodox. While most MO graduates go to college, there are leading Ivy League universities with an active Jewish life, including minyanim and shiurim. I could mention Columbia, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania among others. Of course, there is also YU and Touro where one can continue with torah studies together with the secular ones. I won't deny that there are significant problems with MO education, but there are different significant problems with the education in the more traditional yeshivot. If MO education can lead to apathy, Hareidi education can lead to outright rebellion once the recipient becomes aware of how unprepared he is for the working world.

      Y. Aharon

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