Sunday, January 31, 2016

Why Risk Your Kids?

As many people pointed out, Avishai Ben-Chaim's article entitled "The Charedim: Disintegration," translated in the previous post, was strange and deficient in several ways. For example, among the statistics claimed in the article was that the dropout rate from charedi to secular is 10%, and from national-religious to secular is 25%. Both of these figures seem suspect.

However, at least for the purposes of this post, let us accept that the dropout rate from the national-religious community is significantly higher than that from the charedi community (which I think is quite likely to be true, at least for now). Recently, I had a discussion with a neighbor who pointed to this fact in order to explain why he was raising his children in the charedi framework rather than the national-religious framework. In fact, he couldn't understand how anyone could reason otherwise. Surely the most important thing is to raise your kids to be religious, so how can you raise them in a framework in which the chances of them going "off the derech" are greater?

While I was sympathetic to his viewpoint, there are (at least) two responses to be made to this. One is that if you believe a certain framework to be correct and another to be deficient, then you might choose to raise your children in the correct framework even if it contains risks greater than those in the deficient framework.

The second point to note is that this reflects two very different worldviews. The charedi worldview is that the most important priority to consider is one's own (or, extension, one's childrens') religious growth and security. Accordingly, one would never choose a path in which that is more likely to be threatened.

The national-religious worldview, on other hand, is that the top priority is not oneself (or one's children), but the nation. It is indeed true that your child is more likely to suffer spiritual harm if they go to the army and college. Yet they are also a good deal more likely to suffer physical harm, but this is not a reason not to send them on that path! We have all kinds of responsibilities to the nation - not only in the religious sphere, but also in the material realm, such as with national security and the economy. Raising our children on this path, with its greater physical and spiritual risks, is part of our responsibility to the nation, and in turn reflects the values that we wish to inculcate within our children.

Some will denounce this as false and defamatory. But I think that it's self-evident. The national-religious community is, by its very nature, more focused on national responsibilities. That's why it's called the national-religious movement.

(See too this post: The Difference Between Charedi and Dati-Leumi Rabbonim)

38 comments:

  1. While I agree completely with the cost benefit analysis you present when choosing the type of religious approach for one's family, what I must take issue with is the separation between religious values and national values (not to mention other values that the haredi world disconnects from religion such as financial or educational). I don't see them as separate and sometimes conflicting. I see all values as being integrated into a religious framework. Especially nationhood of Am Israel!

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  2. As I often say to a good friend (and roommate), the statistics don't take into account that many DL/MO aren't in religious homes to begin with. How many mechalelei shabbat attend charedi schools vs. DL/MO? My experience showed that a crushing majority of MO/DL religious kids stay religious or grow religiously in those framework, but we just accept a larger precent of "margins".

    Likewise, there are no disfunctional "reject" schools in the MO world since the schools accept the kids that would be rejected by their yeshivish counterparts. I'd bet that accounting for the difference (irreligious/very lightly religious kids in MO/DL schools that end up going off) that the difference is way smaller.


    On a final the statistics were 10% of charedim end up no longer charedi- not secular- this includes charedim that become DL/MO, but not post charedim (charedim modernim). Similarly the 25% of DL's include DL's that become charedi as well.

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  3. Valid point, but I'd give a different reason. Even if the discrepancy in OTD rates is real - and there is some statistical basis for the claim that it is - that's merely a measure of outward religiosity. What about the people who for social convenience remain ostensibly Haredi but for all intents and purposes have checked out intellectually and/or emotionally? There's even an entire phenomenon of "Ortho-prax"; people who have lost their belief but still keep mitzvot for appearances sake or just out of force of habit. While there is no hard data (for obvious reasons), I'd wager that this is a far greater problem among Haredim, where social pressures to comply are far more intense.

    A second point is the quantitative. When people go OTD, how far off do they go? Again, I have no concrete data, but from what I can observe, people who leave the DL world tend to do so in less extreme ways. They usually drift away from observance less out of bitterness with the religious world (though of course that can also happen) and more as part of assimilation with a secular world they live alongside. With Haredim the break tends to be sharper and more likely to be fueled by anger against religion. Think the frustrated Haredi-turned atheist who's bitter about feeling he was lied to, versus the unobservant DL who merely was enticed by secular culture, but doesn't harbor animus towards religion.

    If that's the case, even if DL are more likely to go OTD, they're also more likely to come back.

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    1. Couldn't agree with you more. Also chareidim have a much sharper divide between frum and not, meaning that when someone goes off they're less likely to get back on.
      In the dl/mo world it's less black and white, more grey, which means people can slip off and on more easily.
      In fact historically speaking there was no such thing as "going off". There were chaveirim and amoratsim, people who kept halochoh better and worse. But there was no need to classify people as frum or not. It was only in the wake of the haskoloh that it was neccessary to create such a divide. In the sephardi world it still is mostly like that.

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  4. If your only rationale for your assessment that the National religious camp is prioritizing the national interests is the name they bear, then it follows that you acknowledge that the Chareidi camp all prioritize being Chareid L'D'var HaShem - an assumption whose validity you've denied right here countless times

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    1. You are assuming that the Haredi way is D'Var HaShem and not a modern heresy.

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    2. R. Slifkin hasn't denied that the haredim *think* they are Hared Lidvar Hashem, only that what they think squares with reality.

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    3. I'm not assuming anything. If the author is consistent, he presumes that the name chosen for the group honestly represents them.....

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    4. Empirically, the dati-leumi do act in the national interest, and chareidim ignore the dvar Hashem when it conflicts with their societal preferences. So one group's name is accurate, the other is not. No contradiction at all.

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  5. Good points that you raise, Sir. Perhaps a question if I may whilst struggling with this issue I definitely agree that as a Jew we have responsibilities to the nation, especially in the material realm. However we see that Chazal created many boundaries for the Torah and clearly were keen to avoid spiritual risk. How can we be sure that it is right to choose the path even if seemingly more materially justified when that path may encompass spiritual pitfalls. Interestingly the Gemarah states (location forgotten) that when asked Eliyahu Hanavi I think said only one person in the Market was going to Heaven someone who looked totally like a gentile as he worked as the prison guard and dedicated himself to securing the (spiritual) safety of the female Jewish prisoners. Also today where Charedim can and do go to the army whats the Nafka Mina in terms of serving the people?

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    1. "Also today where Charedim can and do go to the army whats the Nafka Mina in terms of serving the people?"

      Was that meant as a joke? If so, it's not funny at all. Spend some time reading, just a little bit, of the soldiers who lost their lives, in just the most recent Gaza incursion alone. How dare you profane the sacrifice of these heroes by comparing them to Charedim. עפרא בפומך.

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    2. I think what he meant is that you can raise your kids chareidi and then send them to nachal chareidi if you feel that they ought to serve.
      I imagine that such a plan would never work in practice. After being brought up in a chareidi school your kids are unlikely to have any interest in joining the army, and if they did, making such a decision would destroy their social life.

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  6. I think your first response is the most logical one.
    But also this: based on my limited confined-to-America experience, Charedis who go OTD go all the way off, and stay off, while MO tend to simply become much less observant but not completely irreligious and more inclined to return to fuller observance in later life.

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  7. I think that a third response should be added when having that conversation. "Is the parent aware of the negative implications of sending the children to a haredi school on terms of both the deficiencies on their secular education (with all the likely outcomes) and the spiritual deficiencies (a child who sees the rest of the world in negative terms and adopting a simplistic dualistic black/white approach to all things generally - us good, them bad?"
    It's not a cheap shot. People often ignore the negative likely outcomes. See Daniel Gilbert ' s book 'stumbling on happiness' for more on how bad we are at predicting the future.

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  8. It depends on what you believe the purpose of religion is. If it's a guide to make better people and the world a better place, then the goal is less about being "religious" and more about being good people. Obviously, from our perspective it's ideal to be both. In a framework that puts service to God above all else, interactions with man often fall to the wayside and being "religious" becomes a goal unto itself. We're seeing something similar in the NR world as well where service to the "land" is becoming more important than betterment of society. IMO the reason to choose a less strict "framework" is so that you, as a parent, can have greater influence over how your children view the world. IMO, the "risk" is more about what kind of people they become.

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    1. The Neviim had a lot to say about those who put service to God above all else and let (proper) interactions with man fall to the wayside. And those words were not nice words.

      Charedim ignore TaNaCH because it doesn't agree with their Hashkafah. They don't even see the irony or hypocrisy.

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  9. What if someone follows the approach of the Merkaz HaRav sector that both have part of the truth? Should he send some of his children to Chareidi schools and some to NR schools? Perhaps he should choose each child's school according to each one's individual needs.

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    1. If you are a mercaznick, you should send your kids to mercaznick schools. With in that world thereis a recognition that different paths are appropriate for different kids.

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    2. I you are a mercaznick, you should send your kids to a mercaznick schools, which recognize that not all kids should be sent on the exact same track.
      Moshe shoshan

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    3. First of of all, the gemara in chagiga proves the point that we have no way of knowing if anyone in the charedi world is going to heaven. perhaps is the chilonim in the entertainment industry who cheer up sad people who are going to heaven, like the comedians who are the other benei olam haba in the story.

      Second, the fact is that going to the army is still heavily oppossed in the much of the charedi world. Chareidm who chose to do so jeapordize their position and that of their families in the charedi world. No charedi rabbi has come out publicly against the "chardakim" campaign and called on the community to respect and value those of its own who choose to serve. Vert few are even willing to condemn physical attacks against soldiers and take action to make sure charedi soldiers are safe in their own neighborhoods. Has your rebbe ever taken any stands to make going to the army more acceptable to in the charedi world? has he ever advised anyone to go to the army?

      Moshe Shoshan

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  10. It is of course harder to calculate a combination of contemporary needs and values with/against what has come to be construed as rarified Torah "needs" and values. It requires a more multifaceted psak. And this is the power of the Oral Torah in general; except when it's gotten locked down and we think we are all too small and insignificant to make any observations of the particulars of our world (or ourselves) that might actually register and signify on the level of psak din. In other words, it takes Chutzpah! Which of course medinat yisroel very much does. And which Chazal taught would characterize our time. The key is to make the chutzpah holy, and that is an avodah that some dati-lumi families and individuals do better than others.

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  11. I think that my top priority is to myself and children and not to the nation. Nation comes second in my mind.
    But, I disagree that army and college cause people go go otd. We must raise our kids knowing that there will be a day that they will interact with people that think differently, and with people that are not observant. it can happen in the army, college, or work or elsewhere.
    The problem is not the army, or college, it's the yeshivas and mechinot that may not be preparing students properly.

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  12. I think your analysis of the differing positions as being personal or national focused is flawed. I'm no fan of the chareidi world, but they will tell you that they are just as focused on the welfare of the nation. They just take a more metaphysical approach and assume that the more Torah learning there is, the better it is for the Jewish people. It's less of a "get out there and make a change" approach. Again, while I may not agree, it has sources in chazal (although obviously not as an exclusive approach).

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    1. Of course they will "say" that. But that's just a post facto rationalization, it's not what's driving them.

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    2. I would beg you to go to Bnei Brak, speak to a charedi, or read one of their publications (at your brain's own risk for the last one). They always portray the danger of army/secular education as one of a challenge to their religious well being- never one of actual danger to the nation. That is a claim they only bring up once "shivyon banetel" is brought up.

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    3. Yes, but that doesn't contradict my point. If an individual's spirituality is harmed he can no longer contribute to the welfare of the nation, as they see it.

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    4. My point is that their main concern is never stated to be about the nation, unless shivyon banetel is brought up. That is because that isn't something that they truly care about; if they did they would put it at the forefront of their internal discussions- which they don't.

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  13. I certainly hope no one values their nation above themselves and their children. In that direction lie some...unpleasant things we've seen in Europe from time to time.

    Better to say that the nation is *also* valued and so plays a part in the calculus.

    On the other hand, Charedim *do* value a nation- just not the one everyone else is living in. They value the Charedi "nation" far above themselves or their children, in fact, or even their children's religiosity.

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    1. Let's not call it nation. Lets call it the combined good of all klal yisroel, as opposed to the good of me or even my family.
      I certainly feel that that has to be my primary goal. If I am part of klal yisroel then I am part of a story which started with the ovos and will continue on forever. If Not I'm basically irrelevant-i live I die and am forgotten. Of course myself as an individual and my personal relationship with God is important. But it not the main thing I'm here for.

      אם אין אני לי מי לי ואם רק לעצמי מה אני

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    2. However, the nation does have occasion to call on its citizens to the point of even endangering their lives, if it comes to that. In the classic TV series "The World At War", military historian Nobel Frankland made the statement that "those who fought for their country often feel their country owes them something, but it doesn't". I was quite surprised when I heard that. In the US, they set up the VA and all sorts of programs for the veterans (GI bill, veterans hospitals, etc), but I came to realize he meant that the citizens have a duty to fight for their county. They are not doing their fellow citizens a "favor" by joining the armed forces. We saw a similar sentiment in the "Shirat Devorah" in the haftarah of Shabbat Shirah, were she lambasted those who wouldn't come to fight.

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    3. You might want to listen to this:
      http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/743182/rabbi-aaron-soloveichik/understanding-reward-and-punishment-for-mitzvos/
      Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik-Understanding Reward and Punishment for Mitzvos

      a refreshing take foreign to most "modern" sensibilities I'm afraid.

      KT
      Joel Rich

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    4. The Haredim are not a "nation". AM ISRAEL is a nation. To exclude any group of Jews from one's nation goes against the very message of the Torah. And inviting other Jews to Shabbat is very nice, but it is only a start...all Jews consider the views of all other Jews and not just focus on their own because all members of a nation have a say in how that nation is run.

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    5. Menachem Lipkin-
      You are alluding to a claim often made by the Left or by anti-Zionists that the DL's value "land over life". That is a red herring. WITHOUT LAND THERE IS NO LIFE!
      The religious anti-Zionists before the World War II who accused the Zionists of valuing land over life were based on the unstated assumption that the Poles, Germans and other Europeans would allow the Jews to stay on their land which supposedly obviated the need to make sacrifices for Eretz Israel. Of course, by 1945 these Europeans made clear there was no land for the Jews to stand on in their continent.
      Same with those who make that claim today. Their unstated assumption is that pre-1967 Israel is "kosher" in that it is (wrongly) believed that the Arabs will accept Israel within the pre-67 borders. The irony is that pre-67 was built by the same Jews (largely non-religious at the time) who were accused by the anti-Zionists of "putting land above life"!
      Those religious pioneers who are accused of this today are not like the British settlers in Rhodesia who travelled thousands of miles away from home in order to exploit local native workers to make a good living for themselves. The new halutzim on the "hilltops" are living on our very patrimony, on locations located only a few kilometers away from the population centers within the supposedly "kosher" pre-67 lines.

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    6. DL are, essentially, a dead-Rebbe society. Their leaders speculate what R. Kook "would have held" and act accordingly. This led to the tragic mistake of populating the West Bank after 1967, with no foresight into what would turn into a "dual-justice system" zone that is untenable.

      On the other hand, the Haredi are almost to "dead-Rebbe" society status, completely. THe Hassidim are already there - current Rebbes defer to their dead-Rebbe ancestors. Independent-thought Litvaks are very rare - the GADOL is old and likely won't live more than a decade. Then, the Haredi are also stuck in dead-Rebbe wonderland.

      Hopefully, Eliahu will come soon!!

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  14. I honestly don`t see the vast majority of people choosing how to raise their kids on the basis of statistics, or the likelihood of whether their children will drop it all. If you are Chasidic, the overwhelming odds are that you'll send your kids to a Chassidic school, and MO, or others will send to the school they feel most comfortable with, and then do their best.

    Looking back, the chassidim retained a lot of their following when they came from Europe a century ago because they had a leader and a strong family unit. Like it or not, this gave them a strong core, and I don't have much patience with some bitter rabbi, quoted in the last newsletter, who said that [people are leaving by the busload. He has other issues.

    I'm not chassidish, but I live amongst them, and while some kids do have problems, and they do tend to whitewash things, they still are thriving.

    As for his shame at being Jewish, what exactly do we have to apologise for? For hating the death penalty? For swearing off child sacrifice? For having a holiday, Pesach, that celebrates individual freedom?
    Sorry, but maybe he should get professional help.

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    1. I am not sure about your rose-colored glasses view of what the Hasidic world was like before the Holocaust. Their "strong families" turned out a lot of bitterly anti-religious people and not a few Communists and Bundists. Youth from Hasidic families who gave up observance tended to become more anti-religious than those from non-Hasidic backgrounds, although it is interesting to note that after the Holocaust, many from Hasidic backgrounds who had drifted away came back, apparently out of guilt feelings and nostalgia for the warmth they grew up with in that world.

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    2. I know all that. My own son was pals with every kid who decided to walk away from the religious world. Yet the Chassidim seem to keep building yeshivas, and keep hogging all the parking spots. Besides that, I see lots of their kids who are just fine, have a great sense of humor, and grow up fine.

      Nostalgia? After the Holocaust, they had nothing left except a few friends and maybe family, if that. They went back to the familiar. Admittedly, many dumped it all, but their way of life is very resilient.

      Peretz Mann

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  15. Natan, your neighbor's argument about the greater safety as to religiosity in giving your kids a Hareidi education vs DL is wrong-headed. A child so educated is likely to look down upon, or even disdain, his DL or MO parents as being an embarrassment in his adopted circle. If you want to maximize the chances that your children will follow your ways, then the key is parental love, attention, and guidance, rather than the education offered by strangers with their own interests and prejudices. Given that parents don't usually have the time or talent to provide for all the educational needs of their children, it is wisest to choose institutions best representing your viewpoint and aspirations.

    Y. Aharon

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