Sunday, May 08, 2005

Where to bring my kids up

One of my posts got sidetracked onto an interesting and important subject of where to bring kids up. I don't wanna get into specific places or towns though.I shall put forward my own personal philosophy and let the mud slinging begin.

I have very deep-seated issues with people bringing kids up in a homogeneous area of like-minded people. It goes against my religious weltanschauung (world-view). I believe in the totality of the Jewish people. The Tsibur is the Tsadik, Beynoni and the Rashah.

This problem is greatly exacerbated in Israel. Many Yishuvim have strict religious acceptance criteria now, Charedim live in their own towns and communities (though most non-Charedim probably don't want to live with them - a mutual separation). This will just get worse and has already caused major damage (especially to settlers, a different post topic)

The damage caused by living with people who have the same outlook is huge. We are never challenged in our views. We can easily demonize the Other, those to our right and to our left, the Black-hatters and the Shabbas Mechalelers (© new word). And as for the Goyim and especially the Arabs, well, Esav Soneh Es Yaakov. Davar Yadua. Muvan Me'eylov. Self-evident axiom. Therefore we should hate them right back.

I was fortunate that the Good Rabbi (aka Pa) lived in a mixed area, which exposed me to different people and different viewpoints. Yes, some of the local yokels weren't too friendly to the Yarmulke-wearing kid walking down the street. Most of the Yidden in the area weren't frummer yidden, shomrey shabbos, they were probably boaley niddah and didn't check for tolaim. But they were decent, honest, hard-working folk, who respected the Rabbi, did their bit, weren't fortunate to be the recipients of a strong Jewish education and probably didn't know better. I have more respect for them than much of the hypocritical crap, yenta system, blatant Losh and incredible intolerance I was exposed to in the frummy area nearby.

I don't want someone looking over my shoulder checking my clothing, judging me on my music or my tablecloth-style, my wife's choice of headwear (or even lack of choice?). These minhagim and chumrot are not their business, including this guy, though he is honest enough to admit it.

I spent a while in Israel in an area that was mixed religious and secular. I don't know what the percentages were, it's always difficult to gauge these things. There was a decent shabbat atmosphere, people didn't seem to drive their cars too much, though no streets were closed and no one forced them into anything. No loud music, no BBQs on fast days (you really gotta hate that one! Lo Tachsom Shor Bedisho). It meant a lot to me. If I wanted to wear a sleeveless top, shorts and sandals for my trip to the beach, no one cared.

I want my kids to see other people, other lives. PG they will live in a Jewish community, with a shul, decent school etc, but I will not bubble-wrap them to the extent that they never meet the Other.



At 5/08/2005 6:56 AM, Blogger Olah Chadasha said...

TRK, on this issue, I agree with you 100%. The sociological factor of "group dynamica" cannot be ignored. People want to live with people that they can relate to. There's nothing wrong with that. The problem starts where that factor causes people to throw out respect and open-mindedness towards people that are different. I grew up in a very black and white community. Either, you went to the Yeshiva/ Bait Yaakov or the Modern Orthodox Day School. Those were the only 2 choices for an observant family to send their kids. I went to both. My community's dominated by the Yeshiva community, and they had little or no tolerance for people who sent their kids to the Day School or the kids that went. I was called a whore for hanging out with boys. My parents were stopped in the street, when they switched us to the Day School, in order to tell them how much "off the Derech" all of us were going to go now that we weren't in Yeshiva anymore. I hated it. Lashon Ha'ra was encouraged, at the expense of everything else, like Ben Adam L'Chavero. It sickened me. You were either their way or you weren't considered Jewish. I keep Shabbat, Kosher, and everything else. However, my superficial appearance caused these close-minded people to think that I wasn't even a Jew, b/c I chose to wear pants.
Then, I went to New York for college and saw what an open-minded community could be like. My brother and his wife had married friends' whose wife wore only skirts but didnt cover her hair, another who wore pants and covered her hair, and others who wore pants and didn't cover their hair, etc. They were all accepted for who they were. They were all observant. Nobody looked down on them. The first time I saw this, I asked my brother if they were religious. I had been raised in a community that was black and white. There was no such as acceptance of the gray areas, nor was there room for debate. This astonishing discovery actually led me to question my Judaism for a couple of years, and really learn what all of this was all about and really look w/in myself to see where I wanted to go.
I'm sorry for the long story, but I really wanted to show that I can see where you're coming from, and that every kid needs a Jewish community that not only gives them a solid foundation in Judaism but the ability to build the rest of their lives with a working knowledge of the world and the understanding that there are other ways and people out there, and they have the right and the knowledge to choose which path is right for them to travel and a community that will be accepting of their choices.

At 5/08/2005 7:55 AM, Anonymous Chanandler Bong said...

TRK- When I once mentioned eisav sonei es yaakov to you, I think you took it slightly wrongly. I didn't mean that since "they hate us" we should hate them back; I'm relatively liberal in that area. I meant that since they hate us, or since there's at least a great chance that they do, or that they secretly do, or that they would when the chips were down, we should be wary.

At 5/08/2005 8:15 AM, Blogger Chai18 said...

both sides of the argument have valid points. there are many pluses to living in a bubble, living in a homogeneous world, but there are also many minuses. same with living in a more open/mixed community. it all depends on what you prioritize more, what aspects you want more for your children. it does no one any god to whitewash one community, accept the problems inherent in both and see on which side of the fence you would rather be.

At 5/08/2005 9:36 AM, Blogger Behind A Door said...

See, I grew up in a sorta homogenous community. A black neighborhood- black in hat/dress or black in skin color. I grew up surrounded by the "others", the rest of the world, but at the same time, I was seperated enough to not be affected negatively by them. I knew that I was a jew and they weren't, and thats what makes me different.
In israel, its much more complicated. You see people being mechalel shabbos and you KNOW they're jewish. You don't tell yourself "they're not Jewish and thats why they can do the things I cant". In the states, at least you can delude yourself into thinking that that person behaving rottenly isnt Jewish. Here in Israel its much tougher to explain to kids why they can't act a certain way even though other jews "can".
And then theres the serenity on shabbos that you ONLY get in a completely frum community. When you're in a mixed yishuv, or in a city, on shabbos, you know the person being mechalel shabbos is jewish, and its more bothersome than if some blacks in your american neighborhood drive their car on shabbos...
I think the best thing to do is to live in a seperate yishuv, because you aren't disattached from the outside world. You still see that there are other people out there, whenever you go into the city, but you aren't immersed in them...

And btw, about homogenous being bad... Well, where I live, everyone is frum. Practically everyone is "charedi (dati leumi)", yet there is much less judgement here than there was in my "unhomogenous" city in the states. In my previous city, I would get castigated if I were seen talking to guys, if I went out without socks, if I wore short sleeves, and people automatically decided that our kashrus standards werent up to par and wouldnt let their kids eat in our house...
Here in my "homogenous" charedi yeshuv, my mother goes out in short sleeves, I'll talk to guys, go sockless, etc, and there isnt one person that would dare refuse eat in my house because of kashrus issues... They treat us on the same level, as an equal, even though my family is a little "less frum".
And thats my israeli homogenous yishuv for you.
I definitely think its so much better...

At 5/08/2005 1:00 PM, Anonymous ClooJew said...

Sign o' the times, me friend.

The way things are today, people are petrified that their kids will get sucked into the titilating cesspool of society--the sex, drugs and rock n roll. So they, WE, need to hide.

I'm not happy bout it either. Where to send my kids? To the more modern school where, lulei demistafina, they will get a more "even" education, but at the risk that they would rather bury their noses in a gameboy than a mishnayos? OR the more yeshivish place, where the chitzoniyus may hide an inner rotting that won't be caught until it's too late.

I don't think we have a middle ground anymore. It ain't 1978.

At 5/08/2005 1:13 PM, Blogger Oleh Yahshan said...

I grew up in a mixed yeshuv and am a firm believer that jews should know one another. My best friends growing up were secular (I consider myself Dati-leumi), and also had (and still have) a lot of religious friends. More interesting was seeing the ppl in the community that did not fall in to you everyday categories, such as someone who goes to shul but drives on shabbat ETC.
looking back I can say that I have a great amount of tollerence(SP?) for all kinds of ppl in judaism, and do not feel that it cost me in my own "religiosity"

At 5/08/2005 1:53 PM, Blogger Olah Chadasha said...

Cloojew, I agree that the middle ground is disappearing, but that doesn't mean that we have to be extreme along with it. I believe the fear that if our kids are exposed to reality, they'll be sucked in, so we have to keep them wrapped in a bubble until they get married is extremely dangerous. First of all, as I saw with the kids in my community that went to Yeshiva/Bait Yaakiv, when the kids reached their teens and that age of inquisition, they were so sheltered, so ill informed, so much surrounded by "NO" without being allowed to question, that the things they did behind closed doors was much worse than any of us that went to the Day School. I believe that if parents teach their kids the realities of the world in an educating manner, give them the ability to ask questions, not be afraid to give answers or let them find their own, then we can make the right and educated decisions when we're faced with challenges. My parents encouraged me to ask questions and how to find the answers if they couldn't give them, and they took me out of Bait Yaakov when I kept getting in trouble for asking questions in my Judaic classes. Why and what is the Charedi community so afraid of the question, "WHY"? Are they so afraid that questions will lead to evil, so they shut questions off completely, and shield the world from their eyes? G-d gave us a brain to question and to think, not to be robots. If we wanted that, He would have written everything down for us. Instead, we are blessed with Torah Sh'Bal Peh, Talmud, Rambam, etc. Talmud is all about thinking, arguing, debating, and coming to logical conclusions. They learn it, while, at the same time, shutting off all the questions. Rambam said that we only experience Devine Providence when we contemplate, question, and think about G-d. It is a life long pursuit, and those who do not follow it are like peasants who must walk outside the castle and can never find the entrance to inside its beauty. There is a medium. We just have to work hard to find it. "Lo Ba'shemayim He." "Netzucheni Baniy" Let's build a community where that's true.

At 5/08/2005 4:41 PM, Blogger LostSpirit said...

This yom tov while they where doing the endless shleping, I felt pretty board and was looking in the back of some sufer (book); there where a few egres (letter) from bygone times, one of them was where the father was telling his son how to stay away from contact with other people in order to avoid getting influenced, and in order to not feel jealousy and other bad feeling towards others. So if you go for the cocooning option the extremism of it is endless. If you world like well balanced tolerant kids who are ze got ent ze lat then I sure would suggest a nice mixed neighbourhood, and as you can see there has never been so much peace and open mindedness in many places in the world since the conception of cosmopolitans.

At 5/08/2005 4:50 PM, Anonymous ClooJew said...

olah chadashah, I fear, lulei demistafina, that you are triangulating (see Clinton Presidency)--establishing two radical extremes in order to take the rosy road in the middle.

First, who says Chareidi kids aren't allowed to question? You can't learn Gemara without asking questions (granted, this doesn't help the girls).

Second, you can shelter them all you want, the secular world still seeps in--that doesn't mean you SHOULDN'T shelter them. Lulei demistafina, you NEED to shelter them in order to keep them in the middle of the road.

Third, your suggestion that we "don't have to go along with it" is not true when it comes to schools. Unless you have the time, energy and finances to start your OWN school, you are pretty much stuck with what the community offers.

Fourth, bottom line: While some Chareidi kids go off the derech it is still a very small perentage. Is it 3%? 5%? It ain't 10%--and we still call it a crisis! That's over 90% of our teenagers who don't smoke pot or have sex. Unfathomable in 21st century America. "Halo davar hu!" The enlightened modern orthodox are much more likely to abandon yiddishkeit either partially or entirely. But because it's systemic, it's not as dramatic. That does not make it an ideal.

At 5/10/2005 1:45 PM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...


Great post. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I sometimes complain about what a small town Milwaukee is, but the truth is it's small enough that we all have to live together. We are interdependent on one another. Without the modern orthodox, the chareidim, the chassidim, and the less than frum, we couldn't keep the bakery or the kosher food store open. In shul, the shtreimels, borellinos, and leather kipot all daven together.

At 5/10/2005 6:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Begin thinking Milwaukee


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