Posted on | June 22, 2010 | By Rachel Adler | 117 Comments
A blast from the past. Originally posted on June 13, 2006.
I’ve seen many comments in response to “Sam Smith’s” “Financial Realities in the Frum World” that talk about the undesirability of sending one’s kids to public schools. Specifically, part of Alter Klein’s comment #169 stood out to me:
“If we send our kids to public school it is like offering them up as korbonot (sacrifices). Yes, they could turn out ok, however odds are against it. Don’t stand by while your brother’s blood is being shed. The so called colleges that many kids are going to are also destroying many of those kids. ”
While I do not have kids (nor am I even married), and am therefore not yet thinking about educating them, I’d like to offer an opinion from the “other side.”
It seems like many of you perceive secular university as a threat, though also sometimes a necessity in order to find a well-paying job. I cannot speak for every school, but there are definitely many schools that have thriving Orthodox communities. The Orthodox Jews have an opportunity to interact with other types of Jews at Hillel. And I’ve seen at least at Penn that because of this positive influence, many people “frum out” while they’re in college. Many more start taking on more mitzvot, though they choose a different path, such as Conservative Judaism, which although you may disagree with the movement, can you disagree with people becoming shomer Shabbat and shomer kashrut? Either way- free kiruv with the purchase of a college education.
And is it so wrong to have a field of study that you love that is outside the realm of the holy? At Penn we have people who love engineering, or English, or history, or business, or law, or archaeology. I’m sure that all of them will become successful some time after they graduate, and hopefully they will enjoy their work, and they can use that income to help support the frum community. Not everyone is meant to learn in Kollel. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Yes, there is a risk that your child might go “off the derech,” but that can happen even in a closed environment. But I would argue that the majority, who stay on the path, are stronger because of it. If one can sustain their Judaism in an environment where there is regular interaction with non-frum values, all the more so in a place where everyone else is Orthodox.
If we all live in our bubbles, how can we ever hope to reach out to the rest of klal yisrael? How can we expect other Jews to want to live a frum lifestyle if we are closed off and unwelcoming? How can we be a light unto the nations if we lock ourselves in the basement?
Obviously, every parent has their own choice to make, and I’m not advocating that everyone should go to secular college. It isn’t for everyone. But it is for some. And that”some” should have a chance at higher education if it’s possible for them.