Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Why Chareidi Schools Scare Me

To me, it's about one thing: it may be very hard to get a kid to love learning Torah and Judaism, but it's very easy to get that kid to hate Judaism and Torah, and lose him forever.

Let's face it. You're dealing with a kid, someone exposed to all that Western culture and the mass media have to offer. The average 15-year old will want to have fun. And guess what? That's healthy. A kid that age who gets more excited over the Mets than a blatt gemara is probably more psychologically healthy than a kid that age with a 20-minute shmonah esrei. That's called OCD.

I had a rebbi in elementary school that, in retrospect, is one of the biggest tzaddikim I've ever met. I still remember the way his eyes lit up when someone asked a good kasha. But most of us didn't appreciate him; we were too busy passing notes or playing games under the desk. Most of the kids liked the other rebbi better, because he brought donuts to class. That's normal.

As the average kid matures and seeks meaning in life, chances are he will gravitate towards religion, especially if he grows up in a home where Yiddishkeit and Torah. And the "flipping out" phenomon has shown that even when the parents don't give a darn about Judaism, the kids will often seek the light of Torah on their own. That often comes with maturity; a 14 year old generally doesn't care about the meaning of life; but at 18? Much greater chance of that.

However, if a kid went to a school and developed strong negative associations towards Torah and yiddishkeit, good luck getting him motivated to come closer to G-d. It's extremely difficult to undo some of the stupid, stupid things that some rabbeim do and say.

Shalom Auslander's "Foreskin's Lament"contains some incidents that are simply horrifying. Here's a sampler: one kid's father passed away. The day after, the principal came in and told the kids, "a father is responsible for a son's sins until he turns bar mitzvah, so watch yourselves." Sickening.

And then there was that nutcase who was quoted in the Yated a few months ago, who said "if only everybody threw out their iPods, then Moshiach would come." What a moron. Or the morah who tells her class, "if anyone in here watches TV, get out; I don't want to see your face." Get help, lady.

How about the clowns that throw a kid out of class when they don't know the answer to a tough hashkafa question? And they call the kid an apikores and kofer, to boot.

Let's not forget the sickos who beat up kids in front of the entire class. That's a great motivator.

So a kid comes out of some of these schools thinking that G-d hates them, and that if they slip and say lashon hora once by accident, too bad - they're getting a first class ticket straight to hell. What happens? Either they become perfectionists and develop OCD, or they become apathetic, maybe even angry. And there's almost no chance of getting them interested in learning again, even as they mature. They become, to quote the Jewish Observer, "adults at risk."

The moderate/MO schools are far from perfect, and have problems of their own. But I highly doubt that anyone comes out of there hating Torah Judaism.


Anonymous big bro said...

Do all Chareidi schools have that attitude? I wonder if there are some that actually give over positive feelings about Judaism.

But you're right. All it takes is one nutcase rebbe.

On the flipside, you have chareidi rabbeim in MO schools, so how do you know they're not giving over chareidi cool-aid?

12:27 AM  
Blogger Child Ish Behavior said...

In my opinion the situation is a little different. It is less about the institutions and more about how a person views themselves.

6:46 PM  
Blogger Child Ish Behavior said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:48 PM  
Blogger oscah said...

Hi. I stumbled here by following too many links. Anyway, just want you to know how right you are. I'm an atheist, been one since my early teens, and feel a fairly deep loathing towards religion of all stripes. Said loathing was developed at the ultra-orthodox school I attended. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm happy to be an atheist. I genuinely think that religious concepts were invented by human beings and not handed down by some invisible divine. But I do think my life would be happier if I was less consumed by my hatred.

12:55 PM  
Blogger oscah said...

I should add, though, that no-one else I knew back then appears to have reacted in violent Auslander style as I did. A lot of them went the opposite route. Go figure.

So, I guess I'm saying that indoctrination works most of the time, but on occasion it'll backfire big-time and when it does, the backfiree will be angry as fuck.

12:58 PM  

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