I read with interest your article on the yeshivas giving students time off in the winter (“Yeshiva Break,” Heard In The Bagel Store, February 1) because many decades ago, back in the 1960s, I was involved in this issue when my children were in yeshiva.
In those days, we did not have as many yeshivas as we have now, Baruch Hashem. Some of them were what today we would call liberal yeshivas where the boys and girls would be taught together in the same classes. Of course today that would not be approved of.
There was a point in time when the administration of my children’s yeshiva wanted to allow the students a week off because the public schools did that. A group of us parents went to the administration and told them in no uncertain terms that we opposed this. First of all the students had off from school already for yom tovim. Over the course of the year that took a lot of time off from instruction. So giving the children another five days off would deprive them of valuable learning time. Also, we told the administration that the reason we were sending our children to yeshiva was to teach them Yiddishkeit and there was no need to emulate the ways of the goyim. What would the children do anyway in their week? Just fritter their time away watching television. True in those days television programs were clean and decent — not like today. But remember we parents were either survivors from Hitler, yemach shemo, or close family members of those who went through the Holocaust. It was our position that to counter the effects of this vile attempt to eradicate Jews, we needed to imbue our children with as much Jewish study time as possible so they could continue Am Yisrael into the future. There was no time to waste on “vacations.” After hearing our complaints, the administration caved, and a compromise was reached. Whereas the school previously didn’t give off for Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays, they would close the school for those two days, using the cover of “national holidays.” That gave the students two days off. Otherwise there would be no “winter vacation.”
Fast forward 50 years, and we still have disputes over giving the students off from school in the winter. I see this as a product of the success of our endeavors back then in educating our students. As a result of forcing them to spend as much time in school as possible, they became professionals, and I’m talking about both boys and girls. So our children back then are leading middle or upper class lives with high incomes and the ability to take vacations themselves. Our children and grandchildren are the parents of today. With economic prosperity they have the resources to take vacations that my husband and I lacked. Today’s parents should remember that they did not suffer from a lack of vacations when they were young. But I do recognize that times have changed. The problem is with all the distractions of life brought on by the technology revolution people are induced to “see America” or “see the world.” Today’s children are exposed to so many outside influences. Their parents have so much disposable income. So they want to take advantage of the situation and get away from school to be with friends in places that we would never have dreamed of 50 years ago. But honestly, do we really need to take a trip to Thailand or Iceland, like so many families do nowadays?
Personally if it were my decision I would prohibit this winter vacation nonsense. Children need a rigorous study environment without distractions and certainly without being in situations where they will be exposed to ideas and norms that contravene our Jewish way of life. On the other hand, if this cannot be avoided the issue must be dealt with in a way which the students are encouraged to stay within the boundaries that they can remain supervised just as they are in school.
What I propose is that if the schools give them a week off, the schools set up a program whereby those who remain at home are required to complete a five-day set of written materials in all the subjects they are learning. And for those who want to go away, it has to be under the supervision of the school. The school can organize a program where the students go together (like a school trip) to a location with museums or national parks. Teachers who want to participate will accompany the students. Parents could also volunteer to be chaperones. The school would make all the arrangements: hotels, kosher meals, transportation, etc. In the day, the students would go sightseeing and in the evening they would have to complete written materials for their classes, and there could also be lectures from the teachers.
Implementing this would accomplish several things:
- The students would be spending time together under the supervision of school personnel and parents.
- They would be learning history, geography, and science from the places they see, and not frittering their time away at the beach.
- Parents who cannot afford time away from work to go on vacation would be secure in knowing that their children are in a supervised environment where they are doing their davening, eating kosher, and even keeping up with school subjects.
True, parents would have to pay for their children to go away but it would be less expensive than what it would cost for the whole family to go away. And of course, these trips would be separate for boys and girls yeshivas, so there would be no mingling. The issue of having to schedule vacations for boys and girls yeshivas at the same time so the family could go away together would be obviated. Any trips the family wants to take with their children, boys and girls, would take place in the summer, when school is closed.
While today’s parents are better off economically than those of us 50 years ago, we face challenges not dreamt of back then from the Internet and all of the filthy so-called “social media.” 50 years ago there was no problem having a TV in the house. Today the TV and computers are dangerous instruments of destruction that threaten the very fabric not only of Judaism but of society itself. It is so important to control one’s children’s growing up so they remain true to Yiddishkeit. Schools need to be partners with parents in their endeavor. The more time a child spends in school the less likely he or she will succumb to outside negative influences. Ideally there would be no winter vacations, but if there have to be then it should be as I described: controlled and with yeshiva supervision.
A Happy Bubbe
I am the Pennsylvania rabbi mentioned in your esteemed newspaper on February 15 (“Rambam Shabbaton in Pennsylvania”). It behooves me to mention that these boys at this Shabbaton were an eloquent testimony to the effects of a superior education.
It is clear to me that the leaders and educators of Rambam Mesivta are providing an education to be proud of. The boys had sterling middos, were highly knowledgeable, showed a broad understanding of a variety of topics, and had a lively and vibrant commitment to Yiddishkeit. It is so refreshing to see such a fine paragon of Torah and derech eretz.
Rabbi of Congregation Beth Avraham
Vaad HaKashrus, Eastern Kosher
As the mother of Shoshana Weiner of the Lawrence Cedarhurst Fire Department (LCFD) whose picture was in your paper last week as she received a citation for saving a life (“Honoring 4 Members Of The LCFD”), I would just like to add that aside from the help from LCFD members, she received other help. She asked for another paramedic from Hatzolah who responded ASAP to help save the life of the patient. Since some of the mutual aid ambulances including LCFD were out on calls, the patient was transported by Inwood ambulance.
I take great pride that when a life is in danger it doesn’t matter what your religion or affiliation is.
All should be congratulated in their selfless volunteerism.