(11th in a series)
By Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin MA
Author of The Second World War and Jewish Education in America: The Fall and Rise of Orthodoxy www.jpi.org/holocaust/
Over the past weeks, following the various articles I have written here on Matzav.com about the shidduch crisis and how it ties in with sending frum girls to post-high school seminaries in Israel, many people have asked me to explain my positions and points of view. This has been a very good thing, because it has made me think even deeper and arrive at more profound understandings of the subject at hand.
We live in good times. Very good times. Halevai veiter. Even with all the troubles, these are still good times for us. We live in nice, comfortable homes. We have at our disposal all the luxuries and conveniences of modern life. Hakadosh Boruch Hu is being very, very good to us. We have nice jobs, beautiful families, good chinuch, wonderful summer camps, the best clothes, and the finest foods, with the absolutely best hechsherim. Our homes, shuls, yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs are all fully air-conditioned during the summers and have great heating during the winters.
We now have new generations being born into this kind of amazing and wonderful lifestyle. Not so long ago, from 1939 to 1945, there was a terrible churban known as World War II, which wiped out the majority of holy Yidden who lived in Europe. Yeshivos and kehillos were exterminated to the last man, woman and child by the evil Nazis and their partners in crime.
After the war, the situation was terrible. While America became the next great haven for Jews, right after the war, in 1945, there was no real strong Torah Judaism to be found in America. The gedolim and Torah pioneers who came here from Europe had to start from scratch. It is hard for us to imagine that while today, Lakewood is now a huge community with Bais Medrash Govoah at its heart, with tens of thousands of young frum families living there and shteiging in Torah, it was not always like that.
When Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l went to build Torah in Lakewood, he started with a handful of talmidim, a minyan or two or three. And it was like that everywhere. It was an emergency situation, and they had to rebuild Torah. Men and youths had to delay marriage in order to rebuild a community of true lomdim. It has succeeded and today we cannot even imagine the mesirus nefesh of what Rav Kotler and his band of learners had to go through to get going. But today we all see the results.
The same thing – in my opinion – happened with the chinuch of girls. There were very few good frum Bais Yaakov-type schools in those days. Just as boys were called upon to learn for many years and postpone marriage to save Torah, likewise, girls needed a richer chinuch, and that, in my view, is one reason seminaries in Israel were created – to give the girls a higher Torah education to be on the level of the frum boys learning in the yeshivos. Boruch Hashem, that, too, has succeeded, and just as the boys’ yeshivos are now putting out tens of thousands of good talmidim, the Bais Yaakovs are putting out tens of thousands of good talmidos.
Today, the average Bais Yaakov girl, when she graduates high school, has already learned everything she will need to know to be an aishes chayil and eim habanim. Today, seminaries are not as critical as they were when they started cropping up in the 1970s and onwards, when going to Israel was indeed very vital and powerful in inspiring the girls to an even greater Torah direction.
In the past, girls’ seminaries in Israel were vital to conquer the deficits that the lingering consequences of the Holocaust caused. Times have changed and there are huge kehillos in America today, with hundreds of thousands of frum Jews, that are thriving. That is why in the Chassidic circles, they simply do not bother sending their daughters to Israel, because it is just not needed and it does not solve any problems, such as lack of an intense chinuch, because the girls get it at home, in their Bais Yaakovs and in the communities. Thus, going to seminaries in Israel would do nothing practical for their education, in my opinion.
Among the yeshiva circles, and in Modern Orthodox circles, people are still living with a vision of the past that going to seminaries in Israel are as vital as air and water for the Jewish people, when that may have been true about 50 years ago but not today.
I have also heard many arguments about going to Eretz Yisroel relating to making aliyah and helping the girls Love Eretz Yisroel and becoming pro-Israel, but that is not the purpose of the Torah seminaries. Each person is free to make aliyah, but the job of Torah chinuch is to inculcate Torah values first and foremost.
To be continued…
Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin lives in Flatbush and is the Director of the Jewish Professionals Institute (www.jpi.org). He and his wife Zahava, although they are not shadchanim, have counseled many in the area of shidduchim and dating. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718 382 5610 and 718 382 8058.