With the school year fast upon us, it is time to contemplate one of life’s
simpler truths: The schools you pick for your kids actually have an influence on
how those kids “turn out.”
While that may not sound like a particularly
deep observation, it is a truth not universally internalized, yet well worth
keeping in mind as the school year begins anew on September 1.
many of us are not acquainted with people who sent their kids to religious
schools, only to be astounded years later when those same kids ended up “very
religious” – a euphemism for “more religious than their parents.”
honey, how did Yonkel turn out so frum,” goes the refrain in many a home after a
child, sent to a religious school his entire life, comes home one day wearing a
black hat and kapota, and starts rekashering the family kitchen.
know, maybe he paid attention in class,” could very well come the
Or who abroad doesn’t know people who have sent their kids to
schools with a distinctly Zionist bent and with names like Herzl and Yavne, or
who watched with pride and teary eyes as their children tacked Israeli flags on
the walls of their rooms and every year proudly attended the community’s March
for Israel parade, only to be sorely disappointed when those same children opted
to make aliya instead of going to the local law school.
you tell junior I don’t care what Ben-Gurion did, he’s not joining the IDF,” a
typical argument runs in homes where a determined Zionist college-aged kid
informs heartbroken parents he’s moving to Israel and joining the
Or who in the US hasn’t met parents who sent their children to
public schools to be a part of that great American melting pot, only to wonder
why in the world their kids can’t date anyone Jewish.
“Geez, dad, all the
good looking girls in my class are gentile,” some kid at some city in the US
surely explained recently to exasperated parents wondering why their son took
Muffy McLaughlin to the senior prom instead of Linda Epstein.
The Wife and I should not have been startled when Skippy, our 16-year-old third
child, came home from his environmental yeshiva this summer, let his hair grow
down below his knees and had only two things in mind – going on tiyulim (hikes)
and swimming in every ma’ayan (spring) in the country.
A yeshiva with an
emphasis on “environmental” education is, on its own, a singular beast, some
would say even oxymoronic.
Think yeshiva and the first thing that pops
into mind isn’t exactly the environment, Al Gore or recycling. The great
talmudic academies of Europe were not known for turning out bocherim determined
to save the Polish or Lithuanian forests.
When you send your kid to an
environmental yeshiva, a distinctly Israeli combination where every week they go
on study hikes – where touring the country is an educational value nearly as
important as learning Gemara, and more important than learning geometry – then
you ought to figure he’s going to come out like some Jewish Grizzly
Still, The Wife and I were not prepared for the degree to which
our son internalized what he was learning and was influenced by his environment.
We expected he’d come home for the summer, hang around, watch television, fight
with his siblings and spend our money – the regular summer vacation
He had other ideas. He arrived home at the beginning of the summer
carrying the 15-volume set Madrich Yisrael Hahadash, a veritable encyclopedia of
tours around the country, and began setting up his trekking
And every itinerary included some remote ma’ayan.
don’t you just go to the beach,” I pleaded, as he talked about setting off with
a friend up north for a couple days, in search of that perfect, pristine
“The beach is easier to get to and has lifeguards. Look at it as
one big salty spring.”
But Skippy wouldn’t hear of it.
The sea is
nice, but there are jellyfish. He wanted a freshwater spring, his own little
The boy is enamored of springs, and his young heart is set
on visiting every one in the land.
One of the problems with searching for
springs, however, is how to get there. I never imagined the emotional energy The
Wife and I would expend trying to convince our child of something that for us
was so simple, clear and axiomatic: One does not hitchhike.
first two children came of spring-looking age during the height of the second
intifada, at a time when they were lucky if we let them go around the block, the
younger two – thank God – are coming of age in a freer time when the terrorism
on the streets has waned. Their problem is that we still remember the previous
period, and continue to be traumatized by it.
“Never take a ride with
someone you don’t recognize,” I preach to my son, knowing full well he not is
taking my words to heart.
“Not everyone out there is bad,” he replies, in
his the-world–is-fullof- good-people naïveté. “Lighten up. You know, even when
you sleep, you look nervous.”
“Sure I’m nervous,” I reply. “I’ve got a
kid who all he wants to do is hitchhike around the country looking for shallow
springs to dive into.”
And it’s not only the springs.
volunteered to work at a ranch in the Galilee for a few days during
vacation, overjoyed at his luck at actually finding someone who would
come to his ranch, work for free, milk the goats, clean out the sheep
sleep outside on the gravel.
Wow, What luck.
“Where did this come
from,” I ask The Wife, after squeezing my boy’s calloused hands and
arms around his muscle-rippled shoulders. “Whose kid is this?” “Ours,”
“And that environmental yeshiva’s.”