Wednesday, July 30, 2014
WE Are the Problem- Creating yeshivas that are on the derech
Tzvi* is from a modern yeshivish family. He is one of six children, the rest of whom attend mainstream yeshivahs or Bais Yaakovs. He is 17 years old and, if you are the type to judge things superficially, is “Off the Derech”. He has hair that is too long for a frum boy, attends a yeshiva for boys who are struggling, and dresses in way that, when he is not wearing a kippah, it is hard to tell he is Jewish. He sometimes talks through davening and, although he is far from stupid, does not enjoy learning gemara. At first he dealt with this by tuning out, but eventually his frustration grew too strong and he started acting out. He is from Baltimore, but he could be from any community where I have lived. He is one of the countless boys who have been run over by a yeshiva.
There is another side of Tzvi that you can see if you are willing to look a little deeper. He has a warm and caring smile, a great sense of humor, and an outgoing and friendly personality. He is a talented musician, who can play both guitar and piano, and seems to enter another world during zemiros, especially the slower ones. He enjoys doing bikur cholim, and gives off a sense of caring that the person he is visiting can palpably feel. When other boys behave in a way that crosses the line, he is the one who lets them know, and in a manner that gets them to listen. He enjoys the stories from Nach, Jewish history, and deep discussions. After high school, Tzvi plans to join the army, to defend his people.
What would a yeshivah that would work for Tzvi look like? To be sure, it would have to offer a broader Jewish education, and have a shorter school day. Ideally, there would be a choice of shiurim on different topics, depending on ability and interest. Perhaps there would be music and art classes, and maybe even sports teams. It goes without saying that there would be rabbeim who would understand adolescents, care about them, and love teaching, as opposed to just loving learning.
None of this is a chiddush. There are many boys like Tzvi. Still, until he acts out, due to frustration and sadness, there are few, if any choices for him. Are we sure that he is the one who is off the derech?