The Kedushah and the Pitfalls

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The December 2004 issue of Jewish Observer has a very courageous article that is sure to ruffle some feathers. The article discusses the difficulties involved in making aliyah and even encourages some people not to make aliyah.

What is at issue is the vast cultural divide between communities outside of Israel and that in Israel (note that the JO understandably focuses only on the Haredi communities). In Israel, affiliation with a group and belonging to it is much more important than in America. Furthermore, the groups in Israel expect strict compliance to their social norms and lack of conformity leads to a degree of ostracization. While many adults can deal with that, children frequently have great difficulty with that. Generally, they either need to adjust completely to Israel or be able to live in relative isolation. Especially those who make aliyah in their teen years, when social patterns and cliques have already developed, have difficulty fitting in. Many – too many, end up leaving the Orthodox community entirely.

Rabbi [Zev] Oratz estimates that between ten and twenty-percent of children who make aliya in their teenage years end up going off the derech, meaning that a family that moves with three children in their teens (not an uncommon scenario) has a fort percent chance of one of their children abandoning Yiddishkeit

[Rabbi Noach Orlowek] quotes Rabbi Nachman Bulman zt”l as having said that the time for families to come to Eretz Yisroel is either before the children are born or after they’re married. “I would certainly say,” he adds, “that parents who bring children here over the age of 6 or 7 are taking a big chance.”

R. Orlowek suggests that the children who have the least problems adjusting are those who are “confident, socially stable, and have no language problems.”

R. Avrohom Weinberg is quoted as saying “If a bachur follows professional sports in America, for example, he may not be looked at as doing anything wrong. Here, such a thing can get a boy kicked out of yeshiva.” That is, understandably, a very difficult adjustment for a child who was forced to leave his home and friends.

Additionally, the article points to the difference in standards of living and that foreigners may not have realistic expectations of what living a “kollel lifestyle” entails. Finances are no small issue in shalom bayis and need to be looked at realistically.

The article starts out saying: “There are few zechuyos as great as the opportunity to live and raise a family in Eretz Yisroel.” This is true, but one must enter such a situation fully aware of both the pros and the cons. This article is another in a string of very important articles in the Jewish Observer over the past few years.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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