Volume 31 Number 36
                 Produced: Fri Feb  4  7:04:28 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

3 chilling stories
         [Jerome Parness]
Aliya to Save Your Children (2)
         [Anonymous, Aharon Fischman]
Halachic Considerations for Aliya
         [David and Toby Curwin]


From: Jerome Parness <parness@...>
Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2000 19:13:54 -0500 (Eastern Standard Time)
Subject: 3 chilling stories

The flip side of the coin: When I went ot YU there was an individual who
was "frum", in the Rav's shiur, who went on to marry a wonderful,
non-Jewish Italian girl, and who later became the head of one of the
foremost Psychological Associations in the US and led the fight to
remove homosexuality from medicine's list of "aberrant" behaviors.

I will not bore you with two more.  Suffice it to say that tit-for-tat
is not the essence of what I have to say here.  Indeed, this is the only
one I care to think about or remember.

Anyone, in any environment, if the environment is insufficient to
his/her questions or beliefs has only two choices.. 1) live with
questions and do not change behavior, or 2) change behavior, no matter
how drastic, in order to come to some manner of
emotional/psychic/rational equilibrium.  I dare say, that there are as
many if not more unsatisfied, poorly thinking, rote behaving individuals
in frum society, as out of it.  I also believe that taking these never
been challenged, or poorly challenged, or fearful of being challenged
individuals out of their cloistered environments would lead to severe
problems with yiddishkeit - or any belief system.  Just look at the
recent suicide and problems with drug use/overdoses in Brooklyn among
yeshivah students (right wing)or students from "frum society".  They
have absolutely NO coping skills.  No skills for understanding a world
that really does not fit into the world created by the yeshivah unless
you never leave and close your eyes, ears, mind and imagination to life
outside of it. If kids are not TAUGHT to deal with challenge, they have
almost no choice but to shrink from it, unless they are intrinsically
made for it.  This is not the majority of humanity or Jewry, no matter
how much we would like to fool ourselves otherwise.

Russell, and this is not being personal, just that you brought it
up.... chilling stories abound, in frum society and out.  They may not
be the same, they may be the same, their percentages may differ, but
they are there. Gamblers Anonymous, AA, Alanon, Child and Spousal abuse
programs, etc etc are full of frum people.  Ashrams have plenty of
former yeshivah students who never went to college.  College is not the
issue. Who you are and how you were educated and how you, as an
individual, respond to the particular challenge are ultimately what

How frum society actually responds to question, challenge and doubt can
have an impact, as well.  In many frum circles, if you ask the wrong
question, think the wrong idea, you run the risk of being labeled,
rightly or wrongly, the apikores.  It is intellectually and socially
daunting to run such a gauntlet.  The result may often be running away,
rather than running the gauntlet, in the attempt to answer your
questions. It can happen anywhere, and it can happen no where.

Chilling stories is the ultimate resort to fear.  I do believe that
religious Judaism has much to fear from the outside world, as well as
much to gain from the outside world. Unfortunately, Judaism has much to
fear from itself.  We have too much to clean up in our own house without
closing off options to the outside, challenging, sometimes dangerous,
sometimes cleansing, exciting, eye opening world.  Let each of us know
their own limitations and not assume that everyone else is like our
weakest link. It is limiting, and ultimately self-defeating.

Jerry Parness
UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
New Brunswick/Piscataway, NJ
voice:(732)235-4824 (lab)


From: Anonymous
Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2000 06:34:27 EST
Subject: Aliya to Save Your Children

>  Ein hachi nami (that's not the point). The fact that most fruhm Jews in
>  America send their kids to Jewish schools - usually at great financial
>  sacrifice - tells me that they have reached the (IMHO correct)
>  conclusion that there is a much better chance of their kids staying
>  fruhm beyond the age of 18 if they attend a fruhm school. I doubt anyone
>  on this list will argue with that.

True enough, I think--and I think the public school experience truly
does differ in its propensity toward good, harm, or indifference,
depending on where in the U.S., when in calendar time (20 years ago
vs. now, for example), and other factors.  Nevertheless, if parents
raise their children with the values they want those children to
internalize, it usually happens; if the parents don't "do their stuff,"
it often doesn't happen.

>  I actually had more fear of being unemployed in the US in 1991 (when
>  corporate lawyers were being thrown out in the streets) than I have ever
>  had in Israel. Suffice it to say that being unemployed in the US is much
>  worse than being unemployed in Israel. There is much less of a social
>  services network on which you can fall back.  Not to mention how you are
>  going to pay your kids' Yeshiva tuitions.

This is true--and, to the extent that one of my avocations involves
cross-national comparisons of health and human services policies, I must
express my humble $0.02, that the U.S. is one of the worst "laggard"
nations in the developed western world terms of how it does or does not
attempt to provide needed services to individuals who are "down on their
luck."  In at least some aspects, though definitely not in all, Israel
does considerably better.

>  > Public schools are "spiritual wilderness"?  Possibly, though I'd
>  > expect them to teach basic [secular] sciences and leave the spiritual
>  > to those who are qualified - and that necessarily includes the family.
>  Yes, of course, the family has to try to instill a love for Torah in
>  their children. But what kind of love for Torah is the FAMILY instilling
>  in their child when they send him to a place where he doesn't learn
>  Torah? And how is that child supposed to cope with the peer pressure to
>  do things that contradict the Torah? Ask any teenager how important it
>  is to be part of the "in" crowd.

I can't speak here for anybody's experiences but my own.  Except for my
first year of high school, when my parents shipped me off to a private
boarding school in an area even more rural and isolated than the small
midwestern university town in which I grew up, I am entirely a product
of the public school system as regards my pre-university education.
Moreover, my parents were not observant, and objected fiercely when, at
the age of 9, I became so.
 Nevertheless, I can honestly say that I don't remember EVER feeling peer 
pressure to do much of anything I didn't want to.  

Among the more polite descriptors I have heard of my character is
"bulldozer," but I never placed much stock in being socially accepted
for what I did or didn't do.  In any event, in those days, I spent much
of my time that wasn't taken up with school or homework learning limudei
kodesh clandestinely (for fear of incurring my parents' wrath and
heavy-duty punishments--and believe me, I met with more than a few of
these).  Most of the rest, apart from Shabbatot and chagim, I spent
practicing my violin, as I was a serious classical musician from age
5-age 18.  Oddly enough, in my late 30s, I feel far more intense, and
nasty, peer pressure, to conform to the increasingly many and
increasingly shrill voices pressing me to take on a diverse range of
chumrot, especially as regards certain issues, than I ever did as a
teenager to do much of anything.  Then, too, maybe I'm weird, but most
of what I wanted to do as a teen was study (both limudei kodesh and
limudei chol) and practice my violin.

>  So what are you suggesting? That it's okay to send my kid to the
>  non-Jewish public schools so that I can make a better living? That I'll
>  make up an entire day of Jewish education in the extra hour that I will
>  (if I have time) spend with my kid in the evening? IMHO something is
>  very wrong in this picture....

I would respectfully suggest that characterizing this as a situation of
"OK" is off the mark.  Sometimes, for whatever LEGITIMATE reasons,
someone truly has, or perceives her-/himself to have, no choice.  In my
own case, my parents told me more than once, IN SO MANY WORDS, that one
reason they didn't accept more prestigious job offers in more
prestigious places was precisely to avoid having me in a place where
they remotely possibly could feel pressured to send me to day school.
They were opposed to sending me for ideological reasons and, indeed,
never made peace with my decision to become observant.  Nevertheless, if
one truly cannot afford the basics of life, sometimes a suboptimal
situation is unavoidable, whether that involves staying in the States
and sending one's offspring to public school or some other set of

With all due respect, those of us who have been relatively fortunate in
our ability to make a living, learn what we want where we want, etc.,
should be careful about judging the rest of the world.  I say that as
one who ranks among the relatively fortunate now but who has also
personally experienced some extremely hard times from a fiscal
standpoint--though I also don't have children so perhaps am (not) one to
talk about sending/not sending them to public schools vs. yeshivot,
staying in the states vs. aliya from the standpoint of benefitting
offspring, etc.

>  No, I'm not naive enough to argue that. R"L there are kids here who go
>  off the derech too. But going off the derech here usually does not have
>  one implication here that it has there. Here, almost no one
>  intermarries. Here, even if R"L your child goes off the derech, at least
>  you will probably have Jewish grandchildren.

This, of course, assumes that all of us will have children, and that all
our children will have children, clearly a questionable assumption.
However, I would also respectfully make the point that intermarriage
happens in Israel as well--I personally know Israelis whose relatives,
living in Israel, have, for example, married Arabs.  Granted, these are
anecdotal data, and it would be pretty hard to do a scientific study of
the issue given present political currents.

>  I just want to treat a few of the contentions that people have written
>  me privately as reasons not to make aliya:
>  1. Health insurance - there is now universal health insurance in Israel
>  through Kupot Cholim (sick funds - sort of like HMO's but ours at least
>  has been fabulous). The minimum basket has NO pre- existing condition
>  exclusions. The added services have NO pre- existing condition {...snip...}

Points well taken, though health insurance considerations aren't the
only aspects of concern when it comes to medical care for individuals
with serious health conditions.

>  2. "It's dangerous" - You've been watching too much CNN :-) Come here
>  and see it for yourself. Your odds of being mugged in any major city in
>  the US are greater than your odds of R"L being in a terrorist attack in
>  Israel.

And, I've heard that in Israel one is far more at risk of serious injury
due to road accidents than as a result of terrorism.  1/2 :-) However, I
haven't looked at scientific data bearing on this issue.

Clearly, this is an emotionally, politically, and of course halachically
laden issue.  I cannot, and do not, claim to understand all its
implications, even those directly applicable to me.  However, at least
from where I sit, it's not as simple as some proponents might assert.
Moreover, in these exchanges, I personally haven't heard ANYBODY
shouting down aliya, but only pointing out that there are some real
complexities that have to be considered as opposed to operating in "Nike
mode" ("just do it").

From: Aharon Fischman <afischman@...>
Date: Tue, 1 Feb 2000 05:51:45 -0500 
Subject: RE: Aliya to Save Your Children

Carl Sherer wrote: 
>Someone else writes:
>> Carl isn't wrong that making Aliyah would make logical sense for people
>> in the dire situation that this thread is talking about.  The same
>> reason that such parents don't follow that option is the same reason
>> many people, regardless of circumstance do not make Aliya; comfort with
>> their surroundings, or fear of the unknown.  I myself know that it is
>> meritous and commendable to make Aliya and my wife's two sisters have
>> both moved to Israel.  However, that doesn't make the fear, rational or
>> irrational go away.

>Comfort with the galus? As much as I may have liked my goyische
>neighbors in New Jersey, I could never borrow a cup of sugar from them,
>I could never really invite them in for a meal (what if they wanted to
>reciprocate), I could never discuss with them the latest sugya I was
>learning. What is more comfortable than living amongst fruhmmer yiddin
>(religious Jews)?

Carl's arguments are logical and rational.  Unfortunately, the issue of
Aliyah is complex enough that logical and rational arguments are not
sufficient.  Going back to Carl's original question of what is the
mind-set of someone looking for answers in Galut rather than in Israel
is that there is a lot of emotion involved in such a major decision, and
one must appeal to that side of human psyche as well.

Aharon Fischman


From: David and Toby Curwin <curwin@...>
Date: Tue, 1 Feb 2000 18:28:22 +0200
Subject: Halachic Considerations for Aliya

I find it very unusual that for a religious community that has halacha
be the decider on almost every issue, when it comes to the question of
whether or not to make aliya, the halachic factors are not given heavy
weight. Even for those who view aliya as an "ideal", still give
non-halachic rationalizations for staying abroad, something they
wouldn't consider doing for other, less significant commandments and

Take for example the issue of financial comfort as a consideration.  The
gemara in Ketubot 110b, says explicitly that "all must ascend to Eretz
Yisrael ... even from a better household to a worse household".  The
Rambam quotes this as halacha - Hilchot Ishut 13:19.  As S.Z. Shragai
z"l wrote: "Thus, the so-called religious Jews who for material reasons
prefer to remain abroad are adding fuel to the atheistic opposition. The
latter can now argue that since observant Jews are willing to forgo
settlement in Eretz Yisrael - a divine obligation - for reasons of
personal comfort, then surely the other mitzvot can be given similar
treatment."  (Aliya - A Basic Jewish Obligation)

As far as the issue of parents remaining in Chutz L'Aretz, the Maharam
of Rotenburg wrote (Responsa 79) that a parent can not prevent a child
from making aliya, since there is a mitzva to make aliya and the
obligation to honor one's parents does not allow them to violate a

I would be very interested in hearing any *halachic* reasons applied by
those that still haven't moved to Israel.

David Curwin
Kvutzat Yavne, Israel


End of Volume 31 Issue 36