To: Rabbi Horowitz
From: Yitzi and Rivky
We both spent time in Eretz Yisroel after high school and found it to be a wonderful experience.
When our children were younger, we always assumed that we would send each of them to Eretz Yisroel for at least a year after high school. Now, with our eldest child (a boy) in 12th grade, we are not so sure that this is the right move.
Last year, we were in Yerushalayim (during the school year) attending a family simcha and we walked through the Ben Yehudah mall on several nights (11 pm-1 am) just to see for ourselves what we had heard about from our friends. We were shocked at the ‘scene’ and are concerned about the notion of sending our son so far from home at the age of 18. There was lots of drinking, smoking, and frum kids going to and from clubs. We are naturally quite worried.
We appreciate the tone of candor in your columns and would love to hear your straight talk on this subject.
Rabbi Horowitz Responds
For the vast majority of our youngsters, the year (or two) in Eretz Yisroel is a remarkable period in their lives, an uplifting, life-altering experience, as they grow spiritually and emotionally, gain a sense of independence, and carry memories of their moving experiences of studying in our Holy Land for the rest of their lives. But, as you correctly point out, there is ‘the other side’ – many boys and girls who spin out of control 6,000 miles from home.
Several years ago, after the horrific death of two yeshiva boys in Eretz Yisroel from drug overdoses within a few days of each other and the arrest the next week of four frum boys for drug pushing, I wrote a series of columns in The Jewish Press on the subject of sending teenagers to Eretz Yisroel.
I have always felt that the most productive role that I can play is to empower parents to frame the questions and issues that will enable them to make appropriate decisions for their children.
With that in mind, I created an assessment sheet for parents to use in the process of evaluating the risk level of their child. (It may also be a good idea for your child to complete this form independently as a form of reflection and self-evaluation.) Getting a reflective, honest read on your child can be a very helpful tool in evaluating his or her readiness to spend months and years away from home.
The level of supervision of the school(s) your are considering is very important. Keep in mind that not all children are ready to spend time so far from parental supervision. Here is a good way to think about it: ask yourself if you would send your 12th grader to Southern California with a few friends for a week – unsupervised.
Please note that I purposely did not assign acceptable final scores or values for this sheet. I leave that for parents to do. But be aware that for each of these questions, a lower score means that your child is in a ‘lower risk’ category. (This only means that the risk is lower, not that there is no risk.) A higher score on this evaluation sheet means that your child is at greater risk of spiraling downward in Eretz Yisroel or in the States if not placed in a setting that provides solid education and appropriate supervision.
Next week, I will discuss some specifics about many of these questions I posed and how they impact your to-send-or-not-to-send decision. In two weeks, I will offer some tips for parents who have children in Eretz Yisroel, culled from the real experts – young men and women who have recently spent a year or two in Eretz Yisroel.
I hope that you find this helpful.
Assessing Your Post-High School Child
(And his or her readiness to spend a year in Eretz Yisroel)
- has done very well in school.
- has done well in school.
- is an average student.
- is a poor student, whose grades are dropping.
- has failed many subjects throughout school.
My child can best be described as:
Connection to Judaism
- loves to learn – spends lots of after-school-hours learning
- studious and conscientious.
- having average studying habits.
- being uninterested in school.
- having significant learning disabilities.
Attitude to authority figures in previous schools
- My child observes all mitzvos meticulously.
- My child is fully observant.
- My son would not daven with a minyan if there was no social pressure or if school was out.
- My child would not daven at all if there was no supervision.
- My child feels no connection, but we are hoping the ‘the year’ will turn him around.
Over the past 5-6 years, my child:
- got along well with all school faculty members – still maintains close contact with a former teacher.
- got along well with most school faculty members.
- got along well with the (few) school faculty members that he or she respected.
- had constant run-ins with school faculty members.
- never did well in school, was suspended many times and switched schools.
- is rather subdued.
- tends to follow wild friends, but is not a leader.
- is looking for ‘a buzz’ (thrill), loves to party and goes ‘clubbing.’
- is sadly out of control.
My child is:
- mature beyond his or her years – deserves my complete trust.
- average in maturity – I need to keep a careful eye.
- a bit irresponsible – needs close supervision.
- very irresponsible.
My child wants to go to Eretz Yisroel to:
- grow spiritually.
- be with his or her friends.
- have a great time.
- get away from home.
My child is:
Hobbies and Sports
- 21 or older.
- below the age of 17.
My child has:
- many hobbies and loves to play sports, spends his or her spare time productively.
- some hobbies – usually spends his or her spare time productively.
- very few interests; we are worried about how he or she is spending free time.
- basically has no recreational interests.
- never smoked.
- has an occasional cigarette.
- smokes socially – in a crowd.
- smokes regularly, but claims that he or she is not addicted.
- is a heavy smoker.
- never drinks
- has an occasional drink – or 2 \
- drinks quite a bit on Shabbosos and at weddings, but no other times (we hope)
- drinks heavily on Shabbosos and at weddings, gets drunk from time to time
- is a heavy drinker, gets drunk repeatedly and intentionally
© 2008 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved
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