By Rabbi Yosef Shubert
Last night, I attended an asifa for a wonderful cause publicized here on Matzav.com. In attendance were hundreds of people who came for no reason other than to be inspired by the words of chizuk of the distinguished rabbonim who spoke and to contribute to the worthy cause for which the gathering was held, a cause whose importance was discussed here on Matzav. Also at the event were numerous young boys – I would say in the age range of 11 to 12 – who had come perhaps just to see what was going on, but also to take pictures of the rabbonim on the dais and the guest speaker from Eretz Yisroel. As the program began, there were some boys hanging around the area in front of the dais. They were asked to stand to the side so as not to serve as a distraction to the attendees or the speakers.
But what happened next is what left me appalled. Apparently, not happy with the boys still standing at the front of the hall near the dais, and occasionally inching a bit closer to get a picture, someone had the boys thrown out. Yes, I say “thrown out,” because they were literally dumped and physically pushed out of the hall unceremoniously like they were vermin or worse.
I met one of the boys outside afterwards and he was shaken up.
“How could someone treat us like that? All we were doing was taking pictures of the gedolim. We weren’t doing anything bad.”
Holding back tears, he continued: “Would they rather that we go waste our time somewhere else? Should we go to baseball games or the movies? We came to take some pictures. And if someone felt we were disturbing, they could have told us nicely and not pushed us out, embarrassing us in front of everyone by telling us to ‘Go home and go to sleep.’ I’ll never forget the way I felt as I was shoved out the door…”
He couldn’t continue. He was so hurt.
As I left the hall after talking to this boy, I thought about it. You know, I said to myself, he has a point. No one has any business yelling or embarrassing our precious tinokos shel bais rabbon, especially when they are involved in an innocent – yes innocent – pursuit of taking pictures of rabbonim or roshei yeshiva. We should be gratified that they are running after our Torah leaders, even if it is for the mundane reason of taking a photo. If they are disturbing, they should have been spoken to between the drashos (there was ample opportunity). But to shame them in the middle of a speech, in front of everyone, as if they are worthless – which is the way it came out – is a true shandeh.
Do we want to drive these young boys away? If we treat them like they were treated in this instance, should we be surprised when they embrace the at-risk lifestyle? It’s great to be macho and to allegedly be acting on behalf of the greater good by chasing kids out of events and away from rabbonim. But we might just be chasing them away from Yiddishkeit too.
You think that’s an overstatement? Think about again. It’s not.