By Daniel F.
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that there are two topics that seem to have more articles written about them than almost any other. I refer to the cost of tuition for our Jewish schools and the question of why so many teens are turning their backs on Torah Judaism.
On the surface, they seem to be two separate issues. Why would one impact the other? But just last week, an old story came to mind, and I think it may be relevant in our times as well.
The story is told that someone asked Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l about the American Jews of the early 20th century. “We were always told stories of men who had to find a new job every week, because they refused to work on Shabbos, yet most of their children assimilated into American society and are no longer frum. How can it be? Parents who were moser nefesh for Shabbos had children walk away from Judaism. Why?”
Rav Moshe responded, “True, the people gave up their jobs each week in order to keep Shabbos, but they came home, sat at the Shabbos table, and said, ‘Oy, es iz shver tzu zein ah Yid!’ (It is difficult to be a Jew.) When the children heard that, they decided that if it was difficult, they didn’t want to do it, and they turned away from the Torah.”
I believe that we are now in a similar situation. We all know the stress of paying tuition for our children, and how much we sacrifice for it. But when our children read articles complaining about it, and then read the comments from people on those articles (and we all know the kind of things people write), is it any different than the children hearing, “Oy, es iz shver tzu zein ah Yid.” 100 years ago? Could it be that our stress (and in some cases, resentment) from tuition is making its way to our children?
If you’ve ever spoken to a parent of a child who decided not to be frum anymore, you can feel their pain. There is nothing they won’t do to try and have their child become frum again. They don’t care how much it costs. So why should we feel resentful towards the best method of preventing it? Would we rather have to pay even more money later on, or prevent it from happening in the first place?
We need our children to see that their education is our highest priority, and that it’s our greatest pleasure to pay for it. Otherwise, they will grow up believing that it is difficult to be a Jew.