School Daze

Yesterday was the first day of school in Israel. I drove my kids to the local school, past the bus stop where Naftali Frankel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar were abducted last June, and dropped them off safely with a brachah for a great beginning to a great year.

Looking around I saw scores and scores of religious kids entering the separate school buildings; boys to the right and girls to the left. Regardless of the school or culture, as with all new beginnings, hope and potential springs eternal on the first day of school. The kids I saw are so young and pure. Their days are full learning Torah and academic topics as they engage the path to adulthood. The challenge is, how do we keep our children pure and good? How do we preserve their youthful innocence and goodness?

It is impossible to know the future, but if someone asked my wife and me today what one specific academic step we would take to safeguard our kids neshamos it would be this: They cannot go to an Ivy League or liberal college.

This may not sound like a profound or shocking statement to you, but from our backgrounds and experience it is nearly as much a statement of teshuvah as when we each independently decided to become observant of Torah.

My wife is a graduate of Yale medical school, and when you add up all the letters from all her degrees there are as many as in our last name. It is a miracle that she became religious during her stay at Yale but it is important to note that she attended their medical school when she was in her 30s and already mature, as opposed to many of her classmates who were in their early 20s and the undergraduates there who were in their late teens, and highly impressionable and prone, as teenagers are to do regrettable things.

As for my background, I did not attend Ivy League schools either as an undergraduate or for law school but my well-regarded schools were unfortunately, quite liberal. Vassar, the elite liberal arts college I attended for part of my undergraduate education, was so liberal and hefker in its nature that I remember describing it as “Babylon” shortly before I transferred to my father’s alma mater, the venerated College of William and Mary, which, though not as old as the academies of Sura and Pumbedita was nonetheless the second-oldest in America, dating back to 1693.

At each of these schools I experienced for the first time a perversion of academics, an abuse of a professor’s power and position. At Vassar (in a previous column I discussed how its Hillel Society, ostensibly a group that would promote and protect Jewish values became the second Hillel in the U.S. to denounce Israel and embrace and advocate the Palestinian “cause and narrative), there was a “Pesach Kitchen” for the holiday. I would not eat there today, but for a Conservative Jewish kid from Brooklyn who didn’t eat chametz on Pesach (to the best of his knowledge) this was much appreciated.

There were lecturers and discussions at the group dinners, and one night the Jewish Chaplain of Yale spoke to the rather large group in attendance. The essence of her topic in short was why it is wrong for the Jews to consider themselves the “chosen people.” She proceeded to dispute our claim to a special relationship with G-d and in so doing denigrate the Jewish people. When she was done, I fiercely attacked her premise and questioned how she could present this argument at a dinner which itself was a celebration of G-d’s manifesting His choosing the Jewish people of all the nations of the world as His own by taking us out of Egypt in order that we should serve Him, to make her preposterous assertions. Many, though not all, of my classmates applauded.

It was in a graduate-level course in Politics of the Middle East that my professor, Lebanese-born of Palestinian extraction who was later a media pundit during the Persian Gulf War, took every opportunity to bash Israel in class, deriding it as apartheid and invoking the age-old canard about Jews having no morals when it comes to money. He said, “But you know they (Israel/Jews) will do anything for money.”

Much of what he said about Israel was grotesque distortions. I was able to parry most of his points and my grade suffered for this, but I felt it was my responsibility as a Jew and a pro-Israel student to argue these points for the benefit of my classmates, many of whom would go on to careers in the State Department, as my college was a breeding ground for careers in Washington, DC and the foreign service. If you wonder why the State Department demonstrates an animus towards Israel, you can blame professors like this who are polluting academia with their anti-Semitic and anti-Israel vitriol.

What differentiates a bris between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox communities? It is not the act of the mitzvah but the words that follow. While the frum world wishes the boy a life of Torah, good deeds, and the opportunity through a good marriage to build a good Jewish home, the non-Orthodox world offers a brachah that the boy will go to Harvard, Princeton, or Yale. What they think is a brachah is no brachah, with recent headlines of its famous academicians like Princeton’s Professor Cornell West leading a rally in support of Hamas and making anti-Semitic remarks. Or Yale’s Rev. Bruce M. Shipman, the school’s Episcopal chaplain, who blamed Jews and Israel for rising anti-Semitism in the world.

These are just two of the “shining lights” of academia that the impressionable leaders of tomorrow can meet at the supposedly “best” schools in the nation. An Ivy League education, which was the dream of all Jewish kids from my background, is now a cesspool of anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, anti-G-d, liberal dogma. I wouldn’t send my dog-ma there.

Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst, and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com.