Wednesday, December 07, 2005

On Lakewood: My Own Two Cents

Bill Selliger, in a comment to my previous post asked the following:

What's wrong with wanting to live in an insulated community? If that's what they believe in, and everything they need and desire is found within that community, and they're happy with it, then kol hakavod! Don't you try and shelter your kids from violence, drugs, and other shmutz? So these guys take it one step further, and shelter their kids from outside thought. They're completely entitled to do so. (And don't start with how violence, drugs, and other shmutz are different than other modes of thought. To these people, they're equally poisonous. Right or wrong - I'm not saying. This is what they hold.) I don't understand why this bothers you. It's their community, and they have a right to dictate what is and isn't acceptable for their kids. If someone living in the community doesn't agree, then they can move out. Last I checked, there was no border police checkpoint at the Howell County Line.

Are there drawbacks to such an approach? Of course there are! But on a whole, it works for them. So leave them alone already. They leave you alone. They didn't say that you can't use the internet.

Bill, of course, is right in some respects. People and organizations are entitled to set standards for the way its members live. A shul certainly has an interest in maintaining a "Jews-only" membership rule. No one is denying the Lakewood yeshivos the rights to make rules as they see fit. I, however, also have the right to comment on such rules, even if I don't live in Lakewood.

My problems with the Lakewood rules are threefold.

1. The rules are over-reaching and affect those who should be beyond the yeshivos' reach. If the yeshiva established a rule that said that no *student* could use the Internet, I would not have such a hard time with this. I may personally disagree with the rule (I think that children should be allowed to use the Internet under a parent's direct and constant supervision [that's the rule in our home - no saying "OK" and then leaving the kids unsupervised]), but hey, they "rule" over the kids, and so they can set these policies. My sons' school has a "no students at the movie theather" rule which, despite my disagreement with, we strictly adhere to (for which I get complaints from my son all the time - other kids in his class do go to the movies, but that's for another post). But this ruling affects far more than the kids who attend the school - it affects everyone in the family and household of the attending students. Parents, grandparents, graduated siblings or anyone else living in the house are held "hostage" to the rule. To my view, this is simply the yeshivos reaching out to areas that they have no business reaching out to. If the Lakewood community, as a whole, wants to enforce a "no Internet" rule on the entire community, then let them do so - but to have it affect only those people who have school age kids is wrong.

2. The ban was sprung on parents in mid-school year. Schools should not issue major rules changes in the middle of the school year. If they had sent around a letter last May or June (or even during the summer) stating the rules beforehand, it would not have been so bad - parents who disagreed could have taken action, sent their kids to different schools, etc. However, by issuing the rule in mid-year, the parents are now trapped. Unless they want to switch schools (and incur the added expense of another tuition payment), they are simply forced to adhere to the rules. To use an extreme and silly example - if the school tomorrow ruled that all students must wear bumblebee costumes to school, that's within their rights. However, it is wrong for a school to decide this in mid-year. A decision such as this should be decided in the summer and then parents can decide for themselves whether or not they want to send their kids to a "bee" school or not.

3. The schools are all conspiring with one another. I don't have a terrible problem with a school setting a rule (persuant to what I wrote above) regarding what its students do. However, I have a problem when *all* the schools in the area consipre with one another to enforce a rule. Very simply, all it does it leave parents with no choice but to move or accept the rule. And while it's true that there are no border checkpoints at the Howell County line, nonetheless, forcing someone to move simply because they want to be able to pay their bills on line, shop at Amazon or even get divrei Torah off the Internet seems well to far fetched. If one school, or a subset of all schools had issued the rule, then that at least leaves the parents who didn't want the rule some choices - but here the parents are left with only two choices - 1. send their kids to public school or 2. move. No one should be forced to make either of those two choices over the private use of the Internet.

The Wolf


Anonymous said...

Thank you for responding. I disagree with every one of your points, but am glad to see that you took the time and effort to compose your thoughts.

Just Passing Through said...

Wolf, I'm curious: I've had some recent arguments on this topic and I'm told that every school in Lakewook signed on, even the 'left one's. Why did they? If they don't cater to the yeshivish crowd, why would they feel obligated to sign on?

Lawyer-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

Reminds me of when I was in 12th grade, they announced in October that everyone has to wear white shirts. I politely told my Rebbe, "That's nice, next time tell me before I (actually my mother) go clothing shopping for the school year".

and so it shall be... said...

This may seem to be Lakewood's business, but all theocratic dictatorships ultimately spiral out of control (take a look at the arabs).

Essentially, the lakewood oligarchs are going to cause widespread deviancy simply by defining deviancy up. They are taking normal behavior and declare it sinful.

This traps certain people and contributes to a society of 'technical sinners' who are not actually sinners. This is the root to the shidduch problem, the at-risk teens problem, and many other social ills currently sweeping the frummer orthodox communities. Talk about lifnei iveir lo sitein michshol!!

People will always be people. By changing the rules mid-stream, you just create problems. It will only get worse.

Then, despite Bill's myopic conclusion-- this truly will be bothering everyone as the inevitable implosion of orthodox society truly does become everyone's problem.

Anonymous said...

I'll add one more:

4) Such rules will affect a generation of rabbinic leadership, creating many rabbanim who will not be able to intelligently deal with modern challenges to Orthodoxy. (And don't kid yourself, the RW crowd will increasingly be aware of such issues and will want intelligent answers.)

Anonymous said...

these Lakewood ayatollahs are destroying Yiddishkeit.

and so it shall be... said...

so are the ayatollas of williamsburg, boro park, flatbusah, mon(s)ey, and monroe. oy!

PsychoToddler said...

still wondering: You are SO right. When you are constantly told you are doing wrong--even when you aren't--you begin to think of yourself as a sinner. And then you say, what the heck, why bother with this or that, or any of it. The net effect will be to turn many people off.

And Wolf, I agree with your point--it's not so easy to pick up and move. Most Orthodox families are so tapped out (from paying these tuition bills) that they have no savings and no wherewithall to pick up and start over. And even if there is another school with more 'reasonable' rules, taking your kids and sending them there may lead to further ostracization by the community.

Anonymous said...

The Lakewood rabbis decreed, furthermore, that those residents whose LIVELIHOODS depend on the Internet get rabbinbic dispensation and a certificate, sort of like a te'udah for kashrus!
When my kid's yeshiva changes the dress code after everyone was back in school, I told the menahelet (and I was not alone in doing this) that it was tough luck, I was out of money for clothes shopping. That ended THAT nonsense.
Do not kid yourselves-- the kids living in the insulated mini-societies can grow up to be just as big social deviants-- or worse. I was at a wedding last month, and while in the Ladies' room a bunch of bochrim (from a well-known RW Brooklyn yeshiva I will decline to name publically, but you would cringe were I to tell you) burst into the room trying to catch women in various stages of straightening out their clothing. At this wedding, men and women sat apart at the se'udah. And one posted reason for the deafening music at smachot is that yeshiva boys, who do NOT listen to radios, etc. think that LOUD MUSIC is WAY COOL and who cares if it permanently damages the hearing of the guests? The band members want the referrals from the boys who are getting married, so they turn the amps to 10 (while wearing ear plugs, mind you), and to **** with everyone else there.