It’s easy to be skeptical today about the future commitment of today’s young Orthodox Jews, in light of some bad public role models, the impact of social media and the high-tech age and the struggles of yeshivas and parents in responding to those challenges. This week’s cover story on Shabbat texting, probably only one in a series of contemporary compromises that are catching on, doesn’t help restore confidence.
Fortunately, last night, a dozen or so young Modern Orthodox teens did just that when they saved me from missing a Kaddish.
In almost three months since my mother’s passing, I’ve only missed two minyans. That usually means a lot of rushing and schedule juggling, and I can often imagine my humble mother telling me to take it easy, no big deal if I miss once or twice.
Tuesday was almost the third miss, after a particularly hectic workday. On the way to Penn Station I realized that the 9 o’clock train would bring me home too late for the last local minyan at 9:45. My best hope was to get to shul at 10 and hope to at least make Kaddish, if not the rest of Maariv.
At 10:00 I realized that was impossible. When faced with the choice of rounding up some friends, or chalking it up to an unsuccessful best effort, I picked a third option. My daughter Rachel and her fellow 9th grade survivors were celebrating the last day of school with a backyard party.
I didn’t really think any of the newly bar mitzvahed young men would say no if I asked for an ad hoc minyan. But I didn’t know what kind of enthusiasm I would get, how much effort it would take.
Turns out, all it took was a text to my daughter, which garnered the reply "np, I have 10 boys" seconds later. (For non-texters, that’s "no problem.") When I got home, the music went on pause, the siddurim came out, and the living room transformed from dance floor to shteibel.
These young men, most of whom attend the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County, are a credit to their schools and their families.
Even after decades of "seeing everything," this hard-bitten reporter was deeply moved and grateful. I know my mother might have waved off all the bother, if she could, but I have a feeling that from her place in Heaven, she was moved, too.