I am from a generation that already 30 years ago considered a year in Israel for yeshiva study after high school a privilege and a gift, by no means a birthright.
All that has changed, and what we find today is a gap-year industry that, as noted in your story (“Rabbi Offered Cash To Steer Students To Israeli Yeshiva,” Nov. 19), has led to a fierce competition for students and a free-enterprise environment. It’s a buyers’ market with new, “boutique” schools opening up each year.
There is no accreditation process, outside of the Yeshiva University program in Israel, which has wisely cut back on the yeshivot with which it affiliates and from which it transfers academic credit. The horrors of this system gone wild have been duly noted and described elsewhere. Idle time and reckless street activities are often in greater incidence than ability for hasmadah (focused and concerted studies) that turned the previously reticent and oftentimes underperforming yeshiva high school student on to learning.
It is high time for all yeshiva high school educators, rabbis and concerned parents to finally take a step back to pull the plug on this system. Its casualties are too well known. It does not create a new class of burgeoning scholars who, even if the rabbinate is not their calling, will at least be learned lay men and women. It should not be available for everyone, but instead needs to be a newly defined “elitist” system for those who can assimilate and appreciate new skills in advanced Jewish learning.
The facts show and prove that for too many of our yet young charges this year in Israel carries too high a material cost for the risks involved and the proven poor returns. The dubious ethical behavior around recruitment, which is now documented (but not necessarily of recent vintage), only puts the final touches on a less than handsome pedagogic portrait. As parents and community leaders we owe ourselves and our children more value for our investment and should expect better values from those with whom we would entrust their “higher” Jewish education.