The question that forms the title for this posting is from the concluding line of a communication sent to me by an Orthodox Jewish mother whose son cannot get into a Jewish school. He is a teenager whose siblings are in yeshiva. He is not, apparently because he is ADD and there is no Jewish school that will accept him. So he is in a private school outside of New York where just about everyone there is not Jewish and where the atmosphere is warm and promotive of self-esteem.
The mother’s communication is doubtlessly overwrought. But we cannot deny that there is something wrong in our schools. Too many children are turned away, too many children are sent away. The explanations are many and, at times, they ring true. Far more often than not, they come from people in authority who do not care enough, people who for all of their religious credentials do not adequately sense the pain of parents and children, people who do not understand that Torah chinuch must embrace and not turn away.
We are a people who ask all kinds of halachic questions, too many of them trivial pursuits that take precious time away from Torah leaders. Rav Moshe Feinstein, ztl, said frequently that for all of the questions that he was asked – and they probably were in the tens of thousands – few concerned chinuch situations.
When a child’s presence in a class has a deleterious effect on his classmates, there is justification for removing the child, although even in such situations it is necessary to have process and not to have a single person – usually the principal – make the decision. The fact is that we tolerate arrangements where one person, at times in the blink of an eye, decides alone who is admitted and who is not, who can remain and who will be expelled. Far too often children are literally thrown out of yeshiva because of the most minor transgressions or, perhaps worse yet, because there may have been a minor transgression.
There is much more to say about this subject and maybe one day I will have the opportunity and courage to say all that is on my mind about the violation of basic Torah precepts by people in chinuch who do not have the open hearts and the open minds referred to by the mother of this boy. I will say no more now than perhaps as much as anyone else in this country, I have devoted my life in every single way possible to Torah chinuch. This has been the focal point of my life for more than fifty years. I am ashamed of the behavior of too many in the field. There is much pain inside of me because I have been involved in too many situations in which Jewish parents and Jewish children have been treated cruelly.