Thursday, May 25, 2006

Secular Kids in Religious Schools

The other night was mentally exhausting. I attended a meeting concerning the admissions policy of one of our local religious schools. My wife volunteered me onto the va'ad horim (which loosely translates into parental overseeing committee), so I attend meetings like this once a month or so. Last night's meeting was different - it also included our municipal mayor, teachers, and rabbanim.

I'm not sure what the particular trigger was for this critical meeting, but many of the participants came very prepared.

A bit of background:

This school is considered "mamlachti dati" - an Israeli religious public school (first through third grades). There are separate classes for boys and girls and they have recess at separate times. The only "mixed" aspect about the school is the bus kids take... The principal is a powerhouse of energy and a spectacular person, educator, administrator and role model. This is one school where the principal knows exactly what is going on at all times, in every class, what is being taught, and how each of the school's 300 students are progressing.

Alumni of the school, such as my fourth grade daughter, return to the school from time to time to say hi to the principal and their previous teachers. This school has won many prizes from Israel's Ministry of Education and is a top quality school. Our older sons went to the alternative "mamlachti torani" school (supposedly more yeshivish) but decided that our next son would attend the "mamlachti dati" one, since we felt the "mamlachti dati" was better for many reasons (religious education, middot taught, and secular studies were all far better).

So onto the meeting.

First the principal: The official policy (and it's enforceable) is that only families that are not mechalel shabbat publicly can send their kids to the school. Family backgrounds are checked through a variety of means. Approximately 20% of the families do not meet this criteria, and deliberately lie in order to get their kids into the school. (It’s a far better school than the secular alternative).

Rabbi #1 (teaches in school): So, you don't want to accept secular students? I grew up in Kiryat Malachi in a secular family. We weren't shomer shabbat. However, since I went to a mamlachti dati school, I went to a yeshiva high school, and then hesder, and then I received smicha, and now I teach here. Are you trying to prevent people from becoming dati?? That's terrible!

Rabbi #2 (also teaches in school): I must disagree! I'm ALSO from Kiryat Malachi, and I can tell you that the secular kids in First Grade cause many problems for the entire class:

- Bad Language
- No Tzitziyot to class
- Forget kippot all the time
- Do not connect to what’s being taught if they aren't shomer shabbat
- Haircuts without "peyot"

How am I supposed to teach a class, when we go around the room asking student about their Rosh HaShana, and the secular kid say he went to Greece and has a deep suntan? When he doesn't go to shul? When his parents can't study with him? And then, when its his turn to be chazan for davening, and he has no tzitziyot. And then, when I teach about hilchot shabbat, and he says; "My parents do that on shabbat...are they wrong?" Any situation that makes the parents wrong is bad, and any situation that makes the teacher wrong is ALSO bad. The extra effort I put into helping this kid is coming at the expense of the other children who could be much stronger...

Parent: My kids came home from school with terrible language which they DID NOT learn at home! It's all from the bad influence from these other kids at school. We don't have a TV, so he didn't get it from there.

Parent; Bad Language can come from all sorts of homes, religious, secular and in-between.

Teacher: Secular boys are much more of a problem in terms of bad language than secular girls. I dont think that secular girls in the class are as bad an influence over the class...

Board Member: I moved here because of the plurality, so I'm torn between outreach and offering everyone a religious education, and the negative influences you are describing.

Principal: The problem is the percentages. Twenty percent is too much. Maybe 10% is better? Maybe we need different standards? The problem is that its very difficult to make a child leave if he can't make the grade.

Municipal Mayor: Could we make the parents sign a contract about their outwardly religous behavior -- for the good of their own child AND the good of the school?

Teacher: I heard the following conversation today:

Second grade students talking at the makolet; one religious, one secular.

Secular: You know, next year I'm going to your school! My parents signed me up and told me what a great school you guys have.

Religious: (thinking for a minute) Are you SURE you want to come to my school? I mean, I think its great, but you would have to do so many things you don't do now.

Secular: Really? My parents didn't tell me about what?

Religious: Well, you need to wear a kippa in school, Tzitziyot, and you would need to go to davening.

Secular: Hmmm...I guess I could do those things.

Religious: And, there's class every day on halacha, chumash, navi...

Secular: Oh...I hadn't thought about that.

Religious: And we have tests in all these topics as well.

Secular; Well, my parents told me its a great school: you have special fun classes, swimming lessons, extra tiyulim, extra curricular activities...

So you see how the secular kid's parents are selling it to him.

Letter is read from rav in the yishuv, with lots of experience with secular/religious interaction. The main point was:

"Attempting to teach children from a secular lifestyle which goes against the way they are being raised (in the present), goes against the lifestyle of their parents and the children themselves...inevitably leads to the children developing an intolerance and dislike for their religious studies..."

Another Person: Listen to yourselves! You should be ashamed of yourselves! How can you prevent religious education for children regardless of their background??? You are the majority! (please note, this person doesn't send his kids to the school...very convenient to be frum when it doesn't affect him personally).

The bottom line. Everyone WISHES we could provide religious education for all. No one wants a negative influence on the school. No one wants repercussions for the secular children who are caught in the conflict of learning one thing in school and seeing the other at home.

The outcome? Subcommittee was formed to come up with recommendations...

How do YOU deal with this?

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Your technicality is moot.

Ostensibly you are correct; in practicality, some dati schools totally outperform the torani ones.

There is a level of autonomy granted to malachti dati schools which allow them to decide their own admissions policy.

Now stop copping out and deal with the issue! :)

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Why are Israeli datí schools so maqpid/mahhmir on separation of sexes? Is this just another statistic to add to the "why Israeli Dati Le’umi and Diasporan Modern Orthodoxy are not the same thing" chart?

I teach at a school where a large percentage of the students do not fit the standards of observance, and it's frequently hard to deal with. There are some students who have no connection to Yahadut whatsoever — they don't even "feel" Jewish in a cultural/ethnic/secular way, much less believe in Judaism.

JoeSettler said...

I think education doesn't end at the school gates. A good teacher who gets his kids enthusiatic about a subject will be bringing it home with him to discuss with his parents.
It's my trickle up theory of Jewish Education.

If the teachers make Judaism interesting, relevant, and fun then that is going to also filter back to the parents.

And if the teacher is setting a good example, then the students will pick that up in their own behavior to an extent.

Of course this is actually a subject I know nothing about, so just ignore this comment.

JJ said...

There are only 2 possible solutions, really:

1. Raise the level of the secular school so the secular parents will prefer it to the religious school.

2. Lower the level of the religious school so the secular parents will not prefer it to the secular school.

Sorry to be facetious, but it seems you guys have a real problem on your hands. Sure, you could draw up those contracts and then there would be no legal obstacles to kicking out kids whose parents don't comply, but that's so ugly, so distasteful, and so unfair to make the kids pay for their parents lies.

Actually, the more I think about it...what about improving the secular school? The extra activities, tiyulim, etc.?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

RR: Actually -- I'd love to throw this problem right back at the Rosh Moezta, and let him improve the secular school.

Tachlis, I don't think that's going to happen :(

Scraps said...

I think I'm mainly with rr on this one--you're in a really tough spot. Even if you work out a way to be legally allowed to expel students who don't measure up to school standards, that's not really a solution, because expelling them for not being religious enough will only give them an even stronger aversion to Yahadut. Not exactly what the advocates of "reaching out to the secular students" are aiming for, is it? It really does seem like making the secular school a more attractive option is your best way to proceed, and that way fewer secular parents will be attracted to the Dati school because of the facilities and extracurriculars.

Scraps said...

(Sorry, we must have cross-posted...)

westbankmama said...

Your principal is correct in that 20% is too much. Our mamlachti dati local school does accept a few families from the secular yishuv nearby - but nowhere near 20%. This way the secular kids are influenced by the religious and (mostly) not the other way around. Don't let anyone guilt trip you, Jameel, your responsibility is to your children first. Then, if someone is SO enthusiastic about teaching secular kids, they should start a program (like M'Breishit) that does special enrichment in the secular schools themselves.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

WBM: Its not easy saying to a rav in the school, who's a top-rate teacher, that we'll be selective -- and then he says, "so you're saying you wouldn't accept me?"

That's not guilt tripping.

Besides, there must exist on some level, the collective responsibility to educate those looking for it.

Scraps: good point! Glad I also thought of it ;-)

westbankmama said...

In addition, in case anyone thinks I am being prejudiced - a little background. I grew up completely not frum in America, but was sent to an Orthodox elementary school. I learned a lot, but was deathly afraid that the other kids would find out that we didn't eat kosher at home and we didn't keep Shabbat.(I later became religious through NCSY )I kept my irreligiosity quiet and was not an influence on other kids - Israeli secular kids do not have the same propensity.

westbankmama said...

Jameel - ask the teacher how many kids in his mamlachti dati school were from frum homes, and how many were from secular homes like his. The numbers are very important. You are not helping anyone if the chinuch in your school gets watered down - you are just hurting a lot of people.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Israeli secular kids do not have the same propensity.

I disagree. It depends on many factors; male, female, ashkenazi, sefardi. Plenty of kids could be "mentschen" evevn if secular, while I know plenty of obnxious brats from the torani school.

Masmida: I'm inclined to agree, but we need to lower the percentages, and perhaps, find additional criteria.

Oh, I forgot -- a great line of the evening from one parent was: "I think we should check to make sure that these families don't speak lashon hara in their homes to see if they are religious enough. After all, none of us do. Right?"

[uncomfortable silence]

Her point was very valid...

Anonymous said...

One of the wonders of Eretz Yisrael, the whole issue comes out as Devilish brats in Holy shrines, it really can't be that bad, or is it?

Jack Steiner said...

If you want to bring more kids to the derech than I would argue to keep them in school.

Akiva said...

There are different level reading classes, and different level gemora classes, including advanced and remedial.

Why can't there be a remedial religious track? Given 20%, there should be enough non-observant students to fill that separate track. The point is not to separate them, but to remediate them. Teach them the basics with emphasis on connecting with Hashem. There are many successful programs that do this, usually for those who are 'off the derech', that could be modified for earlier grades. Teach about mitzvot, yes, but focus on connecting with Hashem, praying, talking to G-d, understanding why Torah and mitzvot. Kind of a mix of 'off the derech' and Aish's outreach seminars.

At which point, if it's successful, you'll be making dati kids or the parents will get so scared the kids start getting interested in yahadut they'll grab them out and run.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Jack: At what expense? What if it pushes other kids off?

Akiva: And where is the funding for this additional track going to come from? Right now, parents pay additional money just to get their OWN kids educated. Should they accept the additional financial burden for other kids as well?

Anonymous said...

I like Akiva's idea...I feel that considering the fricton between our people now, the main solution is increase of awareness of religion and what it means. This is an ideal situation to teach and spred Torah! To throw it back to the secular schools, while might be convienent for the dati, seems foolish.
Here is an oppertunity, and we're going to say- "lets not deal with it" ???
Now I understand the concerns about influences etc, but a seperate track....hmmmm...not such a bad idea.

Sabzi Aash said...

I don't know what the best percentage to accept is, but disperse them as much as possible within the school and among different schools. If the parents are going to be anti-religion, don’t let the kid in. If a kid who’s already in the school needs to be taken out, do it. Maybe he’ll resent Judaism more, but is it worth hurting the other kids to keep him there in the hope that maybe, maybe he’ll improve one day? In general, though, I’d think there are a lot of ways to cope with the issues mentioned.

- Bad Language

Let the children know it’s not tolerated and use whatever kinds of positive or negative reinforcement you need – just like you might do in any other school in the world.

- No Tzitziyot to class
- Forget kippot all the time

Keep extras in the classroom. Educate the kids to feel that they’re something special. Have them make their own.

- Do not connect to what’s being taught if they aren't shomer shabbat

As much as possible, try setting them up to spend Shabbat and chagim with other students, study with other kids’ parents, etc., so everyone will have a reservoir of religious experience to talk about in class and be able to make connections. Let the parents know that this is necessary for enrollment. If a child speaks up about vacationing in Greece over Rosh Hashana, let them know, privately, that we don’t discuss things like that in class, or else just accept it and move on (the kids from religious backgrounds shouldn’t be under the illusion that every Jew follows the mitzvot anyway), or use it as a springboard to discuss the Jewish community of Greece. Allow some flexibility in assignments so that children who missed out on one aspect of the topic can focus on another aspect, e.g. instead of telling them to write about the seder they just went to on Pesach, also allow them to write about the seder they went to on a previous Pesach, or the seder they’d like to go to, or about seders in general.

- Haircuts without "peyot"

What’s the problem?

Sabzi Aash said...

Akiva, I think the problem with having a remedial program like you mentioned is one of motivation. The kids we’re discussing, unlike students at Aish, would be there simply because their parents thought it was a better school, not because they were interested in becoming religious. If their parents are not moving towards observance either, they’re going to need to spend a lot of time around religious peers who they’ll want to emulate (even if for no other reason than that “everyone else is doing it”) if they’re going to go against the grain and absorb a Torah lifestyle.

Jack Steiner said...

Jack: At what expense? What if it pushes other kids off?

That is a hard question to answer. How many do we lose that grow up in a so called Torah Observant home.

Look around the blogosphere and you can find many. You can also find a lot who are going BT too.

Anonymous said...

Remedial program would be a disaster - it would attach a "second-best" stigma to the irreligious, and undo any possible kiruv. It recalls the worst aspects of American "Sunday School" programs - condescending teachers spoon-feeding uninterested and increasingly resentful kids.

Part of the solution is to take a page out of the Haredi book and be more forceful in spelling out minimum standards. The message must consistently be "we do things differently here".

This requires getting out of the typical dati-leumi navel-gazing mentality of cultural compromise.

It means sending kids home when they don't have tzitzit, or use certain language.

I wouldn't even worry too much about "checking" or "grading" people's behavior at home. That is a hornet's nest of resentments waiting to be kicked open. Just focus on the school experience. Make it clear that this is what parents have to sign up for when they send their kid to the school.

This is how the Haredim are succeeding with totally clueless Russian parents in programs like Shuvu. And it's how yeshivish dayschools in outlying areas of the US do it - in a culture in which people would flatly reject any imposition by the school on their home life.

All it requires is a full measure of cultural confidence - tzidkat ha-derech, if you will - not something found in abundance in many dati-leumi circles, unfortunately.

Ezzie said...

Lots of great points all around above, so my own two cents (or less):

Obviously, a tough situation. I think blocking the secular kids out is a poor idea, for a variety of reasons, most having to do with chillul Hashem and how anti-religious this will make families who obviously are not at this point (or they wouldn't be willing to send their kid there no matter the education). Furthermore, it's the same argument used against children of BTs though at a different level. At what point do we say "well, that's not religious enough"? If you want to make a clear line (and Shabbos isn't a bad one) you could, but it's too hard to police people's home lives. The line about lashon hara is excellent as well.

The best solution would be to build up the secular school so only those who really prefer the religious school will come. Jameel says this is unlikely to happen, which is a shame, but therefore requires another solution. Trying to bring the secular kids closer to religious life would be the next best option: The trickle-up of JoeSettler is the right idea. Many people I know became frum through their kids somewhat, or at least became more tolerant. Keeping the kids busy out of school (inviting them to frum houses, getting them to go with the frum kids for activities) will mean they have less of a secular influence to give over if that's the concern - and their parents would likely be thrilled that they're not watching TV all day anyway.

I'd also suggest acting BTs what they think, since it's similar to what they sometimes are forced to face from FFB's.

Anonymous said...

I went to a MO school in Brooklyn--Yeshiva of Flatbush. Among the many criticisms of the school is that a large number of students are from non-religous homes (way more than the 20% you speak about). Even many MO people I know today would not send their kids there for this reason because they are afraid their own kids will go off the derech. My response:

1) EVERY school in Brooklyn from Flatbush on the left to Satmar in Williamsburgh has its kids who go off the derech. The only difference is that Flatbush does not hide this fact, whereas the other schools do whatever they can to hide this fact. I'd be willing to bet that Flatbush has about the same rate of religious attrition as other right-wing schools (ok, maybe not Satmar). This statement is not based on any scientific survey, because of course the right-wing schools would deny they have a problem. But it is my assumption based on experience. (Also, what is the attrition rate in mamlachit dati schools with no chiloni students, as opposed to those with them?)

2) Flatbush does provide a positive religious experience for many students from non-religous homes, and some do become religious. (And at least in my year, a few from MO homes become right-wing.) So at least at Flatbush the off the derech population is balanced out by these BTs. At the other schools in Brooklyn there is only a net loss.

3) By way of experience: my wife's family came from Russia when she was a baby. Her and her sister went to Shulamith and both became religious while in elementary school.

4) Even if not all non-religious students from Flatbush became BTs, at the very least their Jewish identity was stregnthened and they did not (at least I don't think) intermarry.

5) The religious community both here and in Israel bemoans the lack of observance in the Jewish world, yet does little to change this. Youth and adult education classes (and perhaps even birthright) help, but the surest way to change the situation is a solid K-12 (and beyond) Jewish education. All other alternatives are secondary at best.

Some of what I said above may not apply in Israel, but I am just writing from my perspective in America.
As far as what I think of the situation in Israel: A few years ago I sat next to a young woman from Ramat Aviv on a flight to Israel. She told me that in her entire life she had never seen Shabbat candles being lit until her visit to America! Something is wrong in Israel. I am by no means a Shasnick, but at least they are doing some real large-scale outreach among chiloni children.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Ari, Ezzie and others.

I really appreciate your serious feedback to this posting. Unfortunately, I won't have the time to properly address your suggestions till motzei shabbat or Sunday.

If I could be so brazen as to request that you come back then to continue this, I would be very thankful.

Shabbat Shalom!


Anonymous said...

Some more thoughts:

1) by rejecting children from non-religious homes, does this send the message to our own children to look down on the non-religious? (Just a question.)

2) Assuming that in principle non-religous students should not be accepted, how do we determine what is non-religious. In America some schools decide which students to admit based on criteria such as: how the mother covers her hair; how the father covers his hair (what type of kippah, with a hat); if there is a tv in the home; if the children attend coed camps; etc. This may not be an issue in Israel, where I think the relIgious divides are much sharper.

3) Unless one lives in a really cloistered community, at some point we will need to interact with non-religious Jews. So at what age do we feel comfortable letting our children do so? If not in elementary school, then when? If children are more impressionable in the early years, then can't any "negative" influences by non-religious students easily be countered by positive influences in school and at home?

Anonymous said...

Gotta love it...committees seem to always be the solution ;-)

DTC said...

I believe the Devil's Dictionary defines a committee as "a group of people who, as individuals, can't do anything, get together and decide that collectively, nothing can be done."

On a more serious note, when Mrs. DTC went to MO elementary school, 50% of her class belonged to the local Conservative Temple. Granted there were kashrus issues constantly popping up for visits and bar/bat mitvas, but they all survived. If the administration wants it to work then it can, provied that everyone is on the same page.
However, I will admit that this case is not exactly the same as Jameel's because the local Conservative Rabbi was VERY interested in making the situation work out - and this aspect does not exist in Muqataville.

Anonymous said...

DTC--more importantly, unlike the secular families in Muqata, the Conservative families Mrs. DTC knew from her school were, if not on the same page, at least somewhere in the same book. I doubt any of them would consider spending Rosh haShanah in the Greek Isles, and most of them would accept the logic that in a religious school, one should wear tzitzit and kippot, and study Tanach. I was almost in the same situation myself--Conservative sent to a religious school--one of the main reasons I didn't go was distance (roughly, a 60-90 minute ride each way). The tuition also played a role, but we understood that it was Orthodox, and I would need to abide by Orthodox rules at least within the school campus. At the last minute I got into the best public school in the area, so the world was saved from the possibility of Rabbi Smith.

Oleh Yahshan said...

wow, long list of comments,
I will say this for now - I grew up on a Yeshuv that was Dati-Chiloni and we all seemed to survive it. I will admit that there are kids who went off "the derech", but at the same time we saw kids who had a great opportunity to see what the "other side" looks like, some of who decided to keep more mitzvot some who at the very least know what Judaism is today.

What does this have to do with school?? well because these kids will see the "other side" as well. They, Both religious and non - will be able to understand what the other side looks like, and how it feels about life. Instead of creating 2 different groups this school has a chance to bring people together.

Also the Idea of not allowing a certain type of people to learn isn't a very Jewish way of life. Of course this should not come at the expense of the quality of the school, but Education and Jewish education should not be a privilege of one group and not another.

The bottom line answer is not quotas, because you will end of loosing more than you gain from it, forcing people to lie isn't a great way to run a school - for one. But you could set rules in advance that every Student has to follow - including a dress code and Shmirat Halashon (BTW - something that the religious community does not do very well - bad language is substituted with Lashon Hara.) and make it clear that those who don't keep it will be asked to leave. And if you can't force someone to leave make it clear - the the kid will Fail his classes.

I have a few more comments on this topic but I think this is enough for now.
Shabbat Shalom,

Anonymous said...

hOW DO YOU DEAL WITH IT-with great difficulty.Listen to your gut'-there is no right or wrong.

תיקון ישראל said...

My daughter attends a multi-denominational high school on the Upper West Side, with five or more tefilah options in the morning, etc. But none of the options include Secular per se. Sure, you could define many of the kids as coming from secular homes, but over here, the very fact that their parents are sending them to a Jewish school, costing a hefty buck, suggests they're committed on some real level.

The way the school deals with the large variety of practices, which means a large variety of styles of speech and behavior, is by a tremendous emphasis on communication. Parents come to (crowded) coffee klatches and bull sessions and study sessions, and a community is formed which is still made up of many parts, but also has a sense of commonly-accepted red lines.

Sounds to me like secular parents who wish their kids to attend a religious school, no matter what, are already a cut above the rest. In my view, the commitment they should make to the school is not to keep Shabbat -- because you're only making them lie this way -- but to be part of the school community. To perform tasks for the school, to volunteer, to attend meetings, to partake in Shabbat invitations and pre-holiday study sessions and all the things many religious schools do anyway for their parents, but in those cases they're not called Secular but Russian...

I do not belittle the reality of the problem, nor do I think you should turn into Pollyannas. But the teacher who complained about the secular kids presented a combination of stuff, some of which was serious and deems discussion, but some, like getting peah-less haircuts, which strikes me as less disruptive and offensive.

In any event, it's a delight to read about religious folks taking so seriously their roles as educators of their brothers and sister. 'shkoyach.

Gil Student said...

How do the Shas schools handle this type of problem?

FrumGirl said...

I didnt read any comments as I dont want my thoughts to be swayed by another commenter....

This is a very difficult decision to make. Everyone has a good point. It almost seems a crime to deny children who could get a religious education.

But I also believe that this school is meant for children with a religious background. Is it so wrong to expect parents to make certain changes in order to continue sending their children there?

It is quite a predicament....

DTC said...

Frum Girl,

It's quite a predicament but let's be careful with how we define the issues.

Jameel is not dealing with what in the USA would be called a "Community School" which is nominally defined as a MO type school that will "never turn away a Jewish child from a Jewish Education."
The school in Muqataville has a definite mandate of what it is supposed to be. The only question is how far to go to follow that mandate. If someone simply wants to send children to that school because it's "better" and not because of the school's mandated responsibility, well, they need to really understand what they are getting themselves into.
Part of the responsibility of a parent when choosing a school for his/her child is to understand the consequences and ramifications of the choice of school. If a parent is "selling" the school to the kid by talking about how fun the extra-curriculars are without discussing what the reality is, he/she is doing a dis-service to both the child and themselves.

Now, all that not-withstanding, it's still a very difficult issue.

Batya said...

can't believe I'm the #39 comment!

Here goes:
Continue accepting all who want to learn in the school, but speak to parents and tell them that the school has religious standards. Make a special "chug" activities to help "mekarev" the kids. Make it a "misima" aim/goal of the school. extra fun for extra mitzvot.

Many people are saying that Disengagement happened because of the "separation," so this isn't the time to set up walls.

JJ said...

I've been thinking about this the past few days, and after reading more of the comments I want to add something:

My family was not (is not) Orthodox, but we were sent to a religious day school. I wore pants at home, but always a skirt at school. My brothers never wore kippot or tzizit at home, but there was never a question of not wearing them to school- there were rules and the rules had to be followed.

There were a few other students whose family life wasn't religious-but our families were never "checked out" to make sure they were religious. As another commenter said (I think), don't bother checking the family or how the kids are when they're not in school. It doesn't matter. As long as the kids follow the dress code/other rules WHILE THEY'RE IN SCHOOL, that's fine.

Have extra kippot or tzizit around, or make it clear that boys who show up without them will be sent home. It won't take long for the families to get used to the rules (including no bad language, etc.) if the school stands firm. If the kids start talking about "Shabbat in Greece" or whatever, quickly change the subject.

The only problem I see is what one of the teachers mentioned- that these kids are way behind in Judaic studies. We did have a mechina program in our school (my sibs and I didn't need it as we had gone to this school from the get-go), I don't know how that would work out in your school.

It'll be interesting to hear what your committee comes up with.

Rolling hills of green said...

As a parent it is a very torn issue. There is a big mix where we live. But the secular families here are very 'mesorty'. But the kids tend to find the religious kids in class, mainly because they see them on shabat and stuff. But my daughter has come home with alot of nasty language directed at her that she has never heard before.
On the positive side though, there are alot of families here doing a little bit more because their kids insist on it.
I think there is a strong enough religious identity with the youth here, thet they are a stronger influence than the kids who are secular.
There are alot of things I would prefer for her not to learn to begin with, but the kids seem to sort it pretty well, with help of course. The whole community is trying for a more open air between secular and dati, maybe this is a starting point for the kids to learn.
That being said, my parents were very excited when we moved form montreal and i could go to my friends birthday parties without a problem and now I find myself checking things out more carefully while living in the holy land for my kids. I guess thats still the effects of the galut.

rockofgalilee said...

In theory I am pro the mixture and I think it gives the opportunity to parents of the religious kids to befriend the parents of non-religious kids. The problem comes in when a non-religious kid invites a religious kid over to play. Do you tell your kid that he can't eat or drink anything? What about packaged food? What if they say they keep "kosher" but don't know the halachos of kosher? There was a post on AskShifra about that topic recently.
We've also had a situation where a kid from a non-religious family called us to tell us that our daughter used some very unappropriate English at her. After we checked into the story (by my wife going to her house with my daughter and discussing it with the mother and daughter face to face) the girl admitted that she changed the story and my daughter had really never heard those words before.

I think enforcing the school rules on a send home basis, such as no kippa/tzitzit you have to go home or wait in the principles office until a parent comes with the kippa or tzitzit. Bad language can be punished on a third time suspension and the evils of television can be taught in the school. This will make it very uncomfortable for the parents to send their children there if they aren't interested in giving them a religious education.

Anonymous said...

As someone who grew up in Israel, and attended a "mamlachti dati", I felt the need to comment.I think the point is beeing missed here. The parents of the none dati kids are sending them to the mamlachti dati because it's a good school, and NOT to make their kids more religious. They like the chinuch of the religious kids, and want their kids to have those good manners. What i think the school should do is interview anyone that signs up to the school. The interview should be between the kid, his parents and the principal. The school that i did sherut leumi in did that, and it works great! Us as religious people should try to lekarev the non religious, but only if they really want to. If the parents intentions disagree with the school's way of chinuch, and their only sending their kids there to get better language-- than they shouldn't be in the RELIGIOUS school. The chinuch of our children isn't something we sould be playing with.

FrumGirl said...

DTC, agreed. But like you said, it doesnt make it any easier....

PsychoToddler said...

This issue hits home for me (you can tell from my last few posts).

I came from a non-religious home and I'm religious now ONLY because my parents chose to send me to religious schools.

And the other side is that there was a religious school that was willing to take me despite my background.

Like westbankmomma, I too hid the fact that my parents worked on shabbos. On one occasion, I was at the store on Shabbos when a classmate and his family came walking by on their way home from school. I made believe that I was going home from shul too! In my sneakers and play clothes!

My school was full of non-religious families, and not being in touch with most of my classmates, I can't tell how many are frum now. Not alot, I would suspect. I'm guessing that many parents sent their kids to my school to keep them out of public school.

In Israel, I suspect the situation is different. But if it were up to me, I'd let the secular kids in. I'd use it as an opportunity to reinforce to my own kids that they have to take personal responsibilites for their own actions. Just because a kid in school is mechallel shabbos or uses bad language, it is NOT an excuse for my own kids to do the same.

At the end of the day, my kids come home to my house, and I have to be the parent.

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