Friday, September 15, 2006

An Option many of us don't have

I found a very intriguing article in Today's Wall Street Journal about how parents are Opting Out of Private School in favor of their local public schools. The article profiles several families around the country, and cites some of the reasoning behind opting out - dramatic jumps in tuition, better chances of getting into elite colleges, and improved scholastics were all reasons cited. However, while in some cases public school is a better option for many, for us in the Orthodox community it is not an option at all. Those of us who are devoutly religious, (and while I speak primarily about Orthodox Jews, this applies to committed Jews of all stripes, as well as Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims who send their children to Parochial schools as well) are not shunning the public schools in our areas, but rather opting-in to provide our children with an immersive experience that teaches them our religious values and morals.
Yes we could theoretically send our kids to a Public School during the daytime, and then to a daily after school Hebrew program, but it doesn't even come close. Sure they will learn the same Math and Science, followed by the same Torah and Talmud, but the subject matter isn't all that permeates the Yeshiva experience. In public school Middot and Chesed (good manners and kindness) aren't necessarily on the curriculum. In a Parochial school, they aren't on the curriculum, they are part and parcel of it. (Before you flame me, I want to point out that I am not naive enough to believe that curriculum alone will produce 'good apples' and that no kid ever came out of a parochial school a terrorist, liar, murder or a jerk).
For religious people like me, religion isn't part of our lives, it is our lives. Everything we do has a divine purpose, and religion and belief are woven into the fabric of our daily existence. If you don't agree with me think about how many times you invoke G-d's name on a daily basis? 'Thank G-d, G-d Forbid, G-d Bless You, and their equivalents in your favorite religious vernacular are commonplace in our lives. Atheists and non-believers might scoff at the idea - what does G-d have to do with it? Of course, the correct answer is everything. And that is why those of us, who understand life in this manner, can't fathom sending our children anywhere else. Because for us, no matter whether they go to Harvard or Hometown Community College, our goal isn't to create an ivy leaguer, but first and foremost to create a proper Jew, and a good person.
So while many others follow this trend and benefit from my tax dollars, I will slave away to ensure that my child gets a proper Jewish Education - both in school and out.

So far, it's been worth every penny.

Friday, September 08, 2006

An Interesting Web Poll

One of the many pet Internet peeves of mine is getting an e-mail asking me to vote in an 'important' poll on some web site. Whether its about Israel, or Net Neutrality, or voting for all stars, I rarely do more than delete the e-mail as soon as I read it. Why, because web polls are nonsense. Bottom line, there is no real way to prevent people from casting multiple votes, and if all of those people who get an e-mail cast 20 votes each, they've already skewed the value of the poll.

Still, I found a very interesting web poll today. The poll, on Iranian President Mohammed Ahamadinejad's Blog (yes, he has one too, which means that blogging has officially peaked) asks the following question:

Do you think that the US and Israeli intention and goal by attacking Lebanon is pulling the trigger for another word war? Yes or No

When I last checked, the vote was 81% no! Imagine that, the opposite of what one would expect that the site would show. It's nice to know that there are over 1.6 Million people (check the site) who don't think that Israel is starting WWIII (or at least one person who has a whole lot of time on his hands).

Anti-Semitism Rising? Or Just Poking its Head out of its Hole?

As if the events in Israel over the past few months were not bad enough, this week there seemed to be a lot of indications that Anti-Semitism is on the rise. From incidents in London and Montreal, to the anti-semitic ramblings of internationally acclaimed idiots like Ahamedinjad and Gibson,  it seems that somehow over the past few weeks, the world has gotten a little more Anti-Semitic. Or has it?

Do I think that that Mel Gibson was any more Anti-Semitic when he was pulled over in California than he was when he produced the 'Passion'? Or for that matter, when he starred in Mad Max a quarter of a century ago? And regardless if Mohammed Ahmednijad would be President of Iran or if he would be a simple Engineering Professor at an Iranian University, I don't doubt for a minute that he would still be an Anti-Semite. So what's different now than a year ago? Or five years ago? Answer: The Cojones of Anti-semites and Israel's recent non-successful campaign in Lebanon.

Because of Hezbollah's showing (argue that I am wrong if you will, but anything short of the complete and utter destruction of Hizbollah, translates into a loss for Israel) in the recent conflict, Anti-Semites feel more brazen, as if the Karma of the world makes it easier to take shots at Israel and the Jews, as if G-d is mad at the Jews, so take advantage.

But make no mistake, those feelings didn't surface because of Qana. Those feelings were there before, they are there now, and they will continue to be there for many years to come.

But, despite all of this, I walk with my head held high, because whenever I read about these events, and however frightened I am that my number might be next, I am comforted by the words from the passover Hagaddah:

... and so it was when they (our enemies) stood up against us and our ancestors, for it was not just once - but in every generation that they rose up and tried  to destroy us, but the Holy one, may he be blessed, saved us from their hands.

Maybe this too is just another example of Anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head. Who knows, it might just see its shadow and bring forth the coming of our Moshiach and finally dissapear.