Every few years or so, some publication in the frum community decides to do a big write up about how we are losing our children to the terrible secular society, they are going off the derech in droves and we can’t blame the frum community so let’s blame whatever current “fad” we can. It used to be drugs and television and now it’s the internet and billboards.
It really kind of gets to me when I read pieces like the latest piece about how the “at risk youth crisis” is turning into the “orthoprax kids crisis.” Kids used to dress rebelliously by wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Now they stick with the garb, but don’t really believe. It’s funny because these articles just seem to be copying the older generation of scare-tactics, but of course a frum publication like Mishpacha (which some foolish people believe to be forward thinking and progressive) would never admit that it’s not only “frum” looking kids who don’t believe, it’s just as serious, if not more serious, of a problem in the adult community as well. Oh, and writing about the “kids at risk” and “shidduch crisis” always sells a lot of copies and gets people talking because it’s juicy news.
I didn’t have to slave through the boring “been-there, done-that” article that Vos Iz Neias was so gracious to post, in order to understand that the article would be exactly the same as hundreds before it. Instead of blaming ourselves, we will blame the internet and the secular society’s constant advertisement which encourage you to do whatever makes you happy. Of course this implies that if being frum doesn’t make you happy you shouldn’t be frum. I readily agree.
If you are a depressed and anxiety filled frum Jew what’s the point of that? Are you really contributing to society by being a depressed guy who happens to put on tefillin and keep kosher? It doesn’t seem to me like you’re really doing anything besides trying to secure a slot in the next world. I have a friend who recently went off the derech, when I asked him why, he gave me the best answer I’ve ever heard, “because it just wasn’t working for me and now I’m happy.” The derech isn’t for everybody, not everyone who grows up frum is meant to be frum. This may be heretical according to some of you, but I firmly believe that frumkeit isn’t all there is to Judaism. You can really do a lot of good for the Jews and the world at whole – even if you don’t keep kosher or cover your elbows.
But the frum community is always trying to figure out what went wrong, as if something must have gone wrong for this kid or adult to reject their community. Usually it’s true, something did go wrong. Sometimes the person may have a talent which cannot be fulfilled within their community, sometimes they wish to explore secular studies and their specific community frowns upon this. Sometimes, like so many people, they just want to explore, but their community sees exploration as bad. Questioning is bad and freedom is bad, it goes against the mesorah!
The frum community needs to get over itself and start looking within, why doesn’t the modern orthodox community have these issues. Well, they do, but not the extreme case that the yeshivish and Chassidish communities do. Could it be that Torah Im Derech Eretz actually works better than Learn, Learn and then die? What if a kid doesn’t want to sit in yeshiva? Then what? If you want to see what happens when Charedim embrace the internet, secular society and so on – just look at chabad, I know you folks at Mishpacha Magazine and Vos Iz Neias are jealous – but chabad has far more influence and reach than all of the other Charedi movements combined merely because they saw the internet and secular society as a way to reach those within the “secular” society. I hate the words secular society – it sounds so stupid. So while chabad is winning contests to send disabled kids to school on the internet, which you abhor, you are sitting around worrying about how to keep this evil yetzer harah out of the house.
The yeshiva and Charedi community needs to stop blaming “outside” secular influence and the internet for the community’s own problems.
I have a friend who recent left the path of orthodox Judaism, who’s never been happier. He respects others decisions to stay within the fold, but when I asked him how he could just suddenly stop being frum he answers, “It just wasn’t working for me” in a matter fact way that begs no more talk about the subject. I respect his decision, he was a depressed individual when he was frum and now he is the happiest I’ve ever seen him.