Part of my work involves helping boys and girls get into Yeshivos or seminaries, which I achieve with varying levels of success. One of the most painful parts of this is watching a child, keen and eager to learn, face the sting of rejection. Sometimes the answer is an outright “no”. Sometimes they are accepted on a trial basis for three months, or put on a waiting list until a slot becomes available. Regardless of how it is done, the message heard by the students is clear enough: “You are not wanted”.
During the mid-seventies, a mere thirty years after the Holocaust, during which at least a million Jewish children perished, a ten-year-old boy applied to the Yeshiva that his older brother attended. He was told outright “you are not on the level of our school”. They invited him to attend some evening classes, but he had to go to a non-Jewish school by day. The boy was hurt and resentful. Fortunately, the parents sent him and his brother overseas to Gateshead Jewish boarding school in England. Nearly fifty years later he’s now a very successful mechanech. The boy was me, so I can say that I understand firsthand how it feels to be turned down by a school.
Ironically enough I had the opportunity years later to evaluate the very school that refused me entry as a kid. Many of the grade six students had very poor foundation skills, requiring intervention. I was fortunate that despite being rejected I was eventually able to succeed in learning and develop a career in chinuch, which had been my dream from a young age. But how many kids get lost because of this type of attitude from yeshivos and seminaries? Excuses are manifold. “We cannot accept her.” “We will have to kick her out because she is not following the rules.” “He does not meet our standards”. I am currently working with a seven-year-old child who has to go to a non-Jewish school because the Jewish school insists they do not have the resources for him.
Many well-established institutions throughout the Torah world have operated this way for years. With ever-increasing enrollment, no one seems to care if a few boys or girls leave the fold. The fact that these practices are so widespread leads to the erroneous conclusion that this approach must be right and according to our Mesorah. In truth, the Torah sees every neshama as infinitely precious, worthy of saving, and entitled to a Torah education.
No school, Yeshiva, or Seminary should reject a student.
To contact me or sponsor my seforim please contact my office at Tel. 15147393629
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Rabbi Abenson is the founder and director of ShaarHatalmud, a unique yeshivah-based online program, which incorporates learning all Kodesh subjects, from Kriah up to learning Gemara, Rishonim, and Shulchan Aruch. He also conducts evaluations, remediation, and training, and consults with school principals to improve students’ underdeveloped skills.