“Why Aren’t Our Kids in Shul?” Rabbi Dr. Jay Goldmintz Responds
In Dr. Benzion Sorotzkin’s response to my article “Why Aren’t Our Kids in Shul?” (winter 2011), he asserts that it is common sense that adolescent shul going can be a determinant of future behavior as an adult. As such, I need not present more social science research that bears this out. Unfortunately, however, it cannot be common sense for many parents if there are so many shuls and rabbis who bemoan the fact that too many adolescents are staying home.
More important is Dr. Sorotzkin’s taking issue with my contention that teens need to be forced to go to shul. I had tried very deliberately to mitigate against such a misunderstanding; I thank Dr. Sorotzkin for pointing out that at least in his case, and probably for some others as well, I failed dismally.
The key lies in what we mean by “force,” a word that in an earlier version of the article I had placed in quotation marks in order to downplay its severity but which were apparently mistakenly deleted in the final draft. As Dr. Sorotzkin implies, no contemporary educator or parent would suggest forcing oppositional teens today to do much of anything; thankfully, most of our kids are not oppositional.
On Shabbat morning many of them are simply tired or lazy or unmotivated. Caring parents will nevertheless err on the side of giving in, believing that there is no harm in doing so. I merely wanted to suggest that parents think again.
Some of the other issues discussed by respondents as well as numerous other suggestions about this issue are addressed in the original version of the article, which was significantly cut for space limitations. I would be happy to provide a copy to anyone who is interested. I would, however, like to make special note of Rabbi Hershel Billet’s response, which refreshingly calls for collaboration among shuls and schools and parents. Such a partnership is long overdue.
Rabbi Goldmintz is headmaster of Ramaz Upper School in New York.