We spend hours agonizing over the most appropriate teachers, informal programs, and curricula for our children and students as they progress from pre-school to the elementary years and on to secondary school. We work hard to forge continuity between the various levels, to insure both that the students’ learning is developmentally appropriate at each level and that they have sense of growth and continuity as they progress. It often seems, though, that once our students reach graduation, all we can do is hope and pray that they will continue their Judaic studies, whether by opting for a year or more of study in Israel, by continuing at Yeshiva University and the like, or by attending shiurim or establishing hevrutot on their own.
While we have begun to seriously commit financial and political resources to maintaining and Orthodox presence on various college campuses, whether by funding Chabad houses or by placing Kollel Mi-Tzion representatives and their families to serve as role models and teachers, the disconnect between our children’s secondary educational experience and their campus experience remains unnecessarily vast.
In the 1950’s, Rabbi Joseph H. Lookstein initiated a program in continuing Jewish education for yeshiva graduates attending New York area secular colleges. Students in the program heard lectures from their former high school instructors on topics including lashon, Tanakh, and Talmud. The program was, for the time, relatively rather intensive, meeting at least twice weekly for two hour sessions. Without thinking about what such a program would demand of already overextended high school programs, faculty, and budgets (quite easy to do in this venue), wouldn’t this be a wonderful way for high schools to maintain and strengthen the relationships with alumni, as well as provide much needed support in the form of both content and “go-to” people for the students now out in the world of secular studies?
Schools could provide classes for their own alumni as well as for any other interested students attending local universities. Imagine the possibilities for community impact! Admittedly, such a program would require a re-envisioning of the role of the high school in the community, does not help the student in a town devoid of any such program, and begs the question of when we stop giving our children “roots” and start encouraging them to use their “wings.” Nonetheless, it might really be a much-needed system of support for many of our high school graduates.
Rabbi Jeffrey Kobrin
Ramaz Middle School
(212) 774 - 8057