Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Day 9 -- Wasting Our Best Talent

I have a neighbor here who is an amazing guy. He's a member of the local Hatzalah. He's always the first on the block to do a chesed for someone. He's a real go-getter when it comes to doing things for other people. When it comes to bein adam lachaveiro, this gentleman is one of the best that there is.

As for his bein adam lamakom, I can't comment. I don't know how much kavanah he has when he davens. But what I do know is that he learns during the day. The problem is that this isn't what he wants to be doing.

Oh, don't get me wrong... he'll always learn no matter what he does throughout his life. I highly doubt that the day will ever come when he won't open up a sefer of his own free volition. But he doesn't want to be a "learner." What he wants to be is a doctor.

The man is in love with the idea of medicine. That's probably what convinced him to become a member of Hatzalah to begin with. He's spent plenty of time telling my husband that he would love to be a doctor and be able to help heal the sick. With his brains, compassion, empathy and the medical skill he's demonstrated so far, I think he'd make a heck of a doctor. So, what's the problem?

Well, the problem is that he is totally ill-equipped to begin the process. Having learned in a yeshiva that didn't have English studies, he has no high school diploma. Even if he gets his GED, he'd have to find a way to qualify for college and then (assuming he graduates) into medical school. For certain, there would be financial considerations that are difficult to overcome (med school ain't cheap) but that's not the biggest problem.

The biggest problem is that he's "stuck" in yeshiva. The pressure on him from his wife, family and community are far too great for him to ever be able to "break free." He's afraid to leave the yeshiva because of what his colleagues will think about him, but all the more, because of what his family and wife will think of him. His wife doesn't want a "modern" husband who goes to college... she married a "learner." His parents didn't raise him to be a "college guy," they raised him to be a ben torah which, by (their) definition, means one who does not seek out "goyish" education.

Lastly, there's the issue of "culture shock." Could he withstand going from a sheltered, insular community to the college and med school campus? My personal feeling, based on what I know of him, it would be difficult. He would encounter such alien ideas that, in my opinion, his head would probably explode.

It's a shame because my husband tells me that the guy is miserable. While he likes learning, it's not the type of thing that he wants to do ten hours a day. He would love to become a doctor, but because of the society in which he was raised, he's been "trapped" in a place where the only way he could achieve his dream is to leave everything he's ever known behind. What a waste of a good potential doctor.

I suppose this is a part of the reason that I'm considering leaving the fold myself. I don't see how a healthy community system can prevent people from acheiving their dreams (provided of course, that their dreams are within halacha). How can a society morally stop people from becoming doctors, dentists, architechts, etc.? How can a group of people decide that it's better that no one gets an education and that there is only one acceptable occupation -- Torah learner? Is this really the sign of a healthy society? Is this what I want my daughter to grow up to? Do I want her to be placed on the "mommy track" with absolutely no hope of escape? No! I want her to become all that she can be. I want her to be able to reach for the stars and at least have the opportunity to try to grab them. I don't want her to end up bound in the system that thinks that ignorance is knowledge.


Lubab No More said...

With his education he could probably easily become an RN.

Of course, he would run into a whole other set of social stigmas. ("Vat? Your huzband iz a nurse?!")

Sad story.

Six Month Malkie said...

That's an interesting idea. I didn't even think of nursing.

Nonetheless, he would still have to earn a college degree, which is something that I think might be out of his reach.

Larry Lennhoff said...

You can leave the Charedi fold without leaving Orthodoxy, of course. He's in a much tougher place.
A step that doesn't require college is to become a Licensed Practical Nurse

FinallyMe said...

Ever heard of Touro? They have a fantastic program for undergraduate as well as graduate studies, and they cater specifically to the frum crowd. Just this week I was at their graduation ceremony in Avery Fisher Hall and I lost count of how many heimishe, chassidishe, aroopgeluzteh payos men graduated WITH HONORS. True, most of them graduated accounting and not medicine, but you get my point.
As for this being one of the reasons you want to leave, let me just say that in every culture and every segment of humanity you will find people who don't get to fulfill their dreams for various reasons, not only because of their religion. Yes, Judaism in general has its pitfalls, and chassidishism in particular has some major flaws too, but looking around, can you find anything that appeals to you more?

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog and I can really sympathize as I find myself (I'm 45 and male), more and more 'disconnecting -- primarily due to the shabby middos of so many in our community. Of course I can't erver leave, having a wife and a few kids though.

Re your Hatzalah friend: At some point, when the misery outweighs his bashfulness in being more assertive, he'll be able to make his own decisions. And his wife, who will be sick of the misery, will probably back him 100%!

Six Month Malkie said...


I don't know about his attitude toward a college like Touro. I'll mention it to my husband.


Six Month Malkie said...


I don't know about that. His wife is a real frummie. I don't know if she'd consent to his leaving the yeshiva any time in the next century. I don't know her all that well, so I can't say for sure, but that's my guess.

FedUp said...

Just found out about your blog via DovBear.

Good luck!

Am Kshe Oref - A Stiff-Necked People said...

Malkie, you obviously live in the Chareidi/Yeshivish world. Have you ever considered Modern Orthodox? Despite what your rabbis and community have told you, it IS actually frum and quite real, without all the garbage that comes with Chareidism.

Just food for thought...

Anonymous said...


Did you try Footsteps ?

A piece of advice to all who are thinking of leaving. I don't care if you have zero or 10 kids. DO NOT HAVE ANY MORE CHILDREN UNTIL YOU KNOW WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR YOU !!!

If your spouse wants more kids tell him/her that you can't handle it.

If he/she forces you to go to a rov tell the rov to daven for you that you should be able to be a baby factory. Don't give him any more information.

Again, under no circumstances should there be any additional children added to the family.

Baruch Horowitz said...

"How can a group of people decide that it's better that no one gets an education and that there is only one acceptable occupation -- Torah learner? Is this really the sign of a healthy society?"

I think it's changing, at least in America.

This past week, Mishpacha, a Charedi magazine, had a supplement advertising Touro College. There is also Machon Lparnasah for Chasidish communities.

Baruch Horowitz

Shtreimel said...

Oh how candid. Just found your blog via your comments on "chief". It reminds me of my first days, only I turned to the only place I knew, the internet… but not to blog.

G said...

I don't understand?

If that is not the type of life you wish for yourself or your family then it is within you power to create an alternative.

There are plenty of jewish people in plenty of jewish places who do so without any problems.

Different strokes for different folks, if you lack the will to take up that challenge the fault does not lie in that other path but in you.

The Chief said...

Welcome to the bolg world. I am very excited that we have a woman joining. Good Luck on your venture!

Anonymous said...

Why do you care so much if it's true or not? If you think about it, most of what you do has nothing to do with whether God exists. Your life is probably pretty good, you don't lack anything materially-you have friends and family where you are, and nobody is asking you any questions about what you believe anyway. Not switching on a light on Saturday isn't living a lie-it's just not switching on a light on Saturday. If you can still read goyishe books and watch movies, eat tasty food and enjoy all the other conveniences of the Western world, even if you are an atheist-you don't gain that much by leaving. If you lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Meah Shearim with 17 snotty nosed kids and no food, I could understand why you wanted to leave. I also think you overestimate the extent to which you are 'suppposed' to agree with everything that goes on in the community. I live in a Charedi community, and I rant a rave all day about how corrupt everything is, but nobody cares too much, as long as I wear my hat on Shabbos, eat the right hechsherim and send my kids to the right schools. So just chill, don't take everything so seriously, and try and enjoy the good parts of living in a commmunity that is very tightly-knit and family focused, and don't get too hung up about all the crap that goes on; the grass may look greener on the other side, but you can have most of the best of both worlds anyway, and living in the 'outside' world with no support network and with a family who thinks you're some terrible disgusting proster shaigetz is not much fun.

Nice Jewish Guy said...

Touro College is one consideration-- though, it's kind of "college lite", or 'Frummie College'. In other words, I don't think it's taken as seriously. Nevertheless, it is an accredited institution.

He shouldn't abandon his dream. It would be difficult, but it would be doable. He could take out student loans-- just like we all did. He could still learn as well. If he doesn't pursue his dream, he'll always regret it.

I don't get this concept of his wife 'not letting him'. Who is in charge in their house? This should be something they discuss. Doesn't she want him to be happy? Or is she afraid that he'll go 'out into the world' and experience things she will never get to? Medicine is the most noble of profeesions. Hasn't she heard of Rambam? Has she ever seen a frum doctor? Using the services of a frum doctor but not 'allowing' her husband to become one is hypocritical.

If this is his dream, he should be firm, and pursue it, while continuing to learn if possible and meet his family obligations.

Yehudi Hilchati said...

Maybe he should become a full-time paramedic (as a job), since as a member of Hatzalah he's already an EMT.

Yehudi Hilchati said...

Or part-time. He can learn in the mornings and work the afternoon shift as an EMT.

Kind of sad. Just a couple of generations ago, Jewish parents, even very frum onbes, wanted their kids to become doctors!

Shmuel said...

I know the guy you are describing, and I think you should ask him before keeping this post up. Since you can't do that, you should really take the post down. At the very least, you should change some of the details. I know there could be several people that fit the description, but when I read it I knew right away who it was and anyone that knows him well will recognize him as well. I don't know that he wants people to be reading about how miserable he is.

I sympathize with your position and I am angry on his behalf at what he has to go through, but I think it is wrong to keep this post up.

gabe said...

"I suppose this is a part of the reason that I'm considering leaving the fold myself. I don't see how a healthy community system can prevent people from acheiving their dreams (provided of course, that their dreams are within halacha)."

How can you on the one hand be bewildered at a society which denies a person access to dream fulfillment based on 'hashkafos' (albeit in many eyes warped hashkafos, but it's the hashkafos of the community you're referring to, nonetheless) but find no problem if those restrictions are halacha based? If you feel it's wrong to deny a person the opportunity to become a doctor, what difference would it make to you if they are restricted by halachah, hashkafa, or because the community believes all doctors have cooties? I understand if you are of the opinion that those who believe in this hashkafa have no basis for it. If so, great, call them on it. Define them as an extreme fringe group, with nonsensical rules, but I don't understand why from a belief standpoint you'd decide to leave a religion because of the restrictions of a sect whose stringencies you feel are wrong to begin with. You feel the restrictions aren't essential, yet you feel you can't abide by the essence of the religion because of the others who do hold of them? Why? If I go to the sandlot, and a bunch of kids are playing baseball, but they rule that you're not out until you have 4 strikes, I'm not going to stop enjoying playing baseball because of them, I'm just not going to play with them. Why do you feel you have to reject the entire religion in order to reject what you feel isn't a part of the religion anyway?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:18PM said:

"Just found your blog and I can really sympathize as I find myself (I'm 45 and male), more and more 'disconnecting -- primarily due to the shabby middos of so many in our community. Of course I can't erver leave, having a wife and a few kids though."

If you think "leaving" your community because of some people with "shabby middos" will solve your problems, you're in for a shock: There are also non-frum Jews and yes, even goyim, that have shabby middos.

You may think otherwise from the few encounters you've had with people outside your community, but hang around long enough and you'll see.

OrthoPrax said...

I had the exact same experience while at a right wing Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel. A guy confided in me that he wanted to become a doctor but felt that he was trapped and could not go due to societal pressure.

He went to speak to Rav Wolbe. Rav Wolbe asked him why he wanted to become a doctor. The boy answered that he felt that he was good with people. Rav Wolbe suggested that he stay in Yeshiva and use his talents to go into the Rabbanus.

Such a tragic story. I hope that he broke free in the end, I never kept up with him.......

Anonymous said...

For this sort of problem you don't need to leave "the fold". You just need to leave brooklyn. Their are plenty of normal frum communities without such pressures

Mr. Think said...

Hi, I just found your blog, I love your writings; good luck finding answers.

First of all, I may be in a worse position than you, let’s just say, I’m Chasidish.

Talking about college and profession, I have had numerous thoughts about it, I truly believe hat I could have been much more than I am, I know I’m not all I can be, lets make it more clear, right now I’m actually nothing. Yes I work a good job, nicely paid, I’m happy, but do I use my talents? Na. does it bother me? Sure it does.

But, let’s look at this issue from two angels.

There are two reasons one would like to be what he wants to be and do what he wants to do. The first reason is because doing what he wants to do would make him feel better, and the second reason is because he thinks it might benefit him financially.

Now on the second reason, for financial benefit, it’s not always so. The chareidishe community has tons “ashirim”, and I don’t know if even one of them is rich due to a profession he went to college for. On the other hand millions of Americans with high degrees are poor.

But then there is the first reason, you just want to feel good with yourself, you want to do what you like to do. And that is much more difficult.

But as pointed out by many here, there are a lot of chareidishe even chasidishe people who go to college, either Touro or even other colleges. I myself, an ultra chasidishe yingerman have a number of friends, in the double digits, who go to college, and as said not only Touro.

What I am saying is that it sure is doable. Although, I would admit, most of those who do go to college from our community go for more office professions like accounting, architecture, etc. but there are chareidishe doctors, lawyers, not many, but there are some.

And most importantly, it’s not forbidden by the torah to go to college and learn a profession. It’s not forbidden by the Torah to be a doctor or a lawyer, the problem is that it’s not accepted in all communities, or rather families, or rather individuals.

So I think Malkie “this issue” should not push you over the edge. I know our religion has issues, our lifestyle has issues, but so does any other lifestyle. After all, our lifestyle turns out to be much better than the goyishe lifestyle. Most people in our community live a happy life; an old zeidy in our community has a good life with tons of nachas and help from his children and grand children. A young bucher in our community has a mostly happy life with a warm supporting family, and he is not messed up with drugs and other “chazery”. We have issues, but I think we are still better off than anybody else. Trust me, molestation –which you mentioned as one of your turn offs with our community- is not better anywhere else.

You can raise you children they should not be so hung up on what others would say. You can raise your children that they should not be caught up in all the “meshigasen” and self created rules of what could be done and what couldn’t be done. You can raise your children that going to college and having a professional career won’t make you a goy. You can be an “erliche yid” outside of kolel, and you can be a “treifene yid” in kolel.

Good luck, I hope you find all the right answers.

Anonymous said...

Two things: 1) You are fortunate that at your relatively young age and the young age of your daughter, you are already considering these things while there is plenty of time to make changes and adjustments (assuming you won't come into conflict with your husband). 2) The man in question should definitely be encouraged to pursue his dreams. Many, many people began their education late in life and excelled (hey, remember that guy named Akiva?) Colleges have remedial programs in every subject. Anyone who has studied gemorrah probably has the intelligence, the concentration, the memory, and the analytical ability to pursue secular studies. Ever wonder why so many observant Jews in the past were doctors and lawyers? There's a reason. Begin to see the positive aspects of spending so much time studying Torah -- it's really not the same as doing nothing! Skills are honed there. He should have a frank and firm discussion with his wife. Above all, he needs to be a MAN! If she can't get behind him, then he will have to divorce her. If it is more important to her to have a "learner" for a husband than a real live human being with dreams and aspirations, then in all fairness to her, let her go free to pursue "her dream." As for the secular world blowing his mind, I think he can handle it. He can go to Yeshiva University and then to Albert Einstein Medical School. If his Hebrew is fluent, he can come to Israel to study medicine. Good luck to him.

Anonymous said...

Oops, that was me who wrote the above post. American Jew

Anonymous said...

Oh, one more thing. I'm an RN (retired now though) and it is really a different profession from medicine. It is still a female dominated profession and it takes a certain type of male to be able to fit into that milieu. If he enjoys his hatzalah work, it probably means he is interested in Emergency Medicine. Emergency Room nursing is probably one of the fields of nursing where a male nurse would fit in the easiest. Also, there are nurses who springboard from nursing into medical school and onto a career in medicine. There are many possibilities. Please encourage him not to allow himself to be trapped in his current situation.