May 14, 2024
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Shana Alef, Shana Bet: Embarking on a Great Life Experience

It was not common when my generation graduated from high school that Israel was on the agenda. I did have one fortunate friend whose parents allowed her to go for the year but they were geared even then to make aliyah themselves, and eventually her entire family did fulfill their dreams of living in Israel.

Although there are still many who choose either to not allow their children to study in Israel for their gap year or those who find it more beneficial to immediately enroll in a college of their choice, we are fortunate that many of the students graduating from most of the Jewish high schools are applying to and making Israel their first choice on the beginning of their road to an adult life.

As parents it is not always easy to let go. For some it begins as early as that first day they bring a child to nursery school and for others it happens in stages further on in life. In actual fact, should we not be wanting our children to become independent of us so that they can live their own lives and make their own choices? I have experienced the anxiousness of letting go of each of our children as they left for the year. At that time there was no talk of Shana Bet.

As I have repeated many times, when our eldest, Malkie, left for her year at Michlalah we instructed her to call us three weeks after she arrived. She would then give us the telephone number of the pay phone that was closest to her dira (apartment), and we would arrange to call her at that number every three weeks. Things sure have changed since then. Is it for the better? That needs to be discussed at another time.

Malkie managed just fine, as did our other children who were in Israel prior to cell phones. I think that it was so much better then. Our children learned to make decisions on their own, fended for themselves and did not depend on Mommy (primarily) for every decision that had to be made. Yes, if they needed a new deodorant (excuse the example) it was OK to go to the makolet and buy it. No, it was not necessary to have one sent from America.

What I find most rewarding are the fine young men and women that return from their first year in Israel beaming with pride at their newfound ahavat Yisrael, their newfound love of learning and their air of independence. I have seen some families cringe at the possibilities that their children have adapted more stringent ways of observance. One should kvell, not cringe.

I have seen girls who went to various seminaries not really knowing exactly what to expect and finding upon their return that they have adapted a new way of dress that was not necessarily familiar in their homes. Every parent should be proud. Boys who thought that basketball was much more important than Gemara are now walking with their seforim under their arms instead of a ball. One does not negate the other. Be proud of those tzitzit that are flying out of their pockets.

For parents some of these situations are frightening because they sometimes seem as if they are being placed into situations where they don’t want to feel that they are being judged on their own religiosity. That is not at all the case. Pride is the only feeling that one should have. These young people are moving up a rung that we were never able to reach, and perhaps now there is a possibility of joining them.

In the coming week I will see two of our grandsons off to yeshivot in Israel. Yitzchak Hagler is off to Shaalavim with many of his friends, and Noam Kinderlehrer is returning for Shana Bet to Resheit. I am so proud of them as I know that my Mordechai would be. They will join their cousin Doniel Eisenberg who is already in Israel studying at the Brisk. Doniel recently spent three weeks in Hungary working at a camp for Ukranian boys. His stories are heart-wrenching.

What more could we as grandparents and parents want for our children? As far as I am concerned they are going far beyond Ivy League schools. They are reaching the epitome of where we want our children to be.


Nina Glick can be reached at [email protected].

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