February 27, 2024
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February 27, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Warning for Parents Researching Colleges

Having read Elizabeth Zakheim’s article,”The College Search: A Brief Guide to Jewish Life Outside YU” (Oct. 3, 2019), I wish to comment on the lures and dangers of secular American universities.

Evidence in neuroscience suggests that in the prefontal cortex of the brain, the area where high order and executive functioning occur, that is, judgment, decision making, intellectual and emotional maturity, real development does not occur until the early 20s or later.

Too many 18- and 19-year-old yeshiva-educated children are not strong enough in their religious beliefs to combat the onslaught of non-Torah ideas and values of the secular universities. Ideas; teachings; values, both through college courses and the general college culture promoting universalism, Bible criticism, atheism, abortion, guiltless sexual lifestyles etc. can influence young minds.

It’s no wonder that yeshivas promote an additional year of Torah study in Israel before college, to strengthen the maturing mind.

The Chabad rabbi at Rutgers University told me years ago that it was easy to assimilate at the giant campus and that too many do, notwithstanding Hillel and Chabad.

I couldn’t help but notice during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as I looked around my very large shul, how many young men, graduates of Columbia, Rutgers, Boston, MIT and other universities, came to services quite late, often after shofar blowing, absent for afternoon and evening services, and otherwise seemed inattentive.

Schools like YU, Touro and Lander offer an immersion in observant life that include Torah classes, minyanim, socializing and communication with other Orthodox Jews and rabbis, etc. Our communities suffer from too many young adults who have fallen away. It is a tragedy. Hopefully they will return as they age, marry and build families.

Martin Polack
Teaneck
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