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If I had it to do all over again, I may or may not have chosen to go to the high school(s) that I went to, but I definitely would not have gone to the seminary I went to. I just didn’t know what I wanted out of a school. I basically asked my principal, who I highly respected, where he thought I would like, and he told me to go to the school that I did.
Even before I went there, I was a little apprehensive about it. I knew that it was more right wing than I was, but I wasn’t sure that was a bad thing. I knew that the girls from my high school who’d gone there weren’t exactly like me, but then again, who IS exactly like me? It seemed that everyone who spent a year learning in Israel came back at least a little, if not a lot, more religious than they were when they started.
I bring this up now not because I’m dwelling in regret, but because my sister is a senior in high school and is deciding where she wants to apply to seminary now. Now, my sister and I are vastly different people, and I acknowledge this. However, her arguments for applying to schools that are more right wing than she is sound eerily familiar. “My guidance counselor thinks I will like it, and she knows me well” “So-and-So went to this school, and she’s a cool person” “I don’t want to go to seminary just to read texts all the time. I like the discussions” “I’m not looking for the same things from college that I am from sem”.
I want her to go to the best school for her, not the best school for me. If she wants to go to the same school I did (she doesn’t, but for different reasons) then so be it. However, I hope she isn’t tricking herself into thinking that because other people tell her that’s what she wants, it’s what she wants. I want her to have the clarity of mind to choose a place that will affect her positively for the rest of her life, not just for the 6 months after she gets back when she’s still on her spiritual high.
I teach on Sundays at a school about an hour away from my house. It gives me some great time for personal introspection. Among the thoughts that crossed my mind this week:
I don’t know why it has taken me so long to realize this. Maybe it’s because my formal learning about Zionism ended at 7th grade. Maybe it’s because I don’t discuss the issue with enough people. Maybe it’s because I have never been in an overly Zionistic environment for an extended period of time, until now.
Whatever the reason, it all seems so clear to me now.
I never understood the seemingly intrinsic connection between Modern Orthodoxy and Zionism. Why is it that one of the earmarks of a Modern Orthodox institution is that hallel is said on Yom Haatzmaut? Why do the Modern schools have Israel committees, (theoretically) well developed Ivrit programs, and aaliya advisors? And conversely, why is that lacking in the more “traditional” Orthodox schools? What’s with the “non-Zionist” phenomenon? Is it truly a tenet of Ultra-Orthodoxy to dismiss both the Zionists and the Anti-Zionists at the same time?