In light of the recent scandal involving college admission and the parents of students – we share a letter of the Rebbe on the topic of college education and the role and attitude of parents in the matter. The letter, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel.
By the Grace of G-d
16th of Teves, 5727
New York, N.Y. 10017
Greeting and Blessing:
Thank you for your thoughtfulness in sending me a copy of …………. in which your letter was published, and which contained also some of my views on the question of college attendance.
May I suggest that while your letter is good as far as it goes, it does not emphasize sufficiently the role of Jewish parents in this program, which is mentioned only in passing. Since you have to do with Jewish youth, including of course your own children, surely you know that it is usually the parents who are pushing their children towards secular college education. Ostensibly the idea is to give the impression that the main reason for it is an economic one, that is in order to provide a source of livelihood for them, and perhaps some parents actually delude themselves in believing that their children could not get on in the world without a college degree. However, the fact that a substantial percentage of parents press their children towards college education not for economic reasons, but in the mistaken belief that it is essential to human perfection, as if one could not be a perfectly good man, or a good Jew, without a college education. Indeed there are parents (and I am talking about orthodox parents) who admit this openly, saying that the study of the Torah is only one of the 613 mitzvos, and there are mitzvos which some Jews observe with hiddur, and the learning of Torah is one of them. But when it comes to their son or daughter, they wish to see their children attain the highest spiritual advancement which, they think, is conditioned upon higher secular education. This unfortunate tendency has become almost a “normal” attitude even in Yeshivos and Day Schools, where the main emphasis is often placed on the secular department, and it is expressed in many ways, such as special recognition of achievement in secular studies, etc., whereas achievement in Gemoro and other Hebrew subjects merely merit a pat on the back, and sometimes not even that. It is therefore not surprising that when a Jewish boy graduates from high school, he receives gifts and acclaim, whereas his mastering of several Mesichtos goes by unnoticed by his parents, unless there is a Zeida in the family who could take pride in such achievement.
Needless to say, this tendency is reflected also in the comparative salaries of Hebrew and secular teachers, their general standing in the community, etc., as I pointed out elsewhere.
This is one of the basic ills of our Jewish community which has to be recognized and treated until cured.