Friday, December 17, 2004

Make Aliya, go 'off the derech'?

Simcha summarizes an article in the current edition of the Jewish Observer, which encourages Haredi families with children to consider Aliya carefully:
What is at issue is the vast cultural divide between communities outside of Israel and that in Israel... In Israel, affiliation with a group and belonging to it is much more important than in America. Furthermore, the groups in Israel expect strict compliance to their social norms and lack of conformity leads to a degree of ostracization. While many adults can deal with that, children frequently have great difficulty with that. Generally, they either need to adjust completely to Israel or be able to live in relative isolation. Especially those who make aliyah in their teen years, when social patterns and cliques have already developed, have difficulty fitting in. Many - too many, end up leaving the Orthodox community entirely.
When I was a feature writer for The Jerusalem Post, I wrote an article about haredi girls going 'off the derech.' Having made aliya was cited by all the experts as one of the major 'risk factors,' for boys and for girls, and most of the girls I talked to were originally from the US/Canada/UK. The result for many of these kids is not just leaving Orthodoxy, but can include leaving school, falling prey to drugs and alcohol, and unwanted pregnancies. (There are several homes for pregnant haredi girls in Israel.) To the credit of the Haredi world, this is a problem they are dealing with more and more openly, and I witnessed some really sensitive, helpful programmes for these kids. Whilst I wouldn't want to stop anyone make Aliya, it is extremely positive that these issues are being discussed honestly.

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