Yakov Saacks
Yakov Saacks

It should not take a village

RAISING OUR KIDS: IT DOES NOT TAKE A VILLAGE

According to Wikipedia, the well-known saying “It takes a village” is an African proverb that means that an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. The phrase has been used as book titles for a number of well-known books. I recently purchased a book penned by the former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton with this title. The book is basically conveying that the responsibility of raising a child falls upon the community.

I asked myself, what is Judaism’s take on this topic.

Of course, I could never argue the point that a child has many influences in his or her life, aside from parents and other family members, because we all do and a child is no different. There are teachers, coaches, tutors, peers and mentors, actors, doctors as well as social media personalities. The list of influences can literally be endless. Additionally, it is vital that a child/human have interactions and learn from everyone.

However, what I will contend is that parents have to do everything in their power so that they raise, inculcate and instill morals and values into their kids and not allow others to take their place. Parents should be the sole (main) guide/arbitrator in their child’s formative years and not someone like Miley Cyrus.

SCHOOL

Let’s take school for example. Not only should parents be involved to ensure that their child is getting a solid education, parents need to be vigilant to the best of their ability that the education imparted is not antithetical to their values. Take the school in Randolph, New Jersey, where the Board of Ed removed all references to religious and cultural holidays and referred to them as simply a “day off.” Yom Kippur is not simply a day off; it is Yom Kippur, and likewise Veteran’s day. A very vocal parent body went crazy and rightly so. The decision was quickly reversed, and the holiday naming calendar was restored.

I also think that parents should gather and stop teachers from spewing their opinion on whom to vote for in an election. A teacher needs to teach and if a student knows whom the teacher is voting for, then the teacher is not teaching but rather influencing, which is way beyond their job description. Remember, a child in elementary or high school is very malleable, and it should be up to the parents to shape their kids.

I applaud former Fox anchor Megyn Kelly who took decisive action by withdrawing her children from their school, because she felt that her children were being indoctrinated negatively and inconsistent with her way.

COLLEGE

College is so influential in a young adult’s life. College is where your child is free from your daily input, and it is where your child will find his or her independence. It is therefore imperative that the student enter freshman year with a very clear understanding of right, wrong, moral, immoral and a decent sense of their culture, religion and creed. College can make a person doubt their entire upbringing, so therefore, the more involved and influential the parents are, the stronger the resolve to stay true to oneself.

SYNAGOGUE

Contrary to popular belief, the synagogue/sanctuary is not the backbone of a Jewish community’s religious and spiritual life. In fact, it is pretty low on the totem pole of priorities. As an example, if there is limited money, a Torah scroll, school and a mikveh pool are to be purchased before a synagogue building.

The very best place to nurture a child’s soul is in the home. In fact, one cannot expect a child to have a spiritual spark if it is lacking in the home. There are so many people that I interact with who tell me they come to The Chai Center to pray because it helps them connect to their creator. I always share that the best place to do this is in the home.

Let’s flesh this out. If a kid sees a Rabbi keeping kosher or praying, he/she will not be that moved because it is expected that a Rabbi does these kinds of things. However, when mom and dad keep kosher, then it really hits home, pardon the pun. Every child knows that I study Torah daily – big deal. How about when a kid sees his mom or dad with a Jewish book – now that is the real deal.

MORAL COMPASS

A Rabbi, teacher, mentor or coach cannot be the moral compass for your family. It must come from the home. Simply put, if parents have the school teach their children morals and values, then they are shirking their responsibility. According to the Torah in the paragraph of the Sh’ma (our creed), it clearly states, “You shall teach to your children.” It does not say have others teach. The fact that we even have Jewish schools was because the Rabbis felt it was a necessity to combat the growing ignorance and illiteracy. They never considered formal education as plan A.

DO YOUR JOB

Therefore, my parents and grandparents, stand up proudly and valiantly and take back the responsibility in raising your kid. Do not leave it to the rest of the village. You have a rich history that only you can impart. These lessons coming from someone else will not have the same impact. It would be akin to me teaching basketball which does not appeal to me at all.

I do not want anyone at my child’s school telling my child what his or her sexuality can or should be. I need the school to teach the dreaded math, social studies, English literature and how to blow a trumpet.

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About the Author
Rabbi Yakov Saacks is the founder and director of The Chai Center, Dix Hills, NY. The Chai Center has been nicknamed by some as New York's most Unorthodox Orthodox Center.
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