How are Jewish children brought up?

Anonymous asked me, “How are Jewish children brought up?”
Dear Anonymous

I think the common denominator among all Jews is there is a big emphasis on education and that gets defined by ones priorities. For Ultra orthodox Jews; there is an emphasis on Religious studies at all times. If one does keep all the commandments it effects every part of your life and every part of your day. Learning starts right when a baby is brought home from the hospital. His hands are washed in the morning as prescribed in the Mishna Bruiah (which is a commentarty that brings down all the laws in a daily chronological order.) As one Rav said, (Rabbi Leib Kelleman) following halacha (laws) is like a dance – there is a beautiful step and motion to every movement one can take. And every step has tremendous significance and deep meaning; it can be a remembrance of the lost Temple, a reference to the Fathers and Mothers of the Torah, a connection to other mitzvot (commandments), but almost in all cases it helps develop a person with good middos – good character traits – because that is the ultimate goal of all of Torah and all Jewish education.

Ultra orthodox Jews sometimes do learn secular studies. Most girl’s do get a more rounded – as in secular- learning (and yes boys and girls are taught in separate schools). Some young men, after they have finished, what would be called normally high school, continue in secular studies so they can make an income for their family. Yet many men continue in a program called Kollel (which pays the men approximately $200 a month or less) after they get married learning Torah – Gemorrah until they can not afford not to make more of an income for their growing families. Those who are very talented can get jobs in teaching which keeps them connected in learning. Women usually work until they can’t manage with caring for the children and the house.

But all, especially the men, are obligated to learn their whole lives, whether or not they work. It doesn’t have to be full time, but it has to be an important part of the day. Thus you will see men carrying their Gemorrah’s learning on buses, trains; staying in the shul early in the morning and/or the evening to catch a little bit more learning. Learning is an important aspect of a Jew’s life.



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