New Jersey - A Passionate Rechnitz Slams Lakewood For Superior Attitude That Leaves Children School-less
New Jersey - Lakewood, New Jersey bore the brunt of two massive storms this weekend.
The first was a monster nor’easter that buried the township under massive piles of snow.
The second was a fiery speech given by Los Angeles philanthropist Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz who blasted Lakewood for an elitist mentality that has left numerous children without a school to call their own, shattering families and potentially setting the stage for these youngsters to abandon their yiddishkeit completely.
Rechnitz’s words came at a dinner held this past Sunday night celebrating 30 years of chinuch in Lakewood under the leadership of Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Kanarek who serves as dean at six area schools.
Watch below Rechnitz entire speech. Courtesy of TheLakewoodscoop.com
Billed as “An evening of appreciation with achrayus for the future,” the dinner included a video presentation featuring three prominent Israeli rabonim: Rav Yitzchok Sheiner, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Kaminetz, Rav Berel Povarsky, rosh yeshiva of the Ponovitch Yeshiva and Rav Yitzchok Silberstein, rov of the Ramat Elchonon section of Bnei Brak, as well as opening remarks by Rabbi Kanarek and a special address by Rechnitz.
Rechnitz, who has been in New York due to the grave illness of his father in law, Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, began his remarks by sharing the incredible pain he has been witnessing at his father in law’s bedside but segued to anguish of another sort, that of mothers who cry themselves to sleep nightly, fathers who live with never ending anxiety and children who live a daily nightmare as they see their friends going off to school, while they themselves sit home because there is no school in Lakewood that will accept them.
“Who has the right, who has that G-d like complex, that feels they have the right to inflict such irreparable tzaar?” asked Rechnitz of the crowd that packed Lake Terrace Hall. “If you are ready to take the achrayus, then stand up now. Amod, Amod.”
Rechnitz said that he has been bombarded with calls from mothers, fathers and even children who have asked the well known baal tzedaka to intercede on their behalf so that they can be placed in a school and that on his drive to Lakewood that night he had received three more phone calls on the same subject.
“How can we be comfortable just because everything is fine and dandy by us while someone else is clearly suffering?” queried Rechnitz. “Forget ahavas yisroel. I won’t ask for that much. But another yid needs us. Another yid is crying out to us. How can we not answer him, yet we expect Hashem to answer us, to take care of all our needs because, let’s face it, we are all needy. We all have bakashos. We all daven for all the help we can get. We all need siyata dishmaya.”
Rechnitz noted that while the problem of children out of school does exist in a few other places, the problem is exponentially worse in Lakewood.
“L’tzaareynu harav, we have a machala in Lakewood,” said Rechnitz. “No other out of town community would ever allow a child to be left without a school. In LA if a child wouldn’t have a school , the first day the whole community would be all over it. The same thing would happen in Baltimore, Chicago, Toronto or anywhere else. This is basically a Lakewood machala. Yes, there a few kids in Monsey, more than a few kids in Brooklyn, but nowhere else and at no other time in history was this problem close to the magnitude it is in Lakewood.”
Rechnitz praised Lakewood for its many Torah institutions and the incredible chesed that takes place on a daily basis, but said that people turn a blind eye when it comes to children who are out of school, an attitude he termed “hypocritical.”
It is not the heads of the mosdos who are to blame for the problem, opined Rechnitz, but rather the people of Lakewood, whose view of others is devoid of the fundamental principles of Torah Judaism.
“We turned our frumkeit into an idol but we’ve forgotten some of the basic tenets of yiddishkeit. This new Torah some of us have created has a few Ani Maamins that have crippled us, have crippled so many of our children. Here are some of the new distorted Ani Maamins: Ani Maamin that I am better than you. Ani Maamin that I have to show all my chumras so everyone can see how frum I am. Ani Maamin that your children are not good enough for my children. Ani Maamin that the Torah was given to perfect children and perfect families.
Ani Maamin that there is no room for individuality, we have to all fit into the same perfect model. Would you not agree with me that these five ideas are kefira, they are contrary to the entire message of yiddishkeit?”
Rechnitz noted that while every child is special to Hashem, the general Lakewood populace sees only some children as being worthy.
“We developed an elitist attitude, an ugly superiority complex devoid of edelkeit, of kedusha, of achdus, of genuine dveykus,” charged Rechnitz. “We joined a rat race. Yener is never good enough for us. They are not frum enough for us.”
Rechnitz wondered when a life of klei kodesh evolved into a system where some consider themselves to be superior to others, noting that many of the mosdos that he helps support would be unwilling to accept his own children as students.
“Everyone in this world has their own tachlis, their individual journey,” said Rechnitz. “Why are we all judging each other? Why do I and others feel like we are being judged by a sanhedrin of 50,000 people in Lakewood? I feel terrible for most people who live here in that respect. Nobody here gives or gets any slack. Forget a second chance, that’s out of the question. You have better odds of winning the lottery.”
Alleging that many in Lakewood have glossed over the fundamentals of yiddishkeit in their quest to fill their lives with chumros, Rechnitz said that mitzvos bein adam l’chaveiro seem to have become optional in Lakewood. Slamming those parents who call up schools and tell them if they don’t reject a particular child, they will pull their own children out of the yeshiva, Rechnitz exhorted school principals and administrators not to cave in under the pressure, which he likened to bloodshed.
“This is a churban for klal yisroel,” said a passionate Rechnitz. “How dare you destroy another child’s life because of your opinion of another child? How dare you face Hashem by davening when you snuffed out a yiddishe neshama? ... If the school isn’t good enough for your child, shut your mouth and go find him a school that works, or create your own school just for your child. Make a yeshiva just for him. This way nobody will ever be able to have any negative influence on your child prodigy.”
Rechnitz said that he and others are prepared to finance inclusive schools so that no child will be forced to stay home.
“I look forward to building schools but I’m not going to take any part of this,” said Rechnitz.
Rechnitz ended his 51 minute speech with an apology for the harshness of his words and noted the significance of delivering his words on Tu B’Shvat.
“Tonight I want to make a Shehechiyanu on a new chapter in Lakewood , a new beginning, a new era, one in which no child will ever be rejected again,” concluded Rechnitz. “Leave the money to us. But let’s treat our children the way we are supposed to treat our children.”
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