In this paper, the author surveys the phenomenon that is taking place in the Religious Zionist
community of young people leaving the ways of Torah and shmirat
hamitsvot. There are no exact
statistics about how many young people are leaving the Orthodox fold, but the estimates
range from fifteen to twenty percent per year of the students in the religious high schools, the
yeshivot tichoniyot, both boys and girls.
When seeking to identify the traits of those who choose this path away from observance, at first
the differences between the individuals seem to outnumber the commonalities. It is possible to
categorize the reasons according to theological, psychological, social, philosophical, educational
and historical factors. I will nevertheless attempt to pinpoint the common denominators and discuss
the broader reasons why this phenomenon is taking place. I will try to show that the reasons can be
identified, and split them into two major categories: those which we can fix, such as bad educational
policies, and those which are out of our hands, the result of the historical change which affect the
Orthodox Jews of Israel along with the rest of world society.
After wading through endless monologues and interviews of the formerly frum, the author stands in
bewilderment and asks several questions. Why did the Religious Zionist school system really fail so
miserably? What more could they have done to keep the youth on the path of Torah and Mitsvot? I
propose that many of the contributing factors are caused by societal processes that are far more
powerful than schools. Nevertheless, I assert that schools can indeed do more to help students to
deal with the many challenges of modern religious life. How much can we demand from the family as
a social agent? What is the alternative in a time where the family as a value is weakened? How can
children grow to choose to remain within their parents’ traditions? Is the younger generation too
shallow to seek to learn about their religious roots? The opposite seems to be true, but their search
for meaning seems to originate from different sources than we traditionally expect.
There are theological issues to be dealt with, in the light of individualistic and post-modern attitudes.
How do we relate to the culture of the self and the worship of doubt? Is there any way to make serving
Hashem “cool” enough to interest our youth!?