In 1975, a teachers strike shut down Pittsburgh’s public schools. Desperate to educate their kids, approximately 100 parents decided to send their little ones to a local yeshiva. After the strike ended, fully 60 of these kids remained in yeshiva. Today, many of them are frum as a result.
Judging from the government’s actions over the past two years, the Covid-19 vaccine may soon be mandatory for students. Private school students, however, may be exempt from these new regulations if we properly flex our political muscles (and we better flex them). If we do, though, we will also have a glorious and unprecedented opportunity to provide a Torah education to Jewish children who otherwise would never receive one.
What do I mean?
Just imagine: A principal of a frum school in Brooklyn or Lakewood publicly announces on social media parent groups that any mother who is hesitant about jabbing her child is welcome to send him to Yeshiva of ______ or the Bais Yaakov of ______ where he will be greeted with open arms. Most American Jews unfortunately won’t send their child to a frum school. But even if only one percent of them do, that’s already hundreds of children in places like New York and New Jersey. Imagine providing hundreds of Jewish children with an authentic Torah education! Imagine the generations of Torah-observant Jews that might exist thanks to this single act.
Keep in mind: Vaccine skeptics are among the smartest and most independent-minded individuals in this country. If a yeshiva education is properly pitched to them, many of them will consider it – certainly if their other choice is submission to a totalitarian mandate or home-schooling.
The real question is: Will we rise to the occasion? Will principals be bold enough to publicly advertise such an offer? Will they be courageous enough to take advantage of an opportunity to provide a Torah education to Hashem’s children even if it means being the subject of a hit piece in The New York Times? The truth is, it isn’t even necessary for all principals to be bold. All that’s needed is a handful. One or two in New York. One or two in New Jersey. One in Illinois.
The Maccabees ignored what people thought. They walked in the footsteps of Avraham HaIvri who proudly flouted the educated elite of his day. He wasn’t afraid of making a “chillul” Hashem by rejecting the acceptable views of his time. Indeed, when he angered his contemporaries by boldly proclaiming the truth, he created a tremendous kiddush Hashem.
The future is uncertain, but we may soon have an unprecedented opportunity to teach Torah to children of parents who rightfully wish to protect their offspring from a vaccine that is, at best, unnecessary and, at worst, deadly. If this opportunity rises, let us take advantage of it. Just like the Jewish community in Pittsburgh still remembers the 1975 strike that sent dozens of public-school kids to their yeshiva, Jewish communities all over the country may one day remember the vaccine mandates of 2022 that sent hundreds of public-school children to the safety and warmth of their yeshivos.
Elliot Resnick is the former chief editor of The Jewish Press and the author of several books, including most recently “Movers & Shakers, Vol. 3.”