Over the past 20 years, most graduates of Orthodox day schools have gone on to spend at least a year at a yeshiva in Israel before proceeding with college.
Flipping Out?: Myth or Fact? The Impact of the “Year in Israel” by Shalom Z. Berger, Daniel Jacobson and Chaim I. Waxman takes a hard look at a phenomenon that has become a major source of both inspiration and consternation in the Jewish community.
The Jewish community has changed over the past four decades for many reasons, prominent among them the phenomenon of large numbers of students spending a year after high school studying Torah full time in Israel. The results of this “Year in Israel” can be felt in many synagogues and homes, with a good deal of increased ritual observance and dedication to Torah study – the much discussed “Shift to the Right.”
Many questions arise from these changes. Have these students been brainwashed? Has their primary education so failed them that a single year in Israel is more influential than over a decade of American schooling? Have they found an easy way to alleviate some hidden insecurity? Or are they merely inspired by a profoundly rich and spiritual lifestyle? And how long does this newfound religious devotion last? Is it really the start of a radically different life path or is it merely a short-term religious high that becomes more moderate over time? These are just a few of the questions that need to be asked.
This book gathers together insights from three talmidei chachamim who are top experts on the subject, each from a different perspective. Rabbi Shalom Berger, Ed.D., and Rabbi Daniel Jacobson, Psy.D., both performed statistical studies and wrote doctoral dissertations on the phenomenon of studying in Israel for a year. Rabbi Berger, drawing on his years of experience as a leading mechanech (Torah instructor) in the U.S. and Israel, approaches the subject from the perspective of an educator and addresses the “what” of the changes in students-what religious changes do we see in students from the time they leave to Israel to a year after they return. Rabbi Jacobson looks at the “Year in Israel” from the perspective of his psychological training and explores the “why” of the equation-what internal and external influences on these students cause the changes that happen.
Dr. Chaim Waxman, a distinguished sociologist, looks at the impact of this phenomenon on the broader community from the perspective of a sociologist. How does the “Year in Israel” fit in with the historical relationship between American and Israeli Jewry, and how has it changed the American Jewish community? His decades of profound study of the Jewish community have earned him a place as one of our leading social commentators. Finally and significantly, Richard M. Joel adds to this impressive mix with an introduction based on his experience as the president of the Hillel college campus organization and currently the president of Yeshiva University.