Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Casualties of the System

I'll start this with a disclaimer. There are casualties in every system; this I know. There are casualties of democracy, casualties of liberalism, casualties of capitalism. Systems are never and can never be one size fits all, even if each system's proponents persistently characterize them as that way.

And so maybe it's just that I was brought up an Orthodox Jew (modern), that most of the people I know are still Orthodox, that makes it seem like Orthodox Judaism has a relatively high casualty rate. I'm willing to accept that as a very good possibility.

That said, it makes it no less heartbreaking to witness these casualties.

Recently, I found out about a girl with whom I grew up. She's 30, has 6kids, and her husband walked out on her because he no longer wants to be religious.

I think of this girl - really intelligent, the kind of girl who was always top of her class in school, and always very much the "straight-and-narrow" kind of girl. You know those people I'm talking about? They're brilliant, but they're not ones to question or bend the system. So this girl who attended schools and seminaries that told her that her purpose in life was to get married young, have children and be supportive of her husband's learning enterprises did just those things.

Book smart and great at school though she was, this girl did not move on toward any larger higher education goals. And because she started to have children so young, she did not cultivate any kind of career.

Now she is alone to take care of 6 children without what is supposed to be the cornerstone of her life - her husband. I hope that he will pay his alimony, but as those acquainted with the system know, that's rarely enough to support a family, especially when yeshiva tuition and Orthodox needs come into the picture.

Mind you, it seems to me that the husband is a casualty of the system, too. He was so miserable that he made this drastic decision, why? Likely because he too was pushed to get married far too young, before he was able to make proper, independent evaluations of how he wanted to live his life.

The whole thing just makes me so upset. As do so many other "casualty" situations - friend of mine that are still single and writhing in loneliness/sexual frustration in their 30s; divorcees still waiting for their gets; children whose (otherwise amazing) parents prioritize Judaism over what their kids really need; I could go on and on.

There's nothing much to say about this, except that it makes me alternately sad and angry, depending on the day and the incident.