As a very secular Jew, I read Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s columns with a mixture of curiosity, some agreement (with his comments on family relations), skepticism, and outright concern. His recent article bemoaning how difficult it is to raise a family in the Orthodox fashion made me wonder when there has ever been an easier time in Jewish history to do just that following the destruction of the Temple. Sorry – it does not get any better than this. Jews have better personal security and are better able to choose to worship as they wish worldwide today than any time in the last two millennia – notwithstanding the current state of the Middle East and recrudescent anti-Semitism in Europe.
This is due in large part to our having become an influential part of the United States of America – made possible by its Constitution, which keeps the government largely out of religious institutions and allows each citizen to worship (or not) according to individual conscience. Government financial support at any level leads to government interference.
Rabbi Boteach and other members of religious minorities who want the government to make things a little easier by subsidizing faith-based education are naively thinking that the money will come without an attempt by dominant groups to steer that money toward their own interests. Any Jew who grew up in the Bible Belt hearing the Lord’s Prayer over the public school loudspeaker can affirm that government support will go to the majority groups first. Any law allowing funds to subsidize Rabbi Boteach’s children’s Orthodox Jewish education also has to subsidize the faith-based education of any other Christian, Muslim, Wiccan, or other religious group’s children.
As for the public school students left behind, they are being denied contact with the wider variety of thoughts and cultures as the more religious families leave the system. Those kids will all meet again as older children and adults when they graduate from school, and will have to learn to get along, but beginning as strangers. That is not better for either society in general or Jews in particular.