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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

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I graduated Frisch over 30 years ago, and while I don’t have the statistics of whether things are worse now than they were then, there were definitely well-known incidents of drinking, drug use and scandalous behavior—including a girl getting pregnant—back then as well. And while back then Frisch had a much larger percentage of kids from non-Orthodox homes (about 50 percent of the class), and with a significant number of kids coming from public schools to the Frisch Mechina program (which, sadly, I don’t think exists anymore), the illicit activity took place across the religious spectrum of kids.

I don’t think Frisch back then had a strict policy of expulsion, but there were definitely a few kids expelled or asked to not return to school the following year for various reasons. On the other hand, there were also a number of kids who were expelled from other yeshiva high schools who were let into Frisch so the kids would not be lost to the public school system.

I am not sure what the right policy is, and I hear the arguments for both sides. As a current parent, I think it is imperative that if the school has an expulsion policy, that the policy is clearly stated, easily understood by the parents and students (perhaps even have all the parents and students sign the code of conduct), and applied consistently. Frisch’s current policy is publicly available on its website. I would, however, like to relay one anecdote. In my senior year, I was invited to the house of a friend for Shabbat. As we were walking to his car in the Frisch parking lot on Friday after school, he told me he had to tell me something really embarrassing and pleaded with me to promise that I would never ever tell anyone. After assuring him that I would keep his identity secret to the grave, he told me he had done something wrong a few weeks prior and the school had threatened to kick him out. As he was a talented singer and piano player, Rabbi Meier had come up with a creative “punishment” instead that made use of his God-given musical talents. Every Friday after school for the rest of the school year he had to go to a Jewish old age home and perform at an hour-long “Shabbat party” for the senior citizens where he led the singing, dancing and served food. I accompanied him that Friday afternoon to his Shabbat party (I just helped with the food as I can’t sing or dance), and the happiness and revival of spirit he brought to those elderly folks during that hour was amazing—and I know it made his parents proud of their son again.

The post-script is my friend is still frum and an active member of the Jewish community, and in fact is a leader. I believe Rabbi Meier’s creative punishment of community service, instead of expulsion, 30 years ago has something to do with it.

David Wolf

Bergenfield