Reply To: Secular Library – Frum Children

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I live in the Monsey area. The local library is always patronized by chareidim. And due to the demographics, the library responds in kind. It has a large judaica section, and an even larger Yiddish section. As a community resource, it aims to serve the community.

Those who suggest that the frum world has created enough literature so as to obviate the need for our children to read any secular literature, are deluding themselves. Great works of literature are great and become “classics” because they are both timeless and universal. Take a relatively benign example of Tolsty’s Ivan Ilyich, who imparts so much to us about how to live a fulfilling life, in his failure to do so, and then what it is like to see the hope and dreams of life fade away when it too late to make things right. Does not Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness not give us a window into the heart of evil? Does not Lord Jim teach us something about repentance? Fitzgerald’s Gatsby slaps us in the face with own venality. I could go on. I can’t think of a single contemporary work of Judaic literature that come near to those great works.

Libraries are also research centers. Children should learn and know how to use those resources. The sooner they start, the sooner they can begin to think and look at the world independently. The only reason not to expose a child to the library is because one wants to close the world off from him. But “mayim genuvim yimtaku” and doing so only increases the temptation to access that which is denied them. Or as the old joke goes “. . .Oib kenst Ich nisht geyin ariber di vant, az gei Ich arunter. . .”