Happy Thanksgiving Day.
I just watched "The Joneses." It's not a great movie, but it really made me think for a minute about how thankful I should be. (Spoiler alert.)
A few people have commented to me that they wish they had the beitzim to put their kids in public school. I responded that at least as far as communal and social peer pressure concerns, beitzim didn't factor into our decision. One of the benefits of not being part of a Jewish community is that we make our decisions without petty worrying about potential (real or imagined) social and communal ramifications. I can't say that if we lived in Teaneck, for example, that we would have had the guts to make the switch to public school.
And it's not just with our educational choices. Because we don't feel the yoke of submitting to communal norms, we've been able to make various other choices based on what we really think is best for us. In sum, to the best of our abilities we're living the life we want to live.
I'm not saying that I'm completely content with where we live. In general, for all the crap that goes in Jewish communities, there are also many benefits that accrue to living in one. In specific, I'm concerned that in public school David may lose his "anchor" in the larger Jewish world. I'm not talking about "going off the derech" or intermarrying--I think it's silly that at this age concerned people warn us about these things--, but simply not realizing that there is something larger out there Jewish-wise. I can daven with him, learn Torah with him and teach him to observe the mitzvos, but I want him to see the larger picture. To feel the larger picture. So while not living in a Jewish community made it easier for us to transfer David to public school, ironically I feel that we need to move into a Jewish community if we plan to keep him in public school.
In any case, one underlying theme of "The Joneses" is the danger of subtle keeping-up-with-the-Joneses-type commercial peer pressure and the financial havoc it can wreak on a family. So for now I'm thankful that we don't have this (and other) peer pressure in our life. It if you have ninety minutes and $3.99 to waste, go watch it. (Oh yeah, I'm thankful for Amazon video on demand.)
(By the way, I'm not naive as to think that communal peer pressure is unique to Jews, but the fact that it exists in other communities as well is irrelevant.)
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In school David had to write why he is thankful: "Mom and sister: I like both of you. You were so nice to me when I had a fever. Mom thank you for all the stuff that you gave me and for all your kisses." (Spelling and grammar edited.)
On his arts and crafts project he wrote that he is thankful for a casa, Abba, Mama and familia.