Think outside of the box and surprises await! MY DAUGHTER REBECCA (29) recently returned from a trip to the United States. She spent some time with my side of the family in the New York area and then spent about two weeks in Boston helping out Sarah’s sister Charlotte with her three small children. No big deal for an American-born Israeli—except that these few weeks did not coincide with a vacation from Rebecca’s schooling. Instead, Rebecca simply took three weeks off from her summer semester at college. Yes, a member of the Weinberger & Ross family has finally succumbed to a widespread Israeli practice: taking an extended vacation during school time. Growing up, school time was holy time in my family. The idea of taking children out of school in order to go on a family vacation would have been completely anathema to my parents. No sort of argument would have been found convincing: however (ostensibly) unimportant the schoolwork being missed, however great a bargain one could find during the off-season, nothing would, could, or did induce my parents to privilege their vacation time over their children’s school time. In Israel, Sarah and I are among a small minority of people who follow the “school first” philosophy. Israelis have absolutely no qualms about pulling their children out of school for various and sundry vacations, ranging from a long weekend in Eilat (requiring “just” two missed school days), to a week-long ski vacation in Italy, to a three-week “roots” trip to Morocco. It can now be understood why on June 27 Sarah could find herself on a flight back to Israel (from London, where she had business) with so many Israeli families returning from vacation. Even though the school year was to end just three days later, these families felt that it was better to get in a vacation before the summer peak air fares went into effect. This economic factor of saving money is often key to school-time vacationing. For example, several years ago a respected rabbi and a respected professional in our community went with their families to Eilat just before Hanuka in order to take advantage of off-peak rates. The rabbi actually convinced the professional to go for it. When I questioned the latter, he sheepishly said something like: “Everyone does it.” He’s right. As in many things, the truth is that here too a golden mean is best: neither the extreme of never missing a school day nor the extreme of routinely cutting classes is to be preferred. I am not proud of the fact that I never cut a class in all of high school and college. Sometimes there are things worth doing that require one to miss class. I wish that someone could have told me what these things were when I was raising my kids, but my kids apparently figured it out for themselves–though they were usually kind enough to keep their parents in the dark. This practice continues until today, as Sarah and I realized that Rebecca’s vacation was coming at the expense of her college only after Rebecca had booked her trip. Perhaps my children with their own families will model a nice synthesis between the Israeli hyper lackadaisical and the American-Jewish hyper respectfulness for school. Of course by then Sarah and I will feel that it is our Israeli right to steal away a grandchild or two from school any time we’d like.
Teddy Weinberger, Ph.D., is Director of Development for a consulting company called Meaningful. He made aliyah with his family in 1997 from Miami, where he was an assistant professor of religious studies. Teddy and his wife, Sarah Jane Ross, have five children.