I have this habit of listening to old radio. There is nothing like the mysteries and cop shows from the 1930s through the 1940s. I have an SiriusXM app, and I find myself falling asleep when I need to nap to their classic radio channel (I never find out who the murderer was). The Whistler, Sherlock Holmes, Johnny Dollar, and Dragnet are up there with my favorites. I can’t get over the fine acting, the sound effects, and the wholesomeness, even in some of the gangster shows. The worst of them would not even think of maintaining a man-woman relationship without getting married.
I find it interesting how, in many ways, things have not changed. There is often the complaint that the young of their generation are spoiled and not responsible people. In one episode of Dragnet, Sgt. Joe Friday lectures two teens about how they get into trouble because they do not appreciate the sacrifices of the previous generation. Today’s youth, he complains, are used to getting all kinds of new gadgets and accessories that give them instant gratification without realizing how difficult these luxuries were to come by in the past. Sound familiar?
Indeed, is there a difference in what we face with today’s generation with that of the past? In the sense that today’s kids are even more spoiled and have even more gadgets of gratification and instant communication, I guess there is a difference, and things are worse. Yet, going back to the times of Socrates, the complaint was always about the youth of the day.
I do believe, however, that there is a substantive difference. Rav Meir Simcha HaKohen of Dvinsk (1843-1826), in his classic work on Chumash, the Meshech Chochmah (BaMidbar 29:1), bemoans the generation in which the parents “mimic the young generation like apes.” That generation will fall into disaster and the young will only learn to serve their new “gods” with gusto, as they feel validated by their parents.
When I grew up, all the decisions of my education were made by my father zt”l. For elementary school, he sent me to Yiddish-speaking Ohr Yisroel in Forest Hills. Then, for high school, he made sure I went to MTA (Yeshiva University), quite a radical departure from the previous eight years. Finally, he told me I was to go to Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh in Israel, over my protests. I had very little interest in learning in those days. “You’ll see you’ll do well there,” was the beginning and the end of the discussion.
When my brother R’ Aryeh, a committed Gerrer chasid, was looking for an appropriate shidduch, my parents flew to Switzerland to meet a prospect named Udi Kowalsky, who was suggested by Rabbi Shalom Kowalsky z”l of the Young Israel of Hillcrest, a cousin. My parents were impressed with the young lady and her parents, so they decided this was Ari’s bashert, and returned to Queens to let him know the good news.
“But how do I know I’ll like her?” pleaded my bother. “You’ll like her, you’ll like her!” was the response he received. About 35 years later, with nine children and grandchildren, bli ayin ha’ra, they were quite right.
Today’s generation, I’m afraid, lives up to the pasuk of “…for they are a generation of reversals” (D’varim 32:20). It is not just that the young generation is spoiled or has a different set of values than their parents do. The problem is that today’s generation controls the older generation. The agenda is set by a distinct minority of the current hipsters. AOC and her ilk have been made into rock stars by the media. They have wrought all kinds of societal ills upon us, including crime, gender radicalism, and business losses. They are foisting upon the established generation a socialist agenda, and this minority tail is wagging the majority dog. It is very concerning that this country, and especially this deep blue state, may be mired in crime and all of the above for the foreseeable future.
That is why the November election will be critical if we have any chance of reversing the reversal.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, and former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens.