Now imagine your child can’t even say “no.” Imagine knowing not only that you can’t be sure you will always be there for your child–imagine that you worry that your child will never be independent, even when you’re gone.
Welcome to the world of many parents of kids with disabilities.
This–this feeling, this worry–is part of why I decided to go to rabbinical school. Because as bad as the rest of the world is, for some reason, in the Jewish world we’re often far worse. And absent people who will do something to change that, it won’t happen.
Over at Kveller, Alina Adams asks whether she should feel guilty about her children receiving scholarships and financial aid for their various Jewish and non-Jewish educational activities. Observing that she doesn’t hesitate to say that her children receive such aid in exchange for her work, and that such aid is received as a result of her and her spouse’s decision to change jobs to be with their children, she asks whether 1) she should feel guilty, and 2) whether what her children receive as a result of her decisions is good for the Jews.
Should she feel guilty? I don’t know; I don’t think so. These are extremely personal decisions, and it’s difficult to know what the results of those will be in each case. But beyond that trite little observation, I think we need to acknowledge that those who give do so without a guarantee–unless they ask for it–that the money will be used only for those whom the donors believe merit the aid. And those donors often wish they could do what people like Adams are doing, but for whatever reasons did/do not feel free to do so. So, I’m not convinced guilt is a good thing here.
Is it good for the Jews? Yes. Every Jewish child will be raised differently. If this is what the author’s children need to develop a Jewish identity and simultaneously have active and involved parents, then I think we have the answer to that question.
This is not to say that there is no free-rider problem associated with such aid. But that problem is alleviated by the work-study arrangements Adams discusses, and by the knowledge that it’s still uncommon (not unheard-of, of course, but not happening 50% of the time) for people to opt out of higher incomes unless circumstances dictate it. (For example: parents of children with disabilities routinely earn less than parents of children without disabilities, and that’s out of necessity in many cases. But that’s a story for a different day.)
In any case, I understand the impulse to feel guilty–but I tend to think it show that Adams made her decisions for good reasons, and that the aid is appropriately (in her case) taken.