I went to Beverly Hills High School and by all accounts I had a good time. Good grades, and good teachers, and good parents and family. I had my pick of places to go after high school: Julliard school of Music, or UCLA where I was already accepted to and other places. But I had an interest also in meaning of life issues and questions that were not addressed by secular American society. So I opted for Talmud At the Mir you leaned Talmud all day long from the morning from 8:30 A.M. until about 11:00 PM or midnight. There was a rest period in the middle of the day for the afternoon prayer and lunch.
Incidentally we were not rich. It was just that the USA government paid a lot of money to have good engineers build the space program and my Dad happened to be a good engineer. He had come to the attention of the USA military when he invented night vision and a U-2 camera. So they recruited him again for SDI. [He created laser communication between satellites. That was needed so the Soviets could not eavesdrop.] ]
The atmosphere and feeling at the Mir Yeshiva in NY was electric. If you had to eat lunch, you couldn't wait until you got back into the Beit Midrash [Study Hall]. The Talmud study was simply the container for a kind of Divine energy that grabbed you. If you learned there 12 hours a day, you went home feeling you did not learn enough, and you hoped to do better the next day. And this learning taught you amazing things. It taught you how to be a mensch (decent human being--which an be harder than it sounds), it taught you respect for others, and for private property. It taught you to speak the truth at all costs. This was a type of energy that was intimated connected with the natural law and human decency. It did not just teach you, but it made you into a moral and decent human being.
During the spring or summer breaks when I would return to Southern California, I would call a nice Jewish girl [a brilliant girl] I knew from high school and tell her about what was happening in my school in NY. This excitement rubbed off on her, and she herself decided to start keeping Torah and do mitzvas and to follow me to New York, and even start pestering me to marry her. Eventually, I gave into this because of the advice of Arye Kaplan and a Rav Getz in the Mir . In fact, she turned out to be an excellent choice. She agreed to come with me to Israel, and the children I have with her are as sharp as tacks. [I did not pay much attention to it at the time, but her parents were German Jews. Now things make sense why my kids are smart.]
But the world surrounding the Mir was Orthodox Judaism. And Orthodox Judaism is a cult, kelipa [a shell], and it infiltrated into the Mir.
I could have joined the Eastern cults or ashrams in those days that penetrated every aspect of life in Southern California and no one would have raised an eyebrow.
In fact, that was the most respectable thing a person could do in those heady days. But Orthodox Judaism was considered by everyone to be plainly and simply a fanatic, lunatic, fringe group that needed immediate hospitalization. And with the wisdom that time grants, I have come to see some points about this evaluation are correct.