In my last post, I talked about the ways in which my disagreements with the Jewish community were intellectual, and not based on personal rejection. For the most part, people have been nice to me, so long as I keep my thoughts to myself. (This is why I blog.)
Of course, there are exceptions. For a total of two hours last year, I was made to feel like the dirt under someone's feet because I was a BT with a mind of my own.
A little background. As many longtime readers know, my kids have never been students in any kind of school. Last year, when Thing 1 was four, I decided to make Builder happy by checking out about five schools. One Hasidic school near my house said right off the bat, "if you're not Chassidish, don't bother applying." Fine with me. Three others I rejected. All three had the same problem--nice people, but the school itself wasn't academically rigorous enough for Thing 1's mind. (I know, I know, all parents think their kids are geniuses.). In one case, the school touted itself as a Montessori program, but only one of the teachers was fully Montessori certified. For 15 grand a year, you'll have to do better than that. Of course, Builder only saw what he wanted to see--nice little girls in nice little uniforms sitting at nice little tables. But when I look at a kindergarten classroom, I want to see books--where were they?
And then Builder persuaded me to apply for a school that, for reasons that will become clear, I will refer to as Bais Yaakov of Doom (BYOD). Apparently the principal had gone to yeshiva with Builder. Also, the school was in walking distance, so no long bus rides. To make Builder happy, I filled out the application, put on my good shaitel and a nice, modest outfit, and went to the interview determined to play along.
I needn't have bothered.
As soon as Builder walks in, he immediately assumed that Rabbi BYOD is an old friend, and starts shmoozing. However, I could tell right away that Rabbi BYOD didn't know Builder from Adam. First thing Builder says, "My wife is a BT who wants to homeschool the kids," in that "ha ha, big joke, she's a little weird but let's humor her" tone he always uses when he talks about the Things being homeschooled. (Normally, I got around the question by stating that I believed preschool-aged children were better off with their parents if possilbe, and avoided the word homeschool.) Immediately, the focus of the interview switched away from Thing 1 and right onto me. (All he did with Thing 1 was ask her to draw some flowers.) Rabbi BYOD informed me, in the most patronizing tone possible, that I was making a huge mistake. He said Thing 1 would have a hard time adjusting both academically and socially. She's be bored to death, have few friends, and it would be my fault. Also, as a BT, I couldn't possibly understand the importance of the yeshiva system in a Jewish child's development. For about the next two hours, he berated me on all my life choices. He even refused to acknowledge that my kids were in a weekly Hebrew class. He was aided in this by Builder, who told him that I was a social outcast (his exact words were "my wife has no friends,"), and that I let the kids watch TV. (For the record, I let them watch non-commercial programming only, and it must be pre-screened. Also, I only let them watch while I cook dinner.) Rabbi BYOD even went so far as to give me the phone number of a woman who could "help" (read: brainwash and insult) me even further. When I showed Thing 1 the number and she read it, Rabbi BYOD, informed me that the damage was done--because chldren shouldn't know how to read numbers until they were five. (Too bad, jerk!) Then he asked me what the rabbi who mekareved me in San Diego would think about my homeschooling. By that point, I was past caring about being polite. I responded: "You'd have to ask him. Of course, he homeschools his OWN children." Afterwards, we looked around. I peeked into a Pre-1A classroom, and the teacher asked in my daughter was applying for kindergarten. "No, Pre-1A." "Does she know how to cut, and color within the lines?" the teacher snapped back. It was the first time I'd ever encountered a nasty individual whose job was the teaching of primary aged children. Afterwards, I informed Builder, "If Thing 1 doesn't get in, I never want to hear the word 'school' again."
Thing 1 didn't get in. Builder blamed me. I was relieved that she wouldn't ever have to deal with those nasty people again. However, Builder sometimes says, "Wouldn't it be nice if she went to BYOD?" No Builder, it wouldn't. I would hate to think of those horrible people convincing my sweet little daughter that her mother is dirt under her feet because of her BT status. My biggest fear was that my little girl would come home one day and say, "Mommy, I don't have to listen to you. You're nothing but a BT."