Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Being tifrosh min hatzibur part 2--Rejection

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."


  1. Consider yourself lucky Thing 1 (really?) didn't get into that idiot school. It sounds like it would have done all the damage that idiot rav accused you of causing.
    And do you know why FFB's don't like BT's? It's insecurity. See, the average FFB doesn't know anything else and is raised in an environment where the outside world is evil, seductive and looking to drain your neshama from you like some ephemeral vampire. Go into the outside world, you're taught, and you'll get suck away from Torah never to return.
    And then the BT comes into the room, the person raised in that outside world, who should never have found their way into Torah and who instead rejected all the narishkeit and became observant. The BT approaches every mitzvah with sincerity and excitement while the FFP does it because he always has, it's just part of the routine and not a genuine interaction with the Divine. And the FFB wonders: would I have had the strength the make this choice? Why don't I have the same excitement to do mitzvos?
    And instead of working on improving himself, he does the opposite - he cuts you down so he can feel superior. No different than the bully in the schoolyard.

    1. It's insecurity, but not why you describe. It's not religious, its social. Bt are seen as not having the same mindset and upbringing and upset the equilibrium of their lives. It's why long time citizens don't like immigrants sometimes. They're afraid they'll be forced to change and they resent the people bringing about that change.

  2. Thing 1 and Thing 2 are taken directly from my favorite Doctor, Edward S. Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. I named my kids for those adorable blue-haired, red-suited mischief-makers in a box from The Cat in the Hat.
    Believe me, I consider myself very fortunate that she didn't get in. I actually prayed that she wouldn't.

  3. "Also, as a BT, I couldn't possibly understand the importance of the yeshiva system in a Jewish child's development."

    I'll just help you by translating this.... when he says development, he means corruption and being turned into a shallow princess.

    Builder should be glad his girls didn't get into BY de snootiness.... He'd have ended up with daughters who think it's important to go to all sorts of expensive vacations and such....

    It's funny, though, what FFBs think that they wouldn't have had the courage to become religious.... if I were raised as a religious Jewess... I probably would have gone OTD.

  4. I just had a couple more thoughts on this...

    First off, your husband talks about your kids watching TV... Most Yeshivish families either let their kids watch videos online (like YouTube or I saw that one father made a youtube that wouldn't have "untznius stuff on the sides") or they do DVD player only.... Also, if NO ONE is allowed to have a TV, who is the market for Uncle Moishe? It sure aint modern folks with song about how great it is to be a talmid chochmum.... Just like all the Yeshivish women (well most) use birth control. They like to lie and also people know enough not to talk about certain things like that in an interview, which brings me to another point... being betrayed by your husband who spoke lashon hara about you right in front of you must have been the worst. Honestly, what he did telling those things was... horrible. A married couple is supposed to be united against the rest of the world.... his comments were anything but.

    But what do I know? I'm not an FFB, either, so I also don't "count" on this planet.


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