Tag Archives: yeshiva

Abuse in the Yeshiva System

This story Surviving Bais Mikroh happened in a yeshiva in Monsey, where I live. I personally cannot vouch for the veracity of this story, but having heard many similar stories about this and other yeshivot – nothing in it surprised me. None of my children attend or have attended Bais Mikroh.

When my children were younger it was brought to my attention that one of the Kindergarden rebbeim was hitting the kids at the yeshiva my boys attended. One of my kids had made an offhand remark “Chaim Yankel didn’t sing the tune right so Rebbe hit him, and then he cried, and then the bell rang for recess….”

I stopped him, and asked if Rebbe often hit the kids. He told me yes, that’s what happens in big boy school. I was floored. I tried to explain to my 6 year old that NO REBBE has the right to hit a child – and he hit these kids across the face!!

I knew what I had to do, and I suffered for doing the right thing. I called the school social worker, letting him know what was going on, and telling him I was headed up to the school to take them to task. The social worker did not work for the school, but answered to a local agency. Getting them involved was paramount – if it had been just me, one parent, lodging a complaint at the school, the problem would have been swept under the rug.

Oh did I forget to tell you? NONE of the other parents in the class, including the parents of the boys that had been hit, were willing to stand with me. No one was willing to stand up for their kids. My kid had not been hit, and I was willing to stand up. I was disgusted. I had parents calling me, thanking me for doing this, because their kid had been hit too – but when I asked to put their name forward, for them to make a phonecall to the social worker, they refused.

I spoke with the principal and the social worker at length. I was not willing to be brushed off. Soon after I received threatening phonecalls, that I need to stop my personal vendetta (!!) against the rebbe and drop my complaint. He has mouths to feed, responsibilities – how dare I try to take that away from him?

How dare he hit our kids? How dare they blame ME for complaining?

“We’ll chase you out of town, your name will be mud here” – if it saves one kid, it would have been worth it. They were full of BS anyway – push came to shove they had to shut up because it was all TRUE.

Because it wasn’t MY kid that was hit, and none of the other parents came forward, there was little that I could push to be done. It was frustrating. They got the teacher into anger management classes, and upon my insistence, never left the rebbe alone with the kids. There was always another adult present. They never, not for one moment, denied that he hit the kids.

My kid was transferred to a parallel class, and my younger kid(s) were not assigned to his kindergarten class.

What horrified me the most were the parents. Your child was hit. Across the face. Some more than once. And you are willing to sit there and take it? And you are willing to allow him to continue to hit other children? Because you are afraid of making waves?

Our children are worth everything – if we do not protect them, who will?

Discussions at Shabbat Table – zonah

Last week’s Parsha (specified Torah reading) spoke a lot about priesthood, and included in that was the list of the women a Kohen (priest) is forbidden to marry. My 7 year old came home with a bunch of questions he had to answer on the parsha. One question was – name the three types of women a Kohen is not allowed to marry. The answer given was “divorced woman, zonah and challalah”. We know zonah is another word for prostitute, and challalah is the female child of a Kohen who “married” a divorced woman. Interestingly enough they were not taught that a Kohen cannot marry a female convert either.

Firstly I was a little insulted that divorced women were lumped together like that right next to a zonah. But in time I got over that. Secondly, I asked my son how his rebbe explained zonah to them. I was curious how you explain that to second graders. Unfortunately my sweet little son must have misunderstood his rebbe because he told me a zonah was a divorced woman. OUCH!!

So we explained to him that that wasn’t what it meant. But I was at a loss at how to explain to him what a zonah really is. So I asked my big boys how their Rebbeim explained it to them. (We do have the most interesting discussions at our table). The older boys are well aware what a prostitute is. They explained it correctly as a woman that sleeps with a man for money. But one of their rebbeim explained it as a woman who “shares” your house. Hmm. The sixth grader had it explained as a woman that you “marry” for money. I guess being “married” is a euphemism that is well used in yeshivot. But to an innocent second grader – who doesn’t yet know about the birds and the bees – why even bring up the subject? Why does he need to know a Kohen cannot marry a zonah if he doesn’t even know what a zonah is? I told him to go back and ask his Rebbe to explain to him what it is. Still waiting for an answer.

How would you have explained it to such a young child, or would you just have left it out of your lesson?

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Beit Twidrash Dictionary

Not a day goes by that I don’t participate in a BeitTwidrash discussion on Twitter, and inevitably there are words and phrases that go right over my head, and I ask the crew to explain them. I guess if I had learned in a yeshivah (oh, and was a male learning in one of those Batei Midrash where they use their thumbs and fists to punctuate discussions) I would know all these terms.

So here is my attempt to pull together a list of terms that the layman/laywoman can use to understand the torah talk on the web. Please note this is just a start – I will add on from the comments as the terms come in. It’s a work in progress. Please publicize it. Thanks.

Adaraba –  it’s the other way! or actually, it’s the opposite!

Aseh – positive commandment

Assur – forbidden

Aveirah – Sin

Avreich – young guy who learns in Kollel

B’dieved – after the fact

Bitul Zman – waste of time

Bochur – a young man

Boosha – embarrassment

Brings Down – cites

Chacham – wise guy

Chavrusa / Chavruta – study partner

Chassunah / Chatunah – Wedding

Chiddush – a new idea

Chosson / Chattan – bridegroom

Davka – specifically intended

Deoraisa – law from the Torah

Derabbanan – law instituted by Rabbis

Gadol, Gedolim – Sage, Sages

Ger – Convert

Get – Divorce

Hashkafa – outlook on Judaism

Harchaka  / Harchakos – distancing behaviours practiced btw husband and wife when wife is Niddah (see Niddah)

Hechsher – mark of kosher certification

Hishtadlus – effort and initiative

Kallah – bride

Kasha – a question; also groats

Kal veChomer – How much more so

Kaveyochil – as if, metaphorically speaking re: God

Ketubah – marriage contract

Kisui Rosh – headcovering

Klaf – parchment

Kofer – heretic

Kvetch – to complain

Lashon – language

Lav – a commandment that was commanded in the negative – thou shalt NOT kill

Lechatchilah – ideally

L’havdil – I’m going to compare two things, but for philosophical reasons don’t take the comparison to be equivalence

Lo Taa’seh – negative commandment (see Lav)

Machlokes – argument

Makir – recognize

Makpid – Particular

Maskim – agrees

Meakev – prevents

Mechutzif – someone who is disrespectful

Meiseh, BubbeMeiseh – Story, Old wive’s tale

Mekarev – bring closer to religion

Mekor – Source

Merachek – push away from religion

Metzious – phenomenon / nature (according to @DovBear facts or essence)

Mikvah – Ritual Bath

Minhag – custom

Minyan – a quorum of ten men

Mistamah – most likely

Mitpachat – headscarf

Mitzvah – positive commandment

Modeh – agree with, recognize

Moser (Mesirah) – to snitch about a fellow Jew to local governement

Muktzah – forbidden to be moved on Shabbat

Muttar – permitted

Nafkaminnah – practical difference

Niddah – a woman during menstruation and for 7 days after until she immerses in Mikvah

Oilam – the world, the ppl around you

Oiver – to be oiver means to transgress

Pasken – to provide a legal decision

Pilpul – splitting hairs in an extreme manner

Pumfakert – just the opposite

Segulah – superstitious Jewish belief that doing something will magically bring about a desired result

Shailah – question

Sheitel – wig

Shidduch – a match (for marriage), dating

Shita – specific view on a topic

Shiur – lesson

Shtim – work in tandem without contradiction, go together

Shver – hard, father-in-law

Shvigger – mother-in-law

Stam – basic, simple….

Takka – it is so

Tayva – desire

Tichel – headscarf

To Hold By – subscribe to the views of, lend credence too

Please add your own…..and feel free to correct existing definitions.

Hat tip @marksofla

Thanks also to @daniopp@jonathan_meola, @yeshivaguy, @DovBear, @esteelavitt, @RabbiGoldberg.

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Gratuities for the teachers?

There is an unofficial unwritten rule in our yeshiva that you are supposed to tip the rebbes at Purim time. There has been no official guideline set out, and I never do it. Why? A) because I already pay tuition and B) they are getting paid a salary to teach my kid and C) because I do not have that kind of money to tip four rabbeim!! (I have heard of them getting in the hundreds from one parent.)

Last night a bunch of us were having a conversation on this subject, after a couple of people had received letters from their children’s yeshivot outlining the Chanukah tip suggestions. Rebbeim are supposed to get more than Morahs (male teachers vs female – don’t get me started) and some of the suggested tips went up to $360!!!

In this economy who has extra money? Private school tuition takes a huge chunk out of one’s salary, plus all the other extras you have to pay for – dinner, book fees, building fund, photocopying fee, get-you-every-which-way-we-can fee etc. How dare they send a letter saying you should tip the teachers??!!

I tip the superintendent in my building at Xmas time. He does a lot extra for me and I slip him a bill. He doesn’t expect it nor ask for it and it is MY choice whether to tip him or not. He will not treat me any differently whether I do or don’t.

The teachers – if you do not tip them, will they mark your child down? If you do tip, does s/he get higher grades? Does tipping only apply if they are doing a good job? We are all hurting financially in this economy – and I get that teachers are not paid that well in yeshivas – but who has extra money for this? Do the teachers count on this? Do they report the tips to the IRS? If one parent of every kid in a class of 24 gave a hundred dollars, that’s $2400 – a huge amount.  Do the teachers count on this for parnassah?

Its bad enough the government always has their hands in our wallets, now the schools too?


For a more in your face take on this subject go visit DovBear and read what he has to say.

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Ban the books?

BannedBooksWeekpictureThis article is all about a school district wanting to ban books that are, in their view, controversial. This particular book by the great Maya Angelou details a rape scene and the school board finds it unsuitable for their students. It doesn’t mention whether this is on the high school list or in the high school library or not. This censorship is nothing new to me. For years the books that my kids have been bringing home from school have been censored, albeit on a different scale. A Berenstein Bear book, that has one of the bears on the beach in a bathing suit, has had one of the teachers or staff, take a coloured marker and draw a shirt and skirt on her. Words in these books such as Christmas and Halloween have been blacked out to make them not exist.

I wish my kids would be able to read Maya Angelou’s books in school, I wish they didn’t have to be ashamed to say they read all the Harry Potter books – like a lot of kids in their school. But Harry Potter is about magic, and that’s just not PC in a religious school. My kids have read Twilight – they are not going out and biting people. My oldest reads Ludlum and Clancy – he isn’t out spying on people and blowing them up. He understands that it is just fiction. These books encourage my kids to ask me so many varied questions and have led to some awesome discussions. But don’t tell the school, ok?

How does censoring what they read make them better people? It doesn’t. Reading all different kinds of books as I was growing up helped round out my education. Helped me understand so much about the world that I live in. If I read about a love scene – it didn’t make me want to go out there and re-enact it. If I read about treife food, it didn’t make me want to eat it. It just added to my education.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is banned in many religious schools – and it shouldn’t be. Star crossed lovers who have to die to be together. It could be used as a metaphor for so many situations. We could learn that life doesn’t have to be like this in our day and age. In our high school I would have loved to have studied it – every girl loves a good love story, no matter how badly it ends. I am sure we would have all done so much better on our English Lit exams. Instead we learned Coriolanus, of which I remember nothing.

At the meeting referenced in the above article, the “offensive” paragraph was read out. How can you just excerpt one scene from a book that has a much broader scope, a book that is an autobiography of an icon? A book in which, according to Wikipedia , rape is used as a metaphor for the suffering of her race. How can we not use this to teach our kids lessons about history? But their question is do we want our children knowing and reading about rape? It’s not a simple answer. After recent events (the gang rape of a high schooler) I would say that kids need to understand what it is and that it is wrong. How are they going to learn that if no one tells them, if they aren’t exposed to the messages that are sent through literature? Teachers don’t talk about it in class, and parents aren’t listened to. Books are a tremendous way of getting a message across.

We should be encouraging our youngsters to read. Today the young folk are plugged into every device available, they know they latest video games and music, and the idea of opening a book and sitting down to read is anathema to some.

Banning and censorship like this go a long way to turning people away from great works of literature.

Please share your thoughts with me.

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