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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Out of the Inbox - The Seminary Situation 


Sent in by a Chaptzem reader

Dear Chaptzem,

I am a married 32 year old woman who currently has a sister graduating high school this year. She is a smart, frum, solid girl whom I dearly love. The reason why I find myself writing to you today is in reference to my sisters dilemma. She is just about to graduate a prominent Bais Yaakov high school and is feeling a lot of pressure to attend a local seminary. I live in Boro Park and so does she. I don't know if you know this but seminary has become the 'in' thing. It is a must on the ever-growing shidduch checklist. So, why may you ask, is this such a dilemma? Why not go with the flow? Well, you see my sister would like to marry a ben torah who will learn for a good couple of years after marriage and that as you may have already guessed is a costly expenditure. Therefore she initially made plans for a job as a secretary so that she can put away some money for supporting a husband in kollel and not completely depend on my father. The minute her principal got word of this (how I have no idea) she called up my mother and practically yelled at her for allowing such thought to even be pondered. (For the sake of confidentiality, I will address the principal as Mrs. Q.) My mother was shocked to hear the words that came out of Mrs. Q's mouth. She was roaring on and on about how seminary offers girls shelter from the real world and how terrible a thing it is to go straight to work. She also said that she ultimately looks-down at girls who skip the seminary process. In addition, Mrs. Q., who considers my sister a prized student (which she indeed is) decided to make it her business to call my mother on a daily basis to make sure that she's listened to. Wait 'till you hear what next transpired.

At Mrs. Q's behest, my sister decided that she wanted to see/understand what exactly her principal was so stressing; hence she decided to pay a visit to a nearby seminary. In the hallway enroute to peek into a classroom she heard what she thought was a loud shouting match amongst barbaric hoodlums. As she walked on she followed the commotion to a seminary classroom. There at the head of the class was a prominent and respected Rabbi being howled at by his students. Apparently he had asked for quiet and one of the students stood up and said (this is word for word, nothing added for effect): 'you think we want to sit here Rabbi _____? Think again. We are not here to learn. We're here because there is no other choice for us. Why do you expect my attention? ' And everyone starting clapping!

I did not believe this at first but knowing how honest my sister is, I soon after realized that sadly this was true. After calming both my sister and mother down I started thinking... In my days, seminary was not popular nor was it the common trend. I however do remember two girls that did attend seminary (intensive seminary was the only option at the time) they were real serious about what they wanted in life & ended up leading extremely simple yet fulfilling lives. These girls were as they say 'the real McCoy.' Today, es iz gevurin ah velt! Everybody goes to seminary. Why? You have to. It is a must and there is no two ways about it. No matter if you can afford it or not, if you are not cut out for it or not, if it's what you want or not----YOU GO.

It is worth pointing out, after much investigation (not solely based on the chutzpah/yelling incident), that a big chunk of seminary curriculum is dedicated to those who will choose a teaching career (another trend). As a matter of fact, observing teachers at other educational edifices is considered a common exercise. The rest of the program can be equated with regular school including subjects such as Chumash & Navi with optional tests. In essence, a thirteenth grade.

How about inculcating proper chinuch & hashkafah whilst our dear maidlech are still in school? Wouldn't that be wonderful? Preparing our students for the 'real world' when they are in the high school system rather than an entire non-useful year stuck in a classroom? And that is what it is; don't let anyone tell you differently! I have spoken to numerous parents who have reluctantly gone through the Seminary contrivance and am baffled as to why this has become such a big issue. Forgive me for thinking that my sister's initiatory goal of wanting to work in order to support a husband as noble & definitely something to look up to. Why all the negative press?

For those of you who don't know, there are three established seminary options wildly popular: 1)Over sea’s seminary 2) Intensive seminary -whole day 3) Half day seminary 8:15-12:00 noon. You might be wondering why my sister wouldn't chose option three, half day. Sounds reasonable, no? Not so fast. That would mean her having to accept a part-time job, which is really hard to find, and quite frankly, with her hours cut, she won't be making much.

So that your readers can better comment/discuss, allow me to let you in on my family background. I was brought up in a traditional Hungarian heimishe home. My grandparents immigrated to America in the late 40's after World War II. Both my parents are, how should I say, ill at ease about this 'situation.'

It's not advice that I'm asking for. It's awareness.

Henny R.

Comments:
Forget this story, lets talk about Spitzer.

 

Dear Henny,
If your sister follows her heart and her mind, Hashem will provide her with a true ben torah. If she follows the yentas who try to peddle her, she is more likely to wind up with a bench warmer.

 

I couldn't agree with the letter. seminary has become a must for shidduch purposes. i perosnally will encourage my daughters to work to put aside some money and on the other hand the boys should go out with girls that didnt attend seminary! girls should have night classes how to bake and cook, thats it!

 

just another way for the yidishe school system to get tuition. This disgusts me on how they make every bit of efford to get your hard earned money. This is outrages!! If I were one of your parents I would stand up against this and fight. Do they teach you in seminary about the "real" world? listen having your sister go to college would do her much better. It is very acceptable already in the heimishe community to go.

I also grew up in BP and as soon as I turned 18 I ran as fast as possible away from there and never looked back. BH today I am married with two beautiful girls and bli neder plan to fight for them too.

 

I think seminary should be a choice that a girl makes based on her own desire to continue her education. It shold not be a requisite for everyone. Should a girl wish to go to work right after high school, I don't see that as an issue, but it is preferable that she work in a heimishe atmosphere.

 

You are so right! i'm glad someone is finally speaking about this issue.
Its sad that our society expects everyone to be identical. I had a similar scenerio 8 years ago when i graduated high school. I chose not to give into the pressure and did not attend seminary. B"H i did get married to a wonderful yeshivishe man, and we are living a very frum lifestyle untill 120 BE"H. But i must warn you that this was a major issue when i was in shidduchim. I wasn't worried since i knew my zivug would not care. Even today so many years out of school, people would sometimes say "oh you didn't go to seminary". I believe as long as you're doing the right thing..who cares what people say. you'll never please everyone anyways. Wishing you the best of luck!

 

The judgementalism from some frum people is so conradictory to what the Torah stands for. What is going on here is a system that cast people higher or lower, better or worse. Where is the Torah in this? When will these so called people of authority realize that G-d is in charge of shidduchim? We are not all intended to be the cookie cutter edition! This is what it sounds like Mrs. Principal,"If you don't do this than you are not one of us!"

 

Your sister will find a shidduch whether she goes to sem or not. I dont have to answer to you and you dont have to answer to me. As March 11, 2008 1:41 PM wrote, "I believe as long as you're doing the right thing...who cares what people say. you'll never please everyone anyways." The only thing that matters is you doing the right thing, we only have to answer to HaKodosh Baruch Hu achar Meia V'Esrim Shanah. Kol Tuv!

 

With a ben torah always learning and no parnassah and a seminary girl who is forced into going and not working to save money who will support them when they get married? The gov't!!!
Another burden to frum heimish tax payers who are earners and learners.

 

The problem is manifold.

I work at a frum company where several girls are still single. All of them went to seminary. One, in fact, went to Intensive--and she is the most insensitive, difficult, boorish, dishonest, flagrantly disrespectful (even to people twice her age) and least ehrlich individual I have ever encountered in my life. Obviously, she went there for shidduch purposes only. However, I discovered only recently that her problem is a medical one, and that her chosson (she got married at the "late" age of 25 to a 28 year old "bochur" from a nice family. He cannot learn, but he's a very, very nice boy) is aware of her problems and signed up to it anyway. The issue of my comment is not the misery this young man signed up for, and the fact that she will never make a fit parent. The issue is not her ability to work as she is really on the ball business wise. She is just a terrible human being and has serious personality problems which she refuses to resolve. And she went to Intensive. Other girls went to other seminaries, and to be frank, I did not find them to have genuinely signifciant hashkafos of any kind. Most of these girls are not thinking about these things. I don't think its possible to have a genuine Torah outlook if you are not actually learning yom v'layla. The only Torah outlook they can have is reflected in halacha: dinim of loshon hara, tznius--and the overarching dual rolse those halachos play with respect to bein adom l'chaevro. You pick that up in school and home. Seminary, frankly, is not worth spit. I doubt they grew one inch from what they already knew in high school. I have a friend whose sister not only wasted time in EY, but actually had a yeridah. Its a nice experience (YAY!!!) but it means nothing frumkeit wise. And shadchanim, and more importantly, parents, should be aware of this.

My wife and all her sisters stayed in-town for seminary, as opposed to going to Eretz Yisroel. Even the the whole seminary system is gneva, in my opinion, its still valuable to stay in a frum atmospere--especially for girls once they are out of high school. And that seminary served that purpose. More effort should be made to establish alternatives in America so that we bring down the abnormal cost of seminaries in Eretz Yisroel. This way, parents would have their daughters experience the benefit of what EY can provide (though its not one which would translate into much frumwise) without the enormous drain on their bank accounts.

 

I disagree. I believe that in the case of your sister who is a top student and would like her husband to learn in kollel - then she should go to seminary - and she will enjoy it. Trust me, she will not put away that much money in that one year as an entry level secretary, plus if she decides to go to school for a degree most seminaries issue credits. Just as kollel has become the style so to has seminary - by not going you take a stand - I do believe that it is much better for a girl to be armed with a year of seminary education prior to entering the workforce - In fact in the seminary I went to we were prepared for workforce issues by the head rebetzin of the seminary - I went and I had no hovemineh of becoming a teacher, but it gears you for life - I miss seminary - the girls your sister saw in that seminary are obviously immature - it was not like that in my seminary - now if your sister was totally unintellectual then maybe seminary wouldn't be the right choice for her and you should consult with your rav - but based on the info you provided I think seminary is the perfect choice for your sister

 

I try my best to talk my kids out of sem. No way any principle would even thinking of phoning me and telling me what to do.
If I do send her,it's because I think it will be good for her ,not because it's in style.
PS My first daughter in law, did not go to sem, and it made no difference in our decision.

 

The yeshivish environment is a dysfunctionaly screwed up world. Why should the girl go to work at all? Why not the guy? Instead of sitting on his tuchus, doing nothing but kvetching over gemara, let HIM go and earn a living. Idiots all of you!

 

Stop whining and tell her to just go to seminary! Otherwise, your next gripe to the editor will likely be about the "shidduch crisis" and how come nobody wants to marry a non-conforming girl. Let's face it, we all would like to persue our dreams and fanatasies, but life calls and we do what society demands. Suck it up girl, and do what's expected of you.

 

what you are saying IS outrageous. I think that your sister exaggerated somewhat. Seminary is "AS IN"now as it was 15 years ago when you were of seminary age. The mechaneches is absolutely correct; girls should NOT jump out into the world so soon afetr hs. IT IS A JUNGLE out there. she can take so many seminary/occupational courses through a variety of choices; sara shneirer program. raizel reit, reb.bulka, cope, machon laparnasa, & make MORE $ than being a secretary.......take it from one who knows

 

This post is crazy! But not because they're not letting the girl work, it's because she doesn't expect her husband to work!!!

 

This whole posting is about how 1 young teenager (17 - 18 years old) should spend 1 measly year of her life. What's so wrong with 1 year of seminary? Why is this younger generation so obsessed with immediate gratification? I agree that working in a respectable job is noble and worthwhile, but what is so terrible about an extra 2 semesters of school to polish you up a little? L'havdil, in the outside world, professional working people that hold Bachelor's degrees have had to sit in the University cracking their heads over Statistics, Calculus, Engineering, Computer Science, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Economics, Accounting and other "engaging" topics for
***F O U R*** solid years at gargantuan, astronomical costs. Be glad you don't have to commit 4 long, tiring, excruciating, painful, financially breaking years of your life to endless lectures by Professors and difficult and painful exams just to earn a "respectable" Bachelor's degree. Anyway, aren't most of these Seminaries subsidized by government PELL grants anyway? Ultimately, it's an individual choice but the young lady should be made aware of all of her practical choices and not "railroaded" by well-meaning administrators who don't know a family's full financial picture.

 

WHY SHOULD A GIRL HAVE TO GO TO AN OFFICE THAT IS NOT A GOOD INFLUENCE TO WORK? I WORKED IN A HEIMISHE OFFICE 35 YRS AGO AND I WOULD NOT ALLOW MY CHILDREN TO WORK IN A PLACE LIKE THAT.
SHE CAN GO TO TEACH TO MANY CHASIDISHE SCHOOLS WHO LOVE TO TAKE BAIS YAKOV HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES OR SHE CAN TEACH IN A PRE SCHOOL.
THERE ARE SO MANY HEIMISHE YESHIVAHS WITH KOSHER JOBS. (NO INTERNET).
BUT I STILL FEEL THAT IF THE MAJORITY OF HER FRIENDS AND CLASSMATES ARE CONTINUING TO SEMIMARY I WOULDN'T WANT HER TO BE LEFT OUT.
YOUR SISTER IS OLD ENOUGH TO DECIDE FOR HERSELF......

 

It should not make a difference whether a girl goes to seminary or not. It's not the job of a girl to be the bread winner of the home. Let the boy learn a trade and let him be the one to provide for his wife,& iy"h his entire family.

 

And the fashion show that goes on in half day is unbeleivable! These girls come to sem pitzed out from their hair down to their shoes...

Gimme a freakin break about the whole they-go-there-for-hashkafah BS

Thanks for bringing up this important issue.

 

I'm sending my daughter to seminary in EY, not because it is the thing to do but becuase I did not go and wished I would have. I know it is wrong to live vicariously through your children but I feel it will be a good experience for her. Life is tough and the real world is full of ups and downs. I know it is a year of summer camp. But aren't the girls intitled to a year off before "real" life settles in. How many years off do boys get in Yeshiva - it seems to me that girls work much harder to graduate high school than boys do. And as far as "learning" boy vs. working boy. How many boys that are sitting and "learning" are really learning and how many are wasteing time and other peoples money? I think the working boy is the prize not the one "sitting" and "kvetching the bank". The real prize is a boy who went/goes to college, keeps a shuir and goes to shul 3 times a day and make a living being a lawyer, DR., accoutnat, etc and whose wife can stay home a raise her own kids instead of having some goyata do it for them. what does that teach your kids?

 

A quality girl is a quality girl regardless if she went to seminary or not. It's truly an upside down world..in which we are required to do certain things just because that is what society decided is the correct thing.
i have met and heard of many seminary graduates who have such bad character, middos, personality and outlook in life that it can only make you wonder if this is what sara schnirer had in mind.

My sister is currently in a "top" seminary in Israel...and geuss what at least 85% of the girls come from wealthy homes. They come to seminary armed with their designer clothes and spoiled brat attitudes...all they do is stick to their own friends because everyone else is below their standard. Is this truly what a quality girl is? of course i don't want to stereotype...i'm just saying that we all shouldn't have to fit into a specific mold. seminary does not define quality. middos do.
Besides if a girl does go to seminary yet doesn't come from a wealthy home she might have a hard time finding a "good" learning boy regardless of attending seminary. Since todays learning boys have lists and they will only go out with a girl who has a bank account. It's rediculios! what happenned to learning for the true sake of learning with the true sense of mesiras nefesh like Rabbi Akiva? like Rashi, and many more tzaddikim who i'm sure did not have price tags. Today the learning boys all want rich girls and rich inlaws who can support them. Is that the definition of Talmud Torah? The emphasis should be on a girl with sterling middos who will be an ezer k'negdo not whether her father will support for x amount of years.... (if one can get both - then great but the middos is what he will have to live with in the long run.)
Your sister should do what's best for her since Hashem has a zivug prepared for her already...so don't let anyone tell you that this will ruin her shidduchim... because everything is destined from above. Baruch Hashem!

 

I come from Satmar background where the late Rebbes have always decided to honor the words of the Kesuba, and not the way the Litfakes reinterpreted it here in America.

"... And I will work and support you, like Jewish husbands have always done.."

Not that mothers of 3 babys should have nervous breakdowns in the broken down vans...

The Chassidim got it right. Mommy raises the children. May help with parnusseh, but Mr./Rabbi/Whatever goes to work.

 

Frankly, as a practical matter being a secretary is a dead end job and barly covers the cost of later childcare. The best is a seminary that will give credits towards a degree that alows you to make real money. Even in the goyish world only desperate people go into the workforce at such a young age.

 

LETS FACE IT. THE OLD SATMAR RABBI WANTED HIS TALMIDUM TO GO TO WORK BY DAY AND HAVE SHIURIM EARLY MORNING AND AT NIGHT AND THE WIFE SHOULD STAY HOME.
WHETHER THE GIRL WORKS IN AN OFFICE AND DOES OR DOES NOT ATTEND SEM. IT DOES NOT MATTER. THE WOMAN SHOULD STAY HOME TO RAISE HER KIDS.
MY HUSBAND WENT TO WORK THREE MONTHS AFTER OUR CHASANAH, 30 YRS AGO. I BET HE STILL LEARNS MANY MORE HOURS THAN ALOT OF KOLLEL YINGELAT. IF YOU WANT TO LEARN YOU WILL FIND THE TIME EVEN IF YOU WORK.

 

TO MARCH 12, 2008 9:32AM

UM, I CURRENTLY EMPLOY A 'ENTRY LEVEL' EMPLOYEE WHO EARNS $410.00 A WEEK (THATS AFTER TAXES!) WHILE MY DAUGHTER ON THE OTHER HAND CHOSE COLLEGE -WHICH COSTS A BLOODY FORTUNE. SO YES, IN THE LONG RUN THESE COSTS WILL GET PAID UP BUT 75% OF GIRLS WHO DO COLLEGE/GET DEGREE'S ----THEY DON'T PURSUE THEIR CAREERS B/C WHEN THEIR SINGLE THEY THINK THAT THEY CAN ACCOMPLISH EVERYTHING! THE MINUTE THEY GET MARRIED AND THE KIDS ARRIVE - LIFE SMACKS THEM IN THE FACE! NOBODY IS SUPERWOMAN. SO THEY DON'T EVEN END UP PURSUEING 'CAREERS.'

PERSONALLY, I THINK MY SECRETARY (WITH A $75 RAISE EFFECTIVE NEXT WEEK) IS BETTER OFF THAN MY DAUGHTER.

SO TO THE AUTHOR OF THIS LETTER I SAY: FIRST, HAVE THAT PRINCIPAL FIRED. SECOND, SEMINARY IS PURE BS, AS ANOTHER COMMENTER POINTED OUT. AND FINALLY, YOUR SISTERS INITIARY GOAL IS WISE AND I WOULD STICK TO THAT.

CHAIM S.

P.S. $15,000 + EXPENSES IS INSANE & THAT'S WHAT PARENTS FORK OVER FOR ISRAELI SEMINARY!

CAN ANYONE SAY MENTAL DISORDER?

 

What a stupid letter. For gods sake - some of these seminaries offer a better education for a girl in one year than the four years they spent in beis yaakov. my three daughters all gained immensely from the seminaries they went to [each went to a different one] and I have no regrets. Did it cost some pretty cash? yeah. Supporting a girl in EY for a year and paying good teachers costs money shmucks! do the math if you don't believe me.
sounds like your mother and sister need some serious help - not the kind seminary can offer either.
I'm so tired of this old litany of barf from a bunch of hags who can't bag a man unless they kvetch

 

as a girl whose been there done that I feel a year of seminary is very important. True maybe u don't always come out a very changed person blah blah blah... but there is definetly something about ur sem expierience that changes you...for sure....WITHOUT A DOUBT... but if u in general don't agree with the whole sem fad...let me tell u the workin world is not easy...so y rush into it... once u start ur not stopping to soon...and also sem makes the transition much easier...nevermind u have to find the right working envoirenment...its not easy keepin strong today..

 

Henny, What you might be misunderstanding is that when it comes to shidduchim and they ask "Which seminary she went to?" the question is really, " Did she go to seminary and if she didnt, why not?...The reason is because the average girl is going to seminary these days, the real question is why is she different than everyone else? If there's a legitimate reason such as her's then there shouldnt be a problem at all. Actually these days the only really acceptable reason for a girl not to go is if the parents cant afford it. She should go and deal with parnassa later...she sholdnt worry abou it now

 

any girl who misses out on seminary, misses a unique time in her life, before she has to work/manage a household/raise kids and deal with life, if she is lucky and her parents find her a good Bashert. She can roam with her friends on Ben Yehuda, or Emek Refaim. This unique opportunity costs a mere 25,000 all told. It is worth the memories and friendships that will stay with her for a lifetime

 

This girl needs to go to college. A college degree ensures her viability in the job market.

 

Hey sister: there are plenty of other communities, some with hashkofos similar to yours, that would not give her such tzoros. She should consider a relocation.

 

i found this article today and i have to say it is very interesting and helpful for me to read as a 23-y.o. baal tshuvah about to attend a year of yeshivah in israel and looking b''h to eventually become married to a sterling frum girl while i somehow can learn and also support a family as well bs''d!!!!!!! it is interesting because i did not come from the frum world at all and only recently getting intiatied into the yeshivish environment, luckily seems i might have the best of both worlds because i already attended college at a well respected university and didn't have any community pressure against it in fact what i have now ironically is community pressure against become frum hahaha. such is life, you just dont know and it seems that even though the frum community and the secular world (of jews) are worlds apart, they are struggling with the same issues, challenges which hashem has given bnei yisroel at this time, and everyone has these questions of working and learning and we have the same kinds of people, those who are in it with their heart and mind and those who are going along in order to satisfy the expectations or just to live an easy life with no pain no struggle.. hashem guides each one on his and her own path if you are a tsaddik or a rasha you will get your share it is ok to do what you have to do and listen to society if you are a decent person, it is ok to break from society if it is not the true way for you. YIDDIM SHOULD LISTEN TO THEIR OWN INNER DIVINE VOICE people will be shown that the real way is not in following any marching orders but in being Hashem's servant through emunah, working on middos, avodas hashem, acts of chesed, and vision so we can be zocheh to see mashiach come soon in our days

 

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