Got this from Penina a few weeks ago. It dates back a bit, which just goes to show that some developments aren’t as recent as we think. Including, apparently, the whole seminary thing.
A quick one! This stuff is not new, sadly…
It’s 1984 in Oceani— sorry, a small but growing Makom Torah on the East Coast, in their one bais yaakov high school. This is the school where everyone went, from the chassidim to the litvish to the pants-wearing modern to the former pants-wearing daughter of baalei teshuvah, as in the girl in the story.
It was a treacherous place to be in. The principal, Rebbetzin C (not her real initial), was a known Brisker hard-liner whose words were either absorbed with passionate fervor or very deliberately leaked out the other ear. (The girl in question, over thirty years later, still gets traumatic flashbacks when she learns the sefer of navi which this rebbetzin taught her.) This nearly drove the girl, R (not her real initial either), to leave school early for college, but she decided in the end to stay through twelfth grade, which meant that she was around for the seminary parsha.
In 1984, there weren’t many acceptable options for seminary — BJJ, Machon Devorah, Bais Yaakov of Bnei Brak (whose students were not allowed to hang out with the impure influences of their high school classmates), and, for the flip-out-able, Sharfmans. But R and her friend, T, who was from a highly regarded yeshivish family in this Makom Torah, made the unthinkable decision — they chose Michlalah.
Michlalah! That makom tumah where girls celebrated Yom HaAtzmaut! Where the dorms were shared with dati leumi Israelis and worse, girls from Central High! The school that Rav Shach had banned! (Though the ban had been revoked about a decade earlier, that wasn’t going to stop anyone from pointing this out. Would he have banned it in the first place if there wasn’t something there?) Where girls lived in apartments and weren’t locked into their dorms every night!
From the start, their odds were stacked against these intrepid students. Their transcripts could simply not, with good conscience, be sent to such a school, so R and T mimeographed every one of their report cards from high school to send in instead, with an apologetic note explaining the circumstance.
The interview took place at another school an hour away, as the thought of asking for an in-school interview spot was never even considered. And when their acceptance letters, after their hard efforts, had been received, they rejoiced.
It wasn’t over, though.
Friday assembly came, and Rebbetzin C did not let the opportunity pass without making it very clear what a shameful incident was being committed in her very own Bais Yaakov!
They were abandoning all of the spiritual growth of the last four — nay, twelve — years of Bais Yaakov by traveling to this den of Zionist tumah!
They were sacrificing their very spirituality which had been so carefully inculcated in them and pursuing, instead, emptiness!
They had chosen in contravention to the gedolei Torah and would pay dearly for this!
Just because one’s parents do not understand the community norms does not mean one should ignore them, and just because one’s parents have high standing doesn’t mean one should flout them!
They would never find the shidduchim hagunim that she thought they could have achieved! (This said like a personal mission statement.)
She hoped that they would see the error in their ways and contact her for help with a more suitable placement! Otherwise, she would simply not recommend these girls as a positive influence on their schoolmates, given their rebellious tendencies.
R and T were silent through all these. R had no compunctions — her family wanted her in a Zionist place and no Brisker objection was going to stop them. T was slightly more nervous — was she really impacting her family and future? — but stayed strong.
Two weeks later, a girl came over to R. “So in the end what are you doing next year?” she asked. (This girl was going to BYBB.)
“What do you mean?” asked R confusedly. “Michlalah! I’ve been accepted and it was my first choice! I’ve said it for weeks?”
The girl looked at her in shock. “But you heard what the Rebbetzin said about Michlalah!”
“Yes…” To R, the penny had not yet dropped.
“You’re still going, even if it will impact your spirituality, influence you toward Zionism, and prevent you from getting good shidduchim? None of that matters to you?”
“No, it really doesn’t.”
The girl backed away, slowly. “I don’t think I should be talking to you, then.” She turned and walked away, and they didn’t speak for the rest of the year.
R and T both turned out fine, if you’re wondering, with R in particular, after seminary, continuing her rebellious track by achieving a Wall Street career and hitchhiking Europe until she married and became surprisingly yeshivish. The Rebbetzin would have been pleased, after a few rotations in the grave.