The Time Our Teacher Was Inappropriate

This story, by KJ, makes me happy. Unfortunately, there is a whole lot of latent racism that never gets called out. But now we know that, at least once, a clear message was sent. 

It has been pointed out multiple times on this blog that Bais Yaakovs in the Midwest and Bais Yaakovs on the east coast are not the same thing. As a graduate of a Midwestern Bais Yaakov, I can attest to the fact that this is true.

In my city the Yeshivish community significantly outnumbers the modern orthodox community, and as a result the Bais Yaakov is thriving. Many families, regardless of how they identify religiously at home, opt to send their daughters to school there so they could have access to larger classes and more amenities than what the Modern Orthodox school could offer.

Although the girls in my class came from various backgrounds, my school’s administration was mostly made up of right wing, Yeshivish staff, excluding a non-observant principal for secular studies.

The community’s low cost of living often attracted young families from cities like Lakewood and Boro Park to our kollel, and the wives of the kollel members tended to end up teaching at my school.

Unfortunately these teachers normally had a difficult time understanding the difference between the Midwest schools and the New York area schools they had taught at previously, and they didn’t always grasp that certain things just don’t fly around here.

In seventh grade we had a substitute teacher with a thick Brooklyn accent, and a personality as stiff as her sheitel. Double period of Chumash was never met with much enthusiasm and substitutes rarely manage to grasp the class’s attention. However, there was one lesson that she attempted to teach us that didn’t exactly go as she planned.

I can only assume that after observing the sorry state she felt my class was in (there was a girl named Brittany!), she decided to deviate from Sefer Vayikrah and impart some vital lessons of middos onto us:

It started out as the usual “Don’t be loud in the streets otherwise men will look and be unable to control themselves and Hashem will blame you.” Then it quickly took a dark turn when she told us that we should thank Hashem for choosing us to be Bas Yisroels and not the “shvartza garbage man” or the “Polish cleaning lady.”

These intended words of inspiration were met with shocked stares and some polite mutterings of “umm okay.” Not exactly the fist pumps of approval she was hoping for (although she probably didn’t approve of fist pumping either).

Several of us went home and repeated the incident to our parents. The S-word is equivalent to the N-word at my house, and at many of my classmates homes as well.

After the incident was reported to the administration by several horrified parents, the substitute was fired. Firing was an uncommon practice at my school, because there was often guilt associated with putting a community member out of a job. It’s comforting to know that even our Bais Yaakov has its limits when it comes to racism and bigotry.

Story submitted by KJ

The Time Our Teacher Was Inappropriate

2 thoughts on “The Time Our Teacher Was Inappropriate

  1. Esther says:

    I suspect that I went to the same Bais Yaakov some 30 years ago. I remember when we had home-ec there was some disgusting chore we had to do, maybe scrub the grimy counters in the kitchen, and the home-ec teacher said, “I don’t want my girls to do shvartza work.” Boy was that a major scandal!


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