I think we had this speaker too. Sadly, at the time I was more in the category of the Mishmeres student. Anyway, this is from Penina, who managed to not have her internal compass muddled by a Bais Yaakov education.
I was in eleventh grade, and we were told that we were going to be hearing an emunah lecture from a very well-known lecturer on the topic who makes the round of schools.
I was skeptical, but I’d heard the speaker was good and I figured I’d give it a try and, worst case scenario, just take a really long restroom break in the middle.
The guy got up and started talking. He asked all of us why we believed in God. Every single person who raised her hand was greeted with him repeating back her question in a high, stupid-sounding voice sarcastically, as though it was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard, along with some kind of rejoinder explaining how it wasn’t valid, some of which didn’t make particular sense.
When, shockingly enough, people stopped raising their hands, he started in on a whole shpiel about how sometimes, people call him with their confidential questions about emunah — at which point he PICKS UP HIS PHONE AND STARTS READING TEXTS OFF THE SCREEN in silly voices, like “Rabbi! I’m not sure why I should believe in God!” or “Rabbi! Something bad just happened to me and I don’t understand why God could have caused it!”
Previously I’d been angry (particularly because one of the people who’d had her answer blown off was one of my friends) — now I was steaming. He kept on reading these serious questions in silly voices, making fun of all of those mentally delinquent people who might be misguided enough to ask questions on faith, and I just had enough.
He asked if there were any questions before he began, and I raised my hand. I basically told him, very respectfully and calmly, “the way in which you’re speaking and the way that you’re treating people with these questions might feel a bit offensive to them and may prevent people who actually have these questions from feeling comfortable.”
He was flabbergasted and said that he had no idea what I meant. He went on speaking, and the next time he used a silly voice (about 3.6 seconds later) I stormed out of the room and into my principal’s office, where I started yelling at her for bringing such a jerk in to talk to us. She was kind of shocked, a bit apologetic, and told me that he probably didn’t realize that what he was doing was offensive and that she would talk to him and that if I didn’t want to, I didn’t have to go to the Part Two speech the next week, at which point I flipped my lid. (Part Two of this guy? SERIOUSLY?!)
She later told me that she’d in fact spoken to him (which raised my opinion of her a bit) and that he’d had no idea what the problem was; he was just trying to be entertaining, and he would try to improve. I did not, in fact, go to the Part Two speech.
Later that day, a girl stopped me in the hall and asked me why I’d left. I was a bit incredulous but explained that I wasn’t able to sit there while he was being so nasty to people. She told me that I’d missed out and that he’d said a lot of inspirational things and that even if he wasn’t so nice, he still had important things to say.
I conceded her point, but said that I couldn’t be like R’ Meir and Acher, where R’ Meir ate the fruit and threw away the peel. While admittedly I need to work on being able to do that more often, in this case I had absolutely no compunctions about not bothering.
The other girl who came up to speak to me about my walkout was my friend who had been mocked for answering “the wrong answer” to his question, who thanked me for standing up to the jerk.
I told her any time.
Note: I obviously don’t blame the girls who stayed, listened, and hopefully learned something helpful. I don’t really blame my principal, who was shocked to hear what I was saying and followed up. But I blame the speaker, and the kinds of people who foster the idea that it’s okay for people who are representing our religion to vulnerable teenagers to be obnoxious and rude all in the name of humor.