The Time I Was Told To Avoid A Student Who Was A Bad Influence

This story submitted by Leeba Weisberg. It’s one of those stunners that just leave your jaw flapping loosely. 

My Bais Yaakov of Barely-Out-of-Town 9th grade had about ninety five students in three classes and many of my classmates came from other schools. So a few months into the school year I was still getting to know them. One of the girls I met – let’s call her Aliza – seemed nice. She didn’t have the ‘my father is a Rabbi and yours works for a living (gasp) so I’m better than you’ vibe many of the others seemed to project. My parents were baalei teshuva so someone may as well have stuck a “Mudblood” sticker on my forehead because it certainly felt like one was already there.

To me Aliza was certainly in the range of normal for a Bais Yaakov girl. She dressed modestly, stayed away from boys and focused on her studies, although she struggled in many subjects. Which was understandable given the rigor of the coursework.

Like me, she was allowed to watch movies and read whatever she wanted, unlike our classmates from more yeshivish families. But her mother’s style choices were a bit too eclectic for Bais Yaakov tastes (wearing colors other than black and chunky jewelry, for example), her father was clean shaven and her family had a dog. Her family even went on vacation to Florida on occasion – totally verboten. Nothing they did was actually against halacha, but they committed the cardinal sin of not fitting in.

One morning, I was summoned to the principal’s office where the Rebbetzen (no, not the original Rebbetzen – that was before my time) sat me down, looked at me sternly and told me that Aliza was a bad influence and I shouldn’t be friends with her anymore.

I was completely taken aback by this.

I asked if Aliza had done something wrong.

The Rebbetzen said she hadn’t, but that there are certain things her family does that don’t fit within the Bais Yaakov hashkafah and she thinks I’d be better off with other friends. She was only looking after my well-being, you see. I thanked the Rebbetzen and silently resolved to become better friends with Aliza because if she’s someone the Rebbetzen doesn’t like she’s probably someone worth being friends with.

Fast-forward about sixteen years and I’m the intermarried one with a totally secular lifestyle whereas she’s Modern Orthodox living happily with her husband and two kids. We still keep in touch. Who was the bad influence on whom?

The Time I Was Told To Avoid A Student Who Was A Bad Influence

2 thoughts on “The Time I Was Told To Avoid A Student Who Was A Bad Influence

  1. Zorm says:

    Why does this not surprise me at all?
    A principle getting personally involved in a students life because her parents are BTs so they dont know whats best for their child.

    At a very chassidish seminary I went to a friend of mine was told not to be my friend because I had internet access and some not frum relatives. (I cant think of any other reasons she wouldnt be allowed to be my friend. I was a model student in most ways)

    She obviously started spending loads of time with me, but as the good girl I was I made an extra effort to be a good influence on her.

    I tried so hard to be good back then. I am still confused as to why I was considered a bad influence.


  2. Maara says:

    it’s quite an interesting concept where the ones that truly end up not interested in Judaism and leave the community are the ones that you would least expect it. In high school there were a few kids who were “shiksas” yet it all seemed to be a method of rebellion rather than actually not believing in it. However, when it came to the girls who didn’t fit into either the super frum category or the “she’s mamish otd” category, there were a few that ended up leaving the community.

    But I really don’t understand the principals who believe that they would be listened to when telling students that they should not speak to other students. As the daughter of BTs it was normal to be watching movies and the principals of my old school criticized my parents for it. At one point they even barred us from going to the public library at which my parents and I laughed and my father drove me there every time. I don’t know if there were people telling others not to be friends with me but to those that do something like that, I would tell them to lower their “bad influence” standards.


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