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?