This story illustrates one reason I think Modern Orthodox Judaism and Yeshivish Judaism are two very different strains of the same religion. The other being the approach to history and tradition. This story is from Rose.
It was sixth grade. We got to school a little early and the teacher wasn’t there yet. We decided since it was Yom Haatzmaut that we’d make Israeli flags to wear on our backs. So we went to the office for colored paper and they asked us who our teacher was. So we named our teacher, Mrs. Isaanman.
When Mrs. Isaanman got in, she was angry, because in the office they asked her what project she was doing that required all that blue and white construction paper. She told us that Yom Haatzmaut was not a holiday that we celebrate.
Then she asked us to start davening.
I asked if we were going to say hallel. Steam coming out of her, nose she said ABSOLUTELY NOT.
She also made us take off our flags.
Our second morning teacher came and we asked if we could wear our flags.
She said she doesn’t really understand the entire story but some say that the reason mashiach hasn’t come yet is because there’s a state of Israel, so she’d rather we didn’t wear the flags in her class.
Since she didn’t issue a strong, blanket ban, some of us left them on.
That’s the only time the words Yom Haatzmaut were ever mentioned in my Bais Yaakov elementary school career.
This story submitted by Elana
My seminary teacher was a… fanatic. She once told us that girls dressing up on Purim was like eating pork on Yom Kippur.
One of her admirers… went to her house a lot to help her with all her many kids.
One day our teacher made this student a sandwich before she went back to seminary. After she finished eating, the student took out a bencher from her handbag and started to bentch. The bentcher happened to be from YU and had the YU logo on it.
The teacher looked at the bentcher, grabbed it, and threw it into the trash.
The student looked at her in shock.
“YU is treif!” the teacher exclaimed. “Their memorabilia belongs in the garbage!”
“But mommy,” her daughter protested, “It’s sheimos. How can you throw it in the garbage?”
“I promise you, anything that says the word ‘Torah U’Madah’ on the cover isn’t sheimos. Ask Totty when he comes home, you’ll see that he agrees with me.”
This one is from Lyl
When it comes to tznius, you just can’t win. Unless you toe the line exactly and wear what your teachers wear. I remember when the story about the burka-ladies in Beit Shemesh broke. A teacher gave us a whole speech about how wrong they were, and they were actually the antithesis of tznius, because they were just doing it for attention. And, as we all know, anything that draws attention to you is untznius, even if nobody can tell who you are!
My friend likes to remind me of this one whenever she feels like making fun of “how frum you were.”
For the record, I’m not ashamed. Until I was 20, I had barely spoken to a man who wasn’t related to me. I had been taught that making eye contact or appearing too interested in what a guy was saying was flirting. Our teachers warned us about the plague of young couples sharing Shabbos meals, because his wife talks to her husband, and they’re all talking and laughing together, and next thing you know everyone is jealous of everyone else’s spouse and marriages are in shambles.
Bad things happen when you talk to men you aren’t married or related to.
So when my modox friend Shana got engaged to her high-school boyfriend in seminary and decided to introduce him to her Bais Yaakov friends in the Central Bus Station on motzai Shabbos…
I mean, is there any clause in the previous sentences that isn’t treif? High-school boyfriend. Introduce to female friends. Central Bus Station. On motzai Shabbos no less. This was a terrible idea!
Seriously, I have Bais Yaakov friends whose husbands I could barely recognize on the street. Why would I need to know them? Why would you introduce them to other women?
Besides, we were equivocal about our feelings regarding this match. Obviously, no relationship involving a high-school boyfriend could last. We had it drilled into us that teenagers were incapable of making clear-headed decisions regarding members of the opposite gender, so anyone you crushed on in high school was, by definition, a Bad Idea. It made much more sense to wait until you were older and could pick a guy based on a paper shidduch resume and a few hours spent sipping drinks in a hotel lounge.
But, being good friends (and also feeling guilty about missing the vort) we showed up to that pit of tuma’ah, the Central Bus Station on motzai Shabbos.
In some ways it delivered on its reputation and in some it didn’t.
Sure, there were girls I recognized, wearing jeans under their skirts, hanging out with boys. But they were the girls from summer camp you expected to own a pair of jeans and a boyfriend. And honestly, they weren’t doing anything but eating pizza together. As scenes of horror go, it was fairly innocuous.
Besides, there I was as well, eating pizza with a guy. Granted, it was three of us and one of him, and he was appropriately engaged to Shana, but…
It was profoundly uncomfortable. Was I supposed to look at him when he spoke? Respond to him when I had something to say? Wouldn’t that be flirtatious? And then he might notice there were other women in the world and jealousy and relationship shambles would follow. That was a fact.
So we focused our attention on Shana instead, chatting with her about engagement and wedding plans, and her poor fiance got the cold shoulder. Sometimes, to be inclusive, we’d give him a sidelong glance. Eventually, he stood up and walked away, leaving us to it.
I felt relieved.
Shana felt embarrassed.
She and her husband still laugh at me for it.
(For the record, my husband and I hosted them for Shabbos recently. No spouse-swapping or other improprieties ensued. Another side point: All Shana’s sisters also married their high-school boyfriends and have remained married for, on average, a decade so far. So much for that theory.)
If you live in Israel and want to see a pretty awesome chareidi women-only musical production, you go to the annual Tzir Chemed benefit play in Jerusalem. This year they sold out about 6,000 seats for six showings, and they are hitting Belgium and London with their road show. Because they’re that good. (Full disclosure: my sister-in-law is a director.)
When I was in seminary, my sister-in-law had a small part in their production of “Olivia with a Twist,” so, even though I had never willingly been to a frum play in my life, I went with a bunch of classmates.
I was impressed by many things about the production: their use of the limitations of the stage, the authenticity of their costumes, and, my favorite, the way they spun Fagin as the Carmen Sandiego of London, including some sly references to the old DOS computer game. (Nostalgia!)
Part of the last bit was a dance in which Fagin (in trenchcoat and fedora) leads a shadowy gang of criminals through London. It was a breathtaking, truly professional dance, complete with the requisite Carmen Sandiego silhouette cameo moments.
On the bus home, we reviewed our favorite moments. We kept coming back to the dance, which had impressed us so much. It was not your typical bais Yaakov play dance. It was just a different level of dance. It was beyond anything you’d expect from a frum choreographer.
A few days later, via the gossip grapevine, we heard that the play had come under fire from the chareidi tastemakers – because of that dance. Immediately, debate raged in our group about what made it objectionable.
“It was just too good,” argued one friend. “Frum productions aren’t that good.”
“It was the music,” someone else suggested. “Maybe it was too dark and heavy.”
We argued for a week. Then, somehow, we wound up in the office of a nearby seminary with some girls I didn’t know watching a bootleg DVD of the dance. We’d watch it once, rewind, and watch again, arguing the entire time about what was wrong with it.
“There!” someone shouted, freezing the screen. “Right there! See how she moves her shoulder like that? It’s not tznius.”
We rewound and watched the shoulder-wiggle half a dozen times, trying to see that half-second move condemning the entire play.
“It’s the police siren at the end. Sirens are like, a rap music thing.”
“It’s the glorification of crime. That’s not a frum ideal.”
And finally, after about thirty minutes of rewinding: “Why are we watching this over and over again if it’s banned? It’s obviously not appropriate. We just have too much timtum halev to realize why.”
Anyway: The choreographer quit the production team in disgust, and the company was saved from being put in cherem.
Fast forward to when I’m in college, and a great secular pop musician dies. The nation mourned. My classmates argue over what his greatest works were.
“I’ve actually never heard any,” I confessed.
“WHAT?” the horror in the room was palpable. Immediately, laptops went on, YouTube was accessed, and I was sat down in front of the music video for Thriller.
And then I understood.
I understood why the dance had been so polished, and I understood why an American choreographer had slipped it into the production, and I understood why none of us aidel maidels recognized it.
What I didn’t understand was: how were those super-frum Israeli tastemakers so familiar with the works of Michael Jackson?