The Time My Mother Called the Rabbi Listed on the School Letterhead

Here’s a funny one from Rose about the need to have the right names listed to garner community approval. 

In sixth grade we had this awful English teacher that we didn’t like. She had us read a book called Wringer by Jerry Spinelli, which was about wringing pigeons’ necks. I read the first chapter and complained to my mother about it. The people in it were pretty awful to each other (as well as the pigeons.)  My mom read the book in one night and said “You are not reading this book for school.”

She decided not to fight this with the low ranks, and went straight to the top. So she called the (big, local) rabbi whose name was on the school letterhead. She read him passages and said that he was on the Halachic board, what did he think?

He said “What school?” She named it. “I’ve never heard of this school. Are you sure I’m on the letterhead?”

She confirmed it was true.

“What’s the number? I’ll say that in this day and age you can’t make a girl read a book that her mother doesn’t approve of.”

The principal was kind of upset. She said they had read passages to a rabbi and he said it was okay. Obviously, that was a different rabbi. Not the (very prestigious) one listed as their Halachic Board.

I got to read a different book “Among the Hidden.” The principal graded it because the teacher refused to have anything to do with my book report.  The principal noted on my report that it was a great book – one of her favorite – and a great book report.

My friend also wanted to read “Among the Hidden” and wanted to have a second book discussion with me. She didn’t succeed. Because her mother didn’t call the rabbi. The teacher made a speech about how you can just move past the icky parts and get over it. So she did.

The Time My Mother Called the Rabbi Listed on the School Letterhead

The Time We Got Handed Bnos Melachim Newsletters

This story is also from Rose. Her conclusion: “Then, two years later the principal got ousted and the school went downhill quickly, and now they’re embroiled in a legal battle and scandal.” 

My principal in elementary school was really good – there’s been some positive stories about her on this blog already. She had a requirement that any paper handed out by any teacher had to be signed by her. Any homework or anything. I remember sitting in her office once because I was in trouble and she had a huge stack of papers to go through for the entire school.

She was very involved.

Once we got handed out a Bnos Melachim newsletter. It had tznius standards that were… not in line with the school’s. Things like your skirts need to be four inches below the waist and four inches of fabric out from the waist (so it isn’t snug), opaque tights and the like.

There were also three stories for inspiration. One was about a girl who threw out her skirts so she could buy new ones, and paid with a post-dated check because she had no money and had none coming in (which I think is technically stealing?)  and for some reason the check didn’t bounce; Hashem magically made the money appear in her account.

One of the other stories was about a woman who wanted to take a class to help her special-needs child. But the class was going to be mixed. She didn’t know what to do — how could she compromise her ideals, but how could she not do everything to help her child? I forget how it worked out, but in the end she didn’t need to compromise.

Many parents read the tznius standards and called the school to complain. They wore nude tights. They didn’t want to have to deal with the inevitable grilling from their 8th graders.

The principal gathered our classes together and came in and apologized that we got handed this newsletter, explaining that the standards expressed therein didn’t match those of the school.

But she added that the story about the special-needs kid’s mother did make her tear up, and she pointed out that disagreeing with something doesn’t mean you have to throw out any value it has.

She also offered to take back any newsletters that anyone wanted to get out of their possession.

The Time We Got Handed Bnos Melachim Newsletters

The Time We Tried to Celebrate Yom Haatzmaut

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.

The Time We Tried to Celebrate Yom Haatzmaut