They want to have total isolation from the rest of the world? I think perhaps we should finally give it to them. It pains me to say so but based on what I am reading in their very own media, going off the deep end is not an exaggeration. It may even be an understatement! It is a wonder that they do not have a bigger OTD problem than they already do. I guess that their system works very well for them that way.
First the good news. In the extremist enclaves of both Chasidic world and non-Chasidic Yeshiva world, there are very positive things that we can all look up to. Their community is very warm and loving. It is almost like having one very big extended family. They learn and promote the values of the Torah as they understand them.
Although it is true for both worlds, the Chasidic communities emphasize things like Chesed programs while in the Yeshiva world there is a stronger emphasis on Torah study. Their community is saturated with a system of family values unlike any other. They get married young and have lots of children. And have a rather effective educational system for their purposes. Chasidim even encourage working for a living albeit without the benefits of a higher education in most cases. (There are exceptions.)
They celebrate life-cycle events with great joy as they do Shabbos and Yom Tov. They live their daily lives with fervent religious devotion. But there is a negative side. A very negative side.
Theirs is a formula that combines all of the above with isolation. There is a complete break from the rest of the world by living their lives in ways that make it difficult if not impossible to participate in anything outside of their own Daled Amos.
Among Chasidim this formula is greatly enhanced by their manner of dress, their pejorative attitude towards non Jews, and their extremely negative attitude about secular education – treating the native tongue (English) as if it were spiritually unclean – as opposed to the ‘spiritually clean’ language of Yiddish. They learn English only as a second language for purposes of survival in a non Jewish culture. I can’t imagine anyone trying to escape it without major difficulty. Although the Yeshiva world does not go that far, there is no shortage of those who desire to catch up with them.
Sliding to the right doesn’t even begin to explain how far off the deep end some of these ridiculous extremes go.
How far? An article has been published by a bold and courageous women who lives in one of these enclaves. Mrs. Tzipi Caton wrote the cover story in last week’s Family First. This is the weekly woman’s supplement that accompanies Mishpacha Magazine. (Yes, I do sometimes read women’s magazines.)
Mrs. Caton is a decidedly Charedi woman. Her Shtreimal wearing Chasidic husband learns full time in a Kollel. They live in a very large Charedi neighborhood that has many exclusive Charedi schools to choose from.
She wanted her nursery school aged daughter, Dassa, to have the finest Charedi education she could provide. So Mrs. Caton applied to some of the more exclusive schools in her neighborhood. Long story short, after applying to six schools, she was rejected by them all. She is apparently not Frum enough for them. What were some of the issues? Let’s start with the contact Mrs. Caton had with the principal of one school. From the article:
She made no effort to hide the way she looked me over from sheitel to shoes. She asked exactly one question about my maiden name, and then sent me on my merry way.
Among the reasons that school rejected her daughter was the following:
(They) didn’t like that I went to an all inclusive Bais Yaakov high school. It didn’t look good for Bais Bina, a chassidish pre-school, to accept children whose mothers didn’t grow up wearing beige stockings.
Here are some of the questions on an application form of another school:
* What (bungalow) colony do you attend?
* Where is it located?
* Who owns the colony?
* List two references from said colony.
* How many times a year do you go up for Shabbos?
* (Is your daughter’s) maternal grandfather, preferred to be referred to as “Rabbi” or “Mister.”
A friend of Mrs. Caton who was granted an interview by one of those schools for her own daughter – something Mrs. Caton did not get. Here is what happened:
(T)he principal called me aside (and) said, “Mrs. Rosenberg, you are 98% of what we are looking for in a prospective parent. The 2% holding me back from full acceptance is a certain something about the way you look. If you would agree for me to take you shopping so that I can reevaluate your wardrobe and help you dress more to the manner that we find appropriate, I would be happy to allow your daughter into our nursery class.”
Another school Mrs. Caton applied to does not allow their parent mothers to chew gum. Or to use cell-phones.
Another school rejected them without any explanation simply saying that her family did not share the values of the school. What values? Keep reading:
This particular school did not allow their teachers to quote any litvish sources in their curriculum, including R’ Moshe Feinstein…
The last school she applied to ended up rejecting her because she had been rejected by so many other schools. How’s that for irony.
I have discussed this with a reliable source who lives in a community like this. Here is what I was told:
[T]he minute a school opens with the intention of being small and select, no matter what denomination they are, this is what happens.
Another thing- when one school in the neighborhood enforces a rule, all the other schools rush to copy it at the risk of seeming “less frum” than the others. So when one school told their parent body that their women were not allowed to wear “pony sheitels” the rest all sent out adjusted handbooks within the week. The same went for banning shoes that were any color but Navy or Black, and yeshivas requiring their boys wear velvet yarmulkas that are composed of “six” slices vs the more “modern” “four slice.” And now that the Chassidish schools in Monsey banned mothers from driving, the driving chassidim have to choose between a chinuch with their mesorah or being a mother who can independently shop for groceries…
Normally I might say live and let live. People have a right to choose any lifestyle they wish, no matter how ridiculous. But when it becomes the ideal of a community that considers itself to be the most religious among us, someone has to call them on it… and expose just exactly what they consider to be more religious.
To make matters even worse, it all comes with a price tag paid for in part by the government. Here is what my source told me:
All of these schools receive government funding because they “offer a service to the community.” Exactly what community are they offering services to? The non-driving community? The non-gum-chewing community? The community where they only wear white stockings on Shabbos and don’t wear earrings that hang below the earlobe? (I kid you not, these are all real examples of the rules) If the politicians knew where their community funding was going – would the schools continue to get those grants? I wonder.
Government funding?! These schools should not even be supported communally, let alone be supported by the government.
I think at this point, we ought to at least give them what they want. Complete isolation from the rest of the world. Including all normal Charedim!
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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