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Consider Emily Pearl Kingsley, who in 1987 wrote an article about raising her Down Syndrome son:

There’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland [instead of Italy] and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…If you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

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We have been here before, we have wanted our generation to go one place and they end up in another. We have had a generation of parents who dreamed about “my son, the doctor,” and mourned as their children defied them and joined the ranks of kollel yungeleit. We have seen a generation who campaigned for every child to be “my son, the Rosh Yeshiva,” the pressure of which burnt out hundreds of our boys and sent them to the streets.

When Emily Kingsley saw that her child wasn’t what she dreamed, she changed her dream. And in doing so, she saved both herself and her son.

These girls, these daughters of these growing shuls, are ready to get on a plane that is not quite headed where we thought it was going; these communities and families are bringing up a generation of girls that are going to find that they don’t fit into the institutions already here. Italy will not suffice; the mizrachi, the modern Orthodox, and the Bais Yakov solutions are equally unsuitable. These girls aren’t headed for Italy. They are headed directly for Holland.

Where they will find Yehuda running around, padlocking the doors of institutions.

It should be sobering to us all.

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Rachel Burk is an alumnus of Afikei Torah

8 COMMENTS

  1. very well written and good point made.i have always called these the "middle schools" (afikei, darchei binah, michllala, sharfmans, tomer devorah…) where the staff and education is chareidi but the girls are expected to be sincerely frum – sans "box". each year more bais yaakovs open and these middle schools are struggling to keep registration up. so the question really is, where are the girls from the families mentioned applying if not to these few options?

  2. Nechama – I'm not so sure how I feel abt that article. I think that there are schools that cater to those types of girls that are successful – the main thing that keeps them successful is that – they stay true to the vision and goals of the school that they portray to the girls when they go recruiting. I know that sharfmans most definitely stays true to that, and how they portray themselves to be. So girls get there and are comfortable and happy there. They don't comein in Shana Aleph and feel that the teachers want them to be 'bais yaakovy' – although the teachers are charedi, the girls get a huge sense of acceptance for who they are and they are taught tru hashkafa and torah and many choose on their own to become 'more chareidi'. I think the problem, which is why some other sschools do not succeed, is when they recruit and tell girls they are and will be a certain way but when the girls come, they feel that the school is and seems to be catered to a much more 'bais yaakovy' mentality than they originally thought.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this article. I went to Afikei just last year and my life was truly changed (for the better) by it. It's alarming how many of the middle ground schools like Afikei have closed recently and people should be aware of it.

  4. Thanks for this article Rachel. I also went to Afikei for 2 years. I am still in touch with the students and teachers, I really wanted my daughter the go there when she grows up 🙁 I guess not. It was a great school!

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