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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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I’m not a sexist; I’m a realist responds to one of the readers who weighed in with their own viewpoints on the subject of the heavy curriculum that is par for the course in a Bais Yaakov high school. (See Chronicles 12-23-2011 and 1-13-2012)

Dear Rachel, I’m “the realist” who wrote the letter regarding my BY education (or lack thereof). I think that everyone responding had great points — even those who didn’t agree with me, like the grandmother from Europe and the wife who found her knowledge of halacha useful in her kitchen. I must, however, take issue with one responder who is under the assumption that in today’s times girls can learn all the wonderful skills of running a home from their mother.

The following is my response to “Proud husband of a BY graduate.”

You ask, “Does this girl have parents?” Yes, this girl has parents, and not just any parents. The parents I grew up with are community role models. My father is a respected rabbi, askan and a talmid chacham in his community. My mother, who is ALWAYS involved in some sort of chesed, davens three times a day, completes tehillim numerous times and is a role model to many women.

The kitchen in their home is in compliance with every possible chumrah. Their kashrus standard is par excellence, and their Shabbos table is never devoid of guests, many not yet completely observant and look to my parents for guidance.

So, yes, Proud Husband of a BY Grad, I have parents almost any BY girl would be envious of — at first glance.

Here’s the catch: Being great people in their own right does not make them effective at parenting. Why didn’t I learn how to cook from a mother who is a great cook herself? Simple. I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen. Whether it was because my mother was afraid I’d make a mess or treifen things up is irrelevant at this point. When I got married I didn’t even know how to make something as simple as rice. The only time I was permitted, or more like required, to be in the kitchen was to dry dishes on motzei Shabbos.

I even had school lunches packed for me throughout high school. All my classmates envied my lunches, while to me they represented being stifled and deprived of practicing my creativity in the kitchen. No one could understand why I constantly gave away my lunches. Whereas my friends craved my irresistible sandwiches made with fresh home-baked bread, I hankered for those cans of tuna and peaches my friends threw in their knapsacks as they ran for the bus.

My mother would also mend all of our clothes; her skill at the sewing machine was impeccable. But if you believe that while my friends had to schlep to a seamstress to get simple things like hems fixed my mother was giving me sewing lessons, think again. She was too busy making shidduchim or helping out this one or that one.

Cleaning skills? A cleaning lady took care of the household cleaning chores, while the washer and dryer took care of our clothing and I had the honor of folding all the laundry (that is, until I got older and refused to do it any longer). I was appointed with the task of putting away the laundry where it belonged, but this was no skill. For me it was nothing but a robotic chore. Anyone can learn to fold laundry and to put it away.

Communication skills? When my parents communicated with one another (I’m pretty certain they must have at some point or other), I wasn’t around. Whether it was because they communed behind closed doors or because I was preoccupied with other things doesn’t really matter. The end result is the same: I learned very little communication skills by watching my parents.

If you’re wondering about their communication with me, all I can say is “What communication?” My early years were spent being dictated to, and in my later years I fought and rebelled against their orders. Needles to say, effective communication cannot be learned that way.

They were great, though, with people outside our home. My father is a great orator who can give great presentations in both secular subjects as well as Torah matters, and my mother gives beautiful shiurim that many women in the community attend.

So I did learn how to communicate beautifully with strangers but learned nothing about how to communicate with people who count the most in my life: my husband and children. People love and respect my parents, and I don’t mean to denigrate them, just to make the argument that an amazingly talented person may not necessarily be capable of transmitting all those wonderful qualities to his or her children.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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