Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Destroying A Young Person's Respect For Their Parents

For the last few weeks, Rebbetzin Jungreis' column in The Jewish Press has focused on the shidduch problem of "working boys" being viewed as "second class citizens" in the shidduch market*.

This week, she had letters from two young women - one who was looking for a "working boy" and one who was looking for a "learning boy" (while being respectful to workers). However, both girls had one thing in common -- their working fathers were put down to their faces.

The first girl writes (emphasis mine):

Once, my principal accused me of doing some inappropriate things that I would never dream of doing. When I told her that I was raised differently and that my Yiddishkeit meant too much to me to ever participate in the activities she accused me of, she said that she would expect such behavior from me because I was "not a good girl" as I unfortunately "come from a working family." Even more hurtful was when I was told to "not lower myself to my father's level" by marrying a working guy even if he would devote time to Torah.

The second girl had a similar experience when applying for seminary:

I was not prepared for the hurt that was inflicted upon me. The person who interviewed me questioned me about my parents' professions and their heavy work schedules, and then went on to make some very unkind, critical remarks which I prefer not to repeat because, a) it's too hurtful and b) it would be disrespectful to my parents. I left the interview shattered and broke down in tears. I later found out that I was not the only one who had been reduced to tears – other girls were equally mistreated and put to shame.

What the hell is going on here? It's one thing to extol a learning lifestyle, but it's quite another thing to bash a young person's father in front of their face! We're not talking about men who are murderers, tax cheats, rapists or other social and/or criminal misanthropes. We're talking about fine, upstanding human beings who daven every day, go to work each day, probably set aside times to learn Torah, are shomrei Torah U'Mitzvos and obviously feel that their daughters' Torah education is worth the huge monetary investment that they make in it. And what do they get for their money? The administration teaches their kids that they are "on a lower level" and that the home is obviously not a good home. They feel that such people are open game for ridicule and harassment -- and not just behind their backs but to their kids' faces!

I'm also left to wonder about these teachers/administrators who make these remarks. How could these people possibly be allowed to be in chinuch? How can a teacher possibly teach the mitzvah of honoring your parents at one moment and at in the next belittle a child's parent to their face? How do we allow people who obviously have no idea what the mitzvah of lashon hara means to teach our children the halachos of that very mitzvah? How can any school (public, private, parochial... it doesn't matter) allow any teacher to have contact with kids when they destroy the most important things in the lives of those kids -- namely their parents? How dare they! Just who the hell do they think they are?!

I, apparently, wasn't aware of the famous "working father" exception to the mitzvah of kibbud av. I certainly didn't know of the well-known halacha that one is only not allowed to say lashon hara about kollel families. Silly me... I didn't realize that intentionally harming the psyche of a young person was permitted when the target of the attack doesn't spend eight hours in the beis midrash every day. I must have been out working the day they taught those halachos.

If this is the case, I don't know how any working family can send their kids to such a school. It would serve the schools right to have every working family pull out of the school (after all, why send your daughter to a school where she's going to be taught to view you with scorn and disrespect). Let's see the school try to financially survive without the very people that they are harming.

The Wolf

* Yes, I used the term market. That's what it's become, IMHO.


ProfK said...

May I point out a real irony here? Those who denigrate working fathers will have to perforce include all roshei hayeshivas, all yeshiva/seminary rabbeim, all shul rabbis, all yeshiva administrators among those fathers they scorn. Those are JOBS. These people are paid for performing their required work duties. They aren't sitting and learning all day--they are working. Just because the job is not in the general outside world does not mean that it takes up any less time during the day, time that is not spent in bais medrash learning. Since they are not sitting in bais medrash yomom v'loyloh how do they dare to criticize other men who are working also? Their attitude reeks of "do as I say, not as I do." It's rank hypocrisy.

As to lowering a parent in the eyes of a child, I've posted on this before. The yeshivas believe that they are the ones "raising" the children, that they are the "true" parents. Statements like the ones you posted show just how much they believe that the "Kibud Av" belongs to them, not to a child's actual parents.

A pox on them!

Anonymous said...

Here's a clue - whenever anyone has to put someone else down, they're generally insecure about themselves.

Joel Rich

G said...

I sincerely hope that there is a special ring in Hell for people who make it a point to pit children against their parents.

More and more I see that what once was done out of feelings of Shem Shomayim are now done out self perpetuation, self preservation and self legitimization.

I find myself not knowing whether to feel sad or angry.

What the hell is going on here(?), indeed!!!

Larry Lennhoff said...

As far back as the tannaim, rabbis have said that they rank higher than parents. If your father and your rabbi are drowning, and you can only save one, you are halachically obligated to save your rabbi. This is Torah, and has nothing to do with self interest.

BrooklynWolf said...


That's true, but still not a "put-down" of the parent. It doesn't (or shouldn't anyway) cause the kid to think any less of his parents.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Here's a clue - whenever anyone has to put someone else down, they're generally insecure about themselves.

I don't have a problem with insecure people as teachers, per se. However, I do have a problem with teachers and administrators who take what a child cherishes the most and figuratively crushes it in front of their eyes. It's cruel, hurtful and unnecessary for the message that they want to convey.

The Wolf

G said...

If your father and your rabbi are drowning, and you can only save one, you are halachically obligated to save your rabbi.

True, but there is reason for that...and it is not simply because the person carries an honorific!

Anonymous said...

"Larry Lennhoff said...
As far back as the tannaim, rabbis have said that they rank higher than parents. If your father and your rabbi are drowning, and you can only save one, you are halachically obligated to save your rabbi. This is Torah, and has nothing to do with self interest."

That does not apply to anyone who works in your childrens school. That is for a primary teacher (Rabbi muvhak) of someone, like a leading Rav/talmid chacham/posek. It's questionable if that category even exists nowadays. Even if it does, it seems that it applies in only relatively few cases.

ProfK said...

The Aseros HaDibros specifically says that we have to "honor they father and mother." Last I looked that was in the Torah. Someone please give me the parsha and posuk in Torah where it says that if your father and rabbi are both drowning you have to save your rabbi first. As Larry commented "As far back as the tannaim, rabbis have said that they rank higher than parents." So we have the Torah saying honor thy parents and the rabbis saying honor me first? Anyone care to explain? And while you're explaining that one, find me the posuk that says that a rabbi is allowed to "diss" a child's parents to that child's face.

Anonymous said...

I'd encourage these girls to do as I did, walk away from what has become rabbinic tyranny. save a rabbi instead of a parent??? when pigs become kosher.

Anonymous said...

It will be an interesting society in 10 years which has no jobs, no job skills, and no non-Torah education--and has driven away/beaten down anyone who has those things.

(Interesting, too, given Rava's plea in the Gemara--Berachos 35b-- that his students stay away from the Beit Midrash in the planting and harvesting seasons so as not to have parnassah issues year-round. Guess they were all lower-level working families, huh?)

Anonymous said...

Wolf - Are you seriously that naive? Yeshivas have been doing this for years. This is nothing new, I promise you. In their zeal to idolize the notion of being a learner, certain people will necessarily be placed higher on the social scale. Hopefully, the rabbeim are not dumb enough to actually outright insult those people who are not at the top, but even if they don't, the implied message still comes across loud and clear. Learners are the "real" Jews. Everyone else is a distant second.

Here's what I wrote regarding this 3 years ago:

...the yeshivas have already created a society where everyone thinks that's the only way to be a proper Jew! And they're still doing it! They're still pushing the view that the ideal Jew is the learner. The kollel guy. The rebbe. The rosh yeshiva. The mechaber sefer. Whatever. That a proper Jew is supposed to be learning 24/7. That nothing in life is worth doing except limud torah. That any person that tries to be anything else is throwing his life away. That any departure from being a learner has to be excused and justified and explained with a trillion and one rationalizations.

And yes, I came across rabbeim (and roshei yeshiva) who openly disrespected ba'al habatim. And they use countless examples from the torah itself to justify their position: The halacha mentioned above about saving a rebbe is just one of them. Other ones are the various derogatory statements in the talmud about amei ha'aretz, that you should not marry your son off to a daughter of an am ha'aretz, etc. And you can even see an example of this disregard to ba'al habatim in an incident from this past week: Here's a quote from the article: "Rav Mantel would have none of that: (He) stood up and walked out of the hall at these words. He later returned and told the several hundred assembled that "grandchildren and lawyers" will not decide how to implement Torah Im Derech Eretz."

I am sorry, but if you think this attitude is new you are sadly out of touch.

BrooklynWolf said...

But why does it have to be that way? As I said, I don't mind their extolling a learning way of life. Speaking positively about learning is fine. I just don't see why working has to be bashed and spoken about negatively. It *is* possible to present one as an ideal without portraying the other as wrong.

The Wolf

eglantine said...

part of growing up is to realize that in the world of people there is a world of idiots ( for lack of a better term), and that it is in one's self interest to keep away from that world. these young women have had encounters with representatives of this world. it is their choice whether they want to enter it ( i guess the goal would be to become the head idiot or to marry one), or whether they want to draw a line and leave. getting involved emotionally and cognitively with such persons, be they rabbis or rebbezins, entangles one in ways that are akin to co-dependents of addicts. sound, healthy detachment is the only solution. there are options in the world in general and in the world of judaism.
all i can say is that in the middle sized city in the us where i come from kids are getting married, they find spouses, and most jews work (the exception are the kollel folks who are brought in and the occasional very mixed up man who uses "learning " as a way of keeping himself from having to hold a job and experience a mental breakdown. it is important to be a good kid, but there is a degree of "goodness" that results in a frightening lack of autonomous thinking, independence and reliance on common sense.
if just hope these girls and their parents told these yeshivat to forget it.

Anonymous said...

Wolf - Yes, it doesn't have to be like that, but it so often is. And for the people who promote that view, it does have to be that way because they see that as the torah way. When I went through the system, that was the norm. In fact, you yourself wrote about this very problem a year ago.

In my analysis of that issue, I pointed out that this letter is a great example of just how negatively the frum world looks at people who don't spend their full time learning. Some choice excerpts: "You are sub-par!", " need to think that in order to make you feel good about your lifestyle.", "Anyone who really believes really very very confused.", "You are missing everything."

As one of the commenters on that post wrote, this is the norm in the vast majority of the schools wher he lives. Wake up and smell the coffee.

Anonymous said...

Name names- call out those who dare to behave this way. These letter writers, did they square their shoulders, sit down with their parents and tell them what happened? Are not these parents outraged?

I am hearing that it happens all the time, but it cant be all schools - if we name names then we know what choices we have to make. As long as it stays unnamed we all think it happens everywhere and then we are powerless to change it.

Lion of Zion said...


it's terrible the way these girls were treated, but i wonder if they really didn't know what to expect from the school on this issue (although maybe in that manner).

my impression from my neck of the woods is that for various reasons it is fairly common for parents to send children to schools that don't really suit the family. this is true from nursery all the way up to seminary. and then the parents complain about all the "narishkeit" they have to put up with from the school. well what did they expect?

so i wonder the same thing about these girls. i'll bet this issue isn't the only thing that would have jived with their sensibilities. what did they really expect from the school?

btw, a leining post at

Nice Jewish Guy said...

So many things I could say-- I could express obvious incredulity at the whole story, or wonder where the Yeshivas and teachers expect the money to pay their tuitions is going to come from if people don't work, or where newlyweds expect support and a wedding to come from if their parents aren't working, or I could be shocked at the whole business and wonder how parents put up with this sort of abuse-- and it really is abuse-- from those with whom they have entrusted their children's academic and social well-being.

But the truth is, New York, and Brooklyn in particular, is quickly sliding into Hell, and has been doing so for a long long time. I wonder whether there really is any way to be MO in Brooklyn any more. My advice: get the hell out. Move to Queens (KGH) or the 5 Towns (not much better, just more money), or neighborhoods more East, or better yet, get out of the state altogether. Go to Atlanta or Detroit or Dallas or Miami. It's not going to get any better.

Ezzie said...

Great post, which spurred one of my own.

The largest issue is how to stop this: Most kids simply don't recognize what's happening or think that there's anything wrong with it. Parents don't have much of a clue what's happening until it's too late, and/or don't care/want this set of hashkafos. Kids go to high school and Israel and are taught to follow their teachers and specifically NOT their parents, who do A B and maybe even C wrong (there's always something to point to, nobody is perfect), and are taught that they can be "better". How does one go about (re-)educating students to see this before it's ingrained?

DAG said...

I have said it a hundred times, and I'll say it again. The power for real change in the Orthodox community lies in the MO who are bankrolling this nonsense.

If the donations stop...the shtus will stop, believe me.

Lion of Zion said...


i agree with you 100%. not that i have millions to give away, but i generally don't respond to any tzedeaka appeal unless it it can be reasonably accommodated with my hashkafah.

when i say this i am accused of being narrow-minded, bigoted, etc., but so what? how many RW give to MO (or god forbid non-denominational jewish) causes? i don't blame them for not giving to support something they don't agree with, but why should i?

the rabbi of a local shul once gave a shabbat derashah and opened with a story with a stock foil of an MO guy vs. a RW guy (as he does on occasion). the evil MO philanthropist refused to give $ to lakewood, but in the end did teshuva and gave to it. i asked the rav afterward how successful i would be if i went to lakewood and tried to collect for the yeshiva of flatbush.

Lion of Zion said...


"Move to Queens (KGH) or the 5 Towns"

have you been to either one recently?


"The largest issue is how to stop this . . ."

what's the big question? it's entirely in the hands of the parents. all they need to do is stop looking over their right shoulder when selecting schools and making other decisions.

as i wrote above, most parents know very well what they are getting into when they first start sending their kids to schools that they later complain about. so why did they send them there to begin with? and why not complain to the administration and rabbonim instead of ranting at shabbos meals and on anonymous blogs? parents need to take responsibility for themselves. it's that simple.

and as long as i'm ranting, this is one thing i can't stand about the FFs. they've dug the hole they are in, they refuse to climb out of it and then they whine about life in the hole.

Anonymous said...

In Pirkei Avot,we learn that the world stand on three things---Torah, Work,and Acts of Loving Kindness.Giving full credit to the "learning only" world for learning Torah and acts of loving kindness(and that is an act of chesed in itself),they score only 66 2/3%. That's a C- at best.Perhaps they put down "earner learners" because they inwardly feel a need to justify not working for a living,themselves.

Anonymous said...

Parents have to investigate carefully before deciding that any school is appropriate for their sons or daughters. Some schools will have personnel with uniformly splendid attitudes, some will be the opposite, and some will fall somewhere between the two poles. Parents also have to make the necessary adjustments later if the school chosen does not live up to reasonable expectations. How the school is labeled (by itself or by the public), and what tendency within Orthodoxy it belongs to, may not be as important as other factors specific to that school.

Unknown said...

R.NEBENAHL,THE TALMID MUVHAK OF RSZ AEURBACH states clearly 'your Rebbe muvhak-are your parents.'

Larry Lennhoff said...

'your Rebbe muvhak-are your parents.'
My parents have a better command of grammar than that.

Unknown said...


Leah Goodman said...

When I was applying to high school, one of the teachers at my school recommended that I go for a girls-only school.

I considered it. Having gone to public school before (because of my father's work assignments), though, I couldn't imagine it.

I'm so glad I went to Frisch. None of this nonsense. You wanna learn all day? Become a rabbi or a teacher. Some of my rabbeim were incredible people whose derech I've tried to follow. All of them held learning Torah as a high goal, and teaching the next generation Torah as of (at least) equal value.

None of them belittled the importance of making a living to feed and clothe and educate your children, though!

Moshe Klass said...

The letters seem to be a little urban-legendish (I coined a term!). I wonder if Reb. Jungreis was able to verify that they really happened. I suspect not (I'm not blaming her). While this seems like a logical leap and somewhat plausible based on what happens, it does seem a little extreme. Did she happen to receive these 2 letters at the same time as a coincedence or was she holding one for a while or did someone arrange for 2 different letters to be sent in? Perhaps someone with an agenda.
(Full disclosure - I work for the JP)