Friday, July 29, 2011

Just heard some fantastic news!

A fellow alumni of mine from Bat Torah Academy (which later changed its name to the Alisa M. Flatow Yeshiva) has announced that it's shutting its doors for good! Boy do I have some stories to tell about that place...

But unfortunately I don't have the time right now, as I'm about to leave for a road trip with B and the dogs to visit my in-laws in the Midwest for the weekend. I figured out an alternative route for the way back home that takes us through some cool places and cities we haven't been to before in Kentucky and Tennessee, and which only adds an hour to our driving time (and when we're already driving 10+ hours, one more isn't a big deal). So that should be fun, cause the route we usually take is pretty boring- only 1 major city, and just a bunch of farms and forests and hillbillies the whole way there.



  2. Modern orthodox has been dying off, while ultraorthodoxy expands, for about the past 60 years.

  3. If you need any travel info, I've been to all 50 states and I love Tennessee.

  4. "Just heard some fantastic news!"
    So, is the FANTASTIC news that your former school is closing? Was it evil? I mean really evil, otherwise why would ANYONE want the destruction of something?

    Maybe a "too bad it didn't grow/get better/whatever" might be more appropriate than "ding dong the witch is dead."

  5. I've been reading your blog for a few months and just wanted to say how much I like it, and you. I admire your choice to live life by your own rules. Peace to you, B and the dogs!

  6. Chaim, it was a terrible place, and since this news has been announced a lot of my fellow alumni have been coming forward with even more horrible stories I hadn't heard about at the time. It was a bad place regardless of the religious aspect-it was a place where individuality went to die. They also had students spying on each other outside of school and informing on us to the principle...

    In HS I went through a phase where I wore all black clothing for a while (totally within the dress code, just plain black clothes) and my parents got called in for a 'talk' about it and apparently they were threatening to expel me for it. For the color of my clothing!.

    At the end of 11th grade a friend of mine wanted to run for student gov. and the principle wouldn't let her for some BS reason, so I told her I would go with her to talk to the principle about maybe changing the policy to let her run. Somehow this ended with me in the teacher's lounge being yelled at in front of all the teachers about how I was never going to succeed in life and I was always going to be a failure at everything I tried.

    JP- For once I agree with you, I think the reason the school is closing is cause modern orthodoxy is dying off- people are either becoming charedi or going OTD- I saw this in the town I grew up with, when I was young women wore pants, didn't cover their hair outside of shul, around when I was 10-14 there was a noticeable shift to the right, lots of women started covering their hair all the time, threw out all their pants, etc. (including my mom). BTA moved the school from the monsey area to NJ a couple of years ago cause there wasn't enough MO people in monsey to sustain it anymore, and apparently there weren't in NJ either. I bet the recession is also coming into play- MO people are probably more likely to send their kids to public school if money is very tight, while charedi people might do more to keep them in yeshiva

    Philo- thanks for the link! I had head this info from another alumni, but I couldn't find any news articles to confirm it.:)

  7. chaim - to add to what I just said- I don't think any particular thing was all that bad, but there was this strong culture of spying on each other and bullying students into maintaining certain standards (despite their parents wishes) to keep up appearances. I felt bullied by teachers more than I ever was from other students-I had teachers openly mock me in class for daring to ask questions, I would do something that broke a rule (like once I wore silver nail polish) and the principle would publicly shame me (gave a speech to the whole school about silver nail polish not being acceptable). A friend of mine says that the principle once called her a slut cause you could see 1/4 inch of her knee. Another friend was called a 'Nachash" by the principle (the serpent from the adam and eve story) cause she had an all-girls sleepover on new years, and apparently new years celebrated jesus's bris and therefore all the jews who were killed in his name.

    That first paragraph in that article about "individuality" is entirely bullshit and almost a slap in the face. Although the dude who said it wasn't involved with the school during my time, so it's possibly it's changed in the past 10 or so years.

  8. Sad stories, all - the school seems misguided at best but maybe a bit shy of EVIL, no?

    The fact remains that a school in general is a good thing in this world. To have a school close - even if it's because of their own hubris and misguided notion of what it is SUPPOSED to mean to be MO - is sad. It's sad that instead of teaching the majesty of Judaism and Torah, they just reinforced the stereotype of Orthodxy being more interested in style than substance. That they chose to use shame and spying and name calling rather than looking towards knowledge and beauty and balance and Torah to make strong, smart, and capable young women is sad.
    Too many in the MO world are forced to choose between pretending to be Charedi-light vs a more observant part of the "regular" Jewish world - your a perfect example of the consequences - and again I find it sad.

    To celebrate a school closing BECAUSE of this misguidedness seems just as misguided.

  9. I'm an educator and I appreciate the value of an education, but that place was pure evil entirely apart from the fact that 50% of what we spent our time learning about was fairy tales...oops, sorry, religious dogma. And I arrived in college way behind on secular knowledge too, so it's not like they were even good at that.

    I don't think a school in general is always automatically a good thing, especially if they are spreading destructive falsehoods and crushing peoples spirits. So yes, I will fully celebrate the closing of a place that caused 4 of my teenage years to be hellish and miserable. Maybe if I had gone to public school like I begged my parents to let me do for 4 years, I might not be OTD today.

  10. Moderate streams in most religions are dying. Mainstream Protestant denominations are losing members to Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, MO and RW Conservative are losing ground. All the while, both the far left and far right are growing. It's sad to see this ever-increasing polarization in society is reflected in religions as well.

  11. The middle of the road is the most likely place to get run over.

  12. Rambam Mishneh Torah:

    "The two extremes of each quality are not the proper and worthy path for one to follow or train himself in. And if a person finds his nature inclining towards one of them or if he has already accustomed himself in one of them, he must bring himself back to the good and upright path."

    "The upright path is the middle path of all the qualities known to man. This is the path which is equally distant from the two extremes, not being too close to either side. Therefore the Sages instructed that a person measure (lit., estimate) his character traits, directing them in the middle path so he will be whole.

  13. "A friend of mine says that the principle once called her a slut cause you could see 1/4 inch of her knee."

    I wouldn't normally nitpick on this, but you used the word many times consistently, so I don;t think it was a typo, and you **are** an academic with a PhD and a teacher.

    The correct word you want use use is "principal."

  14. "Rambam Mishneh Torah"

    Modern orthodox Judaism, mainline protestant churches, agnostic secular humanism, etc are intermediary stages between atheism on one hand and Judaism or christianity on the other. Gradually these transitional movements dry up as people move on to something more consistent.

  15. ha, well I guess I don't have occasion to write the word "principal" very frequently.

  16. MO Judaism, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc. are a transition state to atheism? . That's your best response to Ramban's laws about moderation rebutting your statement about the middle road? Rational dialogue with you is impossible.

    I've reached an epiphany. Your pathetic arguments and illogical statements , solely founded in your narcicism can only be dealt with by one effective means. Ignoring you completely.

  17. I'm against all forms of extremism and against schools that teach this under the guise of religion.

  18. Not seeing why a school is an inherently good thing. All American children are entitled to an education through the age of 18. The existence of this special private school does NOT give an education to someone that would not otherwise have one, it is an alternative. If the alternative education is better than they would otherwise get, the school is a social good. If it is inferior, then it is a social bad.

    AE, you're probably right. Had your parents let you get out of a system that was stifling you, you probably would have a positive association with Judaism. I don't know that you'd be Orthodox in anyway, but you might have relegated those negative experiences to middle school, like those of us with negative after school Hebrew school experiences, and seen a beauty in our culture and traditions and wanted to continue that.

    So sorry that you were tortured in this way...

    The thing I find most "amusing" about the "It Get's Better" campaign -- it's targeting gay teens, but really could apply to ANY teenagers who are outliers in the strange social constructs that are middle and high school.

    The computer geeks, band geeks, debate geeks, music geeks, personal sport athletes (gymnasts, ice skaters, etc)., for ALL of those groups that didn't fit in the strange mold of their school, it gets better.

    Inside of Orthodoxy, you see lots of people who were miserable in Yeshiva, went "OTD" for a while, then as their passions cooled, returned in some manner because they liked their childhood and wanted to share that. Early marriage locks in OTDness the same way in locks in Frumkeit, no chance to really think about thing. I presume amongst the OTD Jews, you meet plenty for whom a warm childhood didn't exist, or if it did, wasn't enough to counter middle/high school.

  19. AE, the MO community in NJ is thriving but Bat Torah could not succeed here b/c there was too much competition with other schools that simply were better at providing a good education such as Ma'ayanot which has become a very popular choice for local parents & for parents who wanted a more right wing but not a BY kind of school, there is Bruriah in Elizabeth. Bat Torah was mostly a good option for weaker students who would do better in a smaller environment with less academic pressure.
    My daughter went to Bat Torah for 4years & did not love it but there weren't too many options & therefore we just stuck it out. As parents, we were very upset that the principal charged the parents of kids in the lowest track, also called the 'skills track' an extra 4-5k per year which was totally unacceptable especially since the same teachers who taught the 'honors track' were also teaching the skills track & they could not believe that us parents were being charged extra & we couldn't believe it either but unfortunately we didn't feel like there were too many options & therefore we were mostly stuck in the school.
    In short, it was not a great school at all academically but it did serve a purpose for weaker students who would not thrive in the other MO girls' schools but it was totally unacceptable that we parents were totally ripped off by the so-called skills classes which was a TOTAL rip-off.

  20. AE, I understand your strong feelings, but it just seems like your forgetting that conflict ALWAYS has two participants.
    (I guess this part of your 'mantra' still needs some practice: "Love everyone...")

    btw, the princiPAL is your pal. That always worked for me.

  21. "That's your best response to Ramban's laws about moderation rebutting your statement about the middle road?"

    Rambam is referring to character traits, not belief. Apples and oranges.

  22. @batya- That is a terrible policy and probably discriminatory! I don't think that was the policy when I was a student there in the 90s.

    MO in NJ might be thriving but the reason bat torah left the monsey area in the first place is because it's not thriving in monsey anymore.

    Funny that mayanot is considered such a better school now, I think they just opened a year or two after I started HS, and at the time it was an unknown place and people were leary of sending their kids there,nice to hear they are known for high academic standards nowadays! :) Sad that BTA is/was for the less academically oriented...probably another reason I didn't thrive there...I was not academically challanged enough, and was completely bored and underwhelmed by the people they chose to teach us. But my mom really was into their strong fine arts program cause she wanted me to have arts training. I'd rather have had the academic challenge.

  23. If a school closing leaves an educational gap, then it is indeed a shame.

    However, if a school which was mediocre to bad closes due to competition from better options, that's arguably a good thing. Bad schools hurt kids in general, and a bad Jewish school causes spiritual harm as well.

    As for the notion that MO and "the religious middle" are dying - I think that's a premature statement.

    Years ago, people were saying the same thing about Orthodoxy - esp. the ultra-Orthodox variety. That's what the trends of the time indicated. Guess what? They were wrong. Nobody really anticipated the combined impact of the post-war influx of ultra-Orthodox refugees, the fact that the State of Israel would allow ultra-Orthodox communities to flourish, the modern welfare state which would allow ultra-Orthodox families to feed their children, the development of the birth control pill and the fact that it would be used far more by the moderate religious streams, labor laws that made 2-day weekends the norm and allowed shomer Shabbos Jews to find jobs, anti-discrimination laws, multiculturalism or the growth of the BT movement.

    I'm not really sure what the religious landscape will look like in 30 or 50 years. I can guess at some trends - we do see polarization, but we also see push-back. I know things will change, and odds are that the changes may be ones that we'd never anticipate.

  24. AE, I think Mrs B. came up with the idea of charging extra for the skills classes around the time that I sent my daughter there. I remember being SHOCKED when we received the acceptance letter informing us of the skills class & the additional $5k that she was charging for it at the time(which was really for NOTHING b/c there were NO services provided). It was especially shocking since Mrs. B. prided herself in charging the least amount of all the other Bergen County schools & in the end it was hardly a bargain!
    Ma'ayanot is considered a very progressive MO feminist school where Gemara is a large focus of the Judaic studies curriculum. Personally, I don't feel that it is necessary for all Orthodox girls to study Gemara (even though I'm sure you may disagree)but I do feel that if a girl has the aptitude & interest in studying Gemara, then by all means she should be encouraged to do so.


Anonymous comments are enabled for now