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TEEN ISSUES-----seminaries

MODERATOR Posted - 26 November 2003 10:33

I wrote this in a diff forum. I'm adding a bit and posting it here because it’s a general summary of one aspect of a certain type of seminary.

NOTE: There are many more seminaries than those mentioned here. I don’t mean to exclude anyone specifically. I didn’t include the new seminaries simply because they don’t have much of a history to judge by.

There are 4 seminaries that are pretty much straight, textbook BY types, with high academic standards. These are: BJJ, Bnos Chava, BYA, and Hadar.

If you’re looking for a place with a straight, boy-free student body, those are your best bets. You need good marks to get in.

Everywhere else you go, you are much more likely to find girls who slipped in or were let in, who are not straight BY types, and among those, you are more likely to find girls who are friends with boys.

The two seminaries that are "BY chilled" are Meor and Ateres. By that I mean they have BY hashkofos and values, and they enforce them.

They do NOT rely on the unreasonable assertion that only the strong girls will influence the weak and not vice versa.

Of the two, Meor has more of a homogeneous crowd, both academically and frumkeit-wise, and in general, the student body is likely to be more BY-ish, relatively, but they also have girls who slip in.

Then there are places like Darchei Binah, where, in the words of one their mechanchos who posted on this site not long ago, they consider it a "beautiful mix" for different types of girls to be together, although they do realize it is wrong and taboo and they try to get those girls to grow and dump their boy and hanging out habits.

As I wrote earlier, that Hashkafa is wrong, because the Torah warns us that there is always the danger of being influenced. They are correct in trying to change those girls' habits, and they are correct in sending the message that hanging out is wrong, but they are incorrect in having a shitah of mixing girls who are on that level with girls who are already past that (plain BY girls), and relying that there will be no cross-pollination.

If you want to make a seminary for girls in their growth stages, that’s wonderful; if you want to make a seminary for BY girls, also wonderful - but you cant say you cater to both, relying on the assumption that there will be no cross pollination.

So the best you can hope for is to send a clear message that such behavior will not be tolerated and hope it serves as a deterrent, both to applying to the school, and, if need be, to behave once you’re there.

Of course, once you have the right Hashkafa, that is, make sure to prevent bad influences, you have to consider what’s best for your particular students.

So last year, while Ateres threw out a half dozen girls, and Rabbi Belsky said that he knows that by doing so his reputation will be hurt (as per MrsB's post above), he is doing it anyway because it is the right thing to do.

At the same time, last year in Meor, a girl was caught talking and joking around with a boy right in front of the school building, in full view of whichever girls happened to be there at the time.

Rabbi Greenwald did not throw her out. He said, even though he knows that NOT throwing her out will be bad for the school's reputation, he told her that she did not do that kind of stuff in the past, and now that she did what she did and sees what it is, she has a choice - she can realize it is not what she wants to do and not do it again, or she can decide that she does want to continue, in which case, she is welcome to leave the school on her own, because Meor is a place where they trust the girls. It's up to you, he told her.

Both Rabbis Belsky (Ateres) and Greenwald (Meor) had as their goal the enforcement of the proper rules, but under two different sets of circumstances, they handled it 2 different ways. They both did the right thing.

proud2bfrum Posted - 26 November 2003 20:02

As far as your opinion of Darchei Binah, it's really hard for me to swallow.

I am a pretty Bais Yaakov girl, but I have always been in an environment that I had to fight in order to keep my principles. I'm used to not being influenced and I tend to influence others. I feel very uncomfortable in a BY environment because I am more worldly. I unfortunately know all this bad stuff already. I'm used to standing out a little and being considered "the frum one."

I was very anxious about applying to seminary because I realized that seminaries tend to be either very to the right where I don't fit in, or very Hashkafic and see why the Torah is so beautiful and I wouldn't fit in there either. That's why I think DB is one of the best places for me. Believe it or not there are people who have grown up in environments where they can't suddenly switch to only one side.

MODERATOR Posted - 26 November 2003 20:22

It is possible you weren’t influenced - not everyone who crosses busy streets at a red light gets hit, and not everyone who smokes gets cancer, its not sound advice.

So too it’s possible that you weren’t influenced. Even assuming that’s true, it doesn’t diminish the soundness of my advice.

And it’s hard to say whether you were influenced or not. I am sure you can tell if you went down to the level of the others, but who's to say you wouldn’t have been better had you had a better environment?

Noach surely was not "influenced" by his generation - he was the only one saved! But we also know that had he been in the generation of Avrohom, he would have been a lot better than he was.

proud2bfrum Posted - 28 November 2003 10:13

Moderator, I was definitely influenced in this school. I was put in a lot of situations that I wish I had not been put in. I've had to deal with a lot of things that I very well may not have had to deal with if I wasn't there. I was also influenced towards the good.

Before I went there I was Lubavitch for one and my amazing Rabbis turned me away from that and also I was essentially "going through the motions." I had no real love for Torah no matter how frum I looked. Being around these other girls who needed to be inspired just in order to not totally "go off" inspired me to really "be on."

Now, I reach a dilemma. I would love to be in an environment that is different from what I've been exposed to, but I think it's too late already. I'm not myself around these girls who have never had a TV in their room whose antenna they had to put away, who have never been invited to parties where they knew there would be alcohol.

I have a teacher that I respect a lot that faced a similar situation so she applied to Bnos Chava and Darchei Binah. She was accepted to both, but she chose Darchei. Even before I found out where she applied I was thinking Bnos Chava and Darchei Binah. Maybe I will be influenced, but I've been there and I rejected it.

You brought in the Noach example, well some say that he could have been so much greater had he been in Avraham's generation, but others say he would have been nothing special. I know that in a different place I probably wouldn't be what I am today because I wouldn't have to really choose which way I wanted to be.

MODERATOR Posted - 28 November 2003 11:04


There is no disagreement about Noach. Both opinions are true: He would have been nothing had he been transplanted as-is into another generation, yet in another generation he would have been able to be higher because he would have avoided the influences. The machlokes is just what the posuk means. But there is no disagreement about his status.

I would give you more credit than that. I know you from this site even though I don’t know who you are. I think you would be able to contribute a lot to a place where the girls are on the level you described, and I think they would accept you and you would find your place there.

Remember what it says in Pirkei Avos: "Always choose to be the tail of the lions (the worst of the best), than the head of the foxes (the best of the worst)". I know that the tail is an uncomfortable place to be, and the head is a proud place. But Chazal know better - and they say go for the better crowd.

proud2bfrum Posted - 30 November 2003 14:29

This is going to sound pretty absurd, but isn't it better t be a head of foxes and try to get them to behave more like a lion, then be a tail to a lion and do nothing at all?

Also, I want to iy"H go into kiruv, because I think that the experiences of my teenage years are a gift from Hashem so that I can help others in the future, I don't know that a BY seminary will necessarily prepare me for that. Another thing about Darchei Binah is that it has some of the Rabbis that I respect the most and that is something that is very important to me.

I know that other seminaries have very good teachers, but I always make what adult models I will have be my top priority. For example, the reason I went to the high school I went to was because I thought that the principal's Hashkafa personifies for the most part who I want to be when I get older.

I tend to spend more of my time while I am in school with teachers than students. This does not mean I have no social life, but when I'm in school I monopolize on my ability to be around such great role models.

MODERATOR Posted - 30 November 2003 14:38

No, it’s not better. Because you have no guarantee that the foxes won’t make you into one of them. That’s the whole point.

You’re not going to seminary to be the Rebbi of your peers. You’re going to be one of them. In a group. And Chazal say its best to be the worst of the best - regardless of any influence you may have on those weaker than you.

And at your stage in life, yes, it is better to become a lion and "do nothing at all," because in the long run you will be much more effective when you become that lion.

Rabbi Miller's moshol at the end of Rejoice O Youth, when the youth who was just inspired to become great decides he wants to go into Kiruv, is that if you feed someone unripe apples they’ll get sick. You’re an unripe apple now - wait till you get big and juicy and mature and ready then feed others.

The best people in Kiruv are those who are the strongest themselves. Not those who are weak. You don’t run off into a war until you’re done with your training. You can get yourself killed that way.

If you want to go into Kiruv, go to some Kiruv training skewl, later. At this stage in your life you’re growing. Grow big and strong, mature, and then go out and fight Hashem's wars.

alwayshyper Posted - 02 December 2003 21:04

What do you know about pninim? what type of girls go? What's the program like? How is it academically?

abisselconfused Posted - 18 December 2003 19:44

Pninim is made up of mostly Chareidi Israelis but English speaking ones. Almost all are either American born or have American parents. Only about 10% of the girls are American. I know this from an Israeli with American parents who is there now. She loves it.

MODERATOR Posted - 19 December 2003 9:51

Yes, but its important to point out that those Israeli girls are Anglo-Israelis. Meaning, from American families who moved to Israel. the girls are perfectly English-speaking, and of American or sometimes South African culture, not Israeli. They are mostly from places like Har Nof or Telzstone - anglo communities.

MODERATOR Posted - 19 December 2003 9:57

Add to the list of "BY chilled" sems, Pninim. I apologize for omitting them in the first post on this topic. We now have 3 "BY chilled" - Meor, Pninim, and Ateres. There is a separate Ateres and Pninim section on the site for details.

proud2bfrum Posted - 19 December 2003 16:06

So, Moderator, do you have any ideas on where I should go if Darchei is absolutely not the place?

MODERATOR Posted - 19 December 2003 16:14

Meor, Ateres or Pninim - the "BY chilled" sems.

Meor usually has the most BYish crowd of those three, but the odds are against any individual girl getting in. It's hard to figure who's gonna be accepted there, and most applicants aren't, so you needa contingency plan.

Pninim or Ateres are your next options. Ateres is more text oriented, and the crowd has historically been somewhat stronger in Pninim (though Ateres plans on admitting a strong group of girls this year). Pninim is also easier, academically.

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