Yeshiva Memories

Earlier today, a friend wrote a Facebook post about some of his experiences in a charedi yeshiva. Many others chimed in on this public post, sharing their own memories. The conversation continued strong throughout the day, with some people recognizing that they probably crossed paths at a yeshiva they both attended! But it’s Friday night now, and many of the people involved in that conversation have turned off their phones and computers for shabbos. So the conversation has slowed to a lull. Here are some anonymized anecdotes and memories that were shared on that thread:

The original post:

I went to a brand name black hat yeshiva a quarter of a century ago that had “good English.” Yes, there were Regents, and you could graduate high school and go to college (and I did). Yet every class consisted of the majority of students mouthing off to the teachers, baiting a particular sensitive teacher with racist comments (we used to say that eventually he was going to have a heart attack, and he did, just a couple of years after), and general mayhem. One day we all put our head down on the desk and pretended to sleep. That teacher quit, and the yeshiva made us all write letters of apology to him, and then he came back. Only the frum teachers, and there were a couple, stood a chance. I remember that when we finally graduated, there was some guilty murmuring about mistreating a few specific teachers, and we bought presents for them.

And I’ve been around the block and lived a little and discussed this with MANY guys who went to yeshivish yeshivas, and guess what? It was like that almost everywhere.

We were young, dumb, sexually frustrated, VERY tired, and all morning and night we were given the impression that the only thing in the world that matters is lomdus, and anyone who wasn’t us or one of our rabbeim was a fool.

These yeshivas create this environment, and even though they paid lip service to the idea that you had to behave and put in effort into “English,” as experts in the culture we were an important part of (it’s *called* yeshivish or the yeshiva world) we knew that they didn’t give one shit about us getting any semblance of a secular education.

Some responses:

I’ve spoken to my own boys yeshivos over the years asking about English subjects and the attitude in totality was and still is always disregard. Gemara, THAT is important, English, history and especially science is a burden they don’t want to deal with. As long as they get a teacher willing to put up with the taunts and abject apathy from the boys the hanhola is satisfied.

There were some teachers we would literally throw things at during class. My class, in 10th grade, destroyed much of the science lab. I watched classmates mock one teacher while he was talking about his experiences fighting in Vietnam and, unbelievably, interrupt another one when he was telling us a story about how he liberated a concentration camp (which was the reason he had sought out a Jewish school to teach at).

I found this teacher, who was also the English principal, sobbing in the office when he was listening to the reports of Saddam Hussein firing Scuds at Tel Aviv. He didn’t deserve anything but respect from us.

That was in Yeshiva Toras Chaim in Denver. The principal’s name was Dr Richard Eichenberger, and he actually helped me really love math, amid all the craziness and nonsense of the yeshiva.

The one person we really threw things at (specifically, the rubber stoppers from the glass science equipment—his name was Mr. Pegler and guys would scream “Peg Pegler!”)

And we destroyed science equipment. For example, I would sit in the very last row in the science lab next to the exhaust fan, and the guy next to me would feed the glass piping and other glass equipment through the running fan. I’m not sure how much money we cost the yeshiva, but they never held science class in the science lab after that year.

Our day school’s boys gave a bunch of bananas to their teacher as an end of year gift because they decided she was a monkey (not a racial thing, just an asshole thing). She quit. The parents all played “Not my kid” and the school blew it off.

It’s not okay to teach Torah and only get through on the Bein Adam l’Makom part. If you’re not getting Bein Adam l’Adam, you’re not getting it.

I’m embarrassed to admit that we used to brag which class would cause the most teachers to quit, like it was a point of pride.

as you saying that one day you all put your heads down on the desk and pretended to sleep. and that teacher quit, just for the info. that in chasidic yeshivas this happen’s every single day, do to big lomdos from the teachers. and the boys not intrested in. so they all put the heads down on the table to take a nap… but the teacher don care, and of course he will never quit, because he need his pay check… ,lol

Girls did this too, to some degree. I have stories as well of how my classmates mistreated the teachers, bragged about how disrespectful they were, and how we got numerous teachers to switch away from our grade. That was only my grade, I can’t imagine it was much different around the rest of the high school. The girls were less violent than the boys, maybe, but no less mean and hurtful. My favorite teacher, the only one who inspired me during those years, they treated like shit because she rode a motorcycle and used pop culture references on occasion (references that the frummies didn’t understand and therefore needed to taunt). I went to ask her questions not strictly related to math after class many times (I had her for 4 years) just so she wouldn’t think all of us agreed with what they did to her. But yeah, teenagers are shitty when it comes to the unimportant secular education in their frum yeshivos.

This for sure happens in girls schools too. Especially substitutes. I went to BYBP and taught there later. One class of my students was like that – they once made me cry. But they were disciplined for it. Otoh, we made a game of running off substitutes and very little was done about it to discipline us. And the ironic thing is that we looked down on subs because they were usually chasidish. Any ideology that teaches that any slight difference is reason to be sneered at, for being too modern or too frum – leads to this horrible kind of “chinuch.”

True story. I believe it was my Sophomore year. We already went thru 8 English teachers. We were angels in geometry because our teacher was amazing and had huge arms. We brutally terrorized our Chem teacher to the point that he quit. The English Principal, who we terrorized just as much, came to us (a group of 5-7) and said- ok. Here’s the deal. You have an English and Chem regents. You pass, you pass the class. You fail, summer school. I became the “teacher” and we used those old red regents pep books. And we all passed. I never got a bonus though.

The stories from my brothers made it clear that the boys, the parents, and the administration really thought all the non-Jewish and non-frum teachers were less intelligent. Even if they grudgingly admitted that some teachers were brilliant in their subject matter, they still had this benevolent indulgence of them – like, poor sweet dears, they don’t understand the Truth and Beauty of Torah.

Mine was worse. I woke at 5:30am to get on a 45 minute bus ride…since school started at 7:15am and ended ELEVEN hours later… Gemara shuir was three hrs a day.. I remember for about a year and half me and a friend or 2 – as SOON as we got to school, we broke into the locked “trailer” library, turned the heat up to 80, lined up the tables, and SLEPT on them till noon. The school replaced the door lock so we just climbed through the windows. The racism and misogyny was disgusting. (I still remember the rabbis were furious when the new COKE machine that was delivered had a coke ad on it that had a woman in short sleeves (gasp!) so they covered it in paper but we kept ripping it off just to bother them. It was always freezing and I was so so exhausted. 

I hate that place so much, and hope it goes to hell. I had great friends, so we made it through.

I went to others, where we listened to speeches about how the “goyim” all talk about us and Israel all the time and that is evidence that we are special and all the goyim live like animals and how they used to be decent but today society has gone to hell…

Rabbis went through my things and seized Stephen King novels and anyting secular. The principle told me I dress like a homeless person. And one rabbi yanked a hemp necklace off my neck. The disdain they had for ANY creativity or self expression not within yeshivish culture. 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.