MAILBAG ROUNDUP: Seminary Feelings – Batch 1

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Following the publishing of a letter from a father of a girl rejected from every seminary she applied to, YWN has received well over one hundred letters about seminaries – both pro and con. They have not been edited in any way. We will be publishing them in batches over the next few days.

Here is the first batch:

LETTER #1

Dear YWN,

I had the opportunity to go to Seminary in Israel five years ago. I was the lucky girl who applied to three seminaries and got into all three. However, I still side with the father who wrote this letter about seminary rejection and feel for him more than the seminary staff that have to go through the “terrible” choosing process.

I had a great year, yet I am confident to say that seminary is NOT a necessity.

Unfortunately, our society has created a system in which parents and girls think that seminary is a must! Because this has become the system, almost every single girl applies to multiple seminaries. With so many girls applying and a limited amount of seminaries, there is no doubt that we will have this issues. With Klal yisroel growing as a whole, the amount of seminary applicants each year will only increase making the problem that much worst! Therefore, if we want a solution to this problem we must first backtrack To solve the root of the problem.

What is the root of the problem?

The problem is, as I said earlier, that it became a MUST to go to seminary in Israel.

In my opinion, if a girl went to a good bais Yaakov school and comes from a functional torahdik home, there is no need for seminary. At this point, she should have the core values which will help her be a successful Jewish woman, mother, and wife. Besides- majority girls do not even go because they have a deep desire to go, they go because they are either afraid of the stigma of not going or they are just going along for the ride!

Although some girls gain a tremendous amount from seminary, I can say confidently that an equal amount do not.

This seminary process has gone way too far from the fact that every girl and parent feels the need for it.

Maybe, just maybe, if parents and girls can independently think about their need for seminary in isolation to what “everyone else” does, it can be proven that Seminary is not a MUST! This will narrow down the applicants to those who legitimately need and want the year and will by default reduce amount of applicants. Fewer applicants Leads to less rejected, which leads to less hurt and frustration in our community.

Name withheld upon request.

LETTER #2

Good morning,

I just want to weigh in on the seminary controversy.

I’m the oldest of eight and I have four younger sisters, one who is still in high school. When it came time for me to apply to seminaries, we got the usual speeches from our mainstream beis yaakov that if we don’t go, we might have trouble getting a shidduch. People will say, “What’s wrong with her? Why didn’t she go?”.

My parents were very reluctant. It was the year of the 2nd intifada and security was a concern, not to mention that financially, they just couldn’t afford it. They let me apply to one seminary that was known for its intense supervision, and though I got in, they ultimately decided that they just couldn’t do it. I ended up staying in Brooklyn, attended a local seminary for half the year, and started working on my degree.

I have to say that the scare tactics regarding shidduchim were completely unwarranted. Though my parents are not at all wealthy or connected, and I was not particularly beautiful or remarkable, I had no trouble with shidduchim and B”H have been supporting my husband and family while he learns in kollel for the past 14 years, kein yirbu! Additionally, the friends who also stayed in America for seminary year were similarly married with great shidduchim. (Not that there is any correlation necessarily, but my friends that are still single went to great seminaries in E’Y.)

When it came time for my sisters to go to seminary, my parents bowed to the pressure and sent them. Though 2/3 enjoyed their year, none of them believe that it was actually worth the money or the hype. One had such a terrible time, she came home early despite the reminstrations of her seminary that she would NEVER get a shidduch and would regret the decision forever. She had no problem with shidduchim and her only regret is that she stuck it out as long as she did.

Personally, I have absolutely no regrets about not going. I’m glad I didn’t waste that kind of money when my parents had a whole family to take care of. I ended up renting an apartment EY for our first year and a half of marriage, while my husband learned in the Mir. Rent there was cheaper than in NY and I got the EY “experience”.

This letter is to give a boost to the girls who are rejected or whose parents are against them applying. You don’t need it. You will not at all regret staying here and starting your “real” life.  Don’t believe the scare tactics. Many, many families of boys out there respect a girl who makes this decision.

Name withheld upon request.

LETTER #3

I am not one who generally responds to anything. But this subject is one that is very close to my heart.

It has been many years since I sat with my friends filling in our seminary applications. We all had a particular seminary in mind that we all wanted to attend. We spent weeks discussing exactly who should write our recommendations, what we should – or shouldn’t – write in our essays. Every bit of that application was written  and rewritten many times before we were all satisfied that we had done our very best. Our teachers all encouraged us to apply to multiple places – just in case. So, rather reluctantly, we all applied to several other places as well. When our letters came back we were devastated. Not one of us had been accepted to the seminary we had wanted. I was the only one to even be “wait-listed”. The only seminary I had been accepted to was one I didn’t even want to attend. I kept pushing off responding to that seminary – I davened every day that someone who had been accepted would choose to go somewhere else and I’d get that call telling me that I’d been accepted. It was the final day before I was expected to give a  response to the seminary I really didn’t want when I got the call – I’d gotten in.

In the end, my friends and I all ended up in different places. And I can honestly say, in retrospect, many years later, that we all ended up in the place that helped to shape who we are today. The two years that I spent in seminary were two of the best years of my life to date.

There is no perfect system to seminary applications. Every menahel/menaheles does their best to choose the group of girls that they feel are the best fit for their school. But they are limited, by the size of their dorm, in how many students they can accept. So rather then be upset at the seminaries, we as parents and teachers, should make a conscious effort to really understand the style of every seminary and the type of students it caters to. This way, we can guide our beloved daughters and students to make the choice that is best for them and help them apply to the places that are least likely to reject them. And remember, if you are truly worried that your daughter won’t be accepted to the seminary of her dreams,  then make sure she applies to at least one place that will.

In the end, we must always remember that we are only basar v’dam. We cannot begin to comprehend the cheshbonos of Hashem. But he is looking out for every one of those girls, and wherever they end up after high school was where He wanted them to be.

Name withheld upon request.

LETTER #4

The Truth About Seminary

I read the letter in Yeshiva World News that a father wrote about his daughter who was rejected from seminary. It was heartbreaking. I feel horribly that anyone would feel diminished or unworthy because they were not accepted into a certain program, school, seminary, or college. However, what was equally heartbreaking to me were the awful comments written in response to the article. Multiple people are calling seminaries a joke, calling them money-hungry, accusing them of being businesses that only want money and do not care for the girls at all. These accusations are not only untrue, but they are words of rechilus, whose only purpose is to spread hatred and discord among the Jewish people.

I went to seminary. For me, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life thus far. Many of my friends went to seminary. Some loved it and felt it was life changing, some enjoyed it but had more neutral experiences, and a few disliked seminary, feeling that it was not the right place for them to learn or grow. All of these girls are correct. Like all institutions, there is a not a one-size fits all. The principals of seminaries recognize this, and must make the best choice they can based on a short interview and limited bed space. The same process occurs with shidduchim, when we must make decisions about who to date based on a piece of paper and conversations with friends or rabbis.

In this kind of system, every person will experience rejection at one point, and it will hurt. It stinks. It’s painful for the person who is rejected and its painful for their loved ones. However, that doesn’t mean the rejected person should now start bashing every single person, or every shadchan. To accuse all seminaries of being money hungry, and to accuse the leaders of seminaries to be working for their own kavod, is simply unfair.

I have watched my seminary Rabbi, and he puts blood, sweat, and tears into trying to create an institution of love, acceptance, and growth. He’s certainly not doing it for the money. He’ll be the first to admit he struggles with the acceptance process, but he does his best, because he truly cares, and it shows. Ten years after seminary, I still turn to him for advice or chizuk.

To the father of the letter– give your daughter a hug. Remind her that she is equally wonderful whether she got into five seminaries, or none at all. Remind her that everything Hashem does is for a reason, and for the best. To everyone else–stop spreading baseless hatred over a system that, like all systems, has both good and bad. Unless you yourself were once a seminary head, you cannot understand or appreciate the challenges and work and effort these men and women invest in their schools. To say that all seminaries are bad and wrong is a disservice to hundreds of thousands of girls like me, who learned and grew and developed in seminary; who were changed for the better, who will grow up and be better wives, mothers, and people because of their experience.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you have a similar story, please send it to YWN.

[READ – Was Posting the Seminary Letter from the Father Lashon HaRah? – By Rabbi Yair Hoffman]

[READ MAILBAG ROUNDUP: Seminary Feelings – Batch 2]

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.

DO YOU HAVE AN OPINION YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE POSTED ON YWN? SEND IT TO US FOR REVIEW.

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)




11 COMMENTS

  1. This letter should be published in ALL the Jewish newspapers and distributed to ALL Bais Yakkov schools. The Gedolim should stop this insanity of sending girls overseas to seminary. There is absolutely no need for it, generally speaking!!!!!

  2. How much cleaning help and other extras would a year of seminary equal in a struggling young kollel couples life ? Instead waste it on a year there and then let the mother with 4 pitzies run themselves ragged …. Brilliant… I dont have older kids but from observing my 3 nieces who never stepped foot into seminary got their masters in a heimish atmosphere and are supporting their husbands in Kollel with their salary and little bit extras here and there that their parents can afford them by saving on seminary. Its all by osmosis from the home anyway not what some rabbi lectures… such an important age to be home and learn from your mom… does that mean she has to be used as a shamatte and u feel all bad cause she’ll work hard all her life.. No!
    Of course not!! Use common sense, hire help along side… treat her to restaurants etc…use common sense but teach her the basics so she wont have to start learning everything when shes holding a crying baby in hand. Should seminary be banned, should we bash them of course not!! But Y in heavens name do we need to send every average girl there. There’s always of course those that can benefit or come from hard situation homes, etc etc…. but not for learning independence and budget and bargaining…as if a girl coming back from Israel is better than that then a girl who works in a heimishe office or brooklyn store for a week… such a load of non sense!! Jewish Mothers start giving ur kids real chichuch! My upstairs neighbor did the seminary thing now runs to work to support her husband… and her spanish lady has to raise the kids and I’m sure teaches her little boys to say ashar yatzar when they come out of the bathroom …. great job seminary !

  3. Wow, all these letters are powerful and kol hakavod to the letter writers. I guess it’s normal that when one is hurt or doesn’t feel something works for them or doesn’t understand the benefits of something or had a personal bad experience in something, the reaction is to bash it. Yes, we do need to be more open minded and accepting of all options, especially when it works for so many and has so many benefits. Keep in mind, in the chassidish world, most girls don’t attend seminary at all, let alone EY and are perfect mothers, wives and nshei chayil. So obviously it’s not a necessity, yet I still feel for the girl and father who were hurt.

  4. “In this kind of system, every person will experience rejection at one point, and it will hurt.”

    But you didnt so you cant really speak.

    “To the father of the letter– give your daughter a hug. Remind her that she is equally wonderful whether she got into five seminaries, or none at all. ”

    Very patronising, I think!

  5. It is an old problem with these seminaries?.?? They are way overpriced and there is no reason why seminary should cost in the neighborhood of 25k. And sending a boy to yeshiva cost in neighborhood of 7k – third of the price????
    Anerican seminaries are just as good!!!
    Girls graduating Bais Yaakov high school are already on very high madreugos in terms of their limudei kodesh something that they do not necessarily improve or cover new areas that they already have covered!! One of my daughter’s had to know shnoneh prokim lehorambam BY HEART!!! , and that is even more than what is learnt in seminary – she stayed in America and still did a very nice sgidduch b”h,
    Some may argue that they go for the “Israeli” experience, but 25k is a very steep price to pay for that, You can go for 2-3k with a group for the Israeli experience for even a month . So basically seminary is extremely overpriced and as long people send the seminary owners will make a killing!!!

  6. This is ther culture we live in, and nothing will change. The high school teachers are very responsible for brainwashing these young girls that it is a necessity to go to sem.
    We have to make a collection for so many chasunas, because after sending their kids to sem, there is no money to pay for a chasunah and to support a son in law in kollel.

    This is is just one of the many accepted norms that is too expensive for the average family. So kudos to the girl that decides not to put her parents in hock. She can start her training for a career one year earlier, and therefore be able to support her husband in kollel without having to rely on her parents for support. She is much more qualified as a wife than the prima donna sipping a coolata in Meah Shaarim.