Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Looks

It's interesting, being at Stern. There's a mixture of people, and everybody here is here for different reasons. Some people are party girls; others are studious and academic. Some are here (and admit this candidly) to "catch a husband." Whatever the reason, we have a whole mix of people here.

The entertaining part is what I shall call "the looks." You see, due to a complicated set of circumstances, I attended a non-denominational, non-sectarian (in other words, non-Jewish) private school for the last two years of high school. I also opted not to go to seminary. Hence, when people ask which high school you went to, and you tell them, the eyebrows raise, the eyes widen, there is a meaningful look....and an extra look for people who didn't go to seminary...and you immediately feel demoted, or as though someone is looking down upon you.

Well, I take rare pleasure in allowing some of these people to think what they will, but I do explain to other people because I know they are confused more than they are meaning to be insulting. But it has been highly entertaining to be asked, "So how do you know Hebrew?" and the like.

Isn't it sad that even in our supposedly more 'Modern' school there are still labels, categories, sections, divisions? That there is a proper "path" to follow, and those who deviate are problematic? It's ridiculous that I should be looked at for not going to seminary, for example. The non-Jewish school I can maybe understand but the seminary/ non-seminary...what the hell? There are so many reasons I might not have gone. How do you know my parents wouldn't let me? Or maybe I don't have enough money to go?

Now, those are NOT the reasons I opted for Stern over seminary. But what if they were? Who the hell gives YOU the hoity-toity sophomore back-from-Israel student the ability to judge these people? I've already met a couple people who couldn't go for those reasons. And they shouldn't have to feel as though they must immediately explain why they couldn't go to Israel. Who cares? You're here now and that's what matters. Isn't it?

God, but it's exasperating. to receive more looks! Don't worry, though, I can handle it.


Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Chana: Seems like nothing changes over time :)

(Yet, you can still come here next year to study in Israel...)

Chana said...

and give in to them? are you kidding?

Pesach said...

Hi Chana,

Ihave long followed your blog but have never posted before. I think it is important that you recognize that most but by by no means all of the guys and girls who don't go to Israel are not the serious ones at YU and Stern. I recognize that you are the exception. Still most students who come out of day school who have the choice and are serious recognize that a year or more of unadulterated Talmud Torah in Eretz Yisroel can't be beat. Most b people judge based on genralities and you need to recognize that you are in the minority. There is nothing wrong with that, and everything I havr read by you leads me to believe you will gain a lot at Stern. I hope your year goes well.

Ezzie said...

Hehe. :) Ah, nice to see that certain things are common everywhere...

I think most simply are confused and don't know how to react. They've been shocked out of their typical "Where are you from/What HS/What seminary/Oh, do you know ____?!" series of questions more than they're 'looking down' on anybody. Part of it is just surprise at the path - it's not typical, and therefore raises eyebrows.

You'd have liked the meal we had recently - when the wife was in Touro, and people would ask her where she went to school, she's answer "St. Mary's" of something or other. Now THAT gets raised eyebrows. [She's a giyores.]

A good friend of my wife's went to Touro straight out of HS. She was unable to go to Israel for whatever reasons, and hated that people assumed she was some kind of 'bum' simply because of that. Pesach is (sadly) correct: Because a good number of those who don't go are not of the best group, people assume that they all are.

Now have fun proving them wrong. :)

Anonymous said...

Please do not be over sensitive to comments- I happen to know quite a number of those Stern returning sophomores and those that I know are kind, interesting, bright and would never judge someone by whether or not they attended seminary. That being said- there are difficult and unkind people all over- each of us has something not "regular" in our lives- if we submitted to anger over inane comments we would never get anything done. And please- no more profanities- it doesn't suit you.

Halfnutcase said...

anon is right, the profanity really doesn't suit you chana.

but other than that, have fun earning the look, just think, your teaching each and every one of them a new lesson, and maybe someone of the will learn to stop jumping to conclusions. have fun!

(and no, things never change. you get some more accepted in collage, but not very much. you still end up getting looks like that and people still try to put you in a box)

MC Aryeh said...

Well, I hope you develop your own scathing and disapproving look to shoot right back at them!

Tobie said...

Stern is, frankly, a pretty homogeneous place. Not as homogeneous as some other schools, perhaps, but most of the people who go there have very similar stories and, perhaps more importantly, an urge towards conformity. People don't go there to be different, to stand out, to meet different and interesting people. Sad, but true. This is one of the main reasons that I chose not to attend.

Perhaps I'm being unfair to the school, but once something becomes the default among a certain group of people, as Stern has become, it loses the charm of eccentricity or openness. I have always attended schools that haven't been a default, so that everybody has their own crazy story and hardly anything I can say about myself can get me strange looks, because the next person over always has a story that's ten times stranger.

FrumWithQuestions said...

As a graduate of YU I know how you feel. I went to public school and transferred to YU from another college (an Ivy League school) I went straight to college from High School and did not go to Yeshiva. Although I did not go to Yeshiva in Israel, I made the most of my time in High School by becoming active in NCSY as well as enrolling in an after school Hebre High school and making the most of my time. When I got to YU it was not only the other students who were very snobby about the Yeshivas they attended in Israel but many of the Rabbis acted similary. Because of my background I ws judged and not permitted to take certain classes because of how they judged me even though I was qualified to take those classes. The normal procedure at YU was that you take a small test so they can place you. In my case because of the way they judged me they would not let me take the test and refused to listen to me or place me where I felt I should be. It was after the first class they made me attend that I met with the Rabbi who was teaching and he agreed with me and had me moved to the proper shiur. Why did I have to go through all of this? Because I did not spend the year in Israel and because I was judged because of my background. Unfortunaly Rabbaim as well as parents are teaching every one to act this way which is why it occurs.

SJ said...

Hi Chana, I just discovered your blog, and I wanted to offer a much more positive insider's perspective on Stern. This is my second year at Stern, and I am one of those dreaded Stern students who went to Israel after high school. I come from a waay "out-of-town" community, and my parents knew nothing about the practice of going to seminary after high school. My mother originally forbade me from going, and it was only after a lot of stress, arguments, and tears that I finally got her to relent. I consider my decision to go to Israel to be one of the best choices I ever made, but that doesn't mean that I would look down on someone who didn't go, for whatever reason. It is a shame if you have been given "looks" and I apologize for the rudeness of our fellow students. However, I think that the reason why people who went to Israel might react negatively is because, like me, they had an incredible experience there, and feel that they grew more in that year than in any year prior. So they see someone who didn't go, and maybe assume (incorrectly) that that necessarily indicates a lower level of maturity. But it is clear that you will easily prove them wrong within a few minutes of meeting them.

I would like to say, in Stern's defense, that though Stern has a bad reputation for cliqueyness, conformity, etc., when I got here I found that to be entirely untrue. I have met so many new and wonderful girls at Stern, and I cotinue to make new friends daily. And though there are definitely some people who feel the urge to conform, there are people like that at every college in the country. But there are also loads of people who are determined to forge their own paths--and I count myself among them. It is just a matter of finding the right girls--and there are lots. Give it a few more weeks, and hopefully you will feel better about Stern.