In any event, it seems William B. Helmreich reported on this in The World of the Yeshiva.
The system that works well for most does not work at all for some. There are students who do not respond well to an authoritarian approach. They may agree with the school's objectives but resent the coercive manner in which it enforces them. Many yeshiva administrators and teachers seem to believe that allowing such individuals to flout yeshiva rules so jeopardizes the legitimacy of the system that it does not pay to be flexible toward them. One former rebbe, Rabbi Velvel Perl, who disagreed with this attitude, told of a young man with who the disciplinarian approach had failed:
- There was a guy in the yeshiva named Kronenberg. He was a genius and wanted to learn in Lakewood, but the parents insisted he go to college so he came to this yeshiva because here he could go to college. This was in the early sixties. And when he came to the yeshiva, they decided to knock out his gaaveh [conceit[. They made a project of it. They were going to cut him down to size. So they cut him down to size. He became an apikorus [heretic]; he married a shikse [gentile]. And he would have become a gadol [great Talmudic scholar]. They said things like: "He doesn't come to minyan, so what's his learning worth?"
A small but significant minority in the yeshiva community expressed the view that nonconformists should be viewed with considerable tolerance. One prominent rosh yeshiva explained his position on this issue as follows:
- The majority of students are conformists. Those you get along with nicely. You enjoy them and they enjoy you. One should never neglect them and take them for granted. Yet on the other hand, they're the least neglected precisely because the rebbe enjoys them. As a result they frequently get more attention than they need. This is unfortunate because it is the nonconformists who usually have greater potential. They have more drive, vision, curiosity, initiative. They're the ones with breadth who will investigate and who will care more deeply about things. The conformers create the dictator because they're willing to let someone else make the decisions. You'll find in the biographies of the gedolim that most of them were nonconformists. In the long run they develop into greater people. The challenge lies in dealing with them. I think there is only one way and that's on a warm, personal basis. These people need someone whom they feel genuinely cares about them.
Attention Bais Yaakov: this ideal is not limited to yeshivot. In fact, every Jewish school would do well to create individualized programming for students who are slipping through the cracks, or alternatively, excel but have nowhere else to climb to since they are not permitted the opportunities they so desperately need. Be kind to the non-conformists; you'll never win them by asserting your position, power and authority over them. It's only your kindness that will make them yours- for life, incidentally.