Monday, November 19, 2007

One Step at a Time--Dorm Mothers

I've posted before that one problem that affects the males of many segments of frum Klal is "dormitory-itis." They've been in dorms and in sleep away camps from Bar Mitzvah on, far away from the "civilizing" influence of their parents, their mothers in particular. When they get old enough to enter into shidduchim, some of them have problems, problems that don't have to be there. They don't know how to act, how to dress to go on a date etc.. Their personal hygiene may leave a lot to be desired.

There is a simple answer to this: dorm mothers. Boys yeshivas have lots of men around in positions of authority, as do the dormitories. What they need is a woman in authority. A dorm mother who would give mandatory classes on how and when to do laundry. A dorm mother who would see to it that the bochrim took showers whether they "needed" it or not. A dorm mother who would see to it that every boy in the dorm knew how to use the utensils that appear on a table, and enforce their use. A dorm mother to watch out for a boy when he got ill. And yes, a dorm mother to talk to when social problems arise. A dorm mother who would be a "mother" in every sense of the word.

Years back the YU high school dormitory did have such a person. Well or sick, she mothered the boys in the dorm. Parents who wanted to know how their boys were really doing in high school knew to call the dorm mother. She was a bit of a "major general" but the boys thrived in the dorm instead of it being hit or miss.

Heads of yeshivot view the yeshiva as being a strictly male environment, where boys are taught "male" business. Unfortunately, "male business" is not enough. Here is a simple solution that could head off some of the problems that will arise as the boys go into shidduchim. The head of a male dormitory should not be an older bochur, nor a rebbi; the head of a dormitory should be a dorm mother.


Anonymous said...

This makes so much sense that it is for sure never going to be put into practice. Why should we try something that would work? It's not the way boys yeshivas work. I'll share something personal because no one will never know who I am really. The first time my husband ever really knew about deodorants was when I bought him one, put it on his dresser and told him to use it regularly. He sputtered about yeshiva and men using female cosmetics and I answered that married men who don't may just find themselves without some of the privileges of marriage. End of argument and end of discussion. I sure wish some dorm mother had had this as her job instead of me. I can't blame this one on my mother in law because he wasn't hers anymore after he started high school.

Anonymous said...

We use the brief bein hazmanim to give my brother a crash course in basic manners, civility, human decency, and interpersonal relationships. It doesn't sink in right away, but we tend to notice a slight improvement by the next bein hazmanim.

G said...

Excellent point, one of the reasons I am a big proponent of boys staying near home for their high sschool years.

In addition, much of the end result is also due to the constant vilification of all things doing with the outside world which keeps boys eother in the dorm or beis medrash 24/7.

Some guys simply need to get out more.

Anonymous said...

You know why this won't work? Because a woman thought it up. Because a dorm mother is a woman. There is resistance in the yeshivishe world to any intrusion of what they like to call "veiberishe zachen"--womens things. One year We tried to get the yeshiva ketana where my son was a talmid to stop offering all the fat and sugar and salt laden snacks that are so unhealthy. We pointed out to the menahel all the dangers for health. In the end the yeshiva did nothing to change things. And the menahel insultingly told us after our meeting that we "just didn't understand the world of boys education and we shouldn't mix in since we didn't know what was needed."

And you want this same yeshivishe world to let a woman bring order to the chaos of dormitory living? Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I was in that YU dormitory with the dorm mother and I can say this, having sons who dormed in other schools, there was none of the shtick that goes on in the other dorms now. Dorm life for us was not anything goes. I didn't know to appreciate my dorm experience until I saw the hefker velt that is the rule in so many of the dorms today. Only our first son was in the dormitory for high school--we wouldn't let the others dorm until after high school, and even that was not a great deal, but we had not much of a choice.

Anonymous said...

Its a very good idea and likely to work - if it would only be given the chance! It might also lead to yeshiva boys learning at least a small amount of 'Hakorat Hatov' in terms of bein Adam l'chaver - something so often missing from their lives.