Sunday, August 23, 2009

Male and Female He Made Them

SL at Orthonomics had a recent posting about a possible yeshiva closing in Boro Park.
According to the posting, the Bais Yaakov of BP has sent home letters to its parents that it won't be opening in September. The only thing that would keep this from happening would be if parents, through mega fundraising, could raise the monies needed to keep the school afloat, at least for a short while.

I'd like to expand on a couple of comments I made there. The BYBP is one of the biggest girls schools in the city. You would think that its imminent demise would be big news all over the city. And yet.... My hubby works in Brooklyn, and most of those he works with would be of the group that would know this information. When he asked around at the office, he got only two people who had heard, ninth hand, some rumour that a girls school MIGHT be closing.

Yesterday, in two different shuls, my husband was the one to be the bearer of the closing news; no one else had heard anything. Now granted, SI is not an outpost of BP for the most part, but there are lots of people here besides my hubby who work/shop in Brooklyn. Some send children to school in Brooklyn. It seems we all have family/friends in Brooklyn. And no one had heard of the closing.

I discussed a comment I made at Orthonomics with my husband on Friday. I said that there was something weird going on if the BYBP was indeed closing. Those same parents who weren't paying tuition or weren't paying full tuition to BY also had boys in yeshivas in Brooklyn. It would seem to be logical that any yeshivas their sons were going to should also be in danger of closing for financial reasons. UNLESS these parents, with limited funds, were giving more to their boys' yeshivas than to their girls' yeshivas. I also said that if a major boys yeshiva had reached this point, where closing letters were going home, then the entire world would have known about it. There would have been screaming from the treetops to save the yeshiva. Every known rabbi would have been legislating for funds to be donated to the yeshiva. The shuls would have been making emergency appeals. Certainly you would have expected the major rabbinic organizations to have commented, which they didn't. Why not?

Hubby discussed these comments with the others at Shalosh Seudos yesterday, and everyone agreed that if it had been a major boys yeshiva there is no one who would not have known about it. They also agreed that it's probable that boys yeshivas get more money donated to them than girls yeshivas do.

And now I'm puzzled. Is there an actual hierarchy in today's Klal that says boys first, girls second? There is no reason to assume that Jews don't follow the rest of the population in the US in there being more females than males. Certainly we keep hearing that when it comes to shidduchim. So are we saying that the yeshivas for boys are more choshuv than the yeshivas for girls? Are we saying that if we can only educate one group, because of money problems, the males are that group? Granted, many of the boys yeshivas have been around for lots longer than the girls yeshivas. My mom was in middle school when one of the second graduating class of Sorah Schenirer arrived in her town to begin a "Bais Yaakov." But we now have both types of education, and have had for the lifetime of most of the generations living now. Why doesn't the possibility of BYBP closing down raise a storm in the frum community? You are talking, elementary and high school, over 2600 girls who will have no school to go to come September. Let's get real. You think there are any other schools who will be able to absorb this number of students into their programs? Come to think about it, the schools that have had rumors flying all year about not being able to pay their teachers and possibly having to close down have been, for the most part, girls yeshivas.

Well, lots of people have been asking for a new model of frum education. There's been plenty of talk that the educational system needs revamping. A whole lot of people are not happy with how schools administer themselves. But is this going to be the new model? Girls schools closing down so that boys schools can, presumably, get the funds to stay alive?

Those of you out there with daughters as well as sons, ask yourself the hard questions. What would you do if there was no girls school to send your daughters to? Would you accept 50 in a class in your daughters' schools so that your sons could continue to have 10-15? Would you accept a mix of public school/home schooling/part time limudei kodesh for your girls so that your sons could still have a full-time yeshiva education? Would you consider a mixed sex school just to keep your daughters in a frum setting? And yes, now that push and shove have met, would you put your boys first?

It's now the end of August. Put yourself in the shoes of those BYBP parents and those 2600 girls. What choices would you make if you had no school opening in September?


Anonymous said...

It was not all that long ago that money paid for a boys yeshiva could not be taken from maaser money because it was required that you educate the boys. Money to pay for a girls tuition could be taken from maaser because it wasn't a requirement. Given that I'd say that if the choice was to save a girls school or a boys school lots of people would give to the boys school.

Anonymous said...

This is going to put a real strain on the party line that judaism doesn't discriminate against woman, it just has separate, but equally important, roles for men and woman.
Not educating or undereducating women might have worked in the days of the shtetls in Europe since in surrounding society women often got little or no education and definitely were not equals, men were often illiterate too and women didn't need to get jobs outside the home to support the family. I know no one is talking about keeping orthodox women illiterate, but if they are less literate in hebrew and religious knowledge in this day and age there are bound to be problems.

Shua said...

You don't ask easy questions do you?! I'd love to see a big Rav address this, but they won't. But yes, if it came down to two yeshivas, both in trouble financially, and a limited amount of money available, I'd bet they would come out for the boys yeshivas. Problem is that none of these big rebbeim are saying what needs to be said. They've finally said there is financial trouble in the frum community, but they haven't gone far enough. Trouble is too soft a word. What we have is a disaster.

And if some of the yeshivas are going to end up being closed, a betting man would bet that more girls yeshivas then boys are going to go. Not saying it's fair, but that's how I see it.

mother in israel said...

Well, if you don't give the boys secular education it's much cheaper to school them. The girls actually need to know how to read, write, do basic math, use a computer, etc., if they are going to support the men. It adds up.

Anonymous said...

Mother in Israel: That's not necessarily the case. The boys might have smaller classes and their male teachers may be paid more than the women who teach in the girl's school. It shouldn't be that way, but I would not be surprised if there are some differences.

Anonymous said...

The answer is yes, the community DOES regard boys education as more important than that of the girls. History has shown that this is not necessarily a prudent choice.

Anonymous said...

Could anyone imagining a parent saying "I only have enough money to feed good, healthy food to half my children. Should I give my boys fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and chicken and just give my girls stale bread from the week old rack?" Of course not. Any sane parent would split the good food and the stale bread among all the children (assuming one isn't ill with special needs). Why should education be any different?

BiggestFish said...

Bais Yaakov does this every few years. They threaten to close down and magically stay open. They always threaten as a fundraising tool, and then say we need more money. It's old hat and has nothing to do with boys vs girls.

Upper West Side Mom said...

2 of the reasons why I send my kids to a Modern Orthodox, coed day school are that I want my son to understand that women are his intellectual equals and I want my girls to learn exactly what the boys learn so they can be their intellectual equals. The bottom line is that the further to the right you go the less important women are in the big picture so less resources are going to be "wasted" on them.

GilaB said...

To the person who questioned whether people would feed only their sons the good food, and give their daughters leftovers: yes, people around the world do this. They give their sons the best food, send them to doctors and buy medicines when they get sick, and pay their schooling fees, while seriously shortchanging their daughters on all three fronts. In many parts of the world, girls under five have 2-4x the death rate of their brothers, because they're undernourished and don't see a doctor unless they're sicker.

A few months back, I overheard my husband's aunt (in her early sixties) say that she went to public school while her brother (my FIL) went to the local day school because their father thought that 'a yeshiva education would be wasted on a girl.' I was livid, but I don't think this attitude has gone away entirely. Ironically, of course, she's the one who is mostly shomer Shabbos.

Anonymous said...

If it is true that the boys' yeshivas are getting more money than the girls', I find it ironic. The same group that almost mandates that women support the bench kvetchers is the one that only half-heartedly supports their acquisition of the skills needed in this day and age to do so.

Yessie said...

Could anyone imagining a parent saying "I only have enough money to feed good, healthy food to half my children. Should I give my boys fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and chicken and just give my girls stale bread from the week old rack?"

Er yes, this was absolutely standard until not so very long ago. The boys needed their nourishment because they were the ones earning the money. If there was an egg, Father got it because he was the breadwinner. No matter that the girls were also doing heavy work; the narrative is that the boys need the good food, and the women are chronically undernourished.