I am so irritated. I am trying to pick a seminary for next year, and of course, everyone has their opinion. I am a baal teshuvah and I became religious through NCSY. However, I’m in a big region and i’m not super close with the NCSY rabbi. So, I have been trying to collect information on my own. Everyone has an opinion of what a ‘good’ seminary would be for me. Everyone also has their opinion about ‘bad’ seminaries. I really want to know why frum people can condemn lashon hara with one breath and speak it about someone in the next. I unfortunately have had experiences of rabbeim and leaders of the Jewish community bad mouthing a seminary I was considering. I was told a few days ago that a particular seminary I was looking at is not right for me because, according to them, ”its weak, I’ll come out confused, the academics aren’t good, and i’m too good for it.” This is my top choice. Moment of panic: now what do I do? I feel that everyone has an ulterior motive for what seminary I should go to. What it comes down to is my decision. Unfortunately there are a lot of factors to consider.
A bunch of seminaries came to present at a shabbaton, and they all sounded exactly the same with a few minor variations. Everyone gets hung up on the ‘type’ of girls that go to these places, because academically they are all very similar. Unfortunately, the seminary you go to determines how people think of you. If you say you went to Michlelet Esther people think one thing, if you say you went to BJJ they assume very different things about you. I refuse to judge people in this way. I have no idea what made you choose a seminary at 17, but I have to assume you are different at age 24 or whatever. I feel the pressure to choose a seminary that will make people think highly of me, and not go to the one that will probably be the absolute best fit for me. Part of this is the lashon hara that is so prevalent in the frum world, but i’m definitely not here to give mussar (is that the correct term?)
To me, looking from the outside in, frum society’s approach to girls is stifling. Not because they can’t keep the same mitzvos as men, or learn gemara, but because they grow up feeling like every move they make will have an effect on their shidduchim. You have written about various ridiculous shidduch questions, but for me, its a reality. I have an atypical background, and i’m not your average perfect person with no problems that the frum world seems to expect of its girls. I refuse to hide my anxiety disorder, my heart condition, or my learning disabilities. If someone refuses to marry me or to accept me at a seminary because of these things, then it obviously is not right for me. Hashem gave me these tribulations for some reason. If he wanted us all to be perfect with no issues, he would make us that way. That is the message that needs to be communicated to frum girls, not ‘hide all your issues because otherwise you won’t get married.’
Overall I think the whole seminary system is broken. There are so many options that are so similar. The only way to differentiate between seminaries is by hearing what ‘type’ of girls goes there, but that involves speaking lashon hara in a lot of cases. It is impossible to quantify ‘type’ of girl, like you could how academic a seminary was. Seminaries need to clearly state exactly what they are looking for, but they also need to refrain from asking for the perfect girl, because she doesn’t exist. Schools that say they want “good, normal girls” attract the people that want to fit in and have good shidduchim prospects, but they aren’t perfect, because only Hashem is perfect. The girls don’t get out of seminary what they need because they are hiding their true feelings for shidduchim, and I think that is sad.
I really wanted to poke fun in the middle of the post, but I couldn’t find it in my heart to do so.