Why We’re Taking our Son Out of Cheider

Why We’re Taking our Son Out of Cheider

They REALLY didn’t want our Yoel in their cheider.

Well, it wasn’t really Yoel they didn’t want. I guess it would be more accurate to say that they REALLY didn’t want US. They didn’t want my husband’s knit kippah and my immodest sock-less feet covered only by sandals. And they didn’t want a row of denim-skirt wearing, Israeli-Independence-Day-celebrating older sisters in National Religious schools.

But like Pepe LePew, we wouldn’t give up. Yoel’s four older sisters had attended Bait Yaakov nursery schools and kindergartens, and we loved the sweet classmates and the excellent teachers and the bubbling enthusiasm for Torah and Yiddishkeit that those Charedi gans stirred up in our kids—and we wanted the same for our Yoel.*

So we pushed, and we pushed some more, and eventually, reluctantly, they gave in.

On one condition: socks for Chana Jenny. Which meant three years of white ankle socks during drop off and pick-up—a paltry price to pay for getting to see our “Yoilish” as an honest-to-goodness cheider boy.

You might wonder, as I probably would have, what the difference is between being a cheider boy and a Bait Yaakov girl. Well, I now know there is a big difference. Attending Bait Yaakov is an Israeli Charedi experience. While attending cheider is more of a pre-War, Eastern-European one.

My girls had Kabbalat Shabbat.
Yoel had Kabbalos Shabbos!

My girls learned Hebrew songs.
Yoel learned songs in Yiddish!

My girls learned Torah (stress, Israeli-style, on the second syllable).
Yoel learned Toire!

As long as I can remember, hearing Oifen Pripetchik has made me cry with nostalgia for that Jewish universe that was destroyed in the Shoah. And there I was, practicing “Kametz Alef O” with my own son, in my own home.

The other day I was pushing my baby down Agrippas Street, and out of the blue I found myself singing, “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His…YIKES!” straight from Handel’s Messiah that I sung every year on the bleachers at Friends School’s annual Christmas Concert.

And my Yoel? Maybe one day in 30 years he’ll be walking down the street and out of nowhere he’ll start singing the Fir Kashes

Off-the-charts nachas, for me and Josh.

This past winter, we registered Yoel at a National Religious Talmud Torah for 1st grade. As I said before, this is what we have done with all our children. We sent them to Charedi gans, and then sent them to National Religious schools. And in all those years, nobody ever said a word to us about this unusual tradition of ours.

So I completely didn’t expect how deeply upset the Cheider would be with our decision. Three years before they had done everything they could to keep us away. But now, they did everything they could to convince us to stay.

So why are we taking Yoel out of the Cheider? While we have a lot of respect and fondness for the Charedi world, it’s not who we are. And while we’re not exactly “National Religious” either, it’s a closer fit to our way of life and worldview.

So in a month my Cheider boy will become a National Religious kid. From Yoilish to Yoel. From black kippah to colorful knit. From black socks with running shoes to bare feet in Shoresh sandals. And I feel bittersweet about that in one way, and extremely excited about it in another—to be moving beyond Oifen Pripetchik to HaTikvah.

But something I do hope…

I know it’s a bit strange and weird and borderline bizarre to do what we do with our Charedi/National Religious switcheroo at the age of six.

But living in this country, where a Charedi rabbi recently called National Religious Jews “Amalek” and where National Religous Jews often don’t speak so much more highly of the Charedim, I hope that Yoel and his siblings will straddle this chasm between us.

I even hope IY”H that they will have enough love and understanding within them to make this painful chasm disappear—at the very least, in their own hearts.

*I am sure there are equally wonderful National Religious gans around- with sweet children and excellent teachers and bubbling enthusiasm for Torah and Yiddishkeit. In our case, when our daughter Hadas started gan 12 years ago, there was a more limited selection of gans in the neighborhood, and the best choice seemed to be a Charedi gan. Today there is a new excellent National Religious gan in Nachlaot, and maybe if we were starting out again with our oldest child, we would send to that gan instead. But now, we are just sticking with what has worked very well so far– Charedi gans for all our kids.

Related posts:

Rosh Hashana and 959 Failed Driver's Tests
Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi's AMAZING Class on Chanukah (72-minutes audio)
Teen with Downs Syndrome Crowned Homecoming Queen (1-Minute Moving Video)

30 comments

  1. We did the same thing with all of our kids. We kind of “fell” into a National Religious school due to special education concernes. But after two years I have been extremely impressed by the high level of ahavat Hashem in our tsioni school.

  2. I have never read anything that has referenced Pepe LePew! I do not like skunks but I love that cartoon character!
    Very interesting post- I hope we can all straddle the chasm in between all the different Jewish worlds.

  3. Chaya Rivka Carasso

    These small differences – socks, no socks — Toirah, Torah – is what is dividing the Jewish People. How can the Moshiach come? He says to himself, should I wear sandals with socks or no socks, should I say Toirah or Torah. And of course there is more. A Jew lives by Hashem’s requests, when they get far afield and separate one Jew from another, it backfires and we are the ones who miss out.

    Thank you Chana Jenny. I have no opinion on your decision, but I do know that Hashem is guiding Joel and he will grow into a terrific man.

    • I think it’s human nature to look down on those who are different from you. And like other bad middos (or middot!) that are part of human nature, it is our job to refine them. So the socks are not really the issue. The issue is an underlying need for US and THEM, and it’s not exclusive to haredim. But I do believe there are plenty of people, in haredi society as well, who are working on this and other bad middos, so there is hope.

  4. Those of us who made aliya are especially hungry to build a place of ahavat chinam. And when we don’t find it, we find ourselves wondering what it is all about

  5. To chana jenny and people who replied,
    The title and begining of the post are misleading because actually the fact at the moment is that the cheder wants yoel to stay, its the weisbergs who are leaving and they are now leaving because they are national -religious affeliated and want their son to wear sandals. Yes, dress is important to mrs weisberg too. And even if dress is not important to her, does not mean that it is wrong that other people DO feel its important. I dont like how chareidim are being bashed in the post and comments for wanting to uphold their values. If its not a value for you, shop elsewhere. The article is interesting but not written in a way that promotes tolerance or ahavas yisroel.

    • Ilana Solomon

      Thank you for standing up! As Jewish moms we all want unity and Ahavas Yisroel. I wear black tights and I am proud, but that doesn’t mean that I look down at women who wear sandels. We all have our path to go on and we should be encouraging each other in our Avodas Hashem (Avodat Hashem- whatever!).

      • JewishMom

        Nice to hear from you, ilana. Thanks for this message of mutual respect and ahavat yisrael! I miss running into you:)

    • JewishMom

      In response to Em: As I said, I have the utmost respect for Charedim. I am unclear where you see any negativity towards Charedim in the article at all.

      It was not my intention to criticize the Cheider for rejecting us based on how we dress. How we dress represents something about our worldview and our way of life. And it was also not my intention to criticize the Cheider for requesting that I wear socks. Even though my rabbis don’t, I understand that Charedim consider wearing socks an important and basic aspect of modesty.

      I think that all schools make judgments about potential students based on appearance. If a Charedi couple with father in black hat and black suit (or with no kippah or in a tank top, for that matter) appeared at an interview for my daughter’s National Religious school, I think their daughter would be rejected, as Yoel was. And I think that’s valid. How we dress says something about who we are and our ideology and religious outlook, which enables a school to sense whether a child and family would fit into a certain school or not.

      And yes, we chose to leave the Cheider. As I indicated in the title. Why do you feel the title is misleading?

      I am sorry if the tone of the article seemed to be critical of Charedim. That was definitely the opposite of my intention when I was writing it.

  6. although covering feet was not originally part of the halochos of tznius, the jewish women took it upon themselves to cover their feet.

    • And just because women decided to take upon themselves to wear socks still does NOT make it Halacha. And I wear tights: it started out at the beginning of my teshuva, then Hashem decided to gift me with a highway of broken capillaries completely covering my right foot after my last pregnancy: I think he knew I’d go back to being footloose and fancy free and took advantage of my vanity…. So I still wear tights.
      Of course this is not the point.
      I think Chana Jenny is very honest and open with her choices, we have done much the same with our children, quite by accident. It’s not easy changing lanes, the questions about “allegiance” to a certain path are tedious and people question our “loyalty”. We try to shrug and say we are simply loyal to Hashem and our children.
      Good on you Chana Jenny for doing things your way, the way you see as the best for your family.

  7. Hadassah

    interesting article. I don’t think your slant is Charedi bashing at all. I don’t think what is holding back Moshiach is how he will dress or pronounce words. The true Moshiach will appeal to all across the board and will be able to unite us, but hopefully, we will have done that already! I think there is a greater divide between the totally non-observant and those that do. We need to get away from labels and see each other as Jews. Where will you send Sofia when it is her turn to go to Gan?

    • JewishMom

      Tsofia is also starting Bait Yaakov gan next year, she’s really excited and I am too. Getting my socks ready for September 1st…

  8. Interesting post. Forty years ago when I first started looking for a gan in Bayit Vegan (which was then very mixed) I was glad we had daughters. I could send them and did to chardally and chareidi gannim. There was nothing like that for boys, only cheder, which I didn’t want, or a gan with mixed dati and chiloni kids.

  9. my son, during his formative years, he went through the chabad system all the way to smiach program in Melborne. His experience especially with Rebbe Alter in kitah aleph set the foundation Now he is more open and eclectic shall we say, more modern and I accept him with love!, albeit not so easy at first. In fact my son was at Princeton University last summer for a special program for students worldwide. This was the same university where my dad went in the ’30’s when it was plastered with so much anti-Semitism-poor dad he hated it. Now years later my son comes back, kippah and full beard, etc. Amazing! So even though he walks the ivy halls of Princeton, it is his first few years at cheder and especially with Rebbe Alter, a”h who still walks with him!

  10. Chana, there are so many funky socks now a days,colorful with patterns, the sky is the limit…check them out (and who says that the socks have to be only white, navy or black?)
    albeit summer is always hard to put socks on but think of all the nachas you are giving to the Ehibeshter…hatzlacha!

  11. Thank you for this. Pinned it and will send it to my wonderful Rabbi Meyer at the Aish Denver synagogue. He loves all, welcomes all, but not all do the same and that is not the way to repair the universe.

    http://pinterest.com/pin/147141112798597136/

    Thank you for this. Will quote it and link to it in my Friday’s Thinking About What Matters post.

  12. Dress code is a huge issue for those of us who live in Israel. Chana, I commend you for being so tuned in to your avodas Hashem that you and your husband are able to rise above it. You accept it for what it is, and “change” your dress in order to blend in when you need to. It’s very open minded of you to be able to take advantage of the beautiful things in a “camp” that is not your own.

    The respect that you and your husband have for all Jews surely permeates your home. May your home be a shining example for all of Am Yisrael.

  13. don’t you worry that your son will be confused by the transition?

    • JewishMom

      this is our fifth time going through this–moving from a Charedi gan to a National Religious school, and it’s always been a very smooth transition. This is sort of different though, since Yoel is our first boy– so he’ll have to switch kippas and also he’ll have to learn how to read now with Israeli rather than Yiddish pronunciation (in cheiders the boys learn how to read in kindergarten which is called “mechina”). IY”H, I hope it’ll be OK. Yoel’s very excited though (even though he adored his cheider– his dear friends and the rebbe).

      • Just wondering why you think Yoel has to change kippas? My boys changed from chassidish to chardal (where blessedly there is the whole gamut of kippot) and so far they are still wearing their black velvets tho honestly we couldn’t care less! Does the school require it or do you think it’s more socially required?

        • JewishMom

          hmmmm…that’s interesting. I really need to ask a mother from that school to see what’s socially acceptable there. Maybe he can continue with his black velvet kippah?

  14. JewishMom

    PLEASE NOTE: I JUST EDITED COMMENTS TO REMOVE ALL CRITICISM OF GROUPS OF JEWS, AS WELL AS RESPONSES TO THOSE CRITICISMS.

  15. I think if the school doesn’t require a specific kippa in their dress code (which many do) then boys can wear whatever they are comfortable with. In our boys school (the Moriah chain) boys wear al kinds, some have peyot, some don’t, it’s really great.

    • JewishMom

      that is great to know– this talmud torah is similar to moriah in hashkafa. Maybe he won’t have to give up his kippah after all? I just was worried it would make him different and harder to fit in…

  16. You went to Friends? Is that Sidwell Friends in DC where the White House kids go? I was down the block from there, but went to GDS.
    … ah that was a different world…

  17. Good luck to you. Switching a boy will be TOTALLY diff than switching the girls. the system for boys is SO different than that of girls and boys are SO diff than girls. think twice before you do this to another boy. the torah learning will be much easier for him at the new school while he’ll probably be behind in any reading or math that he’s learned. it will probably seem to him like a more relaxed place where it’s easier to learn so i don’t really see how at this age he’ll be able to make the right comparisons and opinions. from what i’ve seen, esp. with boys – growing up in israel straddeling two or more diff worlds – american/israel, national religious/chareidi etc. tends to confuse them and they end up having a harder time finding their shidduch, among other things. you’re an awsome mom and your husband sounds great too so hopefully in that merit he’ll turn out great.

  18. shlomo levi

    although im from completely different generation as a youngster
    I zigzaged between charedei and datee leumi schools and yeshivas
    i came out ok.
    as a solution to the kipa i eventualy changed from black cloth
    to black leather.

  19. Thank you for editing out what you did. That’s what is so pleasant about jewishmom.com. There isn’t any of that bashing going on. But when people do respectfully disagree, you let it appear. I like that.

Leave a Reply