Mishpacha Magazine vs. My Alma Mater
From 4th grade to 12th grade I attended the Friends School of Baltimore, a Quaker prep school. Three years following my high school graduation, I moved across the world from Friends School—not only geographically, but also ideologically and spiritually—when I began living as an Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem.
So it was quite a surreal experience to open up last week’s issue of Mishpacha Magazine and see that my old Alma Mater had managed to find its way into Mishpacha’s crosshairs.
In last week’s column, Yonoson Rosenblum wrote:
“[Roman Catholic] Ryan Anderson, whom I had the pleasure of meeting last summer…has emerged as one of the primary (and few) public defenders of traditional marriage. (He is a co-author of the book…What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.)
“Anderson was recently profiled in the Washington Post. The Friends School of Baltimore, which Ryan and his four brothers attended for 12 years, posted a link to the profile of one of its most prominent alumni on its Facebook page. Within a few hours the post was removed and the head of the school apologized to all members of the school for having posted the profile and thereby failing ‘to create a safe, nurturing environment for all the children in our care.’”
“In other words, Anderson’s views are not just wrong, but evil, and as such students and graduates of an elite private school must be protected from even knowing that such opinions can be held by obviously intelligent, articulate, and learned people.”
The truth is, I wasn’t so surprised to hear that the Friends School officially supports same-sex marriage. Friends Schools and Quakers in general are known for their liberal political and social views.
But as soon as I read this I wanted to share another side of Friends School—-which I still remember with a great deal of fondness and gratitude.
In preparation for my 25th high school reunion last year, Meghan Stern, one of my old classmates, sent me an Email asking me for an update on what I’ve been up to since 1989.
It took me a few days to gather up the courage to come out of the closet to my old classmates…but one evening I finally sat down and sent Meghan an Email confessing the gory truth: that following graduation from Bowdoin College I became criminally insane, joined a cult called “Orthodox Judaism,” married a cult leader, and have been barefoot and pregnant ever since.
Whoops, I mean that was what Meghan thought when she read what I wrote, which was actually, “After I graduated from Bowdoin College in 1993 I moved to Jerusalem, where I have been living ever since. My husband, Joshua Weisberg, is an Orthodox rabbi who is originally from Canada. We have 7 children, and I am full-time mom taking care of them. I’ve also written two books on pregnancy and motherhood, and have an inspirational website for Jewish mothers called JewishMOM.com.”
And then I decided, if I was already coming out of the closet, why not just come out dancing with a marching band…
I attached a photo of my family—me with my hair covered, my husband with his beard and yarmulke, along with our seven kids—peyos, kippas, long sleeves and skirts…
Then I pressed “send.”
A few hours later Meghan wrote me back. “Your family is absolutely gorgeous.Thank you.”
Was she being sincere or just being nice to her classmate who went off the deep end?
Anyway, I completely forgot about the reunion etc, until I noticed an Email in my inbox from Deloris Jones with the subject line “Life in Israel.” I saw that name, and my heart warmed instantly. That was the name of my old Social Studies teacher in 6th grade, one of my all-time favorite teachers. So I clicked on the Email, and, unbelievably, it had actually been written by my old teacher, Ms. Jones!
Ms. Jones wrote the following:
Hello! I hope you remember me, or at least remember Friends School of Baltimore. I saw your family photo in Collection Magazine and was delighted to see how happy you and your family are. As I read about your life I thought it would be wonderful if my 6th grade social studies class could write to you to learn about your life in Israel. I can guess how busy you are, so if you cannot find some time, I will truly understand. I hope that all is well and your family is continuing to thrive.
Middle School social studies teacher
Reading this again, tears flood my eyes.
And I wanted to share it with you, to show you another side of Friends School. That the Friends School that strives “to create a safe, nurturing environment for all the children in our care” managed to stretch its heart a bit wider than usual to include the child who moved across the world geographically, ideologically, and spiritually.
Little Jenny Freedman who grew up into Chana Jenny Weisberg.