Our First Rejection

Rejection. And 8 years later it still stings.

The gan’s director, the dream nursery school for our 4-year-old firstborn daughter, had put her foot down. Hadas Weisberg was not welcome. Our rejection, I assume, was based on defects so numerous that it is hard to enumerate them all here.
But here’s the short list for starters:

-My husband wore the wrong kippah
-My husband taught the wrong subjects at the wrong yeshiva
-We lived way over on the wrong side of Jaffa Road
-My husband’s clothing was all wrong
-My clothing was even more all wrong

But we really, really wanted to get Hadas into that gan. It was just two blocks away from our home. My husband and I really admired and felt connected to a few families that sent daughters there. And also, of course, having a daughter who would know a bit of Yiddish sounded incredibly, irresistibly cool.

So we persisted. A rabbi Josh is close to from her community called Rebbetzin Cohen* to plead our case. And the following week, Rebbetzin Cohen reluctantly relented. Josh and I were thrilled.

And in the end, it turned out we were right to push. Hadas’ Chassidishe teachers were the absolute best. The 18 girls in the gan were beyond adorable with their little girl ponytails and knee socks pulled high. And most importantly, I still believe that that year at Gan Sara* played a significant role in shaping Hadas into the special girl she is today.

But the truth is that the whole application process left its scars. Not that I couldn’t sympathize with Rebbetzin Cohen’s point of view. I understand that the she felt like her Yiddish-y culture was under siege, and that a certain amount of xenophobia was warranted to maintain and protect her secluded island of shtetl from a raging sea of modernity. And I guess, in a certain way, that raging sea of non-shtetl-ness included the Weisbergs.

But still, and to this very day, when I see Rebbetzin Cohen coming my way on the street, I feel bad. I tug up my collar, tug down my headscarf, and profoundly regret my lack of socks. I know that she thinks my shirt is too bright, and that my headscarf is too colorful, and that she would never, ever let a daughter of hers wear a denim skirt, like mine.

Every time I see her, it’s like Rebbetzin Cohen is rejecting me and my family all over again.

But recently, I saw Rebbetzin Cohen on my way to the market, and something switched inside me.

Instead of her diplomatic yet scornful nod, I focused, instead, on Hashem looking down on me from up in Heaven. Hashem, I knew, doesn’t just see my shirt and scarf and skirt. He sees my heart, and how much I yearn to be good and to become better.

And that feeling of G-d’s embrace, G-d’s love, warmed me, comforted me, protected me all the way past that diplomatic yet scornful nod and home again.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Mouse


  1. yes, sounds familiar.
    as parents we have to tolerate these humiliations… who knows, maybe it’s worth it!

  2. I guess it still confuses me as to why we should have to push to get our children into a place that doesnt represent our hashkafa or who we really are. There is a double message to our kids and its extremely confusing…I know since thats how I grew up- sfardi in an ashkenazi school for girls, and the hashkafa and minhagim were criss cross and confusing- they just ruined my self esteem- I saw it happen all over again in seminary and I just quit for a few years- so it really is a delicate subject and God save us all and our children that they should never feel like quitting-ever!!!

  3. As I embark on the big stage in our families life, our first son’s upsherin (first haircut), and choosing the appropriate cheder for him, I can TOTALLY relate to your observations. We are baalei teshuva who are trying to figure out where we fit in and how much we are willing to compromise in order to fit in…on the one hand, we dream about the heimish, chassidishe, yiddish system that you described. On the other hand, I am not ready to wear stockings in the house, give up my colorful tichel’s and ‘tight’ shirts. So what do we do? How much can we give of our personal selves for our children? I guess this is a lifelong question and if you, Chana, want to write about it, I would be very happy!!!

  4. I can totally relate. My precious oldest son recently began in a gan – which we love for him – but also which is more shtark than we are. Well, we ‘passed’ because we knew Rebbetzin so-and-so who sent her kids there and also Rebbetzin such-and-such, whose shiurim I have attended. It’s a Chassidish gan… and I would say that we are Chassidish-ish…. yeah, I have to add an extra ‘ish’ to make the statement true.

    It’s really no problem for me to drop him off and pick him up wearing a sheitel – I have sheitels, I do wear them… but not every single day like some of the other moms. (don’t they realize it’s August?) Sometimes, I feel like we’re faking. But also, I heard advice from a Rabbi once in the arena of Shalom Bayis… he said ‘fake it until you make it’. He said that it’s ok to put on a smile that’s not 100% genuine and to be in a good mood that is not 100% real… but that the act of looking happy, seeming happy, doing happy things will create happiness in our homes.

    Maybe that’s how it will be with my son’s education. We love the gan atmosphere and we look up to the families who send their kids there. Maybe, with a little time, without thinking, we will become more like them and absorb more of the internal values and not just copy the external things to look the part.

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