Backstabbing References

There’s a personality of folk who have very narrow definitions of acceptability. I’m not talking about any particular religious subset, as you can find people with narrow definitions of “us” almost everywhere. But life gets really fun when you step outside their line in the sand… and they’re playing at your shadchan.

Take the aidel knaidel Friend who decided to attend Brooklyn College instead of, say, Touro, Stern, or one of the various fake options. She knew it was a controversial step, but she didn’t realize how much until a former high school classmate called up with a shidduch idea. It was for a cousin of hers who was finishing a degree in the University of Southern Mississippi.

“I was like, does he have a chavrusa down there?” Friend related. “And she was like, ‘I don’t know, does it matter?’ So I go online and do some googling and I can’t even turn up any Reform shuls down there, let alone an orthodox one. There isn’t even a Chabad in Mississippi. So I’m like, ‘Why is he down there?’ and she’s like, ‘I don’t know.’ So I’m like, ‘Well find out and get back to me, okay?’ And she never did.”

‘Course it works the other way. Like the guy from Lawrence who decided to go to YU and whose aunt decided he had flipped out and kept trying to set him up with girls from Borough Park. Talk about confused.

Oh, it’s always fun when people try to set you up with the wrong sort of guy (“is he wearing torn cut-offs in that photo or is it my imagination?”) but it can get downright scary when such people are in your reference list. Thus found out the Friend who kept hearing that people were looking into her but never getting a date.

“Oh well, I guess it was never meant to be,” she assured herself while going on with her dateless life.

Until she received a worried phone call from Reference #4. “Friend,” Ref#4 said urgently, “What have you been up to?!”

“Oh the usual,” Friend answered. “Shopping, working, studying… why?”

“Not that,” Ref#4 dismissed, “I mean why do people think you’re modern?”


“I keep getting shidduch calls from women who all say that they’ve heard that you’re very modern and they’re worried that you’re not right for their boys.”

Friend mulled that over in a shocked silence for a few moments. Granted, there had been the day she’d worn pink paisley rain boots, and one of her new skirts didn’t have a pleat it in anywhere, and she worked in downtown Manhattan and she’d been seen walking out of the Avenue J library with a DVD but… Seriously?

She passed a sleepless night performing a cheshbon hanefesh. Maybe her high school teachers wouldn’t cite her as a role model, but she wasn’t modern. (Whatever that meant: she knew she didn’t fit her own definition of it.) Morning found her quite decided: it wasn’t her fault. Someone was spreading rumors.

It was like living inside ย a serialized Jewish novel. Her shidduch chances were being destroyed by a malignant gossip-mongerer. Someone was out to get her. Her life would be ruined by vicious slander and she’d be an old spinster one day visiting the nursing home for companionship when an ancient crone would come beg her for forgiveness before she died, admitting that she (the old crone) had been the one to tell everyone that she (Friend) was modern.

The most obvious place to start looking was her references list. So she started at the top, making friendly phone calls, discussing oh, life, the universe, and everything, and also all the mothers who had been calling about her recently…

It was Ref#3 who said, “Yes, and they were all planning to learn. I told them you weren’t interested.”

Whoa. Culprit identified!

“Um, what gave you that idea?”

“You did. Remember that conversation we had two months ago when you said that you weren’t interested in kollel learners?”

“Yeah, but I meant long-term learners. Not guys keeping regular sedarim and maybe learning a year or two after marriage.”

They worked out the little misunderstanding to the best that they could and Friend moved Ref#3 to the bottom of the list. So much for the malignant gossiper. Why does melodrama only happen in novels?


55 thoughts on “Backstabbing References

  1. I’m familiar with the concept that Brooklyn College is a big, adventurous, unusual step. But when you realize that yourself, you need to take a step back and ask “What in the WORLD is going on here?”

  2. I’m going to play devils advocate about the brooklyn college thing. First let’s start out by saying that stern and touro are not “fake” options. B”h I myself went to touro and am happily employed as are most of my friends that graduated touro undergrad (granted it was a bit harder to get into a good graduate school but most of us that cared managed to pull it off). Now let’s discuss Brooklyn college. From what I understand, there are two main issues that more frum people have with it. First thing is that it is co-ed. Now I know your going to say that the world is mixed gender but hear me out. If one really feels that the mixing of genders is wrong (which is what the talmud and our general mesora emply) then why hurry up the inevitable. True that in another 4 years you will probably be somewhere that’s mixed but does that mean that for these four years, you shouldn’t try to avoid it?! You could argue that brooklyn will provide a better education and therefore its not a needless mixing of genders but one that is only symptomatic of a better education. This leads us to the second problem which is one of priorities and hashkafa. Your job in life as a religious jew is to put your observance at the fore and your hishtadlut for making parnassah in the back seat. After all, as a religious jew, you believe that your parnassah is only there to better enable you to serve hashem. Therefore if on the way to serving hashem I do a diservice to my avoda, it puts my motives and thus my general hashkafa under question. Thus people that avoid going out with brooklyn college students believe that their hashkafot are more “modern”. I’m typing this on my blackberry so if its not clear, forgive me, ill elaborate more later.

  3. I think anyone who goes to Touro instead of Brooklyn is out of their mind.
    Let’s start with cost: Brooklyn is $4600 per year. Touro is $13,700 per year.
    Brooklyn transfers up to 32 credits from Israel for free and with little hassle. From what I understand, Touro has a bureaucratic process at a high cost.
    Quality of education is debatable, and quite frankly, most students don’t really care. It’s the perception by others and employers that counts. While Brooklyn is not the greatest on earth, Touro’s perception is monumentally poor.
    Scheduling is really easy at Brooklyn. If you want, you can take only night classes or whenever you want. Scheduling at Touro depends on your gender.
    Frumkeit is the only area where Touro has an edge, but Brooklyn has little real issues. We have off for major yomim tovim and many teachers cancel classes that conflict with ‘lesser’ ones, like Shemini Atzeres. There are many Bais Yaakov girls and boys who wear white shirts everyday. The mixing is not the greatest, but as mentioned, Touro only delays the inevitable.

  4. Where is it written that men and women going to college together will jeopardize the soul? It’s not against halacha. It’s males and females sitting at desks in a public sphere. They’re not frolicking together through vineyards. While once the world did not have it – because women, in general, did not pursue higher education – it does not make it wrong or soul-threatening. And if some think so, it certainly does not give them the right to malign a girl in shidduchim. I think there’s a pretty steep divine penalty for libel, not for sitting in a college classroom.

    Would anyone believe me that the shidduch system wasn’t always like this? When my siblings were dating, there weren’t references. Someone suggested to a person, and the mother would call someone that she knew from the same shul. If she got something useful or not, it didn’t matter much. Two people went on a date without investigative methods that would make the FBI blush.

    Thirty years ago, frum people hung out together, went to clubs, met on their own (although my folks were set up), and now the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme. Now people want to control everything, not leaving anything to Hashem. Innocent people’s characters are being maligned or misrepresented. You know what that is? Loshon hara.

  5. As someone who went to Touro for undergrad and Brooklyn for grad school, I take offense that Touro is a “fake” school. Want to say lower caliber? okay. Fake it is not.
    Fake is paying for a degree with out doing any work. I, for one, certainly put a lot of work into my undergrad studies. Certain teachers are “easy As” but from what I heard from my friends and siblings who attended Brooklyn undergrad- the same can be said there as well. And many classes ARE challenging and fulfilling- try finding someone who received an A in the English or Chemistry classes at Touro (and you won’t find many) and they will tell you how they EARNED their grade- through hard work and studying. So fake it is not.
    However it is far more expensive,but there are definitely pros- the Jewish environment.

  6. no one except soul suggested that Touro was “fake.” (It’s real – you kinda can’t miss it on every street corner.) And soul wasn’t being serious. Why does everyone get so preemptively offended? Chill.

    What I call fake is any degree that doesn’t require attending class, doing real homework (not summaries of the textbook), and completing relevant projects. Most of the fast-forward degrees would fall into this category, as well as most online degrees. (Yeah, I know you do hard work for online degrees too. But it’s stupid work just to prove that you’re actually working, whereas in real colleges you get real work to do because they know that you’re working. Put differently: any course that involves a mandatory class on ethics is probably fake.) Some courses in Touro teeter on the brink of this category, but you can probably find cop-out courses in any college if you look hard enough.

  7. Sorry bad4 but it was you, not soul, who brought up the “Touro= fake” thing in your post: Take the aidel knaidel Friend who decided to attend Brooklyn College instead of, say, Touro, Stern, or one of the various fake options.

  8. sarah, i think you and i misunderstood bad4 in that quote. i, in my haste thought she was equating touro, stern and fake colleges. I didnt realize that while she shtoops them all together, she feels that atleast touro and stern have a building to show for it.

  9. Soul: You show a really lovely example of how Touro is such a good school with your spelling and grammatical errors.

    Bad4: I don’t know what online school you’re referring to, but I can tell you, as someone who’s taken classes on campus and online, that online classes with a reputable school are not only more difficult, they’re also more thorough.

    I think that the question of college really depends on the individual person. People need to stop looking at what school a person went to and start looking at the person herself\himself. One of my closest friends left high school a year early to go to a community college and people assumed she was “going off the derech” but she’s still 100% frum.

  10. When people don’t know the young woman/man in question, they generalize based on the choices they make in terms of things like education. One choice is not necessarily better or worse than another; but people tend to choose people who have the same values as they do.

  11. First, I went to Brooklyn more than 40 years ago. Some classes were demanding but others were not. One could get a degree and do minimal to know work. As I understand it going on from Brooklyn combined grades plus GRE, GMAT, MCAT, and or LSAT. There had to be some sign of accomplishment on those exams. There also had to be professorial recommendations. Both the exams and the recommendations can be gamed but likely when the 3 (Grades, exams, recommendations) are put together someone can assess an education.

    More germane to the post, a lot of your askanim and rabbanim (black hat yeshivish as you like) attended Brooklyn. For some it was similar to travelling on the bus or subway. Mixed genders are there but they paid them no mind. Others, participated in mixed communities, men asked women out and got married, and still others saw what they wanted and got a 3rd party to set them up. The full gradation of observance from Mirrer Yeshiva to Yeshiva Bum was present and represented.

    These folks grew up raised families whose children and grandchildren probably comment on this blog regarding modernity and its opposite.

    My pet peeve is that one is not marrying a cut out, a chavrusah, or a shtender user. You just don’t know what will life will throw at you some “frummies” became totally non observant, and some “bums” are wearing the darkest clothing, longest beards and lead the charge against and deviance from perceived community norms. For all of you, men/boys/bochrim, girls/women/maidlach the most important thing is to marry a good person, and one who is interested in you as a person and who you feel is your friend. Most of the rest of this stuff is spiritual “arm candy” for others to see not for you to experience.

  12. Did not check spelling so it is “minimal to no work”

    I won’t even emend the punctuation. I think I will be understood.

  13. Guys, a little grammar lesson.
    What I wrote was a list. Meaning, three individual possible college options that would be acceptable. Touro is one. Stern is another. And any of the various fake options is a third. Three distinct categories. Touro. Stern. Or fake. Or. OR. I used “or” to differentiate them as three mutually exclusive categories. They are not “shtooped” together in any way except under the heading of Acceptable Higher Education for Aidel Maidels.

    If I had written “Touro, Stern, or any of the various other fake options” I would have been calling them all fake. In this sentence I used “other” to reference the previous two institutions and include them in my summary of “fake options.”

    Note that nobody who went to Stern seemed to think I was calling their institution fake. Better grammar, or just less defensiveness?

    FF: I took one online course and yes, there was plenty of work. But it was mostly busywork to take the place of lectures. So instead of napping through class where a professor told you something, you had to read it yourself and then regurgitate it to prove that you’d read it. And then you wrote a paper and took a test.
    I’ve also helped friends who took online courses and it was pretty much the same. A lot of writing paragraphs rephrasing the book to prove that you read it, maybe writing a paper, and possibly taking a test. Usually not, though, because if the college is completely online they can’t really pull that off. I would be embarrassed to tell you how often I get asked by people to take their courses for them, regurgitate their books, and write their essays. Maybe you could get away with that IRL, but it’s much harder.

  14. It’s amazing to me how the entire comment thread is now devoted to a discussion of college options and completely misses the point of the post. [shakes head]

  15. We were discussing why people believe brooklyn college goers are generally less frum then the their Touro counterparts.I explained why I believe people

  16. Itโ€™s amazing to me how the entire comment thread is now devoted to a discussion of college options and completely misses the point of the post. [shakes head]

    I’ll take the credit, since I made the top comment. It’s on my mind because my child is in the college parsha. But something must have struck a nerve, not just my comment.

  17. You know guys get it too. If you are kove’a ittim people sometimes assume you’re okay with a very frum girl, and if you’re not kove’a ittim oy vey…

  18. Bad4, you left out that the really frum girls go to the New Seminary to get the degree from Adelphi in just 1 1/2 years — if they also went to seminary before and registered with a place like Touro and also venture onto the Adelphi campus for the summer sessions. Most of these girls are the ones who in the previous generation would have had been expected to teach the year after seminary. Some also then went to Touro night dreaming of their escape from low-paying jobs they just had to go through until they were engaged. But for those who were not quite in the far a right category, the CUNY schools were considered a good option. In fact, boys who were learning in the YFR bais medrash used to go to Queens at night. However, the present frummer generation does not consider this acceptable any longer.

    Correction on grammar for this sentence: “Note that nobody who went to Stern seemed to think I was calling their institution fake.”
    Do note that “nobody” is singular; therefore, it does not correspond in number with “their.” You would have to say, “Note that nobody who went to Stern seemed to think I was calling her institution fake.” As all Stern student are of the female persuasion, there is no need to use a form that covers both genders, which is why people usually resort to using “they” for a third person singular. BTW I’ve tutored at Stern, taught at YU and also at Touro, as well as the New Seminary program, and many other schools.

  19. Henoch – if you are not kove’a itim while in undergrad, before marriage and job, quite frankly the time of your life when you will have the most time and opportunity to learn – when will you be. It is oy vey – how can a 20 year old boy with no job and kids not be kove’a itim and want to be called a ben torah?

    Besides, a boy who leaves the yeshiva world (not YU or modern orthodox places but for a person in mainstream yeshivos) and goes full time to undergrad is taking an unusual step these days. For someone who cares about his learning or his sevivah, there are very limited good reasons or excuses for someone 18-21 not to be in a yeshiva atmosphere. You can get a degree from many schools at night or part time and remain in yeshiva at the same time. You can go to law school, business school, med-school, dental school or pretty much any graduate program and not have to leave yeshiva. Leaving yeshiva early says something about a boy, his priorities and frumkeit.

  20. Henoch, if you’re working and going to college, I would not definitely not question your religiosity. I find any sort of blank statement here to be disturbing. “If someone does this, then he is _________.” “If she does that, then she’s lacking in __________.” I’m not saying that I haven’t done it, but those sort of conclusions don’t get any voice. While we may live in a cookie cutter world, I flatter myself that I’m seeking someone who’s not a gingerbread man.

  21. Anon99 would, though. Because it would be, quote “taking unusual steps.”

    Of course, if we all avoid a good behavior simply because it’s not usual, we would swiftly drive the behavior to extinction. Thus, the usualness of a behavior is really not a very good reason to perform or avoid it.

    Ariella – I sit corrected. A bad grammatical habit.

  22. Henoch – if you are working a 9 – 6 easy job then, yeah, there is no excuse not to be kove’a itim. Learning each day needs to be a priority for a ben torah. Period. I will not get into a debate whether one should work before they are married or at least a certain age- that is for people far smarter than I. There are a myriad of reasons why someone could need to work at a younger age. However, if someone is leaving yeshiva to pursue full-time college, then what I said above stands. In essence this person is leaving the pursuit of torah study for another education and cannot even point to the need to earn living today to justify it. (BTW, this is brought to you by a college graduate (done while in yeshiva) with two professional degrees (done post yeshiva) – who has always made time for shiurim and chavrusas).

  23. Ari – no you can’t. My posts were talking about undergraduate. You do law, medical, dental or similar post-undergrad full time, but the undergrad stuff can be done part time or at night.

  24. Anon 99 – There is a difference between yeshiva and learning. Just because one is not yeshiva does not mean they have given learning the ol’ heave ho. I’ll ask again, politely, for you to cease and desist such racist comments – such statements accomplishes nothing, except pigeon-hole people needlessly. If that’s what you think, fine, don’t date him. But some of us would rather go out and see for ourselves.

    Bad4 – Regarding the boy from Lawrence – is it that for Lawrence, YU is so very much to the right? The ratio of Boro Park/Flatbush folk living there is pretty high nowadays.

  25. Princess Lea are you stereotyping according to location now? You seem to imply that Lawrence may have stepped up to the right because of the infusion of BP/Flatbush people there. Assumptions about people based on where they live are even more off than assumptions about them based on their schools.

  26. I hate to break up the whole working vs learning, location vs location, schooling vs schooling etc narrow mindedness going on here, but does anybody really believe that God is going to prevent Bad4’s friend from getting married to the right one just because one of her references was misinformed? While I agree that once she found out what the mistake was, basic hishtadlus dictates that it should be rectified, I find it very hard to believe that that is the sole reason she is not yet married.

    Back to the topic at hand, I work 9-5 and am training for a marathon, but still find time to learn. Any girl who says no to me because I had the gall to try get myself set up to be able to support my family, well, it’s her loss. Working doesn’t make you evil, just makes sure you don’t have to waste as much time dating closed-minded girls.

  27. I don’t agree at all with much of Anon99’s comment, but she does have some point there. Doesn’t a guy who is on the Orthodox shidduch “market” (Ugh, hate that word) expect that his future wife should AT LEAST keep a kosher home and other basic halochos? Well, an orthodox girl may expect that her husband should AT LEAST be kovei ittim latora. This by far doesn’t mean he has to sit in kollel full time, even half an hour a day shows that he is are also dedicated to do his part in building a good Jewish home. This can be done even when working (plus training for a marathon!), as MCP shows. To be kovei itim is the duty of every Jewish male, and if he can’t even manage that, it is not so strange that he gets set up with girls that not so “frum” i.e. don’t take THEIR “duties” seriously.

  28. Why should a young woman care whether a guy has learning seders or not? Can you show me one way that it will affect their relationship?

  29. Kisarita…are you serious? You really don’t believe that if the husband learns, he will have a positive affect on his family? You don’t think that he might just end up being a better husband or father? If you believe that than there is no point of you even entering this conversation because you evidently have very different views and beliefs then most orthodox jews. I don’t even know where to start but all I’ll say is that I don’t agree with you nor do the vast majority of orthodox jews.

  30. soul- maybe it will; maybe it won’t. Wouldn’t it be better to evaluate the actual man and his interpersonal character rather than rely on some nebulous spiritual theory?

    Haven’t we been scandalized by enough disappointments from many a Torah scholar to stop making that equation?

  31. and soul, even more importantly: It is quite sad that you think there is no point in discussing anything with someone who doesn’t share the same beliefs as most orthodox jews.

    it also doesn’t say much for the validity of your opinion.

  32. well no kisarita, thats the point. the reason there is no point in discussing this with you is because your mind is made up. you probably get most if not all of your information about Judaism from the internet, have probably never met a true talmid hacham and probably never received a proper Jewish education. therefore your opinion doesnt matter not because you are unimportant but because you are uninformed.

  33. ariella: regarding shabat 31: That’s between him and his maker, not between him and his wife.
    (for those listening in: Source indicates that a man will be asked on judgement day ืงื‘ืขืช ืขืชื™ื ืœืชื•ืจื”(
    berakhot 17:
    These words are very meaningful to me as they were inscribed with love on the gravestone of my grandmother, a”h, a woman who truly lived those words.
    However these words also invoke my frustration and ire as they are a favorite source used by seminaries, taken out of context, to convince girl that their entire spiritual worth depends on a man’s activities, and that they therefore have to marry kollel men or be spiritually worthless (Kind of a spiritual transposition of freud’s debunked penis envy theory). Never mind the theological problem that this seems to totally contradict the idea of divine justice that judges each person on their own merits.
    Omitted context: The reward of the world to come consists of ืฆื“ื™ืงื™ื ื™ื•ืฉื‘ื™ื ื•ื ื”ื ื™ื ืžื–ื™ื• ื”ืฉื›ื™ื ื”Women have a greater portion of this than men.
    Continuation: By what do women so merit? By taking their children to school and by waiting for their husbands to return.

    As for Sotah, well I have no response to that. But if these girls are seeking out learning men with the intention of cheating on their husbands I’d say they have worse problems.
    (Source indicates that a woman studying torah will not save her from the sotah waters as much as supporting her husband’s)

  34. And now a sourceproof of my own to buttress my own point of view:
    ื˜ื‘ ืœืžื™ืชื‘ ื˜ืŸ ื“ื• ืžืœืžื™ืชื‘ ืืจืžืœื•!

  35. Kisarita: I think the point here is not so much that a woman should look for someone learning full time, or even that learning is a “magic” that will make sure you have a good relationship.

    I think the point is that if a woman wants someone who is kovea itim, and the man is not, they do not have the same spiritual values, which does not make for a good shidduch. While mitzvos ben adam lamakom are (literally) between him and his maker, and not between him and his wife, I believe that a couple should have the same priorities.

  36. Do bear in mind that people don’t always keep the exact practices they had when you married them. I married someone who was kovea ittim, and four years later, he frequently announces that he ought to learn more, but daily learning is long gone from his schedule. His commute changed, and, to be honest, his priorities changed. We’re certainly happier than we were in the first year of our marriage, even though I’d prefer that he still learned regularly, because we’re well-matched in other ways and we’ve learned how to be better at being married.

  37. Anonymous (comment 46), you put that very well, though it does go beyond priorities, according to the Gemara. See /
    kisarita, You miss the point of that; it is the complement of the other Gemara, and you completely misunderstood the Sotah reference — it is one of two places where the concept of what merit women have is presented.

  38. Wow. Some people have interesting things to say.

    I actually made my initial comment about learning because I had a friend who wasn’t “Kove’a Itim” who I had been trying to convince yes do so. His argument was along the lines of wanting a girl to see him for who he is. I wanted to see how a “broader” spectrum of how people feel about it.

    Subesequent to the discussion I had with him he started being kove’a itim (though not because of me).

    I find kisarita’s comment “Tav L’mishkav tan du mi’lemeisav armelu” comment kind of funny because I mentioned it in a candid conversation with some non jewish women and they looked at me like I was crazy.

  39. Princess – if you look back over my several posts – the conversation started with someone who did give learning the old heave-ho – he left Yeshiva and was not kove’a itim. Never did I say that someone who is not in yeshiva cannot/does not learn. I said that someone who leaves Yeshiva at a young age has taken an unusual step. My exact question was “how can a 20 year old boy with no job and kids not be koveโ€™a itim and want to be called a ben torah?”

  40. It’s ‘tav limaytav,’ not limishkav. Broadly speaking, it means ‘It’s better [for a woman] to be married than to be single,’ which is used to show that a woman would prefer to be married to anybody at all than to be single. The gemara uses this principle in deciding certain halachos. For example, if a childless man with a brother sends his wife a get via a shaliach, then dies before she receives it, she isn’t considered divorced because it’s better for her to be married (via yibum) than not.

  41. As far as I have gleaned from absolutely minimal research and interaction with relevant personnel, you can tell if a BC attender is of the frummer variety because when asked what the the name of the university he/she attends, the answer is pronounced BROOKlyncollege, in one word, with the emphasis on the first syllable. Most other people pronounce it as it is written: Brooklyn COLLege. I’d be curious to know if anyone else has noticed this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s