Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Prestigious Be'er Torah Yeshiva

I don’t exactly know what’s wrong with having a driver’s license when you are 22 years old. But that is beside the point here. Ynet reports that a group of young men were expelled from a prestigious Yeshiva called Be'er Torah for exactly that reason. Was the Yeshiva within its rights to do that?

Of course it was. They had a specific rule against it. The rule was well known and violated nonetheless. These young men have nothing to complain about. They violated the rules and are paying a price.

Private schools have every right to make any rules they see fit. If they require every student to wear underwear on their heads under penalty of expulsion and they don’t – those who don’t should expect to get expelled.

One can speculate about what the reasons might be for any given rule. But that too is beside the point. If that is the school of your choice you have to play by their rules.

So this item in the news is barely noteworthy except for the following:

1) The institution's staff looked into the driver's license issue in cooperation with the Transportation Ministry. (But later) the ministry issued the following response: "Entering the Transportation Ministry's database while pretending to be the owner of a license is an offence.

2) Some members of the yeshiva were granted permission to hold a driver's license after all. "It caused plenty of bitterness, as if only the well connected can hold a license," one student said

3) Their names were published, thereby making it difficult for them to find an alternate yeshiva to attend.

This changes everything.

I recall a similar event when I was in Telshe back in the early 60s. Two high school students were caught in a bowling alley one Motzoi Shabbos. This was right after a Mussar Shmooze about how terrible it was interacting with non Jews and then specifically forbidding students from going to any non Jewish venues for entertainment.

Those boys (rightly – in my view) did not buy that there was anything inherently evil in going bowling during their free time. Be that as it may, Telshe was well within their rights to set a ‘underwear on your head’ rule. Those boys clearly violated it. One can question the wisdom of such a rule. And one can question the severity of being expelled for violating it as a punishment. But one cannot question the right of a school to do that for any violation it sees fit.

The problem was that only one of those two boys got expelled. The other one was the son of a VIP. He got no punishment at all. He just went to class the next day.

I know the expelled boy well. The end of that story is his father pleaded with the Telzer Roshei Yeshiva and they relented on the condition that the father send them $500 bond to be forfeited if he violated any of their rules again. He agreed and the boy was allowed to return to classes. But not without additional severe restrictions placed on him.

He could never leave the campus without explicit permission which he rarely received. That was very difficult for ‘out-of-towners since Fridays most of them went off campus to buy snacks and other food items for Shabbos at the local shopping center. This boy was not permitted to do that. His ‘partner in crime’ on the other hand was free to do as he pleased.

That was over fifty years ago. Nothing has changed it seems. If anything things have gotten worse. Stupid rules are still being enforced. And those being punished for it are only those who are not ‘well connected’.

What makes this even more egregious is the fact that there was an illegal search to find out who was violating their rules. And on top of that, their names were published – making it nearly impossible to find a decent alternative Yeshiva. Their names were in effect ruined – being pegged as troublemakers.

I can just imagine what their Shiddach chances are like now. These are Charedi men. The only way they meet young Charedi women is via a Shadchan (whether paid, or through a family member, or friend). Who is going to want to date a troublemaker who was expelled from a Yeshiva?

It is easy for the rest of us to say, they should have known better. That they must now pay the price for their ‘crime’. Perhaps. But what about Yashrus – justice and right? What about the punishment fitting the crime? Why should their lives be ruined over this? Is this how prestigious Yeshivos operate in the Charedi world?

If I were a student seeking a yeshiva – prestigious or not – this is about the last one I would choose.