More on Schools and Mixed Dancing

When I told a friend about Tolerance in the Religious Zionist Community (be sure to click on the comments), she argued that it was “chutzpah” for parents to send their children to yeshiva tichonit and then host a bar mitzvah with mixed dancing. She maintained that mixed dancing is on the fringe of Orthodox social behavior. I don’t know that she’s correct, especially regarding sephardi circles. But I do believe that sending to a school with significantly different religious standards than the home can cause conflict in the children, and this choice can ultimately backfire. This is true whether the school’s standards are higher or lower than the home’s, but parents only seem interested in schools that are “frummer.” It’s like they want to make up for what they are lacking.

Anyway, let’s say such parents do want a school with a strict religious standard or a high level of Jewish studies. Does the school try to accommodate them? They could set guidelines for the parents upon admission (i.e. cover hair at school pickup, no mixed dancing at the bar mitzvah) or accept them without qualification. Or do they send parents away, in order to keep the student population homogeneous? Schools choosing the latter option seem to get a higher level of applicants, at least outside of Jerusalem.


  1. mother in israel says

    There are schools within the modern orthodox community that accept only children whose mothers cover their hair, but they might make an exception.

  2. I can’t speak about the Israeli school system, having never been subject to it.
    But, here in the US, I grew up in a secular home, and was sent to day school.
    The chasm between home and school was unbridgable. (Is that a word?)
    My parents would say “repsect your teachers”, and my teachers would say “honor your parents”, but their actual content, values, and goals were contradictory.
    Thank G-d, we are blessed to be able to raise our kids in a community where there is a relative seamlessness between home, shul, and school.
    Yet, for us, that very seamlessness in our Modern Orthodox community, means a diversity of backgrounds and customs.
    Imagine a bell curve. Now chop things off after a standard-deviation-and-a-half at both ends. Define “homogeneity” as being within that varied group, and I’ll subscribe to it.
    If the filter is too narrow, it will suffocate, stiffle, and contstrict the population.
    Aside: Are there really schools that require head coverings for the mothers on campus? Wow.

  3. I have most definitely heard about schools that require skirts and headcoverings for moms dropping off and picking up kids, etc. My kids are in the local mamlachti dati and well, we’re not in that league …. they are working on trying to convince all the fathers to put on kippot at parent meetings and the moms to try not to show up in skimpy tank tops and shorts :). Of course this is very sephardi dominated population and you see women dressed similarly (or with even less clothing!) showing up at the mikve too.
    I definitely hear what you are saying about schools trying to push limits on parents to preserve homogeneous populations and its very very popular in torani circles. I personally am more comfortable with diversity – primarily because we don’t fit into a typical israeli niche ourselves. So in a sense, my desire for a less homogeneous population stems from the desire to avoid a huge chasm between home and school.
    And regarding the mixed dancing and sephardim – its an interesting split. On one hand, even less ‘frum’ sephardim are often very comfortable/happy with complete separation of sexes in situations that make me wonder why its separate (family events, for example, at a shul). On the other hand, just as many would have mixed dancing circles and not think twice either. The community is simplify far more heterogenous than ashkenazim – lots more tradition is preserved but there is less pressure to be ‘super frum’ too In the non-shas circles.

  4. A Living Nadneyda says

    This is a really complicated issue… especially for those who have grown up in one kind of household, but are trying to establish a different kind for their own children.
    When a school staff member takes a potential first grader aside during an interview, and asks that child how many beds are in his parents’ bedroom, I think they’re crossing a line that shouldn’t be crossed.
    No, this did not happen at my kids’ schools, but I heard of a case where it did, in the dati leumi community in Jerusalem. It was many years ago… I hope by now things have changed.