Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Drawing Strength From People Who Had to Miss More Than Just Class for Their Judaism

So, I have a TON of work to do, a to do list that is far, far too long, and a whole bunch of really important things coming up really soon. Why, you ask, am I even near my computer, let alone blogging? Because if I don't let off a little bit of steam, I think I will explode.

It's a hard year to be a frum Jew in secular college. Not only am I missing the equivalent of two straight weeks of classes, spread out over a month (if that makes any sense), but it is also midterms season. And many of my summer applications are due November 1.

Let's just say I've had better days. So, not only am I stressed out to begin with, but yom tov becomes a nuisance instead of a good time to spend with family and reach for higher spiritual realms.

But remember all those stories we always hear of our great-grandparents who came to American and had to get a new job EVERY week when they didn't show up to work on Shabbos? And remember how those people weren't worried about grades and great summer experiences, but basic subsistence and the strength to hold on to a Torah lifestyle in this new, strange country?

If they could manage to hold on to their Judaism and faith in Hashem in times that were far harder than my Freedom of Speech and Press midterm, than I think I can have the sanity and strength to get through this not-so-easy time. Good luck to everyone else going through the same.

19 Comments:

At 10/19/05, 10:18 PM, Blogger Frum Singles said...

While to some extent I sympathize with you, it is far from clear that sympathy is in fact appropriate. Unlike our grandparents who had no options and were required to sacrifice for shabas, you had the option to attend Stern or Touro where this would be a non issue. While you may think that Barnard is something worthy of both financial and personal sacrifice, (and Esther Fuchs {whose salary and benefits your tuition pays for} may agree with you as well}many (including myself) disagree.

 
At 10/20/05, 9:49 AM, Blogger Michael said...

Why would you not but sympathize with Elisheva? Do you actually think our ancestors, who struggled so hard to merely retain their yiddishkeit, would have been content to see their children and grandchildren face the same struggles? Why isn't her struggle and financial and personal sacrifice? Why isn't it a good thing that we've come so far that we're able to attend the nation's best universities and that struggles like Elisheva's are now what our generation is struggling with? Wouldn't you agree that it's much better to be struggling in school than to not be in school at all? Isn't it much better to be struggling to catch up during the days of Chol HaMoed than to not have a job at all? If she has the opportunity to attend Barnard over an arguably inferior education at Touro or Stern, why should she not avail herself of it?

Chazak v'ematz Elisheva, you will succeed.

 
At 10/20/05, 10:17 AM, Anonymous Essie said...

Doesn't she go to Columbia, not Barnard?
Eli7, I totally sympathize with you. It's really nice to try to feel that your struggle is not as hard as our ancestors', but you are still justified in feeling that Yom Tov is a nuisance...I know I do it too. And I do love Yom Tov! but it's hard not to think about all the work piling up...

 
At 10/20/05, 10:58 AM, Blogger Nephtuli said...

I have to agree with Eli, although she did put herself in this position by choosing to go to COLUMBIA (not Barnard, when she could have gone to Stern or Touro. Nevertheless the benefits of going to an ivy league school probably outweigh the costs, so it was probably good move.

I actually just blogged about this from a law student's perspective at the behest of my roommate. It's tough, no doubt.

 
At 10/20/05, 12:59 PM, Blogger Masmida said...

You're right, they were far greater than we are, and gave up far more. But that's not much comfort when you have a paper due in 3 hours.

But I'll quote you R' Sholmo Zalman:
"Do what you can, then stop"

So, Elisheva once you've done, handed it in, just stop and appreciate the joy in chag.

 
At 10/20/05, 5:40 PM, Blogger Frum Singles said...

Having reviewed the other comments posted, it appears that so far there are no others concurrring with my opinion. But values and opinions need not be determined by majority. Avraham Avinu was "Ivri", on the other side of the fence. I stand by what I said.

As a regular reader of your blog, I note your experiences and challenges and triblations at Columbia. But there really is no reason for you to have put yourself in this situation. Frankly, you have decided to worship at the alter of the ivy league idol, as if attending one of their schools is an "end" in and of itself. That is pure avoda zara. The main means of obtainig a liberal arts education is independent reading, as you attest to often in your blog. Such study could easily be accomplished at Touro, YU etc. There you would not have to "lose weeks" or go out attending bars and parties. The only thing that your attending Columbia provides is an opportunity to mix and mingle with a select group of american students. This only serves to erode moral values and has led many girls (including those of your background) to lose their virginity prematurely on campus. Someone with self confidence and pride in their theology and ideology would not need to pay 100,000 and lose sleep to procure a piece of paper and announce to the world "I graduated Columbia". I know what I'm saying may be controvercial, but after all doesn't Columbia U believe that the free exchange of ideas is fundamental to a collge experience? Or is there an exception when one challenges the Ive league diety!

 
At 10/20/05, 9:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, but going to an Ivy League college perhaps helps with spelling of words like "controversial"

 
At 10/20/05, 10:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ONLY thing ivy league colleges give us is mingling with a select group of American students? You say that like its a bad thing. I went to public school all my life and currently attend a Jesuit University because its the best education in my state - and as a matter of fact I'm an orthodox Jew. Living and "mingling" with Americans that aren't Jewish have REMINDED me of who my ancestors are and who I am as a Jew. It in no way forcibly erodes one's moral values. Also, are you insinuating losing your virginity before marriage is immoral??? Tell me what Talmudic Law says you can't have sex before marraige - this is ridiculous. Jews are called to love in a partner in relationship with philia (fondness and appreciation). What is immoral about commitment, fondness, appreciation and SEX before marriage? What law says you can't do it.. where?

I sympathize that your school maybe doesn't appreciate the significance of Yom Kippur (it sounds like this). Every school I've ever attended has respected days I've taken off for religious purposes - its discrimination if they don't. Ask why they get Christmas (politically called "winter") break off but you don't have the high holidays off? Someone with pride in their theology and ideology is very much capable of living in a secular world without having to conform. We have freedom of religion, freedom of speech (as Eli mentioned), and laws that prevent discrimination (hopefully academic laws as well).

I'm concerned, though, that you refer to Yom Kippur as a nuisance. If I had to get a B in a class because a teacher was a hardass about a test on Yom Kippur (and I subsequently appealed but lost) I would tell them to shove off...it doesn't matter. What matters is that Hashem told you to revere this day...what else in your Judaism is a nuisance? I hear my brother tell me davening is a nuisance...I don't understand the concept - I daven in the morning and feel awe and grateful that G-d is listening to me...not that I'm "forced" to get up and daven...

 
At 10/21/05, 6:39 AM, Blogger Eli7 said...

Gosh, I go fall off the face of the blogosphere for a few days and all of a sudden my blog is talking about losing one's virginity and comparing the Ivy League to avodah zara!

Ok, first to clear up a few misconceptions:

-I go to Columbia, not Barnard.
-I can't quote to you the source, but I'm pretty sure Orthodox Jews are not too fond of premarital sex.
-I do not go out "attending bars and parties"; it is not a requirement for a Columbia degree.
-It's really dangerous to call something avodah zara.
-Going to secular college does not mean that one will prematurely lose their virginity (and I would argue that the environment causes far more guys than girls to do so. I don't know why anon only mentioned that danger for girls).

I agree with anon that college can be a bad place for many frum Jews. I don't think everyone should go to Columbia. I do think that I am a better Jew for the challenges I've faced at Columbia and am more religious than I would be had I gone to Stern.

Yes, going to a secular college presents many struggles - from missing class for yom tov to being in a less than moral setting. And yes, it was my choice. (For the record, my mother also refuses to sympathize with me, but I think she's still sore that I'm not in Stern.) I don't need your sympathy, but I do believe that secular college is sometimes the right choice and you should be open to that conclusion.

As Jews we believe everyone was created with a tzelem Elokim and we can learn from everyone. I don't think one should be best friends with non-Jews or non-religios Jews, but I think you can talk to them and learn from them.

So, yes, my college experience has given me a chance to mingle with non-Jewish and non-frum people, but I hardly think that's a bad thing. I have learned so, so much from these people even if I don't agree with their values.

Clearly being here means being more aware of certain things. It also means asking shaylos when need be. It also means missing class for Yom Tov. (My professors, for the most part, have been very good about this, but I still hafta miss lots of class, and it's still my responsibility to make it up.)

Am I worshipping the Ivy League altar? I love Columbia and I even love the fact that two years from now I will have a piece of paper which will say-in Latin-that I have graduated from this veritable institution of higher education.

The bottom line is that I have gotten a far better education than I would have received at Stern and I love it here. That, however, is not enough of a reason to sacrifice one's religious observance.

irst and foremost to me is my Judaism and I would like to think that were that being affected negatively here, I would be able to leave. I have friends and teachers who know where I should be religiously and who know they can tell me to leave if that's what needs to happen.

But as of now I am a better Jew for being here, for being forced to confront other people's immorality, for being forced to work harder because I am frum. Not everyone should go to a secular college, but I firmly believe that this is the best place for me.

 
At 10/22/05, 8:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

well put Eli. also, while orthodox jews are not fond of the notion of premarital sex, there is no law forbiding it.

 
At 10/23/05, 8:37 AM, Blogger Frum Singles said...

Eli7 said...



"-I do not go out "attending bars and parties"; it is not a requirement for a Columbia degree."

scroll up to your prior post where you comment about your shallow experience going out with your classmates to a bar

"-It's really dangerous to call something avodah zara."

Whats the danger? Its calling a spade a spade. People of your mindset believe that an ivy league degree is an ideal to "sacrifice" for. Scroll up your blog. Do you mean that your sleepless nights and hard work is not sacrifice?



"Yes, going to a secular college presents many struggles - from missing class for yom tov to being in a less than moral setting. And yes, it was my choice. (For the record, my mother also refuses to sympathize with me, but I think she's still sore that I'm not in Stern.) I don't need your sympathy, but I do believe that secular college is sometimes the right choice and you should be open to that conclusion."

"But as of now I am a better Jew for being here, for being forced to confront other people's immorality, for being forced to work harder because I am frum. Not everyone should go to a secular college, but I firmly believe that this is the best place for me. "


You havent set forth a rationalization for your assertion other than your personal opinion.
One has a whole lifetime to "meet and grow" from people of other backgrounds. Those that attend Touro or Stern also end up in the workplace working alongside Ivy League grads. There's no rational reason to rush the confrontation. To the contrary, it makes more sense to build a solid foundation and then firm up your convictions by observing that which does not exist among the others. By the way, did you read about the frum girl at Yale who decided to stay there for yom kippur because she was concerned about missing too many classes? Just asking...

"As Jews we believe everyone was created with a tzelem Elokim and we can learn from everyone. I don't think one should be best friends with non-Jews or non-religios Jews, but I think you can talk to them and learn from them... So, yes, my college experience has given me a chance to mingle with non-Jewish and non-frum people, but I hardly think that's a bad thing. I have learned so, so much from these people even if I don't agree with their values. "


No dispute on that. But theres a lifetime of opportunity for that . No reason to sacrifice ones best years which oculd be spent in a spiritual academic and nurturing enviornment instead of a cutthroat hedonistic self centered snobby enviornemnt which is what ivy league campuses are described (including the "jewish" ivy)

"Am I worshipping the Ivy League altar? I love Columbia and I even love the fact that two years from now I will have a piece of paper which will say-in Latin-that I have graduated from this veritable institution of higher education. "

What a shame! Ones greatest pride should be in their own heritage and in having graduated a jewish institution.

"The bottom line is that I have gotten a far better education than I would have received at Stern and I love it here."

Not sure I can agree with that. Most studying in college is independent and could be done at any institution.

 
At 10/23/05, 6:38 PM, Blogger Eli7 said...

Anon, I don't want to talk about premarital sex on my blog. I think it's up there with pretty bad things to do religiously.

Frum Single, first of all, I do not agree with you taht most of the learning you get done in college is independent. I'm not paying $42,000 a year, quite frankly, to read Kany by myself. I'm paying that much to have a knwoledgeable professor help me understand Kant. Yes, that means first I have to read Kant on my own, but it would do me no good if I didn't have a professor to help.

I NEVER went with my classmates to a bar, nor do I ever intend to. Perhaps you misinterpreted a post of mine, but I have not done so, and I think doing so would be a big mistake. I'm doing just fine in college even without drinking, thank you.

I have definitely worked hard to be here, but I do not sacrifice religious observance for my Ivy League degree. If taht would ever happen, I would switch to Stern.

You say you don't believe that I have become more religious at Columbia. Since you don't know me I hardly find your contention very moving. Let's just say I came back from seminary not super impressed with what I'd seen and it took this environment to push me in the right direction. To be frum here I have to really want it, as opposed to just going along with everyone else at a place like Stern.

While Columbia is certainly not an institution based on Torah, it is filled with Torah--Jews who are committed to living Torah lifestyles, more seforim than you could possibly imagine, and a vibrant hillel. It is certainly not a place of vast spiritual desolation either.

I think a yeshiva education is incredibly imporatnt as was my year in Israel, but it was time for me to get out of the cocoon of Orthodoxy and make my own choices. Thank God I made the irght choices, I cannot say that everyone who makes the same choices does, I just know what was right for me.

 
At 10/24/05, 9:02 AM, Blogger Frum Singles said...

Elisheva said ...

Frum Single, first of all, I do not agree with you taht most of the learning you get done in college is independent. I'm not paying $42,000 a year, quite frankly, to read Kany by myself. I'm paying that much to have a knwoledgeable professor help me understand Kant. Yes, that means first I have to read Kant on my own, but it would do me no good if I didn't have a professor to help."

Discussion and debate when well intended are the tools of a sincere student. So I am sure you won't mind if I continue with this issue.

Prior to (or inconjuction with) your studying Kant, have you studied and become proficient in the philosophy of Maimonidies, Nachmanidies, Ralbag, Sadia gaon, Luzzato. Why drink from other waters when we have springs and wells which offer clear and refreshing water? Is not the true reason that you believe that you need to study "Western Culture" and its icons and idols in order to feel a sense of confidence and self worth. The academics at the institution you revere and respect, offering it sacrifices of blood (lost sleep, energy etc.) and money have no regard for religion in general and Judiasm specifically. Come home and drink from the fountains of knowledge of your heritage. The label of an authentci jew is more valuable than a Phd and/or Columbia degree.

 
At 10/24/05, 10:03 AM, Blogger respondingtojblogs said...

Prior to (or inconjuction with) your studying Kant, have you studied and become proficient in the philosophy of Maimonidies, Nachmanidies, Ralbag, Sadia gaon, Luzzato. Why drink from other waters when we have springs and wells which offer clear and refreshing water?

I absolutely agree- the best thing for a student to do is limit herself to only a select group of ideas. Other ideas are scary and should not be studied.

Is not the true reason that you believe that you need to study "Western Culture" and its icons and idols in order to feel a sense of confidence and self worth.

IMO, Freud is avodah zorah.

 
At 10/24/05, 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is not the true reason that you believe that you need to study "Western Culture" and its icons and idols in order to feel a sense of confidence and self worth.

Some people find that a academically holistic and informed mind is a good thing in this world while I suppose others would like to just be sheep? WTF, is Kant an idol? He's a philosopher.

The academics at the institution you revere and respect, offering it sacrifices of blood (lost sleep, energy etc.) and money have no regard for religion in general and Judiasm specifically.

You can lose sleep and energy at Stern, too. Don't be so temerarious. Why should a secular college feel the need to include Jewish theology in its curriculum? I imagine just the fact that they LET A JEW INTO THEIR COLLEGE shows regard for Judaism...nah they probably want to make her a pagan!

Come home and drink from the fountains of knowledge of your heritage. The label of an authentci jew is more valuable than a Phd and/or Columbia degree.

Judaism is more important than a Phd or Columbia degree, yes. Is it impossible to remain a Jew with Jewish heritage/convictions/laws/wisdom and go to a secular school? I go to a Jesuit University, and I've spent this entire semester outlining St. Ignatius' wisdom and the Ecclesiology of the Catholic Church - does this make me less of a Jew or incapable of studying Judaism at the same time? Oh yeah my school has a by-law that says I can't....no wait IT DOESN'T.

Is the work of Larry Stager or Spinoza avodah zorah? Is eser nekudot?

 
At 10/26/05, 7:11 PM, Blogger Stx said...

Hm, I WOULD like to ask Eli7 one thing. Frum Single asked why learning Maimonides etc. was not enough. While I will not voice my opinion on the other arguments that he raises (right now), I wonder - Eli7, have you ever considered studying the Rambam (etc) in depth? I know that you've probably covered one or two of them in your classes, but you seem to have spent so much more time on other philosophers. Have you ever been struck with the need to understand the different branches of Jewish philosophy as opposed to other philosophical theories?

I ask this because - unlike many of the other commenters on this blog - I know you. I know that you're intellectually honest, and that you think carefully about each choice that you make. These commenters seem to think that you're the average Joe (sephine) who goes to a secular college because your yiddishkeit doesn't mean much to you. I, on the other hand, know that's not true. So I'm just curious - I know that I know so little about the different streams of Jewish philosophy. Have you learned them before on more than a superficial level?

And Frum Single - be careful about judging someone (or giving them mussar) without knowing what really makes them tick. (Case in point: Eli7 would NOT go out drinking with her "college friends." Ever.) I know how hard it is to really get a handle on somebody's priorities when you only know them as a blog, but if you're trying to fight again college kids that don't think about their priorities throroughly, you're barking up the wrong tree. I really appreciate what you're fighting for, and I'm actually interested in this conversation. You make a lot of valid - or at least possibly valid - points. But calling something avodah zara is probably not the best way to convince others of your opinion. I'm definitely interested in seeing where the rest of this conversation goes, however...

 
At 10/28/05, 12:25 PM, Blogger Frum Singles said...

"......And Frum Single - be careful about judging someone (or giving them mussar) without knowing what really makes them tick....... I really appreciate what you're fighting for, and I'm actually interested in this conversation. You make a lot of valid - or at least possibly valid - points. But calling something avodah zara is probably not the best way to convince others of your opinion. I'm definitely interested in seeing where the rest of this conversation goes, however....

My comments in no way are meant as a personal attack on Elisheva, someone who admittedly I do not know personally. Rather, the purpose of a blog and the comments thereto are to allow for the "free exchange of ideas..." (to quote from the great Bob Grant). Additionally, the advantage in anonymity is that one does not have to be "politically correct" and is thus free to announce in public that ...The Emperor has No Clothes!!! To wit, while those who cross the quad at Columbia pay homage to the "white men" who are enshrined on Butlar Hall, it is being intellectually and spiritually honest to state confidently, that the TORAH which encompesses Philosophy, Law, literature, Mysticism and Chasidus has everything that a bright intelectual spiritual "with it " young lady would need to be intelectually, spiritually and emotionally satisfied. The "chidushim" of Kant (with respect to personal autonamy etc.) ring hollow in comparison to the ring of truth one finds in Luzzato, Rambam, Ramban, Saadiah Gaon, Tanya. etc. AND this is available free with no "deadlines, papers, tuition or arrogance that one finds at Columbia in particular and at Ivy League Colleges in general. ASHRAINU MA TOV CHELKAINU!!!!!

 
At 10/29/05, 5:00 PM, Blogger Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

Sorry, but I can offer no sympathy. You chose to go to Columbia, now deal with the issues that exist because of your decision.

Personaly, I think it's silly to go to an Ivy Leauge school. If your an Orthodox Jew, the main point of college is that you get a degree so that you can go to grad school or get a job.

I went to CUNY, the majority of OJ in my law school went to either CUNY or YU. A good chunk of the rest of the student population went to Ivy Leauge schools. We're all in the same place now. And that's all that really matters to me.

 
At 10/30/05, 1:45 PM, Blogger Eli7 said...

So it seems I'm being lambasted on my own blog as I sit amidst summer applications and lots of reading. A few quick responses before I get back to work.

STX, ni, I have not ever studied Jewish philosophy in depth. Why not? I'm not sure. It's not that it never occured to me. Perhaps, it's at least partially because I haven't shown the initiative, but it is also partially because Jewish philosophy is rarely taught on a high academic level. I would love to learn the Rambam but I don't feel equipped to do it myself--just as I don't feel equipped to study Kant myself--and I don't know where one would learn the Rambam in depth. They don't teach Moreh Nevuchim in Jewish day schools or in seminary.

Now, that doesn't completely excuse me from not learning Jewish philosophy, but I do think it's a hard thing to get one's hands on.

Also, I do believe there is "chochma b'goyim." Kant is certainly not Torah, but he is chochma. Frum Single, would you tell all the people studying sciences that they should stop and satisfy themselves with Torah? Or is that comment reserved only for people studying liberal arts? Why? And while Stern is a great place on so many levels, I hardly think that my desire for intellectualism, in secular or religious spheres, would be satisfied there.

CWY, I didn't choose to go to an Ivy League college undergrad so that I could get into a good law school or so that I could get a law degree. In fact, I probably would have been better off going to Queens or Stern if the sole point of my undergrad education was to get a good law school education. In fact, I could have stayed shana bet in Israel, taken a bunch of CLEPs, and had a college degree without even stepping foot on a college campus.

But that's not what I wanted and it's not why I'm here. Your goal may have been merely ti get the degree and go out and make money, but that wasn't--and still isn't--my goal. Believe it or no, I enjoy the education--the intense secular study that I have found here. And I already know that y'all don't believe this, but it has made me a stronger Jew.

Columbia is the right place for me. I am a better person because I am here. I don't think that is true of everyone and I don't think everyone should come here, but I would not be as strong a Jew if I were not here. And yes, I should study more Torah than I presently do, and I certainly have far, far to grow. However,Orthodox Judaism is about following the Torah, and I do that.

 

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