You Could Have It So Much Better

As a further sign I’m getting older, my sister is currently looking into seminaries for next year. (A different topic, but seriously, I remember dunking her in the laundry basket to make her giggle, and now she’s off to sem!?) The one she’s currently almost decided on happens to be the sister school to the Yeshiva I went to, so naturally I checked out the brochures she had to see how they differ.

Now guys are naturally a bit rougher so I was expecting their creature comforts to be a bit more flowered up, but seriously, this place sounds like a hotel: ” The apartments are pleasant and cozy, heated and air-conditioned” Air-conditioned!? I used to freeze a two liter bottle of Coke and put it under my pillow just to try and feel some semblance of cool. We had a fan that we hung from the ceiling using duct-tape. And they get bloody air-conditioning!?

“With American-style mattresses, living room suites, and full kitchen facilities (stove top, microwave, toaster oven, sandwich maker and hot water urn).” We had three American mattresses in yeshiva, and they were well fought over, with seniority or coolness usually managing to clinch them. You know what the rest of us had? Foam. Foam covered in some Israeli sandpaper sheets. If you were really lucky, you might get a second foam to make it a bit more comfortable. Living room suites? The closest we got to a living room suite was throwing some pillows on someones bed, ten guys squeezing on it so we could all watch a downloaded movie on someones laptop. Kitchen facilities? Maybe if you bought them yourself. Even then you might not be allowed to keep them (fire hazard).

“Well balanced nutritious meals are provided; vegetarian and other special needs can be met by prior arrangement”. We had nutritious meals too. Chicken-based substances are nutritious, right? Basically, we had whatever came out of a big bag, or the cook could easily make. Forget nutritious, it was of questionable edibility. And I can’t imagine the response to requesting special needs meals. Actually, I can. Laughter?

I could go on about creature comforts, but that would take all day, and I’m anxious to move on. Recreation. They have a choice of extra-curricular activities, including Art, Choir, Kickboxing, Aerobics, Pilates, Karate, Dancing, Choir (yes, they listed it twice), Challah Baking, Scrap-booking, Cake Decorating, Sewing, Jewelry making, and Basketball at an indoor gym. I can’t complain, we had activities too, like basketball a couple of times a week. And learning, you could always have extra-curricular learning. Basically, I’m jealous. How awesome would it have been to be able to do kickboxing in Yeshiva? This is why guys go to town at night, there’s nothing to do in Yeshiva to keep them there. And it annoys me how guys are all assumed to be sports and fitness obsessed. When we had reps scouting us in 12th grade we asked what amenities the Yeshivas offered, and almost all of them had nothing to offer but gym and a basketball court. I’m not exactly pushing for Yeshivas to offer challah making, but they could make an effort to take care of the guys as much as they do the girls.

I’ve also got the brochures accompaniment here, a course catalog. I’d like to review it but I can’t, its just too thick. They may not learn Gemorah, but to their benefit, as they get a course on almost everything else, in almost every area of interest. From hashgafa to history, from halachos in every practical area to more esoteric stuff. This is why girls tend to know more practical stuff than guys. They get the straight scoop. While Yeshvos are obsessed with plowing through mesechtos, one size fits all, the sems are offering the girls a choice of interests and they get to hear what to do while guys are pretty much trying to learn aramaic.

All I can say is, I’m going drag and enrolling in sem. Seems like a better post-high school experience.

35 Responses to “You Could Have It So Much Better”

  1. I stayed home for my post HS experience. I had all the luxury of home, at home. What a concept. I understand why a person would want to go away for a year. But if the accommodations are what matter, stay home. You get a kitchen, a nice comfortable bed, … And if you want a class in anything in particular, I’m sure the phonebook has something in it for you. If you want creature comforts go where the creature comforts are best.

  2. But being away from home is a big part of the experience. I’m not complaining about how we had it, I’m just jealous now that I see how much better they have it.

    Anyways, staying at home is only a real option for people like you who live in Brooklyn. Us out of towners (or in my case, very very out of towner) don’t really have that option unless you go back to your high school.

  3. first off, you have to stop calling it “sem” that’s all wrong. abbreviating is what girls do when they’re back from israel (they talk about missing their roommie, how many sheks they spent, how much they miss sem…)

    not all seminaries are like that. i don’t know which seminary you’re talking about, but things have a way of looking alot nicer on paper than they do in real life:

    ” The apartments are pleasant and cozy, heated and air-conditioned” some places have heating (like mine did) but it was only on for three hours at night. some places have air conditioning, but you have to pay per hour.

    “living room suites, and full kitchen facilities” there was an extra room in my apartment with a table and some chairs, and a free shayish (urn) which made our hot water taste like burned popcorn

    “Well balanced nutritious meals are provided; vegetarian and other special needs can be met by prior arrangement” like you said, chicken is nutritious. so you get alot of it. asking for vegetarian meal….well, the guy serving plucks out the soggy strips of pepper draped over the chicken and dumps it on your plate

  4. frumcollegegirl: Its been called sem by everyone I know as long as I can remember. I understand what you’re saying about it being better represented on paper than reality, but even if its only half true its still alot better than anything we had. You have to understand: my gripe isn’t with all sems or anything. Its because this sem I’m talking about is the sister school of the yeshiva I went to, run by the same people. Its obvious the girls are simply better taken care of by the same administration as we had.

  5. I have to concur with frum college girl. My seminary also sounded like a spa getaway in the brochure. And the tuition was in line with that. But in reality, we had no heat, 14 girls shared 1 bathroom, the kitchens were filthy and teeny and if you came 5 minutes late to lunch you were having pita. Again. At least the boys get a little more freedom (i.e. no curfew)

  6. The seminary your sister is looking into is definitely NOT your average seminary. I had 3 room-mates. We were in a room about the size of an elevator. We had those good ol’ foam mattresses. We had our choice of 3 extra-curricular classes (we had to choose one): Choir, Art or Creative Writing — I took Creative Writing… nothing creative about it. In fact, the more creative you were, the less likely the teacher actually liked your writing. We got fed chicken in oil, meat in oil, rice in oil, potatoes in oil…. but there was pudding for breakfast, so that was a plus. We had a curfew too: 10:15 on weeknights and 11:30 Saturday night. We had to sign in and once the clock struck, we were locked in. Yes, locked in.

  7. Jessica: Any chance you went to a sem in Har Nof? I remember that gatekeeper, there to keep us all out and you locked in. 🙂

  8. Nope, Rechaviya… although I did spend Yom Kippur at the Nevei campus.

  9. yea the gatekeeper at neve was so good at keeping people out…my first week in israel he wouldn’t let me in because he didn’t recognize me. i hadn’t yet received my “i.d.” from the neve office, so there was no proof that i lived on the campus…idiot. if you’re going to work on an American campus, speak some English!

  10. frum college girl:
    “if you’re going to work on an American campus, speak some English!”
    omg yes!!! i was visiting and staying by my friend at neve, i must have stood outside arguing with the guy for like an hour. he wouldnt let me in. finally i had to call the aim bayit and tell her to tell him that i was ok. ridiculous.

    frumpunk: most “sems” advertise A LOT of things they dont actually have/do. and ive never heard of a seminary with that many extracurricular!

  11. wow, sounds like a great sem. Sounds a bit like camp though.

    I didn’t go to a Israel sem and none of my brothers went to a Israel Yeshiva so I can’t really relate about the Israel aspect.

    But about brother and sister schools, I can relate. I had gone to the girls version of my school, and my brothers had gone to the boy version and boy was it different. Girls schools are just always better. It’s because they have the woman behind it who are more caring and know how to make things nice. While the men are just into the basics, the needs. So long as you have a room that’s what counts, they don’t care about the presentation. It’s actually funny cause my principal was sisters to the boys school principal Rabbi, and they were worlds apart. The boys hated the principal and everyone complained about the school and left, and the boys school was down to maybe 7 kids per grade. While the girls school flourished and there were about 90 girls per grade.

  12. FP- Why would you subject yourself to such conditions?

    Ladies who wrote about seminary-

    Why would you subject yourselves to that? Your seminary conditions sound worse than the camp I visited for like 2 weeks one summer. lol. 🙂

    WHy would you pay so much money to sleep in such crowded conditions? And NO HEAT??? Israel gets cold,

    and no A/C? Gets dang hot too!

    AM I missing something?
    If its the Israel experience, why not go to like Hebrew University of something? Or go to the seminary but rent an apt neary by with freinds…which has heat!!

  13. Please sah, may I have some more gruel.

    All of these places sound like concentration camps.

  14. Moshe: chas V’Shalom

    Anita: Even though I didn’t want to go to sem in Israel, I can still understand why people go. Even if there are bad conditions, it can make it what it is. It’s like if you go hiking, you may be hungry, tired, working yourself out which takes a lot of energy, and it can be hot or cold or rainy. But yet at the end of the hike you feel accomplished, that you just finished it, and even though there were bad conditions involved you can still enjoy it, cause the main point is the hike, not the weather or other stuff. Same with sem, they go to learn and be uplifted and have an atmosphere away from home with friends where they learn to be independent. It’s a spiritual hike for them, they come back loving it and wanting to go back. They have so many memories that you just can’t get from staying home. Plus it’s the stuff that go wrong that give you the memories, and they turn into good ones where you laugh and joke about it with friends.

    btw, I replied to the socialism post in case you didn’t see.

  15. oh please. it’s more than just bearable. yes, the first week i was in israel happened to be their hottest week in, i don’t know how long, but we just slept all afternoon, drank alot of cold water, and stayed out of the sun. as for the lack of heat, we just learned to layer up.

    and you just don’t get the same classes in Hebrew U that you get in a bais yakov seminary

  16. still don’t get it. there are plenty of cheaper and more comfortable ways to go abroad andgain this supposed independence and education you’re after

  17. Babysitter- Sorry to burst your bubble but most people who do the year in Israel go for the freedom , hooking up and easy drinking away from home, I’m sure a very small percent go for spiritual reasons.

    I wonder when it became so acceptable for every parent to send their kid to Israel post high school , honestly it sounds like a year of expensive babysitting to me and if your independence didn’t come by 18 it’s probably not coming.

  18. Stacy: well there are different types of people. I’m sure the girls from my HS didn’t go for freedom or easy hooking up. I think they went to learn, and perhaps not solely for spiritual reasons, but I think its included, afteral it’s Israel their going to. They all claim they felt a connection with a land, there must be some spiritual connection knowing it’s a Jewish land and everyone is speaking Hebrew. All over the place are kvarim of famous Jewish people. It’s got to be uplifting.

    For those that are the type to go for the freedom, they may just turn around. They say Israel makes or breaks the person. I know someone who went to Yeshiva of Flatbush, was barely religious, went to Israel and then joined a Smicha program and became very religious.

    About the independence, I don’t think it has so much to do with age. If you think about it, it’s the experience that changes a person. A child of 10 who goes away to camp and has to survive on it’s own will learn independence skills. A 18 year old that’s always home and has parent’s that don’t give them the chance for independence won’t be independent. The seminary experience forces a person to become independent and make important choices because their all on their own.

  19. what important choices? They have curfews and are locked in.

    Hmm…Should I have shwarma again?

    What a decision.

  20. You aren’t exactly throwing them in the wilderness to fend for themselves,
    they’re being glorified babysat along with a bunch of other Americans and mommy and daddy’s credit card.
    Of course after a year of partying they’ll turn around when they go back for shana bet and then come home completely flipped -this happens quicker for girls- it’s what’s expected.

    I really love how parents who spend 18 years sheltering their kids from everything and everything are ok with sending them to a foreign country for a year, where they have no control over anything.

    Anita- Lmao

  21. Stacy – these parents lost control of their children as soon as they registered them for school (Yeshivah or BY). Once registered these schools take complete control of the children and dictate their lives from morning until night sleep (literally). They control vacations and holidays and shabbosim and friends and clothes and hanging out places… So, a year in Israel is just one more year of that control.

  22. Funny i also always dreamed of going to sem, but i had very different activities in mind. 🙂

  23. Mlevin: for some reason I would be comforted knowing my children are in such good hands, that are controlling them at times when a parent can’t be there for them.

    After all, that takes care of Stacy’s issue of the freedom.

    Anita: I’m sure there are plenty of important decisions to make. When I think of living in a foreign country for a year it sounds daunting. Even the little decisions to make, perhaps there are no questions of survival, but like to know where to go for shabbos and stuff like that.

  24. stacy-not everyone has daddy’s credit card. i payed for everything in israel by myself. and plenty of my friends did the same. while some people spent every shabbos and all their spare time at americans, some girls actually take the oppurtunity to go to israelis, and see a different way of life. you’re kind of stereotyping in a big way. and you know what they say about generalizing…

    mlevin-i went to a BY school and i can still think for myself…

  25. What’s BY?

  26. KT: BY is Bais Yaakov.

  27. Anita,
    It helps you grow a thicker skin. There are more important things than a/c and except for a couple weeks, Israel doesn’t really get that cold… then again, I am Cleveland, so my internal temperature might be a bit off.

  28. Jessica: The entire winter was bitterly cold my year in Israel. Though coming from Miami that may have been relative, but it was still seriously chilly.

  29. Aren’t we the same age? You were there for the 03-04 school year? I remember it snowing for a day or two and it was rainy for quite a bit, but it was more like fall than winter. Coming from Miami though, a midwestern fall probably is a terrible winter.

  30. babysitter- I think the BY/Yeshiva system is a negative influence on a child’s well being.

    Just yesterday the Rabbi of my shul said that he’s going to send his daughter to a school with a crappy education, only because he doesn’t want her to end up on drugs and hang out with “the wrong crowd”.

    How is that GOOD for the daughter? She’ll never know what diversity is, never mind know what anything is intellectually. this school is supposedly known for teaching straight out of the regents book. The teachers there are like 19 yr old sem. grads just waiting to get married. So they have no experience or education in anything, never mind an education certificate for SECULAR subjects.

    How could his daughter possibly be in good hands? You think he’s gonna send her to a seminary which will give her any freedom whatsoever to make choices or decisions?

    And I can’t imagine they have to make major decisions. I’ve made crazy decisions about things which would literally effect my future, because my parents didn’t give me money and refused to pay for certain things, with each decision I make in reference to those things I have to be critical and decisive about every action and plus, I got a job, which taught me money management.

    fcg- most girls I know that went to sem had daddy’s credit card, plus older siblings or family living there in “kolel”.

    I DID go to a spoiled girls school, so it is possible that is the reason. And the non-spoiled girls were just poor and were on scholarship and literally ALL had this entitlement personality, so they spent money which wasn’t even theirs.

    There were maybe 10 non-spoiled, normal functioning girls, who were decent, but they all went to Brooklyn seminaries, or no seminary at all.

  31. Jessica- Not giving people heat, for the tuition they pay is inhumane. Its not about thicker skin.

  32. If it was cold enough that we needed heat, they would provide it. And, in fact, I don’t remember my seminary NOT providing heat… Like I said before, I don’t think it was actually cold enough to need heat.

  33. Frumcollegegirl- I have no idea what they say about generalizing, but if a parent is willing to spend x amount of money so their kid can go spend a year in Israel I think it’s fair to assume that kid isn’t gonna have any money worries once he’s there. And that’s fine but don’t pretend most people are there with their hard earned cash or scholarships, working for their pocket money.

  34. they say that people who generalize, generally lie.

    i didn’t make it up, so don’t jump down my throat.

    as far as working for pocket money, i babysat like crazy in 12th grade so i would have pocket money in israel. and i had friends who paid for their airfare, or even half their tuition

  35. FrumSkeptic: well then already it’s a good education if she doesn’t end up on drugs or hanging out with the wrong crowd.

    But yes, I agree with you that teachers should be qualified educators. It’s actually funny, every year one of my teachers got married. It’s actually fun for the students to go to the teachers weddings, so that’s a benefit of young 19 sem grads.

    Plus the 19 year old remembers how it was being a student so she can relate better. While the older teachers are more into their teaching and they don’t have modern methods and stuff. 19 year old is definitely better than a 80 year old.

    I don’t get what’s so great about the freedom to make the wrong decisions and get yourself in trouble.

    Your right about all the money aspects.

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