Apr 20, 2007

The girls deserved to be punished

This is the latest story making waves..

Seven pupils at a Beit Ya'akov school in Netanya were punished after they stood up for the siren that sounded Monday in honor of Holocaust Memorial Day (Monday), Yediot Aharonot reported.
According to the report, the school principal removed the girls from their classroom and forced them to stand up for the rest of the day and read psalms.
In haredi circles, using sirens and "moments of silence" to mark memorial holidays is considered a gentile custom and is discouraged. Haredi rabbis often encourage their followers to recite psalms or other prayers silently during the siren.
I saw the original article in the Yediot, and then Jameel sent it to me.. I agree with Jameel's position that the method of punishment was wrong, though that is not what I want to write about.
We were talking here about Yom Ha'Shoah on Yom Ha'Shoah eve over dinner with the kids. We were talking about different aspects of it, including the siren and what to do when the siren blares, and what their schools would be doing and what we remembered they had done in previous years.
The kids asked me what I do and what I think should be done when the siren goes off. I told them that if they are in school, and I would assume (never safe to do so, but I am anyway) that the school would make sure the kids were in class at the time rather than at recess, they should do whatever the school does and whatever the teacher tells them. If, on the other hand, they should find themselves outside in public, or anywhere else around other people, during the siren, then they should stand still during the siren.
I told them that the way we commemorate the Holocaust and Memorial Day in Israel is by standing still and contemplating the events behind the day, so to not do so in view of other people is grossly disrespectful and inappropriate, and furthermore because we are religious it would clearly constitute a chillul Hashem and cause anger and even hatred of the religious.
Some of the common arguments against standing still are; it is not a Jewish way of remembering the dead, it is a waste of time and better to learn or say tehillim or something like that, etc.
I, personally, do not find standing still for a minute to be such a bad thing. I waste plenty of time doing other things (blogging could clearly be in the list) that standing still for two minutes during the wail of the siren is completely insignificant as far as the amount of time wasted. The only people who can be concerned about the wasted time are people who are careful to utilize every minute of the day properly, and there are not too many of those people.
That time can be used to think about the events of the day, which is not such a bad thing. How often do we take the time to stop and think about them? This gives us that opportunity. If one is truly worried about the time wasted, he could say tehillim while standing still, or find ways to not waste those two minutes while standing there.
I believe these excuses are exactly that - excuses. not reasons. They are excuses that have been found to rationalize not participating in an event that Israeli society holds.
So, my daughter (11 years old) smirked and told me that I sound like a chiloni (a secular Jew) saying they should stand when they are outside.
I told her that standing is not important on its own. If someone is learning Torah when the siren goes off, they should not stop learning and stand. That would be a waste of time and learning Torah is much more important that standing still. However, if one is not learning and is found among other people then they must stand still and behave as part of society. We live in Israel - a country with rules and all sorts of people, and we have to behave accordingly, even if sometimes we do not agree.
She seemed to accept that.
That being said, back to the story reported of the girls who stood up during class and got punished. I feel the punishment was probably ill chosen and Jameel said it better than I can, so I will leave that issue.
I do feel the girls were wrong. They disrupted a class that was studying and they should not have done so. If they felt so strongly about it, they could have asked to be let out, or they could have come late that day to school or stayed home or whatever. They were not standing up because they believe in it (or at least I doubt it), rather I think they were pulling a prank and looking for a way to make a disruption in class, and they succeeded.
They are studying in a school that does not commemorate the day in that fashion, they live in a community that does not do so, and they come from families that do not do so. The impetus that pushed them to stand in class was not belief in the idea, but to make trouble. They deserved to be punished (and as to what the appropriate punishment should be, I have no idea) because they were wrong for disrupting their Torah studies and the classroom.


  1. I, too, would have stood regardless of the consequences. A better response by the principal and teacher would have been to IGNORE the girls and their behavior. As they are not throwing spitballs or making others follow their lead, it would have been better to shrug it off.

    Either way, dad says that the time for zealousness is your teens when you are young, strong, and a little on the stubborn side. we excuse all sorts of "frummie" behavior because of "meetoch", we should do the same here. maybe (probably) part of their decision was to push the teacher. so what. The action they did is an acceptable one.

  2. of course, I would have stood, just to see what the teacher would do. I wasn't that much of an idealist.

  3. It was definitely the wrong thing for the school to punish the girls. When I was in sem the school told us to stand still and say tehillim, this wasn't a zionistic school.

  4. Rafi, very well said.

    I like esp. your response to your daughter. I hope I will be able to answer my children as eloquently as you have to yours.

    BTW, Good luck in the JiB awards. I'll be voting for ya!

  5. shaya - as a parent you must be aware of situations where your kid does something that deserves to be punished, but you feel it is better to ignore it. The punishment is still deserved, meaning the action was wrong. You choose to ignore because you feel there is more to gain by ignoring.

    So, as I said, I would not discuss the punishment - maybe ignoring would have been better. I do not know. They publicly challenged the teacher. Maybe the teacher could not ignore. We probably do not know all the circumstances. Newspaper articles rarely get the details accurately.

    And as you said - you would have stood to see what the teacher would do...

    social - Israeli haredi high schools are very different even from the frummest of sems. The sem principal has a mixture of girels from all sorts of backgrounds and has to worry that a parent paying $16000 or more for a year in camp Israel will be upset, so they have to find some sort of pareve method.
    That is not true for an Israeli Bais Yaakov high school.

    Jacob - thanks.

  6. I appreciate your approach to the matter - the differences between being in public/private, etc.

    I'm not sure I agree that the girls should be punished in this case - perhaps in a different situation mere disobedience is a good enough reason for punishment, but I think this is something more.

    Either way, saying tehillim as punishment definitely is not the right consequence - any educator worth anything will tell you that that's just going to associate tehillim with bad moments and create animosity. Having to stay an extra minute after everyone else leaves and continuing to work for the minute they "wasted" would make much more sense.

  7. I so do not understand why a moment of silence is a non-jewish influence that is bad. After all the christianization of judaism and other non-jewish influences; a moment of silence is what they reject? And who even knows if it is a non-jewish influence to begin with.

    If they want to take out non-jewish influences you could start by loosing the black hats and streimels and bekeshas...all which were adopted from fancy non-jewish mode of dress....to say nothing of the new jewish versions of heaven and hell, views on sex and women, and on and on and on.

  8. dan - I agree. I often say the same when I hear someone use that excuse of something being non-Jewish in its source...


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