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Aug 31, 2006

What does "elite" mean?

My wife told me last night about a new school opening up in the neighborhood. It is a new girl’s elementary school in the Bais Yaakov style. The guy opening the school already has a successful high school for girls and has decided to branch out to elementary school.

The unique thing about this school is that it is being declared as a school for the daughters of the “elite” families and registration is by invitation only. If you get the call you are welcome to bring your daughter to register.

I laughed when I heard this. Creating such a school with the stated objective is the funniest thing I heard all week. I do not expect to get a call from them, and I told my wife that if she does get a call from them to tell them we do not associate with those people. They are not good enough for us.

“Elite” schools around the world are generally considered elite because of something unique to them. The uniqueness is generally some sort of high academic level that places them above the ordinary institutions of average learning. Sometimes eliteness is fabricated there as well and could be a catchword for “we only accept wealthy students” or the like, but often it truly is a higher level of academic instruction.

When schools open in the haredi system for elite families, it has nothing to do with the academic level. Rather, it has to do with superficial criteria. Somebody decided that he does not want his or her child to mix with families of lesser frumkeit and therefore opens up a school. They will then advertise that registration is open only to the best Kollel families. The education is no different. It is just a matter of keeping the school pure with no working parents.

The even funnier thing about it is the randomness of who they decide is elite and based on what criteria. Being a Kollel family is only the general criteria. If you wish to go to such a school, you must go through a rigorous filtering process. The process includes (but is not limited to); davening in a shul they approve of, having protexia (or to translate: connections with influence), money sometimes works, a conection with an extreme Rabbi. What you actually do in real life is less important. The eliteness is based purely on appearance.

For example, in the haredi world having internet access is eschewed. In the schools I send my kids to we had to get a special dispensation and approval because we have internet access (just owning a computer is an issue even without internet). We have friends who “got the call” to come register for the new school despite the fact that they have internet access and the father shows up in Kollel every now and then (when he is not busy dealing with his investments and business dealings on the internet). Why did they get the call? Because they daven in the most extreme shul in the neighborhood and are connected to the most extreme Rabbi in the neighborhood. Does it matter that they do not tell the Rabbi when they do things he would not approve of (that I know about – I am not just assuming they do these things)? Of course not, just because of their relationship with him they are considered elite.

I have another friend who already sends his children to such schools (the new one is not the first of this genre). This is so despite the fact that they openly advertise that the school is only for the children of avreichim (people in kollel). Needless to say, the father in the family works for a living and does not learn in kollel. The school teaches in Yiddish, yet the parents do not speak a word of Yiddish. How did they get their kid in? Because they are connected to Rabbi x and daven in shul y.

So what makes these schools “elite”? What makes the families that send to those schools better than the average family?


  1. Please name the bastard, the school, and the street the school is on.

  2. Yeah, also referred to as 'mamzer' in Hebrew.

    Who is the mamzer opening such a school?

  3. I do not remember the guys name.. what's the difference though? if you did not get the call, are you insulted? Now you are not one of the shtarkest families of rbs? it is all shtuyot.
    BTW, such schools have already existed in RBS for years.. this is just a new one.

  4. I want to put the sand on the guy's doorstep and burn his black clothes...

  5. lol
    but it does not say if the sand worked

  6. A common cliche is "don't judge judaism by jews or confuse rabbis with religion."

    Unfortunately cliches are just another way of avoiding the issue. Like having a debate about religion, once someone says 'well god said so, or god did it' then the conversation is over...you can't go anywhere with it. A cliche does that as well. You can either accept that for most religion is merely a structure or not, but at the end of the day when the "religious" people behave in these manners it only makes othres recognise the arbitrary choices of religion.

  7. Dan - I would not say the arbitrary choice of religion. I would say the arbitrary way people apply religion.

  8. i am wondering why they don't know that the minute you classify some as better than others - no one is. because someone will always come along and say I'm even better than that. My chumros are even more strict and my rabbi has an even more special sack.....of sand. As you said - I wouldn't associate with them. Just look at lakewood, they've climbed over each other to be the "best/frummest" that they have lost sight of what the halacha is versus chumros. You should be glad that those families are leaving your school and no longer influencing your kids!

    "ai zeh who asheer? hasamaech b'chelko" while one should strive to be better, this is ridiculous.

    here in chicago, the jewish taliban took over one of the girls high schools and there has finally been enough resentment that they are being threatened with a new more mizrachi school opening and have in fact relaxed some rules because of the threat. Don't know if it'll work, but interesting to watch this play out.

    enjoy your neighborhood and neighbors. reraises questions that you've asked in the past as to do you really belong there anymore. with people like these who needs hamas.

  9. That is crazy, it is all subjective. Wonder if it will do well. If he has good rep than ppl will trust him.

  10. Rafi,

    that is a distinction without a difference.

  11. dan - I would say there is a difference. you have to do things the way you see they should be done, not the way other people apply religion...

    shaya - I do not know what to say, but just because some crazies open a school I do not agree with does not mean I have to leave. Unfortunately it is a trend that is spreading. Other places have their own problems and I know people who have moved to other places because of craziness like this and they are upset at other issues on the new places (including modiin)

    social - if I find out anything interesting I will post it

  12. I'm glad I don't live in "that kind of neighborhood." I'm sure that the list includes some of the employed, since they'll be hit for big donations. Other kids are from "good" families; the grandfathers, rarely the fathers, are important rabbis with influence.

    I guess derech eretz isn't important if they consider themselves elite.


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