Thursday, July 21, 2005

Lakewood, NJ-"Ihr HaKedoysha"?-part 2

In 12th grade, my school arranged an "inspirational" Lakewood Shabbaton. We went to stay at selected families, eat a meal at a stranger's house, and attend many speeches.

Part of the program was a panel discussion. I usually love those because it's more informal, and you get to know the teachers better. (That's another story). Anyway, this time it wasn't the teachers who were up there, there was a group of Kollel wives of all ages and different stages of life.

I don't remember all of them, because only 2/5 are memorable.

One woman was a young newlywed who didn't stop telling us how "normal" she is. She bragged about how frum she is now because her mother didn't cover her hair and how her family isn't "learning people." Now, either she buckled to peer pressure (she did attend a Brooklyn Bais Yaakov-type high school), or she was sincere. Either way, the designer logo on her suit made a statement, but I don't know if it was the one she intended to make. It almost read, "Daddy paid for this." So, as I said in part 1, this materialism is the antithesis of what Lakewood used to be.
Then again, to appeal to the rich kids in my class, they needed her to show that they can have their cake and eat it too, just like this woman demonstrates.

The other woman put a smile on my face. She must have been about 50. She was dressed simply and B'Tznius. She then sincerely lamented about the day she had to send her husband out to work because the bills were unable to be paid. He had learned in Kollel for many years, and they got by (and not by the seat of their Armani pants, either) until the next baby came along, or whatever it was. She also described how hard it was for her when she had to leave to go out to work. This lady knows what she's doing. She was not happy to leave her beloved children, (who, unlike many nowadays, could pick their mother out of a lineup) but she was realistic and down to earth enough to know that if she did not go out to work, there would be trouble. Now, some may argue that she should have "had Bitachon" and all that, but then we get into the whole Hishtadlus issue which is too huge for me to tackle. I also admire the fact that her husband had learned for so many years prior, and she truly looked saddened at what had to happen. If she was doing this for image, they would have stopped a long time ago.

It was also interesting how some of these houses resembled those in flatbush, and were fancier than some of my friends' houses. Not that they should put us up in shacks, but it seems they only were appealing to those whose fathers have the spare $50,000 sitting there under his mattress.

They always represented Lakewood as some fantasy-land. Kind of like on all those Walgreens commercials. You know-- how the kid plays baseball and his uniform stays clean and all that unrealistic, "Land of Perfect" stuff. I feel really stupid that I was naive enough to fall for their "Land of Perfect" shtick.

They kept on mentioning that the father is never stressed out, because there is no dreaded "office" to report back to, and the like. And that the only discussion at the table is Torah. And that the husbands come home and share what they learned rather than de-stress from their day at the damaging "office." Do you really think these coach-shoes wearing, shop-a-holic spoiled brats actually care about what their husbands learned? Unless it's what Ralph Lauren is making next, I doubt it. Obviously, this excludes the ones who are actually sincere, and live in Lakewood because they want to be immersed in Torah, and all that I discussed in part 1.


At 7/22/2005 5:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter experienced a similar Lakewood shabbos visit while in 12th grade. Her take away was that these women who spoke to them were amazingly way out of touch with her and the vast majority of her classmates (from a chasuvah BY high school in NYC). The intention of the trip was to introduce the girls to a community that was devoted to 'limud hatorah' leshem shomayim, in a positive light and show them that this way of life can be a wonderful choice for them if they so desired. However for the reasons you mention, it turned out to be a re-enforcement of many of the negative sterotypes they already had. How sad.

At 7/24/2005 12:08 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Yeah! I figure the kids who already planned on doing it were gonna do it anyway, and those of us who don't relate to it wouldn't do it anyway. So what did they accomplish? I saw what life was like, the sincere ones were out of my league, yet admirable. The ones who were materialistic or watching TV in their closets (coming in part 3) were not my type anyway. So either way, I wasn't gonna move to Lakewood anyway.

At 8/07/2005 2:13 PM, Blogger BrownsvilleGirl said...

In 11th grade we had this michanechet who was new to our school and thought she might be able to bring some of us over from "the dark side."
She took us to Lakewood for a shabbaton, which was set up similarly...only we all stayed together. There was a panel, too, that could have very well been the worse I'd ever seen.
Two of the women on the panel were like converts--they had grown up in working families and decided to now live in kollel families. The two of them felt the need very strongly, as these converts, to spread the light to us and let us know just how terrible it is to continue living the lifestyle we had been raised in.
The other two women hadn't a clue about where we were coming from, and it showed. One even made a comment that women who don't work spend their whole days getting their nails done and shopping for new clothes. Comments like that one were particularly offensive to those of us whose mothers were stay-at-home moms who spent their days taking care of things for their childrens and always making sure to be home by 3:30 so they could be waiting at the bus stop for their youngest.
The panel was terribly traumatizing.

At 8/07/2005 2:15 PM, Blogger BrownsvilleGirl said...

Haha, I said "childrens." I meant children. And I also have to add that, luckily, I have lots of relatives in Lakewood who live there and love what they I've seen the best of it as well.

At 8/07/2005 5:00 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Brownsvilgirl--I see your point, but where I come from, most stay-at-home moms are the ones who are manicuring and shopping most of the type. The difference is, they have a maid to take the kid off the bus at 3:30--after all, what kind of shopping trip is it if it must end by 3:30? So the women you describe are actual stay-at-home moms. They're home. Cooking. Doing laundry. Shopping when necessary. Like they should be. Kol HaKavod.

At 1/04/2006 8:54 AM, Anonymous Chani said...

I know exactly how you feel because that's how I felt after that Shabbaton. I actually told that to Mrs. Perr when she asked us in class afterwards to share our impressions. I told her(yes, in front of the class) that although I understand that land & housing is cheaper in Lakewood & that obviously they weren't going to send us to stay in shacks, I was very disturbed by the fact that every single one of the houses I saw were bigger & nicer than mine. In addition, I saw the interior of the house that I stayed in & although I thought they were sincere, I wasn't exactly impressed with the lack of gashmius there. Mrs. Perr said she knew what I was talking about & if it was any comfort, I should just be aware that the people who are actually making "sacrifices" are the ones who end up staying there long term.(With the shidduch scene being what it is nowadays, I should add, the ones who sacrifice are the ones who stay longer than those whose Daddy could promise however many years of full support & a house.


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