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June 25, 2008

A seminary dilemma of a different sort

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/a_seminary_dilemma_of_a_different_sort_20080625/

Photo

(Photo courtesy of the MMY seminary website)

Thanks to the provocative Israeli film, “The Secrets,” featured in the 23rd Israel Film Festival, Orthodox Jewish seminaries are a hot topic this summer.

Our Calendar intern, Jina Davidovich, is choosing to spend a year studying torah at an all-girls theological college in Israel, like Naomi, the main character in the film.

However, the similarities end there. Jina, in contrast to Naomi, is not postponing an unwanted shiduch, but rather her college education. Bright and bubbly, the recent YULA graduate is also a far cry from the brooding, angst-ridden young woman in the film. At the moment, her most pressing dilemma doesn’t involve the proper place of a woman in religious life or her relationship to other female students, but rather the resorting of her closet. Here is Jina’s honest and endearing confession: 

As I stood amongst a heap of discarded clothing, the frustration got the better of me, and I screamed. My parents raced down the stairs and cried, “What happened?” Reminiscent of my younger temper-tantrum days, I flung myself onto the pile of bright colored t-shirts and dresses and wailed, “I have nothing to wear in seminary! I’m not going!”

While this scene sounds like something out of a religious version of The Real World, I assure you, it’s a situation that many seminary-bound girls will find themselves in in a few short weeks as they pack their bags for Israel.

It has become an encouraged tradition for girls and boys from Orthodox American high schools to push off their collegiate plans for a year and attend the best seminaries and yeshivas in Israel. After countless arguments, I was sending a deposit to Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim (MMY) where I would spend the year with my head buried in various religious texts. Now, with less than a hundred days to go, I’m starting to panic.

While I am accustomed to the rules and rigorous standards that accompany life at an Orthodox, all-girls institution (I recently graduated from Yeshiva of Los Angeles), this was a whole new ballgame – I was playing with the big boys, well, girls. When I received my acceptance packet from MMY, I quickly flipped to the section detailing all the standards they require of their talmidot (students). While I knew the dress code would force me to cross every religious t and dot every modest i, seeing it in writing made me break a sweat. Shirts that covered my collarbone and my elbows, skirts that cover the knee while sitting or standing, and no open-toed shoes…I rushed to my closet to find that I was in dire need of a new wardrobe.

Now, every time my friends and I enter a store, we must tear our eyes away from the just-too-short summer dresses and those oh-so-cute jeans and head towards the ankle-length skirts and crew-neck shirts. As I stand in my closet and finger all the clothing with which I much part in a mere 69 days, I remind myself that in Israel, I won’t be working on my outside, but rather, my inside.

In the meantime, I’m trying to keep my tantrums to a minimum and my skirt lengths to a maximum.

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