| Double Take |

The Best Policy

“If there’s anything like that, negative friendships, a negative influence even from the home, it’s important for us to know”

Adina: I confided in you and trusted you, only for you to destroy my daughter’s future
Yudit: If I hide what I know, it could backfire on you — and our entire school



The day my daughter Malki filled out her seminary applications, I sat down with her at the dining room table as we fine-tuned every word of her personal statement. We analyzed the headshot she had to include and filled out her name, DOB, address, parents’ occupations, number of siblings, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, three times over.

Malki talked a mile a minute: I really, really want to go to Machon Aliza Rivkah, the others are literally just a backup plan, but everyone knows that Tiferes Yaira only takes two girls per year from my school and Batya and Sara are a shoo-in, their sisters went and they have money and also top, top grades but that’s beside the point, and and and….

I smiled and nodded and inserted my comments and whispered a quick tefillah that Machon Aliza Rivkah would snatch her up.

When we were done, we folded the thick applications into envelopes and Malki sat back with a whew. “That was intense!

I chuckled.

And then I turned around to discreetly wipe at my eyes.

I just couldn’t believe we reached this stage.  There were so many hopes, tefillos, and dreams wrapped up in this upcoming seminary year.

Malki’s — and mine.


alki’s my oldest, so every stage is new and exciting, but seminary applications were extra meaningful, considering the rough patch she went through several years back.

In hindsight, the worst of it had passed relatively quickly — just a few months — but at the time, we were terrified.

We were so new at the parenting-teens thing — and at the time, Malki was our only girl, too (since then we’ve been blessed with another girl). She’d just started ninth grade, and I guess the adjustment from smallish elementary school to a huge, bustling institution with several parallel classes per grade, a dozen teachers, and being one of hundreds of faces just hit her hard.

We noticed her grades slipping a little, and she was spending a lot of time out of the house with friends, but at first we assumed she was getting used to the rigorous academic standards of high school. And the friends? Well, obviously, her new classmates, right?

It was only after a couple of months that someone said something, and we put the pieces together, and realized that Malki was actually hanging out with some old elementary school friends who had gone in a very different direction. These girls were actually spending most of their time on the streets.

Malki wasn’t there — yet. She still went to school, dressed the part. She didn’t make waves, but she wasn’t making any effort to improve things either.

When I went for PTA night in ninth grade, half the teachers couldn’t remember who she was, and the others used words likequiet,” “still finding her place,” “a little apathetic.”

Malki, who’d always been the life of the party in her old school, who had the zaniest ideas and the most contagious laugh — quiet? apathetic? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

She was sliding, we were worried, and we didn’t know where to turn.

Should we involve her school? They barely seemed to know who she was. And I was reluctant to raise our concerns when they might land her in a sticky situation with the hanhalah. Weren’t there rules about where girls could hang out at night? I couldn’t imagine Malki’s nighttime chevreh caring which pizza stores were banned by Malki’s high school’s administration.

My husband, Yossi, and I tried speaking to her ourselves. We were patient, warm, validating, concerned. We shared our worries and reminded her that she could tell us anything at all and we’d be there to support her. She appreciated that, but seemed powerless to stop the decline.

“School is boring. I hate going. I feel like a nobody,” she kept saying, and I could see why they kept using the word apathy — she just seemed so switched off, so disconnected.

We offered to switch her school, but she wasn’t interested in that either. “For what? To have to start over again in another school where I’ll feel like a nobody?”

And true, there were smaller schools, schools geared toward girls who were struggling — girls like Malki’s nighttime friends, actually — but neither she nor we felt like that was her place.

“I’m not like them,” she kept saying. “I don’t want to do these things. I just… I don’t have anyone from school to hang out with, so I’m spending time with my old friends.”

And yet despite her assertions, she was slipping, in subtle ways maybe, but still.

I started making some discreet inquiries, starting with a close friend of mine who had several daughters in the same high school as Malki.

“It definitely takes time for some of them to find their feet,” Chayala admitted. “Look, it’s a big place, and if you’re not particularly loud or popular, it takes some time. But all my girls did, eventually. Finding a teacher to connect with is a real help, and once they settle into a group of friends, that makes all the difference.”

But Malki didn’t seem interested in making friends. She got her social fix at night, the easy way, with a group of girls who dressed and spoke and acted in ways that would have horrified Malki’s school, were they to find out.

And I could see how it was impacting Malki. Not drastically, not outwardly, but sometimes when she talked to me, words would slip out, and when she left the house at night the skirt she would wear was most definitely not her school uniform skirt.

“You know who you could try?” Chayala said, when I delicately shared some of the situation with her one night. “Mrs. Kramer, Yudit Kramer, the twelfth-grade mechaneches. She doesn’t really have anything to do with the younger classes, but she is so good, so understanding of the girls, and, like, wise, if you know what I mean. I’ve asked her for advice before and she just gets it. I think if anyone could help you out, she can.”

At that point, I was ready to try anything, and I liked the idea, since it wasn’t one of Malki’s day-to-day teachers, nor was it a member of the hanhalah who might feel obliged to act on the information immediately.


called Mrs. Kramer at home, and asked her if I could speak to her in confidence.

She was warm and reassuring, and told me that she’d be happy to speak on Motzaei Shabbos and help out if she could.

On Motzaei Shabbos I visited her in person, and we talked for a while. She seemed to grasp the situation quickly, understanding where Malki was holding and how we were at this turning point of sorts: while she wasn’t, right now, crossing any red lines, she was on a slippery slope toward them — if we wouldn’t help her right away.

When I finished speaking, I sat back on the couch, feeling somehow drained of energy. But Mrs. Kramer was great; she was encouraging and positive, commending us for catching the situation at an early stage and assuring me that we were doing “everything right” by being supportive of Malki and reaching out discreetly for help and guidance.

She gave me some pointers, ideas how to open conversations, ways to gently encourage Malki to give things a chance at school, activities we could do together just to build more of a bond and give Malki the feeling that her home was a rock-solid safe haven. And she also said that she was going to try to use her position within the school to draw Malki out, see if she could build a relationship with her, and maybe she could help in that way, too.

A few days later, Malki had returned home with a smile hovering on her face. It was probably the first time since starting high school that she actually came home happy.

Something about a school program, and girls chosen from each grade to lead something, and she was one of the only two ninth-graders chosen….

“That’s amazing!” I said warmly. Really, I wanted to scream it from the rooftops and maybe sponsor the shul kiddush that week, but I held back. “What will you be doing? Who’s the other girl from your grade?”

Malki gave a signature Malki shrug. “I don’t know. Might be boring also, but I get to skip a lot of class. And the teacher in charge is the twelfth-grade mechaneches — Mrs. Kramer. She’s really cool, we had a meeting with her today, and we got her into all these discussions. She doesn’t care when girls ask her questions, like hashkafah questions, she actually has what to say.”

Oh, wow. So this was part of Mrs. Kramer’s plan… I hoped it would work.


did. Somehow, between after-school meetings and lots of attention and being involved in some special extracurricular project and some one-on-ones with Mrs. Kramer, Malki started to change.

She was busier, spending less time with her old friends and more with this elite selected group of project buddies at school. She told me once or twice about spending lunch break talking to Mrs. Kramer — sometimes with another girl, sometimes alone — “because she’s cool, she doesn’t get fazed by anything you say, and she’s honestly better company than some of the annoying kids in my class who talk about fashion and shopping all day long.”

I just listened and nodded and held my breath, because this Mrs. Kramer… well, whatever magic she was doing, I didn’t want it to stop.


alki moved on. For the most part.

Her old friends were doing their thing — some settling down somewhat, others unfortunately straying even further, eventually leaving town and going to schools or jobs or colleges elsewhere. And although Malki kept in touch with them — sporadically, sometimes more, sometimes less, with certain girls more than others — she had firmly placed herself back in the Bais Yaakov girl camp.

I closed my eyes to the occasional late-night conversation, to the references to contact with girls who were doing things I didn’t even want to know about. The main thing was that the old, fun-loving Malki was back, doing well, and she had a solid, if fairly small, group of good school friends.

It was a little awkward for her that Mrs. Kramer was her twelfth-grade mechaneches. After ninth grade, when Malki had settled down somewhat, she’d also moved away from her deep confidences in Mrs. Kramer. I think she preferred to forget about that time in her life, to be honest.

But Mrs. Kramer wasn’t pushy; she treated Malki just like any other student, and I wondered if she even remembered that year when she’d managed to reach out and penetrate the shell, and really change the trajectory of Malki’s life.

As we sent off the seminary applications and the memories flashed back, I thought about how seminary would really be that final push, hopefully, to break away completely from that old group of friends, and help Malki immerse herself in a new life, in a wonderful, Torahdig environment.

We’d come so far — she was doing so well, strong in her Yiddishkeit, doing well in school, with a good group of friends — and I knew that seminary would be the clincher in the journey “home” that Mrs. Kramer had jumpstarted all those years back.

Speaking of which, we should probably send Mrs. Kramer a thank-you letter sometime. Maybe when Malki got into seminary — hopefully Machon Aliza Rivkah, where she had her heart set on attending. And definitely, we’d have to remember to invite her to Malki’s wedding someday….

Okay, now I was really getting emotional.


nd then the rejection letters came.

First from Tiferes Yaira, but that was predictable; she hadn’t really expected to get in there.

Then a nice euphemistic one from her third choice, Bais Chaya L’Banos, about a “waitlist,” which basically meant another rejection.

But the real kicker was the rejection letter from Machon Aliza Rivkah. Especially because Malki’s four close friends were all accepted (yes, even the ones with lower grades than hers).

Malki was devastated. She locked herself in her room for hours, crying and refusing to let anyone in to comfort her. When her friends called, I was instructed to be totally vague and not give anything away, because it’s mortifying, Ma, all of them got in except for me!

I was devastated for her, too, but more than that, I was genuinely confused.

I just didn’t understand why.

Malki’s smart, and tzniyusdig, and sociable, and nice. She has good middos and good grades and a good rapport with her teachers. Yes, she’s a deep thinker, and a questioning one, but she’d never gone out of line in school, and she’d worked through so much already — surely her deep thinking would be an asset to the seminary, not a problem?

I called the principal, but she sounded equally shocked. “There’s nothing, literally no reason I can think of, that would make them reject a girl like your Malki,” she said emphatically. “The only thing I can say is, it’s hard as an oldest girl. The seminaries are bursting and they just don’t have the space for everyone. Maybe we can try that newer one, Ateres Chein? They’re excellent, and they’re looking for great girls like your Malki. I can definitely mention her name to them.”

I figured it couldn’t hurt to have the option, so I thanked her and said to go ahead, but really, I wanted someone to push for Machon Aliza Rivkah.

Malki’s friends were going there. She’d struggled to make these friends, and she didn’t want to go somewhere where she’d have to start all over again.

I asked the principal if she would push for Malki in Machon Aliza Rivkah, but she wasn’t hopeful. “I’ll reach out to them, no problem, but honestly, I don’t see it helping,” she said. “They have a very strong system in place, they reach out to one trusted source in each school — it’s usually the seminary advisor, they have this thing about the principals not knowing the girls well enough — and once they make their final decision, I’ve never heard of them going back on it. But if you find someone with some sort of protektziya, maybe a member of staff, it’s worth a try.”

It’s amazing what you can do when your daughter’s future is at stake. Within a few days, I found out that one of the star teachers at Machon Aliza Rivkah was none other than Shevy Freifeld, one of my best friends from my own seminary days.

We’d lost touch 15 years ago, when I’d moved back from Eretz Yisrael, but….

Shevy was delighted to reconnect. We caught up on our families, where each of us lived, what was doing at our respective ends of the world.

And then I got to the point of the call.

“Malki is a fantastic girl, there’s literally no reason for a seminary not to take her,” I emphasized. “You can call anyone, neighbors, teachers, friends. She’s good, solid, smart, friendly… I just don’t understand what happened. All her friends got in, and she didn’t.”

“I’ll speak to Rebbetzin Schondlich for you,” Shevy promised. “I’m not sure what I can do, but I’ll feel things out, see if I can find out what happened.”

I hung up with a sigh of relief. Maybe we had hope, after all?


hevy called me back a few days later.

“I don’t know what to say, Adina,” she said, apologetically. “The Rebbetzin knew who Malki was, she remembered the application, and she even said that Malki had made a great impression at the interview. But they received information that she had some sort of a ‘past’ and had questionable friends… and it’s just not what this seminary caters to.”

“A past?” I echoed. “But—”

“I told them I don’t think it’s true, that I know you from way back and that Malki is a really good girl,” Shevy said. “But they said that their source was 100 percent trustworthy, and I’m sorry, Adina, I just couldn’t get her to even consider looking into things again.”

I managed to stumble out the words thanks for trying. I managed to hang up the phone and escape to my room before any of the kids — or Malki herself — would get home and see me.

Shevy might have had no idea what Rebbetzin Schondlich was talking about. But I did.

She has a past… a few rough months in ninth grade, where she’d toed with the line, never crossing it, but going a little too close for comfort.

Questionable friends… because she kept in touch with those girls, the ones who weren’t in the system. Even though their contact was sporadic, she was nothing like them, and was clearly not planning on going in the same direction.

But all the seminary cared about was the fact that these friends existed.

And the only one who knew about every intricate detail was…

Mrs. Kramer. The seminary advisor. The one person the seminary called for information and trusted implicitly.

My breath was coming hard, fast, furious.

How. How could she do this to us?

Was she acting on petty bad feelings that Malki had stopped confiding in her, years back? Really?

Or she somehow felt it was l’toeles? Even though this was years ago and she knows Malki, teaches her, and sees that she has come such a long way from where she was in ninth grade….

We had spoken to her in confidence, reached out for help, and she used the information to break our trust and ruin Malki’s future.

That evening, Malki was crying in her room again — and my heart was breaking.

I wanted to call Mrs. Kramer, scream at her, ask her what on earth justified doing this to an innocent girl who just wanted to grow. Who needed this golden chance of a year in seminary, maybe more than the girls who’d never experienced a yeridah, who’d never had to pull themselves back from the brink.

But I had no words; no words at all to say to the person who could do this to my daughter.

If I could tell Mrs. Kramer one thing, it would be: We confided in you and trusted you — and you used that information to turn against us and destroy my daughter’s future.



IT was that time of year again.

My job — twelfth-grade mechaneches, seminary advisor, as well as being involved in planning yemei iyun and other extracurricular events — is always busy. But when it’s seminary season, I literally work around the clock.

There’s the aspect of speaking to the girls; advising, advocating, guiding. Getting to know any new seminaries that have opened up, and making sure I’m staying informed of any changes, like a seminary moving in a certain direction, shifting direction, becoming more exclusive, harder to get into….

I spend recesses, lunch periods, and basically any free time that I have in school, speaking to twelfth graders. Discussing which seminaries would be the best fit, where to apply, how to handle interviews. Calming nerves and gently guiding and doing lots and lots of listening.

And then, from the other end, I have to field all the calls that I get from seminaries.

Some prefer to call the principal, or perhaps another teacher. Others b’shitah like to speak to the twelfth-grade mechaneches. Some do a very thorough “due diligence” and check out each girl with multiple calls… either way, I can spend much of the late-night hours fielding calls from mechanchos in Eretz Yisrael who have just woken up, and continue taking calls throughout the early-morning shift at my end, when the seminary principals are spending their afternoons at the office.

Those calls are the hardest.

Of course, some are a breeze. When the girl is bright, refined, kind, and academic; when the family has both yichus and money; when the older sisters went through the same seminary system and were delightful students; these calls are simple.

Whenever any of those factors aren’t present, though, it gets harder.

I have to tell the truth; there’s no other option. If I hide something, and the seminary accepts a girl only to discover the issue, it could come back to haunt us big time. But some of the questions are uncomfortable to answer, and sometimes, it’s a shame to blow a girl’s chances because of something that really, really, is not so relevant.

Like Sima Spinner. Sweet, gorgeous, sings like a nightingale, works so hard to achieve an 85 percent average. No, she’s not naturally brilliant. But she’s a sincere, dedicated hard worker; an avid participant in every class; a shining example of good middos, and one of those students that every high school teacher enjoys.

And yet, when the seminary of her choice insisted on a breakdown of her academic prowess, no amount of lavish praise about middos, work ethic, friendliness, and derech eretz was enough to swing the deal. She wasn’t naturally academic, and they weren’t interested.

Sima was accepted to her second and third choice seminaries, but it wasn’t the point. She could have had that chance at a more rigorous program, she wanted it. So what if she wouldn’t have aced every test? She was fine with that. She wanted to learn and grow, and she probably would have done better than some of the straight-A students who were a little too sure of themselves to take studying seriously. But that wasn’t what the seminary principals wanted to hear from me.

And trust me, I’ve tried saying it.

But the system is the system, and if I wouldn’t give information at all, we’d have even bigger problems getting our students into seminaries. And so I try to work with it, giving heart and soul to each conversation, strongly advocating for our students and making sure to emphasize all their incredible qualities, even when I have to admit to certain shortcomings.


’d fielded a two-hour-long call one evening, with the principal of Zemiras Elisheva wanting information on 18 different applicants, and then three shorter calls in the morning from other seminary heads, and my head was pounding before I even entered the school building.

“Hi, Mrs. Kramer. Message from Mrs. Gustman, can you go in to her when you have a chance?”

I checked my watch. “Sure. I have a few minutes, I’ll go in now if she’s not busy.”

“I put through a call to her a few minutes ago, but I don’t think it was a long one. Try your luck.”

I knocked on the principal’s door and stuck my head in. She was just hanging up the phone, and she gave me a warm smile when I entered.

“Thanks for coming by. I wanted to catch you about the seminary reference calls. How are they going?”

“Tough,” I said, frankly. “The seminaries are inundated with candidates, they’re becoming more picky by the hour, and some of the questions…” I shook my head. “I know I can’t say anything misleading, but I hate knowing that girls won’t even be given a chance just because they’re not naturally the brightest, or because they have other struggles — even if they’re working on them, even if they’re the most gorgeous, sweet girls with beautiful middos….”

“I know,” Mrs. Gustman commiserated. “Really, we have to daven. Daven that every girl gets into the place that’s best for them, that the calls go with siyata d’Shmaya that you don’t have to share information that would harm their chances… but you’re right about being totally up front. Did you hear what happened with Bnos Shalva high school?”

I shook my head.

Mrs. Gustman sighed. “Their seminary advisor gave information about various girls… and she glossed over something, something that the school hoped had just been a small, passing issue. This girl with some social trouble. She’d been very clingy in high school, made the wrong friends, struggled a lot… but she was very smart, and tzniyusdig, and talented, and made a good impression at interviews.

“They wanted to help her get into a certain very well-known seminary, somewhere where she could thrive academically, and have a really good fresh start. So when the principal asked about how she does socially, emotionally, you know, they gave a positive report. Next thing they know, she got accepted to the seminary, became enmeshed with some of the other girls, caused a whole lot of troubling friendship politics, and it was a whole story.

“When the seminary found out that it had been an issue throughout high school, and the school had hidden it from them….” Mrs. Gustman pressed her lips together.

“They decided not to take information from the seminary advisor anymore?” I guessed.

“Worse,” Mrs. Gustman said flatly. “They simply don’t accept a single girl from Bnos Shalva. That’s it. Kaput. Zero. Done. And they can afford to, because they have hundreds, if not thousands, of applications each year.”

I drew in a breath sharply. “No.”

All those girls without a chance at getting into a top seminary, just because of some missing information on one girl.

We couldn’t afford to lose the trust of the seminaries, however awful the system might feel.

“You know, it’s not necessarily even helpful to the girl herself to be pushed into a seminary that doesn’t cater to her needs,” Mrs. Gustman reminded me. “In this case, the seminary had no interest in dealing with troubled emotions or social difficulties. So, unfortunate as it seems, being completely transparent often means the girl ends up in the place that’s the best fit.”

“That’s true,” I said. “But what if a girl just wants to grow? What if she wants to be something different than what she is now?”

Mrs. Gustman sighed. “It’s hard,” she pronounced. “It’s very, very hard.”


he phone call about Malki Steinfeld, though, took “hard” to another level. My heart literally dropped when the principal said her name.

Not because I didn’t have good things to say. I had plenty: she was a serious student, respectful and tzniyusdig and friendly and hardworking.

But I didn’t have a personal connection with her — or at least, I hadn’t since ninth grade. And back then….

I remembered the story: how Mrs. Steinfeld had reached out in desperation, how I’d taken Malki under my wing. How she’d opened up surprisingly quickly, like she was just waiting for someone to ask so that she could unburden herself. How she admitted to everything her mother had told me about — the late nights with friends who were pulling her in the wrong direction, how she was feeling more and more removed from the social scene and hashkafos and lessons being taught in school — but not only that, she told me about things her mother would have been shocked to know about.

Like devices she’d bought and kept in her room.

Like the content she’d seen and was consuming, late at night, even after she came home.

Like the fact that she felt that the songs, the messages, the blog posts were filling a need and speaking to her in a way that the people around her didn’t.

The good thing was, she didn’t want to be doing this. She wanted to stop, she wanted help, and after speaking to her several times and consulting with daas Torah, I was advised not to involve the school. Had I told them, she would’ve been kicked out then and there. It would have shattered her, and her connection to Yiddishkeit, forever. Right now, the fact that she was acting the part and aspiring to change was her only hope.

Over the months I spoke to her, she gradually broke away from the bad habits — not in part, because I made sure she was selected for key extracurricular roles to keep her busy in school for many more hours. She got rid of the phone and promised to stop with all the technology.

I believed that she did — I saw the change in the way that she became happier, made new friends, was more engaged in school, and so on — but then it was summer vacation, she went to an excellent sleepaway camp that definitely didn’t allow technology, and when the summer was over, she seemed to want a clean start, to forget the struggles of ninth grade and settle down for good.

I taught tenth grade for one period a week, and Malki was a great student. Her grades were excellent, she had friends, and when I had a chance to speak to her once or twice, she gave me a sunny smile and assured me that everything was good.

Still, I never quite knew for sure.

It seemed like everything was over. It seemed like she wanted to forget the close relationship we had because it would remind her of a past she wanted to discard completely. But I couldn’t help but wonder if it was truly all over.

I remembered our conversations back in ninth grade, how she’d insisted that she wanted to maintain a friendship with her old friends, not be like them or be influenced by them, but just because they liked each other “for who they were.”

I remembered how I’d tried to delicately guide her away from that, to explain that influences are strong even if we don’t “want to be” influenced, and that there’s a difference between being friendly when the situation calls for it, and being friends.

But while Malki had determinedly gotten rid of the phone and whatever, while she’d deleted her social media accounts and stopped with the other things cold turkey, she was equally determined not to be “one of those frum people who abandons her best friend just because she wears pants.”

I did hope she would grow out of that, realize that those old friends didn’t necessarily even want the friendship of a girl who’d stayed strong in the system. But at the time, Malki had insisted that she wouldn’t be the one to break the friendship, and as far as I knew, she was still having phone conversations with some of these old friends, well into the next year.

And once, several months back, I’d caught sight of her in a 7-Eleven, standing out starkly in her school uniform and demure ponytail with two girls who looked… well, nothing like her.

And now, the principal of Machon Aliza Rivkah, a top-quality seminary, wanted information about her.

I did my best. I sang Malki’s praises to the skies, painting a picture of a solid, strong student with good friends, a good family, great middos. I emphasized that she worked hard, participated in class, and was involved in extracurricular activities (never at the expense of her excellent grades, of course).

But then the questions started getting specific.

“What about hashkafically? Herself, her family? Any issues? Anything that might not be in line with our seminary’s ethos?”

“I’ve taught her since tenth grade, and she’s never asked anything that suggests a hashkafic issue during those classes,” I said, truthfully.

“And what about exposure to negative influences? Does she have access to inappropriate content, technology, and the like? I’m asking because we’ve had some stories, girls from good backgrounds who actually were more exposed, and they ended up telling things to their friends, and parents get very disturbed. So it’s important to know.”

I didn’t know what to say.

On the one hand, I knew for a fact that Malki had been exposed to inappropriate content — heavily so.

On the other, that was four years ago, and I was almost sure it had stopped.

But I did know — or strongly suspect — that she was still in touch with those old friends. And while she seemed to be holding her own in a beautiful way, it was really impossible to know for sure what was going on inside.

And if I was mistaken, if she did get accepted to seminary and they found out — somehow, in any way — that she was a little less sheltered than they thought, that she was holding onto friendships that were an insidious influence… and that I had known about it all along… we’d be in serious trouble.

“If there’s anything like that, negative friendships, a negative influence even from the home, it’s important for us to know,” the principal was saying. “It’s something I always ask, because it’s something that’s very important for us to find out. We’re looking for girls who have purity of mind, who won’t start inappropriate conversations or cause trouble for girls who are more sheltered, whose parents trust us with teaching them the correct hashkafos in life without negative influences creeping in.”

“She comes from a great, solid home,” I said, wording my response carefully. “I do believe at one point, years ago, she had a group of friends who were… slipping, somewhat. And since she’s a very caring, compassionate girl, it’s possible that she still keeps in touch with these girls, to be mechazek them. But I do know that she is very committed to her own Yiddishkeit, and we’ve never seen anything to indicate any hashkafic issues here in school.”

The principal was quiet for a long minute. “Thank you. Thank you for sharing that information. It’s important.”

“May I say that I can vouch very strongly for Malki, and I don’t believe that those old friendships are relevant right now, and that I think she would be an excellent candidate for your seminary?” I said, trying to end the call on a positive note.

“That’s very kind of you, Mrs. Kramer. I know that she’s a great student, and I’m sure she’ll do very well in whichever seminary she attends,” Rebbetzin Schondlich said firmly.

Too firmly.

I hung up the phone feeling awful.

I failed a student, and not just that, a student who had been close to me, had shared her deepest struggles and opened up for help when she needed it most.

But there was no way I could hide the information that the seminary explicitly asked for.

If I could tell the Steinfelds one thing, it would be: I feel terrible sharing information that could damage your chances, but if I hold back, it could backfire on you, and on all our seminary applicants now and in the future. 


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1001)

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