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Sorry, She's Just Not a Good Fit for Our School

Machla Abramovitz

For decades, Bais Yaakov students in need of a more tolerant and less conformist atmosphere have considered “out-of town” schools as their solution. But the numbers of girls seeking these options have escalated, and their degree of estrangement has widened as well. The heroic educators at these out-of-town institutions are doing their best to embrace and educate a growing number of girls who just don’t fit into their local institutions. What works, what doesn’t, and what are the roots of their discontent

Thursday, August 27, 2015

There’s a reason visitors to some of our most robust communities who linger at the edges late at night will notice more girls at younger ages who are not attending school and finding themselves on the streets, vulnerable to dangerous social influences. “There is a whole new social set that is rebelling openly and there are places where they can gather and meet. That gives them legitimacy,” says RabbiKramer, who is also the venerated former principal of Bnos Leah Prospect Park Yeshiva in Brooklyn and headed theMercazLeHachsharatMorim teacher training institute. For these girls, he says, it’s more than simply falling into bad company. “In most cases, emotionally healthy girls don’t just fall in. There is a reason that sent them in that direction.” The biggest culprit,RabbiKramer says, is low self-esteem. If a girl doesn’t feel good about herself, she looks for those who will provide her with the validation she desperately needs — and that means others, both boys and girls, with similar issues. Many of them, he says, are victims of an educational and social system that seemingly works well for most, but for a growing minority can be a disaster. From the close to 150 girls he’s dealt with over the last two years alone, he finds some commonalities. “Not fitting in” to a very conformist system seems to be a theme running through most of the cases. Girls who don’t succeed academically and cannot make friends are higher-risk, as are those who come from problematic or unstable homes, although he believes that if a girl does well academically and socially, she can often overcome family issues.

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