July 14, 2024
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July 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Living in New York unquestionably has benefits and drawbacks. But for high schoolers, living in New York means having to take the dreaded Regents exams.

Our oldest, Shalom, took his first Regents this week. For the past few weeks I have been seeing in him the same anxiety I felt two decades ago when I was taking them.

Now as a principal I see the Regents from a different perspective. At this point, for me it’s more of an annoyance than a source of anxiety.

The Regents are delivered to a local public school on the day they are to be administered, in what looks like a mini jail cell. It can only be delivered to a location that has a safe where the Regents can remain securely locked until the time for the exam. Two locks are affixed to the box, and a label stating which school it is for. Students taking the Regents have to be pre-registered. The keys to open the Regents box are mailed separately to the school beforehand. Each day’s Regents has its own code that matches up to that day’s key.

The Regents must remain locked until the students are about to begin them. There is a 45-minute window within which the exam must be started across the state.

Shortly after the time for the Regents ends, each school has a code that allows it to access the answer key. The Regents cannot be proctored or graded by the teacher who taught the course.

If it’s annoying for me, I can hardly imagine what a headache it is for those who produce the Regents and need to make sure all of the security precautions are adhered to.

In June 1974, two students at Solomon Schechter School in Brooklyn broke into the principal’s office and stole the answer key. They began selling the answers, and within a few hours students across the state had copies of the answer key to their upcoming Regents. (Because of that incident, the answer key is no longer available until after the test is completed.) As a result, nine of that year’s Regents were canceled statewide. That was the first time in 96 years of Regents exams that such a thing had occurred.

So what’s the point of it all?

The obvious answer is to ensure that there are standards! Every school throughout the state knows that their teachers must adequately prepare their students for the Regents. It serves as a barometer to know how effective teachers are—by assessing how well their students perform on the Regents.

In our own lives, as Torah-observant Jews, most of our standards aren’t externally imposed, at least not our moral and religious standards. Our standards are invaluable to us because they provide us with healthy guidelines and safe limits.

We live in a world that often views our standards as archaic, pedantic and overbearing. But we know that they are there for our own protection and spiritual growth.

Judge Ruchie Freier, the first female chassidish district judge in criminal court in Brooklyn, relates that she was once meeting with a male deputy when no one else was in the office. She asked him if they could keep the door open as the laws of yichud demand.

He then said to her, “Rachel, it’s such a pleasure working with you, because the boundaries are always so clear.” Mrs. Freier mused that she never realized how keeping halacha could add to the comfort of others.

Our standards must be maintained under lock and key. If, God forbid, we violate them, it’s not easy re-locking and securing the box.

It is frightening how recently every few weeks there seems to be another story about a famous personality accused of violating standards. It all starts from the smallest of breaches, that if unchecked can quickly spiral out of control.

Maintaining those standards is the key to a spiritually happy and productive life.

By Rabbi Dani Staum

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is the rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead as well as a rebbe and guidance counselor at Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, New Jersey, principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor and a division head at Camp Dora Golding. He can be reached at [email protected].

 Looking for “Instant Inspiration” on the parsha in under five minutes? Follow him on Torahanytime.com.


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