June 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Choices We Make and Those That Are Made for Us

I’m writing this under a pseudonym, because although this is a story that needs to be told, human nature being what it is, I understand that to write under my own name would mean stigmatizing my children.

I’m the blessed and proud mother of six beautiful, healthy, smart, gifted and talented children, for whom I thank Hashem every day. I know He doesn’t owe me anything, and I have no right to ask for anything for myself, and I tell Him this every day as well. And then I ask Him to please help my daughter get accepted into high school.

It is now halfway through March and my eighth-grade daughter has not been accepted to high school. She is the smartest girl in her class (as verified by her teachers and principal), with stellar midot and a sweet, friendly disposition, so we never dreamed she would not be accepted to the two schools she applied to back in November. She is our oldest daughter and therefore does not have a foot in the door (i.e. an older sister) at any school.

She applied to her first choice, which we’ll call School A, and to our first choice, which we’ll call School B. She really had her heart set on School A, and could not stop talking about her friends’ older sisters who attend there and how much they are enjoying their experience. Yet she interviewed at both. We were sure she would be accepted to both and the choice would ultimately be hers.

January came and she asked me to search my emails, because the girls in her class all received their acceptance letters, yet she had not. I did receive an email, but it wasn’t from the high schools. It was from her middle school principal: “Not receiving an acceptance must have been a bitter pill for [your daughter] to swallow. What are your thoughts?” My thoughts? The smartest girl in her class is not accepted to either high school?

After drying my tears and praying some more, I told my husband, and we decided to keep the news from our daughter for the time being. I had a conversation with a neighbor, a mother of several children, with a daughter in the same predicament. She gave me some pointers: You need to get the rav of our shul involved; you need big guns. She even offered to call School B and appeal to the principal on our daughter’s behalf, which I gratefully accepted. She told me she applied her daughter to two more schools which are far from her choice of hashkafa, and was waitlisted (which is code for not accepted). The system is very broken, she said. And we agreed to pray for each other’s daughters.

The rav of our shul called School B, and so did the principal of our younger daughter’s school. Two of our daughter’s teachers wrote to the principal of School B, glowing about her performance, her intelligence, her midot, and asking them to accept her. The response to each of them was that the school is full. It was time to break the news to our daughter—and to apply to School C and School D.

My daughter took the news surprisingly well, and was visibly moved when I told her about all those who had tried to intervene on her behalf. She wasted no time writing her essays for the new applications, which we submitted within a day. One week later, School C emailed me that their application process was closed and they were refunding our application fee. I called the office to appeal the case. “I’m sorry,” was the response I got.

So now we are down to School D, which is not somewhere we would even consider unless we were desperate, which unfortunately we are. I emailed the office for an interview, and they told me to call the office. When I called the office I was told that they are not accepting applications. “I’m sorry.”

I wonder what they could possibly be thinking, telling me that they’re sorry. Are they really sorry that they are not accepting applications in February? Do they understand that the only reason we are applying this late is because my daughter has not yet been accepted anywhere? Are they in effect telling us to send her to public school, since the yeshivas are not accepting applications?

A heartbroken woman who had just had a miscarriage once asked Rabbi Aron Moss, of Chabad of Sydney, why this had to happen. After offering his sympathy, he responded that were it not for miscarriages and infertility, lo aleinu, most people would see pregnancy and childbirth as a personal choice and not a miracle. Similarly, we erroneously thought that high school would be our personal choice, yet we are humbled once again with this reminder that it is all in Hashem’s hands.

When you say your personal tefilot to Hashem, remember to thank Him that your child has been accepted to high school, because that is not a given for some of us; and say a prayer for those like my daughter, my neighbor’s daughter and the countless others who, as of now, have nowhere to go in the fall.

The Jewish Link has verified the writer’s identity and agreed to print this article under a pseudonym.

By Yaffa Sheva Klein

 

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