Girls Are the Lucky Ones

Hasidic Girls Grow Slowly, While Boys Are Molded Into Men

Lisa Anchin

By Judy Brown (Eishes Chayil)

Published December 06, 2012, issue of December 14, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

I always knew I was lucky to be a girl. This, despite being told that I was not. In the ultra-Orthodox world where I grew up, the boys are the exalted ones. Superiority belongs to the men, who learn the holy Torah.

Still. I always knew I was lucky to be a girl. We were never beaten up. We never felt the sting of the belt on our backs, or the ringing slap of the teacher’s hand. Girls never came home from school with purple welts. We never felt the stick coming down on our heads. We were treated gently; less was expected from us.

A girl is not meant to be a scholar. A girl cannot hope to learn Torah like a man. Only boys obey the holiest of God’s commandments and study the secrets of the Book.

It has been this way for generations: Men mold boys with sticks, searing the words of God into their minds. Of course, not every teacher hit, and not every boy felt the harsh slam of the rebbe’s palm. Only the bad ones did — those who misbehaved or didn’t study.

I knew I was lucky when, in the fourth grade, I came home with a report card marked NI, for Needs Improvement, in all six subjects. I explained to my father it meant “nisht di iker,” “not that important,” and my father laughed at my smarts. It wasn’t like I wouldn’t get married because of my grades. I would be a good wife and mother with or without the much-needed improvement. So would my friend Chana who had Attention Deficit Disorder. As long as her dress was modest, and her grades were good enough to pass, what did it really matter? She’d get a good husband just the same.

But not the boys. When my brother’s rebbe called home to complain, my father’s face turned pale with disappointment. And when Chana’s brother failed his mishnayis test for the third time, I could hear the sounds of his father’s hand from the basement.

Chana told me that her brother was beaten every week in school for being lazy, and then again at home for being beaten in school. Unlike, Chana, he couldn’t claim ADD as an excuse; there was no such thing as a boy who could not learn.

I knew I was lucky to be a girl, even as my 9-year-old cousin boasted and jabbed a finger at me, saying, “Boys are better then girls! Girls can’t learn the Torah. They don’t have any real mitzvahs. Because girls are dumb, and boys are smart — that’s how Hashem made it.”

I wanted to kick my stupid cousin. I wanted to clop him hard over his ear, the one bruised by his rebbe in cheder that day when he failed to remember the meaning of the words in the Torah. I told my cousin that he was dumber than any girl I knew. He even needed a tutor.

My cousin stuck out his tongue, and I laughed in his face, but I knew that he was right. It was plain that boys were superior to girls. It was there, in our morning prayers.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.