One Hasidic Housewife's Inspiring — and Unusual — Journey to College and Beyond

From Satmar to Sarah Lawrence

courtesy of frimet goldberger

By Frimet Goldberger

Published January 09, 2014, issue of January 10, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 4 of 4)

And then it was over. On December 19, 2013 I drove to campus, crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge with the windows rolled down, the wind whipping my hair, the tears rolling freely. It was my last day at Sarah Lawrence, and I was wholly unprepared for the unrestrained emotions of finally “making it,” of being the first in a family of 12 and an extended family of hundreds of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews to receive a college degree. I was bursting out of my chrysalis and getting ready to fly.

I stopped into the office of my mentor, Bill Shullenberger, a 70-something professor of literature and a brilliant Christian; he graced my family’s sukkah table last year. We hugged; I cried; we reminisced. I remembered the first time I walked into that office, in the spring of 2011, to inquire about taking his literature lecture course. I felt an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. There was another young student present in the room, a walking encyclopedia who clearly knew more than I did about Homer and epic literature. I later apologized profusely to Bill, explained my sheltered upbringing and divulged more personal information in one sitting than I should have — a habit that became my coping mechanism. Sitting there on that same spot two years later, in jeans and uncovered hair, I experienced a rare epiphanic moment: The insecure woman who sat here two years ago no longer existed. In her place was a confident woman whose lack of an academic background and whose childhood spent isolated from the world no longer defined her.

It was, perhaps, the first time in my life that I experienced real pride in myself.

I am immensely grateful for having had this opportunity to get an education beyond what was preordained for me as a little Kiryas Joel girl. I am fortunate to have a supportive husband and friends, unlike others who had to struggle alone through this difficult journey to college from a rudimentary education.

And I am grateful for having asked that question and discovering the controversy about anti-Semitism in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.” Asking questions is how you learn.

Frimet Goldberger is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker for the Forward and other outlets.


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!
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • 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.