Righteous Rasha Blogger Tova Schreiber

A Bais Yaakov graduate, Tova Schreiber is finishing her degrees in Economics. She writes the Righteous Rasha blog.

Tova: “I never would consider myself a Bais Yaakov girl… My upbringing was Modern Orthodox. We didn’t eat cholov Yisrael, we listened to rock ‘n’ roll music, we didn’t read the frumie novels. They wanted us to have a normal life. It wasn’t like Judaism needs to be this all-controlling entity that’s going to ruin your life. They wanted us to have fun and they wanted us to be skeptics.”

“I’m the only one in my [Bais Yaakov] class who didn’t go to seminary.”

Prior to Tova’s birth, her mother converted to Orthodox Judaism after a left-wing Protestant upbringing. “My mom is not your typical frum woman. She comes home from work and has a beer. She doesn’t wear a sheitel all the time.”

“My parents always said it’s stupid to stay away from boys. Don’t sleep around with them but talk to boys. Be friends with boys. You need to know them. They’re half of the planet. My school was telling to me to segregate myself from half of society. That’s a dangerous outlook on life. Why do you think so many kids go on shiduch dates after never having talked to a member of the opposite sex and they’re supposed to get married after a few dates…

“Maybe that’s why I don’t have so many hangups.”

“If I like a guy, I’m going to see him and I’m going to get involved with him. I’m not going to say, stay away, he’s dangerous. He’s no more dangerous than I am.”

Luke: “What was your reputation in high school?”

Tova: “I was always seen as the really smart but really weird one. I don’t want to say I was unpopular but I was never the most popular kid in the class… They all liked me because I was real. I wasn’t going to adopt their cultural practices just to be on the inside.”

The day after graduating Bais Yaakov, Tova “felt the need to make a statement.” She walked down the street wearing bluejeans and a blood red shirt. It was not very modest by Orthodox standards.

“Everybody was staring at me and I was looking back at them. How am I a different person than I was yesterday? You just didn’t know who I was. Now you know who I am. It’s four years later now and they all get along with me.”

“A lot of people would say, you have to stay away from the goyim. My mother never did that… There were all these family get togethers. They would get together on Christmas time and we’d go up to see them… I never thought of them as less than me. Some of them I felt were better than me because they got to lead a normal life.”

“My grandmother has a set of kosher dishes and cutlery and pots and pans that she keeps in her house so that when my mother comes up to see her, she has something to eat on.”

Luke: “How do you determine what is right and wrong?”

Tova: “I don’t have an answer for that question.”

“This is crazy sounding, but I look to the [U.S.] constitution. What’s the most important part? Liberty. Anything that limits that is immoral.”

“If you are going to ask me, how do you have morality without God? I’ll ask you, how do you have morality with God? All the crazy stuff in the Tanach (Bible). I just try to be kind and let people lead their lives.”

Luke: “How did your yeshiva education prepare you and not prepare you for life?”

Tova: “It didn’t prepare me for life but luckily my yeshiva education is not my education.”

“I always read real books. I never read the frumieArtscroll novels. I never listened to Avraham Fried.”

“My parents said to read real books, listen to real music, don’t immerse yourself in this garbage because these people are talentless.”

Tova says that one of her Bais Yaakov teachers would put kids in her closet if they misbehaved and would tape over the mouths of those who talked too much.

Luke: “What do you miss and not miss about the frum community?”

Tova: “I still live in the frum community. I’ve lived in the same house my entire life.”

Most of Tova’s Bais Yaakov classmates are now married. “A lot of my friends marry BTs because they say, hey, this is a guy who’s frum but he’s been around the block. They get somebody who’s frum but he’s normal because he didn’t use to be frum. They’re getting somebody who has sexual experience and experience with the real world. They end up with these in-laws who are so happy that their son became religious that they throw money at them. Most of my friends are not paying for their own rent. Their husbands are learning in kollel and get a stipend. Only one or two of my classmates have husbands who are not learning in kollel.”

“I don’t see myself getting married before I’m 24. I want to get married. I look at them and I get upset that they follow the rules and now they are being rewarded for following the rules and they have a husband and their parents pay the rent. My idea of marriage is very different from their idea of marriage. When I marry somebody, I want to be his life partner and his best friend. They don’t see it that way.”

“I’m not interested in material thing. I’m a capitalist, not a materialist.”

“I used to think of life in absolute terms. I don’t know if I could become frum again. I don’t believe in it.”

“My life is so free now. I love having an open life. I love being able to eat what I want, do what I want, wear what I want, date who I want to date. I’ll never able to get that while being frum.”

“I feel like if I go back, I’ll limit myself.”

Tova’s sister is secular but her mother and brother are frum.

“I’m so Jewish. I’m so Jewish to the core. Most of the food I eat is kosher because the house is kosher… A lot of my life is Jewish by default… I have a star on my neck that I never take off, a magen david. Even if I don’t believe in religion, it’s still my identity. You can be an atheist. You can be a pagan. You’re still a Jew. You’re still going to be having lochs and bagels. You’re still going to be doing Jewish things.”

Luke: “Will you eat pig?”

Tova: “That’s a really blunt question. I have eaten it. I don’t really like it. I hate the smell of pork cooking. It has nothing to do with religion. Bacon is all right.”

Luke: “What about seafood?”

Tova: “Seafood gives me migraines. That could also have to do with that I never ate it my whole life.

“I have tried seafood. The one time I had a lot of seafood one night, I was babysitting for my sister, and she made dinner for me, she made this salad with shrimp in it. I ate it and thought it was nice. Starting immediately the next morning for the next three days, I had a terrific migraine. I thought my head was going to explode. I wanted my friend to shoot me in the face to take me out of my agony.

“My doctor who is Jewish but not religious said, ‘Tova, this is why we don’t eat shrimp. You need to follow these ancient rules.’

“The first time I had a cheeseburger, I got sick because I was not used to digesting milk and meat at the same time.”

“I’ll try it but if it makes me ill, I’m not going to go eat it just to say I’m a rebel.”

Luke: “Are you a Zionist?”

Tova: “Yes.”

“My father knew Meir Kahane. He has all of his books in our house. I may not agree with all of them but I have read them.”

Luke: “Why do you think people hate Jews?”

Tova: “Again, a question I don’t know if I have a good answer for.”

Luke: “Have you tried non-Orthodox forms of Judaism?”

Tova: “Not yet, but I want to.”

Tova says she’ll listen to anything with a beat. “I’m addicted to icecream. I went to my doctor and said, ‘Doc, I’m getting fat. What do I do?’ He said, ‘Stop eating icecream.’ It’s one of the main food groups for me.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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