Yeshivas Opening Your Mail


One of the secretary’s main duties was to censor anything deemed "too pornographic." In yeshiva terminology, "pornographic" was anything that showed a woman. Students received magazines such as Time, US News and World Report, and National Geographic, but the Rabbis knew better then to let us have uncensored versions of these magazines that sometimes had smut, there would be naked African women for us guys.

When you received a magazine in the mail it would look as if someone had used some pages for scrapbooking purposes. Pictures would be cut out and random faces would be missing. You would get a glimpse of legs here or a forgotten boob there, but you never really knew who they belonged to…

The other primary job of the yeshiva secretary was to open your mail, which in itself was a federal offense, but we were told that since the yeshiva was a private institution they were allowed to do whatever they wanted. I wondered the validity of this statement and proceeded to only use soap on a rope from then on. Any letter you received (this was way before email was popularized) that appeared to be from a girl was opened and sent into the headmaster who would call you into his office and read the letter out loud to you. I found it rather odd when I learnt the whole thing about how embarrassing someone publicly is like killing them, yet the headmaster clearly enjoyed these moments when he caught you red-handed. I do recall some stories about how while he was reading the letter it appeared that it may have been from the guys’ sister or maybe his mother, but it seemed that the yeshiva was above the law and could do whatever they wanted, or at least hire people they called "secretaries" to do their dirty work.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see 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 (
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