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Tuesday, January 17, 2006



Like any good Jew, every night after eating a nice supper, feeling satiated and cozy, safe from the cold and wind that roams the streets, I’m impelled to put on my jacket and head for the cold and cruel world out there.
Why any sane person would leave the comfort of home? Simply to join another bunch of frummies and daven (pray) maariv(evening prayers) together.
Going to a local shtiebel close by affords me the opportunity to observe characters I’m not in touch with ordinarily.
The other day I went as usual and observed something disconcerting.

For a moment I thought I had walked into a time machine and returned to 10 years ago, then it hit me, that’s not Chaim, my classmate from long ago, it most likely his brother. But what an amazing resemblance!
I hadn’t seen Chaim for the last ten years, so for a moment from my point a view it was as if time had stood still for him.
Intrigued I continued to watch Chaim’s brother while he was conversing with someone. Interestingly he reminded me of someone, but it wasn’t his brother, it was that kid that davens where I daven on Shabbes.
And that kid reminds of my cousin who’s in yeshiva; but wait! These three aren’t even related?

Since Maariv hadn’t started yet (late again!) I continued to watch him while hearing the latest plotkes (No Lashon Hara obviously) from a friend.
It wasn’t his face that had reminded me of those other kids, it was his gestures, his way of smiling, his head shaking while talking his… well whole body language.
I had noticed before how Yeshiva bachurim have a common language. They answer Baruch H’Ashem(thank G-D) to almost any question, they daven a Shemoneh Esrei that make Rabbis and Rovs jealous, they remove their hats only to bathe and always throw a “My Rabbi told us that…” in any conversation.
But I hadn’t known that, in perhaps an attempt to resemble their Rabbis as much as possible, they had completely given up individuality.
Are Yeshivas looking to create hordes of identical twins, talking alike, going so far as to work on the student’s subconscious and develop one standard of body language? Or is it the students who, wanting to look like their mentors and older friends, imitate them consciously until it becomes second nature?
It is the lack of variety of types of boys and material taught that is responsible for this tribe of look a likes?
Is malicious intent involved, or is it a natural consequence of the environment that has brought about a generation of frum youngsters that could have very well been clones of each other?

I really have no idea about Yeshiva students, but I've seen something similiar in girl's highschools. Mannerisms go in and out of style, everybody acts the same. Or everybody who wants so desperately to fit in. I think a lot of girls graduate a lot alike, but I have yet to see if they have the will to hold on to these residual personalities long after graduation. Hhhm. We'll see.
Funny post. Thanks.
whats the point of your post does it bother you that everyone is frum?
I wonder if I had anything to do with this post.
Sara- I imagined semgirls could be in the same situation, after all the seminary experience is basically to "Yeshivsh" girls. Thanks for commenting.

YY-On the contrary, I wish everybody were frum, that doesn’t' mean everyone has to think and act in the exact same manner.

Eshet-I had a suspicion you would ask that, but sorry the article was nearly ready for posting even before I read your email.
Sara took the words right out of my mouth. When you are together 24-7 you just end up being very much alike, dressing alike, etc. Individuality only happens when you are an individual and out of that yeshiva/school atmosphere. When you arent constantly surrounded by freinds, move in packs, etc. When you go out by yourself and develop a personality.
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Attack of the Clones!

Do they all really look that similar? I've seen the copycat phenomenon in first year girls and it makes me want to whack them upside the head. Get your own opinions!

Look a little closer, they all really have their own personalities, the indications are just much more sutble.

What human beings do to belong to a socail group. I don't think this is just a yeshiva phenomenon. Take a look at a bunch of high school kids.

they wear their own uniforms
I also think that it´s the feeling of belonging to a certain group, not necessarily only Yeshiva students. You are safe if you´re belonging and not sticking out with your individuality.

I don´t think it has to do with the Rabbi, more with the "cool" kid in school and the wish to be accepted. But I understand what you mean, it´s almost scary. They will grow up though and form their own personalities.
Frumgirl could not have said it better...right on the dot!
I think it says more of the bochurim then of the yeshivot. They should secure enough in their own davening (I mean davening is as personal as you can get!) to not feel the need to do "just like" the Rosh says or suggest. Just a thought.
Excellent post actually.

I think what you demonstrate is that there is such homogeniality among this particular group of Jews. What that means, whether it is something aspirational or not is not the point. Frankly, I would find some comfort in seeing others who look, daven and resemble myself. But maybe this is because I live in a city with so few Jews. What one does not have, one seems to desire.
I had a similarly odd & disconcerting experience when listening to Rabbi Butman motzei Shabbos last year. He's from Chabad and he has very yeshivish inflections in his voice (he kind of sounds Jackie Masonish and/or the aardvard from the Ant & the Aardvark cartoons), peppering his speech with lots of chas v'sholems and kineineharas and so on and so forth, and it made me think, My G*d!!! Why do they all talk like this?! I kind of talk like that too, my speech is flooded with Yiddishisms, but there are certain intonations that seem to be ... kind of like you said, "looking to create hordes of identical twins, talking alike, going so far as to work on the student’s subconscious and develop one standard of body language..."
How weird. Well, I think you already know I agree with this post. Or at least I relate to it.
I have no realm of reference for this, but I do find it interesting. So are you saying, Prag, that it hasn't always been like this in yeshivas? Things have changed since you were a yeshiva bochur?
obviously you live ina very Jewish neighbourhood
I'm guessing Lakewood or boro Park
am I right?
anyway come over bifems husband is completely out of control
he is furious
Come to think of it, all humans are pretty much the same.
what about telling us about your ski trip did u have fun in the mountains
In my experience, in general kids don't have much resistance to conformity, whether raised in yeshiva or public school (like I was).

We're only talking about different types of conformity.

In yeshiva, it might be dark clothes, button-shirts and black yarmulkes.

In PS, it's blue jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, latest hair style or the like.

Jung claimed that true individuation, as he called it, didn't happen till mid-life and beyond. Maybe that's pessimistic.

However, it really does take a special breed of kid to be truly different, truly congruent to a unique inner self -- and not just on the outside.

That's my opinion, at least.
Oh, too many Hebrew words for me to understand your post! Maybe you should compile a glossary for us...what do you call us non-Jews? I forget the word but it is cute..hehe Anyway, in my defense, i am Orthodox!
were all clones
Just because people talk alike....and shukel alike..doesnt mean anything
It's like looking at the Ocean..and assuming it's the same depth from to England...
I think its similar to all distinctive groups. When someone wants to distinguish himself as belonging to a group he goes just a little bit of the way torwards looking the part and then the rest is gradual but automatic. Its like the goths... In an effort to rebel against the mainstream and retain individuality, they all dress exactly the same in black clothes, spikes and chains, and dark makeup. I doubt its an overnight thing. At first your just like "well, I relate to the gothic mindset so maybe I'll just buy this wallet with the chain on it." Then you go to a concert so you do your hair a little differently. Then etc.. Its continuous.

I went through a little punk rock phase back in my yeshiva days. I had a spikey bracelet and a fake piercing and I would wear them to shows that my Rosh YeShivah would have had a heart attack about. Then I saw that a large portion of the kids were wearing converse all-stars, so of course I got a pair.

What Im trying to say, I think, is that with any identity to ANY group, comes automatic conformity of some sort. Its about belonging and asociating. If gangstas all wear their jeans around their knees, and hippies all play conga drums, then why cant yeshiva guys wear their hat brims up? I'd worry more about the mass smoking habits.
And I just remembered a funny joke that is on the topic...

A really greasy, yeshivish guy gets onto jeopardy. Its in the first round and hes got his buzzer ready.
Another contestant asks for "American Presidents for $200, Alex."

Alex Trebek: "He was the first American president and appears on the One Dollar Bill."

The yeshivish guy knows the answer so he rings in real fast and says: "George Washington!"

Alex: "I'm sorry, youre right, but you didnt phrase it as a question. Next question: He was the 16th president and passed laws that freed the slaves."

The yeshivish guy is excited because he knows this one also, so he buzzes in and exclaims: "Abraham Lincoln!"

Alex: "Im sorry. You got it right again but you still didnt phrase it as a question... Next. He was the 26th president and had a type of toy bear named after him."

The yeshivish guy knows this answer too, but hes cautious because he knows he has to phrase it as a question, so he rings in and asks: "Ehh... Theodore Roosevelt, yeah?"

You might need to hear it out loud to get it...
Frum Girl-It’s one of the theories I suggested and I guess it makes sense in a way.
But this is only true if you belong to a group that’s homogeneous.

Masmida-I’m sure that if you get to know each of them personally, you WILL notice differences. Each person has his/her own experiences and traits.
It’s mostly outwards that these kids seem like clones.

Mia-Once they grow up indeed there’s tendency to become more self opinionated and develop a personal style.

Shop-It’s good to see people agreeing.

Missshona- I don’t know if it’s so much copying as learning from.

Barbara-ever considered moving to New York? : )

Erica- Thanks for your 2 cents, I had forgotten tow rite about the languages issue, though in fact I like the use of Yinglish.

Eshet-Yep, I know.
In any case you are always welcome to give me ideas to write about.

Stacey-I don’t know if thongs have changes, in my time I knew most boys personally, so I saw the differences, but by observing boys I really don’t know this is much more apparent. I guess perhaps older people in my Yeshiva time thought the same thing.

Datingmaster-You’re not far from being right! And I hate skiing!!

Captain- Hmm I doubt that, I think most human beings are quite different.
Me&Yetzer- Peer pressure, but also other people’s pressure play a great role naturally.

Evangelia-You’re right, I try to put the translation in brackets, but it doesn’t read easily.
A glossary is not a bad idea. But I’ll have to find the time to work on one.

Run away- From whom? From what?

David- I agree that when knowing someone personally the differences are more obvious, I was talking mostly about people you see and know only by sight.

Indeed it’s useful to realize that in any society, frum or not, there will be groups of people looking alike and identifying with each other. What led to this post was above all the uncanny body language I noticed not just the dress.
Thanks for your insightful comment and for visiting

Great joke, hadn’t heard it before!
why knock yeshiva guys? One working in the corporate world knows( or learns very quick) that individual expression is not tolerated. You are expected to dress the part, act the part etc. "Look and act professional". Everyone wants to appear "waspy". So, dont knock yeshiva guys. Look in the mirror and you will find yourself acting a certain way to retain clients.
hi havent heard from you in a while
is my material too spicy for u?
Frum singles-You're right, but still there's less outside conformity in the business world tan in the Yeshivah world.
what i have found that is even weirder is that girls want this conformity. i have friends who told me only set them up with guys who wear only black and white. one said make sure no jeans. i mean, no jeans EVER? i dunno. i am not of that school of thought.
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