Thursday, January 31, 2008

Parenting Crisis Revisited

(We will return to regularly scheduled programming after this message, bli neder).

As my readers who have been around from the start know, I believe we have a "Parenting Crisis" on our hands. This letter appears in this week's Yated. A father sends his son out of town to attend a Yeshiva. The son has is being called a "harry" (a term the father does not know the meaning of) and has had a change in personality.

The father's concerns:
*Will the label "harry" affect his son's chances of getting into future yeshivas?
*Will this affect his chance of getting a shidduch?

Like Wolf (link), I'm not convinced there is a "Shidduch Crisis," but I know (without a shadow of a doubt) that we have a "Parenting Crisis" on our hands. Should the father see this post, I offer the advice. . . stop worrying about your son's future learning opportunities and his future shidduch possibilities and get down to the bottom of his change in personality, which won't be easy since he is a teenager and doesn't live in your home. Priorities please!

Read on [emphasis added]:

Dear Editor,
This year, my son began attending an out-of-town high school yeshiva. For the most part, it has been a wonderful experience. His rabbeim are dedicated to their heilige work, and he has made many outstanding friends. Recently, however, I began noticing that my son was a bit subdued. After much probing and prodding, I finally dislodged what was bothering him: the boys in his yeshiva had labeled him a “harry.” At first, I figured it had become fashionable to call people by their English names, so I encouraged him to divulge to his classmates his correct secular name. I since came to realize that “harry” was not being used as a noun by these children, but rather as a verb. I began to make inquiries: What exactly is the meaning of “harry”? What sort of person constitutes a “harry”? To date, I have not received any satisfactory explanation or answer. So I turn to your readers and ask, what is a “harry”?
Will this label affect my son’s status in regard to which
yeshiva will accept him? Will this affect which girl will be redd to him?
I am at my wits’ end and beg anybody with knowledge of this matter to write in and explain it.

A Concerned Father


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

has he tried... oh I don't know..... ASKING HIS SON what it means???

(Hello TwinsMommy, I'm reposting your comment and accept your good wishes. But I have to take them out. I will call you someday soon).

Orthonomics said...

I wish I knew what the term means, but I'm thinking that it is something embarrassing. Perhaps the kid doesn't want to answer. But, the change in the personality should alert the father that something is up and he should let shidduchim take a backseat for once.

Commenter Abbi said...

Oy, I think we have a grammar crisis on our hands as well. The term is being used as an ADJECTIVE not a VERB.

And, I agree with TM, why the heck doesn't he just talk to his son and ask him what it means, how it makes him feel and what they can do to solve the problem? Why waste precious time writing to Yated about it?

From what I read on DB, I think, a harry is someone who grew up non-frum or in a more modern environment and is more frum at the present

Anonymous said...

As far as I know, it just means an annoyance. That poor kid. He's pretty much invisible to his own father, or worse.

By the way, this is my favorite blog. It's so rare to find similarly-minded people in the frum world. Keep up the great work!!!

Anonymous said...

I posted on ImaMother, to see if anyone knows what a harry is.

Anonymous said...

"Harry" is a disparaging term used to refer to baalei teshuvah or their children. In general a Harry is overzealous and somewhat awkward. A Harry will demonstrate this awkwardness through a lack of familiarity with the subtleties of yeshivish dress code (e.g. wearing white socks with the black and white uniform), language (e.g. poor/non-standard pronunciation) or culture.

In general, if you consider yourself a member of the yeshiva world and do not know what a Harry is, you probably are one.

(Note to Abbi - You seem to be having a grammar crisis as well. "Harry" is a noun, not an adjective.)

G said...

That is too funny!

If there is a God, and He has a sense of humor, the Yated will publish responses with attempted definitions.

"In general, if you consider yourself a member of the yeshiva world and do not know what a Harry is, you probably are one."--Yeah, I'd say this is accurate.

G said...

This a comment of mine from a different blog on a different subject, but it relates.

"As a result, they have plenty of book knowledge, but not the cultural experience."
"Sometimes I try to imagine an Orhtodox Judaism that's every bit as halachic as ours, yet looks, tastes and feels completely different."
Not where you are coming from but kind of the same idea...

Where I went to yeshiva we called these guys Harry's or White Sox.

Y'know...Guys who didn't necessarily grow up all that yeshivish (sometimes not frum at all) then went off to the Holy Land, found God, made Him their best friend, came back to the States and decided to "put off" college for a little while and go learn in a serious yeshiva.

No matter how much they try and talk the talk or walk the walk (for what reasons I still do not know) it juuust never all comes together quite right.

Esther said...

I think it's very sad that the father is only concern with external issues - how will this effect his son's yeshiva or shidduch prospects. He doesn't seem to have any concern that his son is upset about the situation, that there may be a bullying situation that the school should address, or even (based on the comments above) that his son might need some guidance from his parents if he is dressing or acting inappropriately.

Anonymous said...

You know, I read this letter again. And I am thinking that it's maybe not a real anguished letter. Something about it is not ringing true. I don't think there are really parents out there, even the worst, who can skip over how poorly their son is faring and get right to the tachis of whether he's still marriageable. Especially since the kid is still only in HS. I dunno, something seems a bit off here, but that is just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Harry = Mudblood

Ba'alei Teshuvah are mudbloods in the yeshiva world... good because they generally have advanced degrees and can be tricked into paying full tuition, but you'd never want to muddy up the pure bloods by letting your daughter marry one...

(for those unfamiliar with the term, read Harry Potter. Pretend Hogwarts is a yeshiva. Slytherin are the FFB's)

ProfK said...

I'm with tamiri on this. The letter does not ring true. The letter is far too controlled to have come from an "anguished" father. It reads as if it were constructed to make a point. What this sounds like is an attempt on the part of the Yated to point out to parents the "dangers" of non-compliance with strict yeshiva world viewpoints, and to do so by showing the future threat to those who are "harrys": not getting into the "right" yeshiva and not getting the "right" shidduch.

Anonymous said...

profk - Yated made it up?
You're giving them way too much credit

Ariella's blog said...

Shlomo, as the maven on this, do you know why the name "Harry" was selected to convey this particular stereotype? It's not one I would automatically associate with Jewish American boys.
PS My son is in 8th grade and has never mentioned such a term, oh, and that does not mean he fits the profile, as he has adopted the yeshivish guise hook, line, and socks.

Miriam said...

this is so sad on so many levels.

Anonymous said...

A harry is someone not in the parsha of yeshivish. Not necessarily baal teshuva at all. Someone can be a baal teshuva and be cool and adapt to the social norms. A baal tshuva who is not harry will go by his Hebrew name Yoni. He will leave his English name Harry to his driver’s license and other official documents. He will not be a dag or a nerd, and will dress and speak in a socially appropriate way. Many English people are harrys despite how many generations they have been frum because they are harrys. Now someone can be Josh or Michael or Alex and not be harry because they are cool. They are hip. Do you get the picture?