Religion & Beliefs

Yeshivas and Their Stalinist Secretaries

The secretary in our Yeshiva was hired to do several things; she helped with payroll, distributing mail and general secretarial duties like answering the phone and keeping people out of the headmasters office during meetings. I bet you when they … Read More

By / February 8, 2009

The secretary in our Yeshiva was hired to do several things; she helped with payroll, distributing mail and general secretarial duties like answering the phone and keeping people out of the headmasters office during meetings. I bet you when they signed up for the position they didn’t know that part of the their job duties would be to be to tramp all over your first amendment rights and break federal law by 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. If you could somehow be aroused by random body parts, you weren’t really sure if they belonged to someone you wanted to share some alone time with or maybe it was a man with large man-boobs or shaven legs, no one really knew.

There was no getting around this Stalinist secretary, or so I thought, once a year when it was Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue time, we somehow thought they might not notice it and waited patiently for something to show up. It never came of course, but something else happened. During the months leading up to the swimsuit issue, all of the subscription cards inside Sports Illustrated featured pictures of the beauties to entice you into a subscription, because everyone knows how boring a sports magazine really is- so why not make it pornographic one month out of the year in order to get that one issue. Fortunately for us young horny yeshiva guys, we could sometimes find fallen out subscription cards and or even passed-over subscription cards featuring these women in swimsuits on them. It allowed us for some joyous moments when we could take a break from trying to use the Sunday morning paper underwear ads as porn.

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.