I become orthodox in high school. I actually had the opportunity to go to a yeshiva high school after 8th grade before I was frum, but that would have meant a one-hour commute on the train in each direction. So, to my 8th grade rebbie’s chagrin, I opted instead for public high school. Given the caliber of students and the general atmosphere of the yeshiva I would have attended, I don’t know that I would have become frum had I gone there.
However, almost from the day I stepped into my public high school I started feeling my 8 years of yeshiva day school education trying to surface. That feeling combined with a two night a week learning program taught by one of my frum friend’s fathers, and my involvement with NCSY nurtured my teshuva process. I am, to this day, happy with my decision to go to public high school. I am proud of what I was able to accomplish there and appreciate the sensitivity I received from being exposed to, and yes even being friends with, a diversity of people.
I have a friend who also became frum during her public high school years. Today she is married to a major talmud chochom (FFB). They have 7 wonderful children with amazing midos who are solidly BY/Black Hat frum. She has built a true Bayit Ne’eman. Yet to this day there are 7 words that strike the deepest fear in her heart.. They are; “where did you go to high school”?
I think on occasion she has actually lied and said, “Bais Yaakov of Osh Kosh”. I find this hard to understand as I feel that she should be proud of herself, her teshuva, and her accomplishments. She lives in a nice East Coast community known for its tolerance and understanding.
I’d be interested to hear insights from those who have a similar reaction as my friend.