By a Crown Heights mother
A short while ago, I was approached by a local school principal near the school entrance and reprimanded for not wearing a wig.
I am not writing to debate school policy. I am aware that private schools can institute their own rules and even foster them upon the parents of the school body. I happen to think that tznius and sheitels are not terrible things to request of Crown Heights parents.
My issue is with the way these rules are enforced.
As a grown, thinking woman I was deeply offended by the principal’s scolding. And I use that word deliberately because that is what it felt like. Not a gentle reminder or kind inquiry. It felt patronizing.
Again, I know a rule is a rule. I am not by nature much of a rule breaker. But rebuking an adult is not the way to go about things.
Since this school seems bent on telling parents off, a better way to go about it would have been to simply ask: “Are you aware of our school policy? May I ask why you are wearing a tichel today?”
Had she asked, I would have told her, that I do show up at the school wearing a wig 99% of the time.
I am usually dressed modestly. I smile and thank the teachers and respect the school. I would have told her that it was 17 Tammuz and over 90 degrees, I live on the top floor of a building and the elevator wasn’t working that day. I wasn’t heading to work because it was a short school day. And so I made a decision to wear a tichel when taking my child to school, so as to prevent my newly washed and only wig from getting dank and sweaty and ruined from the walk up and down the stairs.
I would have told her all this and she might have understood, but she never bothered to ask. What if my only wig happened to be at the sheitelmacher’s. What if something had happened to it. What if I had a health condition that prevented me from wearing it that day.
The principal knows me and what my life is like (hint: not easy) so she could have given me a break instead of pouncing on a minor detail: exterior appearance. You don’t win friends with attacks. Had I been less serious in my convictions her comment might have deeply shaken my yiddishkeit.
Yes, the Rebbe preferred for women to wear wigs, but I don’t think the Rebbe would have approved of the rebuking and humiliation regularly dished out to parents in his name.