As I am completing 9th grade high school in Crown Heights, I wanted to share with you an incident I was even too embarrassed to share with my own parents.
I grew up on Shlichus and left home for the first time to learn in Crown Heights. Before school began, I was really nervous. I was nervous about fitting in, peer pressure and just simply making good friends.
The most difficult part of being away from home and my family is Shabbos.
From Sunday and on, I am constantly worrying where would I eat for Shabbos dinner on Friday night and then there is Shabbos day with its undefined and fluctuating meal times. I didn’t realize was how much pressure I would face on a weekly basis.
I have gotten only a handful of invitations for Shabbos over this school year. Most of them were initiated by myself. You have no idea how hard it is for a 14-year-old to approach others to be invited out. Or get the awkward response, “uhh I don’t think my parents are hosting this week.”
One week, no invitation ever came. When Friday came around, the dorm mother invited me to her home. It was a real lonely moment, I just thought to myself out of the 100 classmates could anyone have included me in their Shabbos table? Not to mention there’s Shabbos day too.
Growing up on Shlichus, I would be the one always inviting others. Now, I was the one that had to be invited and wasn’t. I felt so alone I went to the grocery store bought myself a bulkale, some food and ate alone in my dorm. On that Shabbos, I cried myself to bed.
I know I am not alone in my experience. My classmates and I discuss our Friday night plans already from Monday. I know we are supposed to think about Shabbos all week, but I don’t think it was referring to this.
I don’t want to come across sounding bitter or anything. I love my school and friends. I know Crown Heights is the most hospitable community in the world. You all open your homes so many times of the year, for Tishrei, Kinus, pegishas and Shabbatons.
All I am asking is don’t forget about our very own here learning for the year. Please be sensitive to us out-of-town high school girls. We may look big from the outside but we are really young teenagers that miss our home and would love to be embraced by one.
If you have a daughter in school and you are able to host, please ask her to invite some girls for Shabbos meals. If you don’t have high school girls, perhaps call the dorm counselors offering your home for some ]girls to join your meal.
For those that have relatives in high school, reach out to them. They might be too shy to keep inviting themselves to you, perhaps just send a weekly text ‘we love to have you if you can make it…’
With much thanks and love, Leah.
(If you think you know it’s me, please don’t give me that look tomorrow in school it would be too embarrassing 😉