What it takes to attend a Haredi school: 11 rules families must follow in the new school year

Florida? No. Gentiles? No. Bikes? Also no.

Photo credit: Anastasiia/iStockPhoto

Oct 5, 2023 11:45 AM


School is back in session, and that means Haredi students – and their parents – have recently received letters reminding them of rules to follow in school and at home. Shtetl reviewed letters from multiple schools that were sent out in the last year. We sifted through them to find the rules that stand out.

Rules at Haredi schools vary based on what rabbi or sect a school is associated with and where the school is located, but some stricter schools, particularly in Hasidic communities, tend to have some points in common: family members can’t use the internet without a filter, women can’t drive, and women must dress according to the modesty expectations of their community. If a parent violates the rule, the child can be expelled.

Here are eleven fascinating rules for the new school year.

Yeshiva Darchei Chaim

Driver’s seat: In much of the Hasidic world, women aren’t allowed to drive. One Hasidic boys’ elementary school in Boro Park does not mince words: “Mother is not allowed to drive a car.” (Yeshiva Darkei Chaim)

Long hair, long exile: Girls’ hairstyles are under severe scrutiny, with ponytails of specific length required at multiple schools. At a school in Williamsburg affiliated with the Zalmanite faction of the Satmar community, those ponytails may not be longer than six or seven inches. "Going with attention-grabbing hair or hair that is not pulled together causes a delay to the end of exile," a letter to parents warns. (Bais Rochel D’Rabinu Yoel)

Satmar Girls' high school

Dress codes: It’s no surprise that Haredi schools have dress codes for kids, but some schools also have them for parents. “The father must wear a hat and long jacket in the street,” one school says. “The mother must be dressed modestly as is appropriate for parents of a Hasidic school, both with regards to the wig and in all other clothing.” (Yeshiva Darkei Chaim)

Florida? No-rida: A common rule: Avoid the Sunshine State or other vacation spots that could expose the kids to people in bathing suits. As one Hasidic boys’ school in Kiryas Joel put it, parents must commit that, “our kids will not travel to Florida or a similar vacation spot,” though school leadership might make rare exceptions. (Mosdos Satmar V’Yoel Moshe)

Tongue-tied: One Hasidic school is setting expectations for conversations at home: “The language kids use among themselves and with parents must be Yiddish.” (Yeshiva Darkei Chaim)

Satmar (Zalmanite) Yeshiva parents must agree not to bring complaints against the school.

Don’t be a rat: Parents at a boys’ school in Kiryas Joel must agree not to bring any complaints to the government. The rule appears to refer to New York State’s recent attempts to enforce education standards in private schools. (Mosdos Satmar V’Yoel Moshe)

Two wheels bad: “Our boys and girls will not travel on a bike.” (Mosdos Satmar V’Yoel Moshe)

No goys for our boys: Many schools want to keep their students away from non-Jewish people. “Boys may not participate in any league together with Gentiles or girls” at a yeshivish middle school in Far Rockaway, Queens. (Yeshiva Darchei Torah)

Watch where you shop: At a Kiryas Joel school affiliated with the Zalmanite faction of the Satmar community, parents are discouraged from letting their daughters go to large supermarkets. “Once grown girls from various schools come together, and talk and laugh, there's already a crack in our fence,” a letter warns. “Needless to say, a girl should not be traveling home with the ‘grocery goy.’” (Bais Rochel V’Yoel Moshe)

Workout warning: “Any goyish exercise instructor is under no circumstances permitted to our students,” a Zalmanite girls’ school in Kiryas Joel told students, adding, “This has already sadly brought serious consequences.” (Bais Rochel V’Yoel Moshe)

Watchful eye: In a tight-knit community, you may be judged by the company you keep – even if they’re family. “We need to be cautious about which friends, neighbors, and relatives the student plays with,” one rule list warns. (Yeshiva Darkei Chaim)

Read more in Shetl: Hasidic boys’ school warns parents that collarless shirts invite predators