By: Esther Stern | Opinions  | 

Two Households, Both Alike in Dignity

The tension between feuding sports teams as they sit on opposing bleachers is the only thing to liken this phenomenon. That which lies deep in the underbelly of Yeshiva University, in the pits of social dynamics, can be found the unspoken war of in-towners versus out-of-towners. It is its own distinct rivalry fueled by the evangelical zeal that comes with knowledge that other people are inherently erring in their views; that by some stroke of destiny you were graced to be born into knowing better than the laymen fanatics rooting for the other team. Or at least, that’s what I thought with the sight of the snarky looks on the out-of-towners’ faces when the parade of locals flocked to Penn Station and Port Authority early Thursday afternoon. For naturally, the out-of-town away team was snatching any opportunity it had to degrade the home team of their clear home-field advantage.

This animosity can be well understood vis-à-vis a conversation that I had at YU a while back. It was no trick question; it was a very sweet back and forth until she asked me where I was from, to which I answered, “The Five Towns.” She responded in nothing short of a soliloquy, explaining how happy she was that she grew up out of town, and that she thanks God every day that she was spared from the talons of living in The Five Towns. Post conversation, I felt slightly taken aback, but not for the reason that would naturally be assumed. I was shocked at how unperturbed I was. It shocked me that I was okay with people bashing the place where I grew up and casting judgement on my childhood. How accustomed I have truly become to this kind of verbal assumption of my character based on preconceived stereotypes, ones that I had been grappling with since I had first gone to sleepaway camp over a decade ago. Why couldn’t I bring myself to stand up?

It may have to do with the fact that the way out-of-towners perceive their in-town counterparts isn’t unfounded. For admittedly, there is a certain air of entitlement surrounding in-towners and, compounded by the materialism that many in-towners ascribe to, there is certainly no wonder that out-of-towners have assumed the stereotype onto so many. Because, at the end of the day, I cannot deny the fact that there was a half year course offered in my high school on Hilkhot Starbucks. And, as much as I’d love to deny the fact that my friends and I were all taken for manicures to celebrate my fifth birthday, I cannot. If I couldn’t find grounds for which to defend the stereotype of in-towners and their entitlement, I certainly cannot blame them for saying the things that they do.

Much of the basis of the animosity towards in-towners, as it is understood by Ellie Fant (Syms ‘20), a proud out-of-towner, is that “in-towners have it really easy and don’t necessarily see that it’s much harder for the rest of us.” Fant explained that the prevalent attitude towards the in-towners at Yeshiva University is twofold. The first is that many in-towners neglect to take care of the cleanliness of their dorm rooms “because they don’t realize that the dorm is our only home...Not only do they take it for granted but are a bit rude about it, and they say things like, ‘oh, I’ll just go home and get everything from my parents.’” The second cause of the rift is that in-towners “already know everyone from other schools because they are in the Yeshiva League and are therefore less inclusive to the out-of-town girls.”

Others, like Talya Saban (SCW ‘20) and Marnina Daniels (SCW ‘20), have taken their understanding and disappointment of the current geo-politics and turned it into amusement. As Saban recounted whilst trying hard not to burst into laughter, an in-towner asked her, “Do you go on shabbatons every week because you don't have places to go for Shabbat?” In a similar vein, Daniels remembers a student asking her, “Oh, so like, you’re not from New York, so, like, do you, like, have kosher food where you live?” And while laughing through the ignorance of her peers helps cope with the lack of general thoughtfulness, even Daniels noted, “It makes sense that in-towners are stereotyped. There are so many that have yet to branch out, or even acknowledge that a world exists outside of the tristate area.”

With the multitude of reasons to knock down in-towners, and there are certainly plenty, let us not ignore the obvious fact that so much of the YU community has in-town ties. As it is described by Tamar Schwartz (SCW ‘20), “while we are disparaged for our plethora of pizza stores, modest clothing stores, variety of shuls and schools, we recognize that these are all precious achievements of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations of building strong Jewish communities with ample opportunity to live a committed halakhic lifestyle among like-minded people.” Schwartz adds that “frankly, the comments and backhanded pejoratives are an insult to my parents whose decision it was to raise me in Teaneck. I find this very disturbing.”

As far as who is to blame for this animosity, I’d say the burden is shared between both “teams”. Better yet, blame is shouldered in that there are even two “teams” at all. For we are all one body, one incohesive group of quasi like-minded people sharing the same caf regardless of our backgrounds or affiliations. We were all given the Torah on Har Sinai as a unified unit. This is to say I feel fatigued from defending myself for where I hail, and I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only one.