DISCALIMER: My good Bloggish pal and comrade in arms Not Brisk responded to a recent comment of mine by saying that he was planning to post on the following topic. But as...
A. I wrote about it first, albeit in a comment and
B. As my creative juices have been running dry lately, I've decided to jump the gun and post about it first. I hope that this will not be a considered a breach of bloggish etiquette.
As is the case with FFBs, BTs come in all ages, genders, shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. Yet with the exception of one former NFL veteran I am unaware of any "blue-collar" BT who has "made it big" on the lecture circuit or in the publication of seforim. To this societal observer it seems that for a BTs esteem and acceptance in Kharedi society, the better academically credentialed one is the better, and Oxford grads and Ivy-Leaguers על כולם .
Now this may be attributable to the fact that blue collar BTs or those who are not alumni of the Ivies are generally less intelligent and articulate and possess poorer communication skills than their Ivy-trained counterparts. They simply don't speak or write as well. But I think that there is something deeper and not a little bit ironic at work here, because, let's face it, in terms of Torah education even those BTs who have a rarified academic backgrounds are generally less educated and trained in various Torah disciplines than FFB Yeshiva alumni. The logical conclusion being that FFB Ponovezh and Lakewood graduates ought to be the most popular speakers and writers of all. But this is not the case.
What we have here is a Kharedi culture that contradicts itself and exposes it's own underconfidence and insecurity.
On the one hand secular studies and their students are routinely mocked, marginalized and even demonized. "Gai shoin, you know what kind of shtusim they teach in college?!?", "Gemora kep are ten times sharper than university students" "Feh, all they do there is get drunk and sleep around" , "I know a lot of college grads who are struggling for parnossa and a lot of successful geribeneh sokhrim who never graduated high school" are typical of the bromides one hears growing up in Yeshivas.
But on the other hand let someone who grew up frei and graduated Yale or Oxford become frum and, presto chango, his/her college education is magically transformed into a HUGE asset. Why? Becuase they make us feel validated. The more prestigious their pre-T'shuva school the more validated we become. It may never be articulated but the underlying insecure attitude that causes FFBs to genuflect to the Ivy-League BTs is "truth be told I've had my own doubts from time to time. But if someone as intelligent and profound as professor X has become a 'convert' then ours MUST be the true religion/mehalekh". It is a kind of perverse, inverted Emunas Khakhomim. Underconfident in our own fundamentals of faith/ particularistic ideologies we seek support and legitimacy from others who "know better".
The reason this is never articulated is because to draw the argument to its logical conclusion would mean the undoing of Yiddishkeit as we know it. After all, if only less than 3% of the Jewish Ivy Leaguers become BTs and yet we ascribe supreme intelligence to ALL of them then maybe the majority, who have maintained their distance from frumkeit, are on to something?
And so we're back to square one. Although in times of legal trouble we look for the shyster who graduated number one from Colombia Law and when struck lo alenu with daunting medical issues we want the top professor at a teaching hospital to treat us....Colleges and Universities remain, of course, cesspools of shtus v'hevel.
Qedusha-Havdala...Have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???