Hasidic schoolwork—censored!

Hasidic schoolwork—censored!

Once upon a time when I was a Hasidic girl, I loved to save my schoolwork in maroon binders. There were two for each middle and high school grade: One contained the papers for religious studies, which was our morning program that we called Yiddish; the other would be for our secular program, in the afternoon, which was English. Over the years, I’ve lost some, some fell apart, and some got tossed away because “who needs this junk?” My penchant for Marie Kondo minimalism makes old pages dangerous in my possession.

So I’ve taken a look through them before I give in to the impulse to purge. It’s interesting stuff, 20 years later. The secular subject books are the most interesting. I was surprised to see how worldly some of the readings were: the Clinton presidency, the Bush-Gore holdup, the Unabomber, Y2K, 911, a lot of contemporary politics.

It’s curious to see how the material was censored. The pages were usually copies from regular secular textbooks, but there were words or sentences missing. I tried to guess what’s been removed, but sometimes I was totally stumped.

Some of the texts were online, so I cheated and Google gave me the answer. The anthropologically inclined part of me is very pleased to know! But I have a challenge for you. Try to see if you can guess what bad-bad stuff had to be removed from the following passages:


  1. In an essay about the suffrage movement and the fight for women’s right to vote: “Even American homemakers with the most exquisite of homes or the happiest of families could not escape hearing the call for women’s rights. One outstanding suffrage leader, Elizabeth Candy Stanton, was a mother of seven. HERE A SENTENCE IS CROSSED OUT.”


  1. Later in the same essay: “These women could not be exuberant about a law that failed to mention discrimination _________.


  1. From an article on Martin Luther King Jr.: “I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, little black boys _______________ hands with little white boys__________. I have a dream today!


  1. From an article about global warming: “Ice cores have been drilled that enable scientists to trace changes in the continent’s climate over ___________ years.


  1. An old department store advertisement for reading comprehension or math. “Women’s sport ____” The word SKIRT has been replaced wherever women’s ____ comes up.


  1. In a long article about the genius of Thomas Edison, there is a short paragraph on his first marriage. The entire paragraph looks tampered with, with huge spaces between words. It says: “In _____ 1871, Edison married Mary Stilwell of Newark ______ eighteen year old girl who taught in the Newark ____ School and worked in one of his shops.







  1. CENSORED: “Among other things, Stanton had insisted on leaving the word obey out of her marriage vows.” Ulp!
  2. CENSORED: “These women could not be exuberant about a law that failed to mention discrimination based on sex.”
  3. CENSORED: little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
  4. I’m pretty sure this would be millions.
  5. I’ll bet on “pants.
  6. It looks like they censored that Mary was “charming” and that the wedding was on Christmas, but also, it seems that Mary met Edison while working there so maybe the original text was a romance, which is verboten. I think the bit about Mary teaching was invented by the censors. Why not!



How did you do? What surprised you?

  • Laura
    Posted at 08:14h, 15 September Reply

    Three out of five! But now I love EC Stanton even more.
    There’s something specifically horrifying about reviewing old school work — a few months ago I found an essay test from 4th grade (1996ish?) from when I lived in Virginia…and apparently the arrival of the first African slaves in the US was something positive about the year 1619? If not positive, the curriculum was apathetic at best.
    Critical reflection of the past isn’t easy, so kudos to you, and lucky for your kid that he has someone who can provide some social commentary alongside whatever the textbooks say.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 13:26h, 15 September Reply

      Heh heh, yes, don’t vow to obey any man! It really surprised me that this was on the list.

      But yeah, hindsight really is fascinating. I remember those textbooks that extolled the perfect colonizer and made the “Indians” into savage threat who just needed to be cleared out. But woah on twisting the arrival of slaves! That’s a whole new level of trying to polish the turd.

  • K
    Posted at 22:10h, 28 November Reply

    Also got 3/5. Didn’t know about #1 and #6, #4 I thought was billions (right idea) and #5 might have been leggings?

  • Censoring Lady Position Available - Frieda Vizel
    Posted at 07:24h, 08 August Reply

    […] in the Hasidic community is blatant and unabashed. All textbooks are censored. I’ve shown some of my own censored schoolwork in this post, where I called you to the challenge of trying to guess what information had been […]

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