Because I’m All About that Base, ’bout that Base, ’bout that (Data)base

Okay, it almost works. I’ve had that damned song stuck in my head all day because of this awesome video of what the song would sound like in the 1940s. I’m slightly obsessed with it.

Let that be your background song as you read this post.

Who am I kidding? You’re transfixed and you’re not even paying attention to this. I’ll give you another couple minutes to enjoy being transported back in time.

And speaking of the past…I return you now to the yeshiva where Erin, the earnest gentile (non-Jew), is working away furiously at her computer, learning the database program as fast as her brain can rewind to pre-Windows software days. Yes, yes, if you’re thinking Oregon Trail on an Apple IIe you’re in the ballpark, at least visually. Except that despite its ancient-looking interface, its capabilities were vast (and vastly underutilized). I might have been able to launch a bochur (young unmarried male, especially a yeshiva student) to the moon if I’d been given training. But…training costs money and I was adequately consistent in my ability to know just enough to get by without.

And yet there was this particular non-software issue that tripped me up at first:

Note that Jews outside of Israel usually have two given names: one in Hebrew and one in the language of their birthplace. The latter name usually appears on the child’s birth certificate, but the Hebrew name is what he or she would be called in religious circles and functions. (from Judaism for Dummies)

Yaakov = Jacob

Dovid = David

Shmuel = Sam

Ahron = Aaron

Tzvi or Zvi = Ted

Yehoshua = Joshua

Moshe = Mark

Mordechai = Michael

You get the idea. So imagine how easy it was for me to miss that the Moshe and Rivka Goldstein in the database were the same couple listed on their check as Marc and Rebecca Goldstein (totally made-up names, by the way). If you’ve ever done data entry or maintained a database, you can imagine how this could lead to many a duplicate record in the system.

This multiple-name issue also complicated student record keeping. Which name should print on transcripts? Which should print on student identification cards? What about mailing labels? Reports? Diplomas? The legal or the Hebrew? Or is the legal the Hebrew? Or is the legal the English? Oh my! In a parallel universe there might be a policy, simple as: “X name prints on X thing.” At a yeshiva? At a yeshiva with an unruly database, no less? Policy, schmolicy.

So after some trial and error I became proficient at transliterating the names in my head. I also became quite proficient at merging database records and reprinting transcripts and diplomas and lists and mailing labels… It was meshuga (crazy) at its finest. “Welcome to the yeshiva family! Oh, and women aren’t allowed to be heard singing, so please turn down whatever that video is that’s playing on your computer.” 😉





Oy Vey! You’re Writing About WHAT?!

This post is dedicated to Carey, a woman I am humbled to call friend. She is brilliant, creative, passionate, empathic, and totally comfortable with both power and vulnerability. She’s the smartest (and therefore sexiest) person I know and she inspires me by example not to be complacent. I’m infinitely grateful to have her in my life.

The other night we were catching up after a long spell of not seeing each other and I was telling her (and the people to either side of us, I suspect) stories about the couple of years I worked for the Orthodox Jews. I mentioned that I’ve wanted to blog about it but that I hadn’t figured out how to balance telling my stories with being PC (because boy have I been nailed to the cross for not being PC!). She told me in her gentle manner to get over it…so I did. Thanks, Carey. You opened a massive can of worms.

Let us begin:

Yeshiva is a Hebrew word meaning generally “a Jewish school for religious instruction.” Also:

1) a school for talmudic study

2) an Orthodox Jewish rabbinical seminary

3) a Jewish day school providing secular and religious instruction

(Does anyone else’s brain read “seminary” as “cemetary?” Mine does…and then has a great laugh. Haha!!)

Anyway, the yeshiva I worked at is a boarding school for boys in grades 9 through 12. There’s also a Beis Medrash (college program).

Here’s what I mean when I say Orthodox Jew:

Ultra-Orthodox Israelis Rally In Protests Against Army Drafts

This is also an Orthodox Jew, of the Chasidic variety, and this is NOT who I’m talking about (notice the difference in hair and hat):


The men of my yeshiva keep a lock of hair long enough to tuck behind each ear but they don’t do the long side curls that the Chasids wear. Their black hats are a source of great pride, especially among the younger men (and yes, the kippah, which is synonymous with yarmulke, which is pronounced yamaka, is still worn under the hat).


This is a society in which hat boxes are a common thing—among the men! How cool is that? Some of the students even had these plastic hat-carrying devices that helped them transport their very expensive hats safely as they traveled.

Now hopefully we’re clear on exactly which Jews I’m talking about.

You Worked Where?!

My general modus operandi in life is to see every situation as an opportunity to observe myself and those around me. I’m the lab rat of my own reality and in this particularly long experiment the name of the game was

“Don’t pin the kippah on the DYKE because, Baruch Hashem,

she’s a woman and we’re Orthodox and that’s NOT okay.

Oh, and what do you mean by dyke?”

This, my friends, is the first of many posts I will share about my experiences working for the Orthodox Jews. I will endeavor to educate, draw lines, blur lines, offend (inadvertently but most inevitably), and entertain.

Walking into the yeshiva every day was stepping into a world that is not mine. It’s also a world that has very little room for someone like me. It was a fantastic and oftentimes beautiful adventure, though, and one I look forward to sharing.