Where I live, there are not enough girls’ schools, and it is very difficult to get accepted to any of them. The schools are looking for girls who are the same in dress, family, and behavior. My Bubie believes that all children should have an education, both girls and boys. There are many ways to learn but school is an important place for children to learn not just skills but also how to play and work with others, how to listen to each other, and how to share different ideas. I’m not sure if everyone would agree with my Bubie but the next story is about a young girl who desperately wanted to learn in school, and no one would accept her. She had to make a big decision on her own.
There was once a young girl named Bina. She was very smart and very stubborn. Her parents wanted to send her to school but the schools in the neighborhood wouldn’t take her. They had all kinds of reasons for not taking her. They said that she came from a family that didn’t dress like their students; she had grandparents who lived in a different city and who had dogs in the house (in this school people didn’t believe that animals should live in the same house with people) and most of all, Bina asked many questions. These schools didn’t like when the students asked so many questions. They just wanted the girls to learn what they were taught and not think about it or come up with ideas that didn’t agree with what they were learning.
Bina really wanted to go to school and learn. Her parents and grandparents thought that maybe they could find a private teacher to work with her. It was difficult to find someone who had the time to teach private lessons, and it was also expensive. What could she do? Her Bubie told her that she should read every day and the better her reading became, the more things she could read and learn on her own.
Bina came up with a plan. She asked her parents if she could get a job in a book- store helping to clean. She thought it would be a good way to earn some money and she loved being around books. They agreed. So she went to all of the book stores in her neighborhood and asked the owners if she could work in their stores. She would put the books on the shelves, sweep the floors and dust the store. She asked each of the store owners to pay her in books. The only problem became, where could she put all of the books that she earned? There wasn’t much room in her home, and her parents were very strict about what she read. Bina had to come up with a plan about where she could learn and where she could read all of her new books.
She remembered a story that her Bubie had told her about her Great- Bubie Bina. They lived in a Russian village with all of the other Jews. The Cossacks, after drinking in the pub, rode through the village on their horses killing Jews or kidnapping boys to take them into the army of the Czar. Great- Bubie Bina used to hide her three boys in a cellar on the side of the house. She wrapped them in gunnysacks and told them not to make any noise or the Cossacks would find them. Bina’s Bubie remembers her Zada telling her this story. He was seven years old at the time and he had a memory of rats running over the gunnysack and knowing, even at his young age, that he could not utter a peep or he and his brothers could be taken away from their parents.
In the end, Great- Bubie Bina decided to sell everything they had and move to America. Great- Zada Shalom didn’t want to leave the village of Jews, but Great- Bubie Bina told him that if he didn’t come, she and the boys would go without him. She was determined to save her children.
Bina remembered her Bubie telling her this story and also mentioning to her that she is a great- great- great- granddaughter of this very strong and determined woman. “If you need to make an important decision, and you know it is the right thing to do, think of Great-Bubie Bina and know that sometimes in life we need to do what is right for us and our family.”
Bina thought about what her Bubie had told her, and she came up with a plan. She hoped her parents would understand why she did it and support her.
There was a school not far from Bina’s house that was a large girl’s school. Bina had seen girls going in each morning and coming out in the afternoons. One day she decided to go inside the school and try to meet with a teacher there. She was very nervous, but she thought of Great-Bubie Bina taking all of her children on a boat to America so that they could have an education and a better life, and that is exactly what she wanted for herself; an education and a better life.
Bina came to the school early in the morning when all of the girls were entering their classes. She was not dressed like the other girls, and some of them stared at her, but she just kept walking and looking for what might be an office or a room with teachers.
A woman approached her and asked her if she could help her find someone or someplace. Bina was a little shy, and she hesitated to say anything, but she knew this was her chance so she got up the courage to tell the woman that she wanted to learn, and she thought that maybe this school would consider letting her attend and study there with the other girls.
“Where do you go to school now?” asked the kind woman.
“Well,” answered Bina, “none of the schools in my neighborhood will accept me, so I read on my own. I work in three book stores, they pay me in books, and I have a shelf in each book store with my books. Whenever I have a break from my work, I am able to read my books.”
“What about your parents? Where do you live?” asked the woman.
“My family lives close to this school, but this is not a school where my parents allowed me to apply and the other schools won’t accept me. I decided that maybe I could come on my own and learn.”
The kind woman, whose name was Mrs. Azari, said that she admired Bina for her desire to learn but she didn’t think that the school could accept a student without the parents first coming in and signing her up to go to the school. She thought that they should go to the principal’s office and see what the principal thought. “She is a very kind and wise principal,” said Mrs. Azari to Bina. “Let’s see what she thinks we can do to help you get into the school.”
Bina sat in a chair outside of the principal’s office while Mrs. Azari spoke to her in the office. She was hoping and praying that the principal would understand her situation and help her to enroll as a student in the school. After what seemed like a lifetime of waiting, the principal opened the door and invited Bina to come in. She sat down behind her desk and motioned Bina to sit in a chair opposite her so that they were facing each other. She thanked Mrs. Azari and told her that she could go back to her class now.
There Bina sat, quietly but with hope in her heart.
“My name is Mrs. Adis”, said the principal. “Mrs. Azari tells me that you would like to attend our school. May I ask why you chose our school to come to?”
Bina once again felt so shy she didn’t know if she would be able to talk, but then again a picture of Great-Bubie Bina flashed into her mind, and she got the courage to open her mouth and talk. “I have walked by your school many times on the way to the store or to work, and I always see girls going in and coming out, carrying their books, talking and laughing together.”
“One day, I saw two girls sitting on the grass with their books open, studying for a test together. I wanted to ask them how the teacher tests them and how they study for a test. In the schools I have gone to we never had tests. Even though the girls said that they were nervous about taking the test, they seemed to have fun studying together for it. There were so many pages in the book they were studying, and they also each had a notebook filled with writing. I was so curious, but mostly I think I was sad because I wasn’t part of these girls’ learning. Learning can be fun, I thought to myself. I think seeing those two girls studying together made me want to come to your school.”
Mrs. Adis, who sat with her hands folded the whole time Bina was telling her story, unfolded her hands, looked at Bina and asked, “Have you told your parents this story? Have you told them how much you would like to learn in our school?”
“I suggested that we look at other schools in the neighborhood, but my parents want me only in a place that has the same views as they have. I think I understand what they want for me, but those schools don’t want me. They say that there are different reasons, but in the end, they feel that I won’t fit in with their girls. Maybe they are right. Where is the right place for me? Maybe I won’t fit in anywhere,” whispered Bina quietly.
“That can’t be true,” said Mrs. Adis. “A girl who has such a desire to learn should be welcomed at any school!”
Mrs. Adis looked at Bina and told her that she could come to their school for the next few weeks and see if it was a good school for her. At the end of the month, if she decided that she wanted to stay, she would need to talk to her parents and they would have to come to officially register her in the school.
Bina was so excited she could hardly speak! “Oh, thank you, Mrs. Adis! You will not be disappointed in your decision to let me study here,” she blurted aloud with joy.
Bina had to give up her three jobs in the book- stores because now she was going to school during those times. When the store owners asked her where they should put all of her books, she told them that she would let them know in a few days.
The new school was very challenging for Bina. She had a lot of catching up to do since she had not been in a proper school for a very long time. Mrs. Azari, the teacher she had met the first day she walked into the school, would often stay after school with Bina to help her learn the things she had missed before she began attending the school.
Bina was a very clever girl and learned new things quickly. She also spent time in the library studying almost every day. There was a sweet librarian, Teacher Shlomit the girls called her, who gave Bina her own book- shelves, and every day for the first month of school, she brought the books that she had earned working at the book- stores to the library. She told the librarian she wouldn’t mind if other girls in the school wanted to borrow and read her books, that she was happy to share them.
The end of the month came very quickly, and Bina knew that she would have to talk to her parents about the big decision that she had made on her own. It wasn’t easy, and at first her parents were not happy that she had not told them earlier. Bina’s Mama went to meet with the principal and some of Bina’s teachers, including Mrs. Azari, who continued to work with Bina to help her catch up in her studies.
Her parents saw how happy she was and how impressed the teachers were with how quickly Bina was learning and succeeding in her studies. In addition, the girls at the school were nice girls. Bina made some wonderful new friends whom she would keep throughout her lifetime. They agreed to let Bina stay and learn in the school that had accepted her because she had a passion for learning.
Another wonderful thing happened because Bina had made a big decision. She opened the door for her other sisters to study at the school. Like Great- Bubie Bina, she had made a difficult decision, one that gave her and her sisters a better life, one with opportunities, choices and the ability to grow.