The Lone Ortho

Marooned on a secular college campus, I created this blog for the dual purpose of venting and sharing my experiences, pleasant and otherwise. Join me as I traverse the treacherous terrains of galus; it's been a harrowing, yet worthwhile journey thus far. Feel free to partake in the smattering of snide remarks, random Paul Simon references, and utterly ridiculous CS jokes.

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Veneer of Virtue II

I think I’ve discovered what attracts me to law. I’m pretty sure it’s related to the righteous indignation that swelled inside of me as I watched the frum Jew seated next to me cheat on his LSATs. Obviously cheating. There was no mistaking it; I saw him do it numerous times. The first instance: He finished his reading comprehension section early, and moved on to the most dreaded logical reasoning section. I could clearly see his answer booklet, but not his answer sheet. We took a break before we were supposed to start the logical reasoning section. As soon as we started, I glanced over at his test booklet. It was covered with notes and markings.

Thereafter, I noticed that as soon as he finished one section, he would illegally venture to the next. I noticed that the other students visible to me would stare at the wall or flex when they were done. This boy never did so. In fact the only time he actually wasn’t working was after they collected the test booklets and answer sheets and gave out the writing sample. He finished early as usual. This time he stared blankly.

All I had to do was yell “Hey, he’s cheating” and everyone would have turned around and he would have been caught dead in his tracks. But I didn’t. The first time I noticed it, I was still enraptured in my test, and I couldn’t decide if it was right to hang a fellow frum Jew out to dry. It would certainly make a(n even bigger) chillul Hashem. I stayed quiet, but I was burning up inside. Did I do the right thing?

Immediately after the test I confronted him. First he pretended to not understand the concept of cheating. When he could feign ignorance no longer, he just flat out denied it. He eyed the other yeshiva guy, and smirked as he tried to turn my accusation on me. The tacit approval in his friend's eyes turned my stomach. I considered mentioning something to the proctor, but it would have been my word against his. Reasonable doubt would abound.

I was incensed, and completely consumed by what had transpired. Clever retorts floated into my brain. I kept thinking of what I should have said, what I should have done. I was so distracted I forgot about the test itself. I was not very confident about my score, but my mind kept turning to the nefarious cheater.

I find cheating morally reprehensible. But the fact it was a yeshiva bochur is what really got my blood boiling. I kept thinking I should have said. “You’re right; I can’t prove your guilt. But next time you decide to pursue a similar course of action, do me a favor. Take your yarmulke off. There’s no need to tarnish the rest of us with your insidious behavior.”

UPDATE: Feeling somewhat vindicated after listening to this shiur.


  • At 5:00 PM, Blogger Josh said…

    I can also offer you stories of cheating done on the Rabbanut exams in Israel.

  • At 5:00 PM, Blogger Eli7 said…

    Unforutunately, cheating is rampant within the orthodox community - i saw it all the time within my yeshiva high school. my sister recently told me that she knows someone who hides a cheat sheet behind the toilet in the bathroom stall so that even when the required procotor takes her to the bathroom she can still cheat. (though, the fact that he was ashamed and wouldn't admit it at least says something - so many people have bragged to me about their cheating escapades.) It's wrong and it's disgusting and there should be a better way to ensure that people don't cheat. but until then, we should be sad that even most reprehensible things can infiltrate what should be a solid frum community.

  • At 5:12 PM, Blogger Stx said…

    (Read: indignation beyond belief)
    He really did?!?!? That's just...just...chillul Hashem and hypocracy and just completely and utterly disgusting and despicable...Think about it. He's taking a big LEGAL test, wearing a YARMULKE, and apparently in YESHIVA you said? And he wasn't even embarassed? Like it was normal? AHHHHHH I wanna scream, i wanna yell, i wanna stomp in there and yank his yarmulke off his head (without touching what was underneath, 'course) and throw it...somewhere...far far away...Arg those people BOTHER me beyond belief!!!!!

    [Btw, to someone who always comments on good writing in blogs, this one really takes the cake!--pardon the cliche ;)]

  • At 5:55 PM, Blogger DS said…

    I hope you did well on the test. :)

  • At 2:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    perhaps the baltimore jewish community should spend some of the shadchanus-money on teaching kids not to cheat.

  • At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Will you remember this guy when it comes to shidduchim?

    I take it you would say no...?

    just remember that you guys might end up in many classes together in Law school.

  • At 11:24 AM, Blogger Devorah said…

    Anon 1 –
    The problem is not restricted to Baltimore. The yeshiva bochur wasn’t necessarily a local boy. He is just in beis midrash locally, which means YGW or Ner. But I will say that I think certain yeshivas foster this sort of mentality. Everyone I vent to has a story about another fine Jewish institution were not only is cheating prevalent, but it is also well known that the administrators stoop to that level by forging transcripts, etc.

    Anon 2 –
    I actually thought about that too. Driving home it occurred to me that this guy could very likely date one of my friends, which perturbed me. If we do end up in the same law school, I’m sure he’ll steer clear of me.

  • At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "...this guy could very likely date one of my friends, which perturbed me..."

    Would you *suggest* to your friend not to date him?

  • At 12:17 PM, Blogger Devorah said…

    That’s not really my call. If a friend would ask me if I knew him, I would probably relate the incident; I wouldn’t offer an unsolicited opinion. In any event, I wouldn’t try to impose my views on a friend. If and only if asked, I’d mention that I think he’s a scoundrel, but it’s still up to her whether or not she wants to date said scoundrel.

  • At 12:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    A good ethical question is What, When and If to say something to a friend that you know is dating a guy like the one you saw?

    My own 2 cents - it depends if this is part of the character vs. doing something one time and later regretting it (and never repeating it)

    If you don't know the person, it is hard to determine which choice of the above.

  • At 10:24 PM, Blogger leati said…

    What were you hoping to accomplish when you approached him? Where you expecting anything other than what actually happened?

  • At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ah, another naive young women finding out about 'yeshivish' Judaism... I'm glad you had this little experience
    before you were married...


  • At 1:58 PM, Blogger Stx said…

    Kochav--That was uncalled-for and unfair. Does that mean that if you a black guy committing a crime, then all blacks are evil? It's mentalities like that the prop up unjust stereotypes that are only harmful and wrong.

    I agree that there are problems in our society, as there are in all societies. I'd like to see the statistics though, and I'd be very surprised if they weren't skewed in favor of the "yeshivish Jews" that you so spitefully spit on. I'm in college, and trust me, the shock that I had at the dishonesty here was made all the more powerful by the lack of dishonesty that I came across in that same yeshivish community.

    Vora--You've been called a lot of things, but "naive"? That's gotta be a first. ;) What are your feelings on that?

  • At 5:22 PM, Blogger Devorah said…

    Leati –I’m not really sure what I hope to accomplish. But I knew I had an obligation to say something. And on top that, I couldn’t stifle my thoughts any longer. I needed him to know that I saw. And that G-d saw. At the time, I didn’t try to predict his reaction. I didn’t expect him to break down and cry about his egregious behavior. Yet, I would have never guessed he was going to be so smug about it.

    Kochav –Technically, I’m not sure this boy would even qualify as *yeshivish.* Part of the reason I doubt he was from Ner is because he wasn’t wearing a white shirt.(!) And I am well aware of the fact that there are plenty of frum boys who cheat. But witnessing it first hand is a whole different ballgame. You’re right—I shouldn’t be shocked. But I have every right to be disturbed.

    Stx –It is a rare occurrence indeed. Rare enough in fact that I don’t take it to heart…

    You’re right in one respect—that was a cheap shot. But I have to disagree with your other point. Sadly, cheating runs rampant in our community. Ayein my earlier response to “Anon 2.”

  • At 7:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think that you're being somewhat sanctimonious...why should it really affect you if someone else cheats, it's his business really...I've been told before that in school etc. you are taught that the result doesn't matter as much as the effort and how you got there. However in real life - in a job - all that matters is the result regardless of how you got to it. Thus cheating is perfect education for life in the real world. (of course if what you do effects someone else it's a problem...but cheating is only effecting yourself), so what's the big deal...

  • At 9:11 PM, Blogger TRW said…

    And when it hurts others? i.e. when you take someone else's work and get credit for it, stealing their flame; when you slack off (which cheating usually is), so you don't learn the information that you need to know cause you always swipe it from somewhere else and so you're glittering project is missing a key element and your boss/coworker gets blamed for it (cause once you're cheating, why not lie too, and blame all the issues on others...)
    I'm disgusted. There are other people in the world, and you're going to have to deal with them. I'm sorry it's hard for you to understand the concept of being ethical.
    And I'm even signing my own name.

  • At 9:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    TRW - I never condoned lying, putting blame on others etc...I was talkng about cheating in a test, and similar matters where others aren't affected. Of course if someone else is affected it's a problem. And I was saying that why should someone's lack of self-ethics really annoy someone else. It's his problem.

    Also, many subjects and tests people take in college etc. are full of information that has no relevance or use to what they plan on doing with their degree - or even with the degree itself - and as such, not knowing the information will not make them able to work in their future vocations to any lesser degree. They are just hurdles to get over in order to get the come the exam and they don't know the information - should they just fail? and make the entire course they have been taking until then a waste of time?

    Granted if you're an ethical person you won't do this, but there is no reason to get all indignant about people who do, for there own reasons.

  • At 9:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That's a sad, sad story, but if we follow the trail of breadcrumbs, it becomes obvious as to why something like this happens. Obviously, Judaism is against cheating. There is no question about it. So how could one who has ostensibly chosen to follow Judaism's guiding priciples falter in this area? The answer, I think, is that he is a product of a system that puts no value on actual knowledge or achievement, only on appearances and money. A sad commentary.

    By the way, you are more than likely obligated to divulge to potential shidduchim that he is a shakran, if asked. Protecting an innocent party trumps what could otherwise be considered Lashon HaRa, and whatsmore, your friends will thank you later.


  • At 1:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great post! I have always held religious (and intellectual) honesty over grades...much to the confusion of many of my peers. Glad to know I'm not the only one out there. And R' Wieder rocks!

  • At 10:51 AM, Blogger Stx said…

    Btw, your post made it to fjic. Lookee here:


  • At 8:08 PM, Blogger defen said…

    To "Anon" who said that cheating only affects oneself: I'm not so sure about that. Being completely in the dark about LSATs and law school, I can only hope what I say has some accuracy. What if this guy gets an awesome mark on his LSAT (which one would assume would be the case if he did cheat), and gets accepted into a prestigious law school, thereby causing someone else with a lesser score to be rejected? I don't know how realistic that scenario is, but it seems plausible to me.

  • At 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Lone Ortho,
    Maybe you were in the wrong! You helped him cheat!

    You should have screamed out- "He is cheating" or notified a proctor- with the evidence of the notes on a later section.
    If all frum jews start expecting other frum jews to be honest, then something might change. Start a campaign for orthodox Jews to turn in other orthodox Jews to the authorities.
    yes, you might be labeled a moser, but other rabbis will support you.

  • At 11:32 AM, Blogger Stx said…

    Anon--But what about the Chillul Hashem that would involve? It's like taking a Jew to a secular court--something that is to be avoided if at all possible. ESPECIALLY if it would cause a widespread chillul Hashem. I'd venture a guess, which is not by any means definitive, that most poskim would advise her NOT to turn him in, for that very reason. Therefore I def would have done the same thing that Vora did, if I had gotten up the courage to go over to him in the first place.

    What does everybody else think?

  • At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "Taking another Jew to secular court is a hillul hashem."

    Let's get a reality check here. The cheater was taking an LSAT to get into law school, to practice secular american law. And probably most of his future clients will be frum Jews taking other frum Jews to court.
    That is the reason that law is a good job for frum jews.
    Generaly, very few cases go to beis-din.
    By taking the LSAT - it is implied that he eventaully wants to take the Bar exam and enter law, thereby accepting upon himself the Lawyers code of ethics. The cheater cannot be of the law and outside the law at the same time. If he was involved in witness tampering, would you say that he should not be taken to secular court?

  • At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Taking a jew to court wont create a new chillul hashem. It might help solve a serious problem.

    Ask any law clerk in a county with frum jews and they will tell you stories of Frum jews and rabbis committing a disproportional number of fraud, lying, and misrepresentation. The chillul hashem is already out there. The goal is to correct it. We cannot hide our heads in the sand anymore.
    Ask any IRS official and they will tell you about the disproportial number of Jews and especially rabbis who lie and cheat.

  • At 1:06 PM, Blogger Eli7 said…

    Yes, frum Jews lie and cheat and commit fraud and a thousand other crimes and there are drugs and alcoholism in our communities too. To not admit that there are problems within our frum communites would be lying, but while i don't have any set-in-stone statistics, i would venture a guess that the number of cheating/lying/fraudulent jews is NOT disproportionately high. Is it out there? yes. is it something that needs to be dealt with? yes. but let's not go ahead and make an even bigger chillul Hashem by making up false statistics and saying the problem is bigger than it is. if anything, the number of "bad" people in the frum community is disproportianately low. and orthodox jews deserve credit for that, despite the few bad eggs.

  • At 3:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sorry, but I highly doubt that lying is disproportianally low. The frum world may be low in drugs, abortions, violent crimes, and robbery. Yes, they exist and should be acknowledged,but we are low.
    However, in matters that are about not following rules, manipulating truth, turning a blind eye, cheating, and falsifying records. We are disproportionally high. The majority of Regents exams were stolen in yeshivot. The majority of those caught cheating or plagerizing in schools are frum jews. The biggest dealers in grey merchantise on the streets of NYC are Jews. Many frum groups speciallize in dealing in grey merchandise.
    So too in tax fraud and evasion, and shaddy lawyers a disproportional number are frum jews. Not in the types of things were one would go to jail,but in the types of cases where you can pay a penalty or fine.
    Cheating on an LSAT is just another example of the soft grey dishonesty that the frum community is already known for.
    We should also stop comparing ourselves in inner-city or poverty populations. For an upper-middle class population- we have a high rate of dishonesty.

  • At 3:41 PM, Blogger Eli7 said…

    Unless you have well-researched statistics to prove such a point - which i doubt exist one way or the other - i don't think it's fair to make such assumptions about the frum community. Yes, there was cheating in my frum high school, but that has nothing on some of the attitudes i've seen toward cheating at my distinctly not frum college. i don't think your statistics have any basis in reality and before slandering a community that gets hit hard enough by the outside world, you could do the justice of only making claims that you know to be true.

  • At 6:17 PM, Blogger TRW said…

    I'd like to agree with Eli7. Anon, until you have clear statistics from a reputable source to prove what you have to say, you're just spouting L"H (in fact, it's probably Motzei Shem Ra) for no purpose.

  • At 6:18 PM, Blogger Stx said…

    I'm doing a report now on Academic Integrity in my college, and trust me, the little bits of "cheating" that went on in high school (that got blown up SO much by the administration as horrible terrible things) were NOTHING compared to what goes on in college. A few statistics perhaps?

    46% of undergrads at UMBC admitted to cheating on a test at least once in the past year
    43% admitted to plagiarism
    80% said they had seen plagiarism
    80% of faculty had seen cheating in the past 3 years
    50% had seen cheating on EXAMS

    31% of students believed that the main reason not to cheat would be in order to learn more, 31% of the rest believed that the main reason not to cheat would be the possibility of harsh consequences. Only 15% argued that it was morally wrong.

    27% believed that a the main reason that Academic Integrity policies are important is that they would improve UMBC’s rankings, compared to only %8 who believed that dishonesty was morally wrong, and 19% who believed that it would create a learning atmosphere on campus

    And the ONE TIME in my frum high school that the teachers found some plagiarized papers, they practically burned the school down with their speeches about honesty etc. And they have people checking papers for plagiarism and documentation; I know, because I did part of it for them last year. It's time-consuming, but it's worth it to them, because the school does NOT want kids getting away with dishonesty.

    So while I can't vouch that ALL frum high schools are like that, somehow I doubt that mine is the only one....

  • At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Guess I'm in at the end (really end, too bad...)
    But R' Joseph Polak Hillel director at Boston Univ. had this to say in the Letters to the Editors of Jewish Action a few issues ago...

    Note that this is after a debate between him and R' Schiller about students in general nowadays in the issue two before the one posted above


  • At 12:51 PM, Blogger Devorah said…

    Stx--I hate to say this, but the "ONE TIME" roughly translates to the one time they were actually caught. Cheating, though far from rampant, was certainly prevalent in our high school as well. I would like to believe that it was not as severe as in other schools, but I think you too are exaggerating a bit.

  • At 12:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't understand the problem. And I also don't understand the righteous indignation associated with this "story". We find throughout the bible that our greatest leaders told at the very least white lies. Jacob did it atleast twice, Issak and Abraham are all guilty. If they could do it why are we worse.

  • At 9:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    If this test (which I have not taken) is given in a form where you can work on anything you wish, then really anyone who does not use whatever means possible is just making a mistake.

    If the sections are not supposed to be addressed before a certain time, then the materials should not be available. Law practice is not on an honor system in the real world.

    Cheating hardly! Bringing in answers would be cheating.


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