When Her Persian Father Wouldn’t Let Her Go to College…

Esther Amini (courtesy author)

Esther Amini (courtesy author)

Rabbi Sholem Cohen, the new Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel and successor to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has just released his first ruling.

The verdict?  “Women’s participation in academic pursuits, including in haredi colleges, is a violation of Jewish law,” Cohen wrote. Apparently, even in ultra-Orthodox educational institutions, women put their “pure” mindset at risk by coming into contact with potentially college-educated instructors.

Esther Amini, a writer and psychotherapist, shared her own experience being discouraged from higher education as a young woman in a piece that will be featured in Lilith’s Summer issue. Amini’s courageous pursuit of an education has paid off in spades, as her writing has been featured in publications from Elle to Tablet Magazine.


  Under the Sheets

        Every night, after house patrol, Pop marched into my room shouting, “Enough books!” and flicked off my lights before slamming the door. He thought that by turning off lights he was turning me off, ridding me of curiosity and saving me from what would become a home-wrecking narcotic: books.

            But by age 13, I was already a pro at reading with my head tucked under the sheets. I’d reach for my flashlight, dive head-first under the covers, and read voraciously. Beneath layers of bedding, with labored breathing, I silently turned pages. My squinting eyes, acclimating to the circle of light on each page, devoured the words. Eventually I’d re-surface for a deep inhale and then slide back down.  

10 comments on “When Her Persian Father Wouldn’t Let Her Go to College…

  1. Stefanie on

    I enjoyed being let in on this very important caper in your life. Very sharp and funny writing! Congrats on the publication of this chapter!

  2. Betsy on

    What a fantastic story, beautifully written, clever, funny, spellbinding – one of your best! I very much enjoyed your story. Please write more. Congratulations on this new publication. Bravo!

  3. Lin on

    It is amazing to read how Esther Amini’s poignant and colorful story of her own quest for education is as relevant today as it was when she lived it, as evidenced by the recent words of Israel’s Chief Sephardi Rabbi. The author does a magnificent job of capturing her father’s fear of education for his daughter and the lengths she had to go to counter it…hopefully the worlds’ daughters are being equally inventive.

  4. Marcia on

    Esther, This is so beautifully written. You bring us right into your determination and fearlessness. In spite of Pop’s own determination and his fears. What an important story for all women. Brava!

  5. beverly on

    What wonderful writing and what a wonderful,moving, touching and emotionally alive story this is,Esther. I loved reading it and to learn what it was like for you to live as a first ( and only one in your family ) generation Iranian-American- Jew. Congratulations on this great achievment!

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