May 19, 2009 — A curious person by nature, Shane Fischman of Woodmere, NY had been interested in learning more about Western culture’s obsession with weight, overall appearance and its unrealistic “ideal” body image. Fischman, a senior at Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls (YUHSG) in Holliswood, New York, was particularly interested in seeing how this phenomenon occurred among Jewish girls in the Orthodox community. After spending a year and a half studying the subject, Fischman wrote a research paper entitled “The Effects of Parental Pressure and Community Pressure on the Body Image of Adolescent Girls in the Typical Orthodox Jewish Community.”
As part of her research Fischman read over a hundred articles and studies on body image, eating disorders, and perfectionism and sent out anonymous surveys to girls at local yeshivas and public schools between the ages of 11 and 18. She also surveyed the participants’ parents so that she could determine the effects of parental pressures on their children.
Fischman’s research found that parents who are perfectionists tend to raise daughters who are perfectionists, regardless of community type. She also determined that a Jewish mother’s perfectionism has a direct effect on her daughter’s body dissatisfaction, awareness of the community’s obsession over body image and drive for thinness.
“Shane is an exceptionally creative student and I applaud her initiative in researching such an important issue affecting young women in the Orthodox Jewish community,” said teacher Ruth Fried, science department chairperson at YUHSG and creator of the YUHSG Science Institute. “I believe that her research will be used as a springboard to help our girls and their parents deal better with the pressures of our world.”
Fischman’s research earned her an award from the American Psychological Association and led to her being named finalist at the New York City Science and Engineering Fair in the category of behavioral and social science. In addition she was named a Young Epidemiologist Scholars semifinalist, receiving a $1,000 scholarship.
“Shane is a unique individual with an infectious curiosity and love of learning,” said Rochelle Brand, head of school at YUHSG. “We are very proud of her accomplishments.”
Despite her passion for research, Fischman has other career aspirations. “I want to get involved in government and politics,” said Fischman. “My time at YUHSG has transformed me from a naturally curious person to someone who wants to take action, and make a difference. I’ve become more involved in community life and have grown more proud of my religion.”
To learn more about Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls visit www.yuhsg.org.