Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Modesty and the "Women Problem"


The news has been filled with stories about the status of women in Israeli society:
Women relegated to the back of the bus, women eliminated from public street posters, 8 year-old girls attacked due to their "lack of modesty." We are witnessing a growing situation in which religious groups have succeeded in marginalizing women within the public space or excluding them from it, as women are viewed as a temptation, a sexual distraction.

I am a religiously observant person, a Rabbi, and yet I deem this interpretation as a distortion and falsification of Judaism's idea of modesty. I have spent some time recently trying to articulate where the problem lies; after all, I too subscribe to values of modesty. Let me attempt to explain it as I see it.

Some years ago, a Rabbi friend told me the following story. A congregant had approached him and asked to speak to him about a situation that was on his mind. The Rabbi asked him what the problem was:

"Well Rabbi," He said, "Yesterday, I attended Sheva Berachot."

"Mazal Tov!" responded the Rabbi. "What is the problem?"

"Well, the kalla got up to give a Devar Torah" the congregant said uneasily.

""Wonderful!" responded the Rabbi.

"Well," said the man, "She was very attractive and it was inappropriate."

The Rabbi engaged him in discussion on the topic, with the congregant frustrated by his inability to express what he found as the point of his discomfort.  At a certain point, he blurted out: "A women is just, quite simply, an object of immodesty!"

When men perceive women as a sexual object, I believe that however much they hide women away, they will still be aroused by something that reminds them of the sexual. And because these men are fighting to repress their sexual urges and to somehow eliminate them, they see women everywhere, they identify sexual stimulation in the slightest reminder of a woman. They push women further and further into the background to be continually frustrated that they feel continued sexual attraction. I recall reading a book in which an Islamic woman who wears a Burka, remarked that the men could identify which women had an attractive figure and would make sexual comments to women, even as they were covered from head to toe!

So here is the point. The Haredi community is terrified that sexuality will lead its men to sin. It responds by subjecting its women to increasingly stringent standards of dress, and removing them from the public space. But despite the fact that they require women to recede, the problem endures.

Now – this entire perspective is highly un-Jewish. How so?

First, modesty in the public arena is not to achieved by suppressing women; it is not women who are to pay the price. In most places that the Shulkhan Arukh addresses modesty, the man is instructed to restrict his gaze and not to look at a woman in an inappropriately sexual manner. But it doesn't say that a woman is required to button up in order to prevent or "protect" the man. Men are expected to take care of their sexual drives and to control their eyes and minds.

I think that something else should be said about the Jewish sexual ethic. Judaism has a host of laws regarding social interaction between the sexes. A man and a woman (who are unmarried) are not to be in a closed room alone (Yichud). They are not supposed to flirt or engage in affectionate physical contact (negia). A man should not look at women to gain some erotic pleasure (Histaklut assura and hirhur). Now, these laws are there precisely because men and women interact in the public arena, and because sexual attraction does exist between men and women. Hence, in order to facilitate a non-sexualized public space, these are regulations that seek to eliminate sexual opportunity and a sexually provocative environment. But this is precisely the point: These laws allow the genders to interact. They do not restrict the mixing of the genders!

It is certainly true that contemporary Western society has created a highly sexualized, provocative, flirtatious and even promiscuous public environment. Jewish tradition should have strong critique of modern society in this regard, and any Halakhically sensitive Jew would do well to guide his life, family and home, in an alternative direction. Possibly this overt sexualization is what sends our Orthodox world into retreat. After all, when the wider society is so audacious, traditional Judaism with its emphasis upon modesty, fidelity and marriage may justifiably attempt to protect itself. And yet, the overemphasis upon laws of modesty and gender separation become absurd.  In an almost absurd and perverse reversal, it thrusts sexual attraction into the centre stage; so much so that it appears at times as if these God fearing people have sex on their mind every second of the day, as if they may succumb to illicit desire at any given moment!

Judaism is fully aware of the wild nature of sexual attraction. And yet Jewish Law has created a mechanism to keep the public space sexually neutral. If people are dressed modestly, if they don't engage in physical contact or allow themselves to be alone in private, then Halakha says that this is the standard that will ensure a holy public space.

After that, any man who has a problem must take care of his problem on his own.

Rabbi Moses Feinstein- the great American posek of the 20th Century – ruled that a Jew may travel the subway at rush hour even if he or she is pressed against the opposite sex. His assumption was that people who were crushed together in the train, would have preferred a more spacious environment, and hence there was no intent to engage in physical contact; the entire situation being against their personal desire and that a normal person would not be subject to sexual arousal. He did warn that if a particular individual was sexually aroused by the situation, they should take care of their "problem" by travelling at non-crowded times.

Similarly here. Women can be on street posters, the buses should be mixed. At the same time, I certainly would like to see people dressing in non-provocative clothing. But even with the street as it is, the street or bus cannot be worse than a crowded subway carriage. A normal person can control their eyes and minds. Women should not pay the price here.

This can be done. Let us hope that we can build God-fearing communities, that are respectful to all genders, that exclude no group or individual, that are seen as exemplars of kindness and respect, that engage with society and sanctify God's name.

64 comments:

robthewolf said...

We need more people like you pushing these kind of ideas. great post.

lddecoline said...

Thank you - thank you- thank you for expressing & explaining this so perfectly and nicely !

Shelly said...

Thank you for this well written article which simultaneously supports women in the public sphere and halachot relating to tzniut.

Avram said...

Very well written Rabbi.

SK said...

Excellent post. Thank you.

Tamar Weissman said...

Articulated astoundingly well. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

kol hakavod, great article

benjy said...

fantastic article

Anonymous said...

excellent article

Shoshanna said...

One of the worst things to happen to the Jewish nation is the shift from personal responsibility to the concept of 'My Rights'. A huge symptom of this is men forcing the burden on women for their own failings and shortcomings.
A further consequence - a tragic consequence- is the oversexualization of everything and everyone. Women, little girls, are removed from billboards, magazines- in RBS even Styrofoam heads are blurred!!! Its insane and no one is doing a thing about it. I for one am convinced that this leads to the pedophilia and child abuse that is so shamefully covered in UO communities.

Leah Goodman said...

A woman I know was told that her daughter could not go to the beach once she was 3, because ka"h she's a beautiful girl.
If my rabbi said that to me, I would think he's a pedophile. I mean, yes, beautiful, but doggonit man! if anyone is looking at my 3-year-old as a sex object and can't control it, the man should lock himself up in his house and never come out. I'd agree that you shouldn't dress your child in a string bikini, but in a normal, healthy world, there shouldn't be any reason why my preschool child can't go to the beach in a bathing suit!

Paul Kipnes said...

Fascinating, truth-telling and well articulated.

Stacy Gittleman said...

so well said, rabbi, thank you so much for speaking out. Judaism cannot go the way of the Taliban. I am all for women, young girls dressing somewhat modestly at religious services (you should see what some girls are wearing to shul for bnei mitzvot!) but pushing women out of public life, this is no way to treat the daughters of Israel.

Anonymous said...

I've been trying to put this exact thought to words for so long, thank you very much for articulating it.

In the community I live in (In America), I hear things that boil my blood for the exact same reason. Several years ago, my three year old daughter was sent home from camp with a harsh note because I forgot to send her a cover-up for the pool that day.

One of the local girl's high schools makes the girls submit a list of males who will be coming to their graduation- that list must be approved by the school faculty, and then at the graduation, a bouncer stands outside checking the males who come, against the list. I'm not trying to be crass here, but I always wonder, do they think that if an "inappropriate" male (i.e., a teenage boy who isn't related to her) is at the graduation, the girl will jump off the stage in the middle of the graduation and start making out (or worse) with him?

These are just two examples of how a relatively "normal" community can take the fear of the sexuality of women and take it completely out of control to completely and totally defeat the purpose of tsnius.

Anonymous said...

I read your "comlete Profile" and want to know WHAT IS YOUR NAME?

Mark Goldman said...

Really well said -
As a member of the Reform Jewish community, it irkes me to hear all Orthodox Jewish perspectives clumped into one-thanks for articulating a modem orthodox view.

ydtp said...

It's such a shame when women are made to feel like a sexual object. And the men are portrayed and somehow self convinced that they cannot control their sexual thoughts and actions, like cavemen!

Anonymous said...

Finally!!! A voice of reason!!! As an orthodox Jewish I have finally found an article that resonates with my feelings on men and women interacting in an appropriate way! I also think blurring out childrens photos in chareidi magazines sexualizes the children inferring that there is *something* to cover up.

Anonymous said...

Simply Thank you

Michelle said...

Thanks for pointing out that the responsibility should be with the men who have issues, not the women for simply being female!

Glad my son chose Eretz HaZvi!

Michelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Excellent article.
Too bad the the real problem is that the people who need to read it don't own a computer and their Rabinical "poskim" would have you put in Cherem for even discussing the matter.

RL

AztecQueen2000 said...

This needed to be said for a long time

Anonymous said...

Can I say something as a non-jewish person. I don't get how a woman's knees are sexual Or a women's elbows. Why should they be covered on hot summer days? Are you saying that if a man saw a women's elbow and forearm they would be aroused? I just don't see how this is fair to a woman. It seems as though she is punished for a man's thoughts. Thoughts that may not even occur. I live around a big jewish community and I feel so bad for the women walking in 90 degree weather completely covered and I guess I'm just trying to get it.

Amanda said...

Very well said, rav israel. i would add sometihng else - that once this paranoia about female sexuality abates, tzniut will be able to return to what iti s meant to be, namely halachot which are bein adam l'atzmo and bein adam l'chaveiro, NOT between a woman and the male population.

OrthoFeminist said...

In response to Anonymous directly above:

Dressing "modestly" (as the rabbi here advocated) and taking scrupulous care to cover your elbows and knees are not the same thing. This post never once advocated a strict adherence to these particular guidelines.

While it is true that many Orthodox people do adhere to the guidelines, they are exactly that--guidelines. The reason they are treated so strictly is because of the slippery slope argument--once a woman decides she can uncover her knees, she'll start wearing tight mini skirts and midriff revealing halter tops...

Sometimes people need guidelines, and that's what the laws are there for. But the halacha is vague about what the guidelines are exactly--a vagueness I believe shows that the guidelines flexible, so long as the underlying value is observed.

In my opinion, this focus on a strict "dress code" as opposed to the broader value of modesty does in fact lead to the sexualization of women that the rabbi discusses here. When rabbinic leaders focus solely on how long a skirt must be or how long sleeves must reach, they are in fact focusing on the wrong aspects of the law, the aspects which make the objectification of women so prevalent.

I am impressed that while the rabbi in this blog post encourages "modesty", he does not specifically note how long or how high or what areas clothing must cover. That is not the issue in this post.

GoldenMac said...

As someone that has lived in the haredi world, I must say that most haredim would agree with you - in theory. We are dealing with a small sub-group of extremists that are (in my opinion) not living life by halakha but rather a life based only on humrot (added elements), while in many cases completely forgetting/ignoring halakha. That does not mean that the more 'normal' haredim are not far behind in understanding and adapting to modern times. I believe both sectors of the haredi society are struggling with control issues that your article only eludes to. There is a general fear that all aspects of life, not only women's modesty, will be corrupted by the outside world. This is causing even some of the more moderate and more 'modern' dati-leumi (halakhic non-haredi, traditional religious) society to begin closing in on itself - making stricter rules and separations... I think a lack of education on these topics, mixed with fear, have paved the road to our current situation. Worst of all, this could have been prevented by the rabbis of these communities that just sat by and let it happen. More understanding of what you are describing in your post is desperately needed within all facets of the haredi community.

Alex Israel said...

I will supplement this post with two references to my revered Rashei Yeshiva - Rav Yehudah Amital z"l and Rav Aharon Lichtenstein יבדל"א.

In religious circles, a debate has raged for decades about the legitimacy of co-ed youth movements like Bnei Akiva. Should they be mixed or not? The term used for this situation is "חברה מעורבת" - a mixed society. At the memorial evening for my teacher, Rav Yehudah Amital z"l, his student, Prof. Bar-Asher spoke. He recalled that in the '50's Rav Amital avoided using that terminology. Instead, he used the term - "חברה שלמה "- indicative of a whole, healthy, organic society. Hevra Shelema expresses the idea that it is natural for men and women to be equal partners in society and to co-exist and interact. (This is such a basic and elementary point that it is the height of absurdity that I need to point this out!) When you start with the perspective of Hevra Shelema, then the entire discussion is framed differently.

I heard a different, but relevant story from Rav Lichtenstein. The question arose as to the degree that a Midrasha - a women's religious school - should address the issue of tzniut - modest attire. The issue is whether the extra attention paid to sleeve length and skirt length is in itself an immodest activity. (Some of these religious schools seem inordinately preoccupied with this issue.)

Rav Lichtenstein replied with a story that spoke for itself. He told us about a leading Rabbi of an American Rabbinic organization who came to consult with Rav Aharon Soloveitchik z"l. He said to him: "I don't know what to do. My secretary at work wears very short skirts. Is it inappropriate for me - a Rabbi working for a Rabbinic organization - to employ her if she is dressing that way? Should I say something?"

Rav Aharon Soloveitchik replied: "You and I talking about your secretary's skirt is far more immodest than her skirt. Let's not talk about it!"

Sometimes, the very over-engagement in tzniut becomes in itself immodest!

Anita said...

Thank you, thank you. Your comments are articulate and respectful. As an egalitarian, Jewish woman who interacts with members of the Jewish community from across the denominational spectrum, I wish more members of the Orthodox community would communicate like this. I have long been angry, sad, and frustrated by these developments. This brutal treatment of women and girls are issues of "it's not my problem, it's yours" when men can't seem to control their own thoughts or actions, so they blame the victims. Are these men so fragile and easily tempted? For those who are supposed to be thinking and studying deep religious thoughts all day, they sure are distracable. Whose fault is that? Certainly not the women. And those who sexualize any women, but especially little girls, quite frankly, should be locked up.
Like many women, our fathers' voices ring in our ears: You're going out like that?? We have our own guidelines, thank you, and those women who dress in poor taste are an embarrassment to all of us. Who made you the fashion police? Who made you the holy-patrol? Who gave you the right to physically and psychologically harm other human beings? What Judaism are you following, because that is certainly not the one I believe in.
Finally, each of us is made in the Divine image. There is a blessing in our individuality. We rail against the Taliban who makes all women dress the same. Conformity is not uniformity - one can be a part of a community without giving up your uniqueness.
And, to humiliate, harm, and harass other human beings, much less other Jews, is to desecrate the very holiness of our lives.
Nothing will change until these perpetrators are arrested for their crimes, held accountable for their violent actions, and have shame heaped upon them from their community. This article is a good beginning.

Moshe Rosenberg said...

Yasher koach on a beautiful article! We fondly remember your visits with us in Kew Gardens Hills as Scholar-in-Residence!

Anonymous said...

This is for those who want real solutions, from the bible.

The story of Lot shows one way for men and women to act. There are other examples.

Lot's story ends with creation of Moab by him and his daughters, a nation a thorn in Israel's side throughout history. Lot's wife turns the famous pillar of salt for her worldly concerns. Where, feminists among you, was she when her husband and daughters were together, or being given up to strangers?

Boaz gave the key to how a women should act who work, at least outside or in a defined space. It should be alongside other women, not men.

It took g-dly Naomi to help her understand Boaz's instructions, to understand the ways of the G-d of Israel for women, before she (Ruth)realized her error in mixing it up at work/public sphere. Ruth ends with her being granted status as the "mother" of King David. A real rags to riches story for a woman and a bride. There are rewards for righteousness.

Boaz didn't let the men off the hook either; until Ruth realized her error, via her mother-in-law, he instructed the men to leave Ruth alone. This not only helped her redemption process, but it literally gave him a reward also (a wife, for him alone).

This is the story of the kins-man redeemer, symbolic of how G-d rewards and acts justly, and mercifully, and how we should copy him, and walk humbly with Hashem.


Do not spit on the women. If it is your family, or daughter, I hope you will protect her, and look at these examples for what is the right way to care for women.

Aliza said...

Thanks, Rav Alex! I've missed hearing your devar torahs of late, but your take on this subject impressed me, as usual. Great job and thank you!!!!

Bas Yisrael said...

Rabbi,
Please study modesty from sources like Mekoros and Zohar. The Shulchan Aruch is not the only place.

Please also study from Rabbi Eliyahu Falk's Oz v'Hadar L'vusha. The Rav doesn't live in Israel, but Jewish modesty laws are applicable to all Jews.

Shabbat Shalom.

HWElad said...

Thank you.

Helen Abelesz said...

Well said! Thank you!

Helen Abelesz said...

Well said! It is so nice to hear a sane voice in these crazy times!

Rachel said...

I agree with your point of view. However I think you need to change the title of this post. It should be "Modesty and the "Men Problem" -- after all the problem is the MEN, not the women. Any man who objectifies women ("objects of immodesty") has a HUGE problem -- women are, after all, human beings! We are not objects. What I object to most, however, is the unthinking and unquestioning acceptance of much that is not actually halacha. Hashem gave us sechel and the ability to choose between right and wrong, good and bad, for a reason. We are to USE our sechel, we are to MAKE choices. By completely eliminating all sources of supposed temptation, one removes the ability to use one's sechel and to make choices. The sechel is a muscle. If we do not use it, it atrophies. We lose the ability to make choices. Additionally, to see women as a source of temptation is to allow women a single dimension of existence. This is not only wrong, it is abusive, it is against all that is natural.

Anna said...

I agree with you all the way, except that I don't really see a problem in men and women being alone in a room as long as at least one of the two isn't interested in doing anything. I've lived with male room mates and even wrapped in a towel, they didn't so much as blush.

But other than that, bravo! I keep saying, you're solely responsible for your response to being near the opposite sex, and have to obsess in order to have a problem.
I think it's a good thing a respected Rabbi speaks out. Nobody listens to a bunch of commenters on a Haaretz article. I hope the people addressed will read and consider your words.

senseijs said...

Kiddush HaShem in a public forum-- What a nice change!
Thank you

Anonymous said...

Well said and Thank you

Chava Riemer said...

Thank you. Too bad the people who need to hear this aren't the ones who will read it.

Emma said...

Shame.

Emma said...

Shame.

Ittay said...

Yishar Koach on an important article. I appreciated the many sources and stories you used to make your point, and whilst I am in agreement with your sentiments, I am fully aware that there are other articles on the web that equally provide numerous sources and stories to justify some of the more extreme Orthodox approaches to modesty. This proves to me that authentic halacha is very much in the eye of the beholder.
Wishing you much success sin your promotion of a kindler, gentler and more sensitive brand of Orthodox Judaism.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I thought I was the only one who thought along these lines. I've been thinking this for years - why blame the women?

gorfdorf said...

Some of our ritual and practice helps is achieve transcendence and closeness to God. In may cases, however, our human propensity for anxiety, borne of our fear of uncertainty and the unknown, causes our ritual to become perverted in the extreme. As a therapist, I have treated many devout and fervently religious individuals whose religious practice spun out of control due to an inability to separate the transcendent from the anxious motives. Sadly, some religious authority figures have mistakenly fallen into praising excessive forms of practice even when it becomes harmful to a person's health and safety.

Michael said...

I can see why your post has made you very popular, but it's misleading - or at least inconsistent: Women are required to dress modestly; we don't simply tell the men "Who cares how she's dressed? Get your heads out of the gutter!"

That would be the logical result of your position that the "burden" is on men alone, a position that you implicitly reverse elsewhere in the post. I don't think it's good to fight misrepresentation with misrepresentation.

Myself, I don't have an analysis of what's going on, but I'll suggest something for your consideration: Perhaps the fundamental issue has nothing to do with gender, but is part of a broader inability to use common sense. Most people intuit that one does many types of things in one's life, and that while some are more important than others, all have a place. Some people reason that if learning Torah is more important than anything else, one can't justify doing anything else; and if dressing modestly is good, then dressing more modestly must be even better. Combine that attitude with an almost complete lack of responsibility to society, and the leisure time that produces, and I think you've got a great growth medium for this kind of craziness.

Leah Goodman said...

Michael,
While I agree that a woman should be modest in her dress, if a man is 'swept away' by a little girl in elbow-length sleeves, a long skirt, and sandals, the problem is not with the girl.
I'd even argue that if a man can't keep his cool in front of a woman in a short-sleeve shirt and loose slacks, the problem is with the man, whether or not you believe a Jewish woman should dress in that manner.

Alex Israel said...

Mike,
I wasn't suggesting that women should not dress modestly. After all, I wrote: "Jewish Law has created a mechanism to keep the public space sexually neutral. If people are dressed modestly, if they don't engage in physical contact or allow themselves to be alone in private, then Halakha says that this is the standard that will ensure a holy public space."
My point was that however modestly they dress - even if they wear a hat on top of a sheitel - if women are objects of sexuality, it doesn't help.
Notwithstanding that, I think that your point is excellent too. The problem is - how DO you teach people common sense? And how did this community lose all sense of it? Is it the Da'at Torah ideology which surrenders all independent assessment? Or is it the creation of a disconnected enclave?
Mike. Thanks for this valuable comment.

Michael said...

No need to butter me up.

And I know that you're not against modesty -- that's what I meant when I said that you implicitly reversed your position after having stated that the burden is on men. But really the burden isn't on any one side, so there's no reason to imply that as an argument against these lunatics. The irreducible argument against them is that they're lunatics, "b'gavra", as it were.

And I have no idea how to teach common sense other than to continually point it out. That's the role I've assumed - for good or ill - on Lookjed. You're the educator, I'm just a concerned citizen.

Leah Goodman said...

Michael,

I agree that the burden should be divided. Women shouldn't walk around in bikinis, and the way some women dress, one can only assume that they intend to attract attention. On the other side of that, if a woman does walk by dressed immodestly, a man should be able to close his eyes, recite a perek of tehillim or mishna, and move on.

I think this is also only common sense - you cannot expect to control the world around you. You can choose where you go and who you associate with, but you cannot control how people dress in public places. If it's too distracting, stay home.

And about the Beit Shemesh issue. There's a word for men who get worked up over how little girls dress.

Jim Thomson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Eli said...

The real problem going on in Israel is not with women or with segregation or tseni'uth or any of these things. They all come back to one core issue.

Our Tora is at stake. We have allowed Tora to become something that can be shaped and turned to become whatever we want it to be, and as a result, crazy outcomes ensue. This is not surprising. We need to cry out and called out a fake form of Judaism for what it is: simply BS. We have completely lost our senses of what the Tora actually says here.

Biblically, the ONLY prohibition is to have sexual intercourse (with the exception of the opinion of Maimonides). Everything else is only a Rabbinic decree. Why are we so crazy about these decrees, that we need to pile so many more on top of them? Are there not more important issues?

Of course, this doesn't matter to anyone, especially not the ones pushing all this nonsense. Which again highlights my main point, that we have forfeited the Tora, for silliness and frivolity. We have allowed thugs to claim the mantel of Tora and erase the mental Law of the Jewish people.

Anonymous said...

Rav Yoel bin Nun on mixed society (Hebrew.) Worthwhile reading.
http://ybn.co.il/sut1.asp?num=9

AbuShy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Excellent. Reminds me of a story I heard from an exceptional Rabbi(my father-in-law of blessed memory): There were two men walking together and, as they passed a raging river, one man jumped in to rescue a beautiful woman who was crying out for help. The other man admoniished his friend for touching this woman. He went on and on for well over an hour when his companion turned to him and said; "Dear friend, I carried this woman for less than a minute and forgot about her but you have been carrying her around for nearly five miles.”

The Torah fully respects the power of sexuality but expects its men to develop mastery over it and thereby afford women their due respect and honor. Hashem, through the Torah gives us both (men & women) tools to accomplish this, many of which the author of this article explains. It is no magic however. The direction and tools are there for us all. How we use them to refine ourselves, our drives, and our ability to bring dignity to ourselves and others is a choice we all have to make.

Thinking also of the tzadikim who carried kallahs on their shoulders to bring joy to the chasson and kallah That’s the kind of refinement that inspires me

Anonymous said...

Dear Rav
I pity your words of hate.
Have you ever wondered whether the vast majority of charedi women is content with its role, perhaps even proud of it? Perhaps you fail to understand how they could possibly be happy, being that their opinions have been forced upon them, and they have been educated to just that specific role from a young age.
Yet happiness is a feeling and a state of mind. The charedi community, with all its lack of physical activity and questionable eating habits is far and away the group within Jewish society with the highest rate of longevity. More so, it is one of the highest longevity rates in the world, regardless of creed. Perhaps a small sign of satisfaction and well being.
Yes, there are certainly problems with the charedi society. Yes, also problems regarding the way sexuality is treated and observed. Yet as long as your society is full of its own problems, would it not be wiser to try and solve your own problems, before preaching to others?
There is no, and never has been, a "growing tendency" to shove women aside in the charedi society. Actually, the role of women in the charedi society has grown. They have acquired consistently a higher status a bigger role. Likewise, the enormous, vast majority of people in the charedi world are just like you. Normal, humane, people.
There are, and always will be, small groups within ANY society which will behave in a radical and unbefitting way. You put us all in one pot, perhaps because we all use wigs or black long coats. Yet I suspect more than anything, it is because of your pre-established opinion of a community that simply does not kneel to your ways, despite your certainty of holding a firm grip on the truth.
Could it be that you fail in that same space where you see fault in others? After all, we are but a mirror of ourselves. And yes, I sign up to that as well.
The society I live in is so far from perfect, I can't put it into words. Yet I try to love it, not hate it. Just as much as I try to love your society, or the non-observant Jewish society or the non Jewish society. My late, charedi Rebbe once said: as long as you hate as much as a dog, you can't even begin to progress spiritually. Don't hate, love.

shlomo hakohen said...

kol hakavod! but...

while everything you say is true, it is still just "preaching to the choir" - none of these arguments will make the slightest impression on the hareidi community, and they are the ones who must be convinced to change.

and it is important to change these absurd (and non-halakhic) practices, not just to conform to "modern" ideas like human rights, but because, by forbidding the permitted, they will permit the forbidden (such as terrorizing little girls), and that is hillul hashem.

kamagra said...

So bad until today they still discriminate women in their society, for them women are stayed in the house. Unfair for women their self-esteem is low because of this practice.

Aliza said...

While I agree with nearly everything you said, I object to the identification of "Haredim" as the perpetrators of this extreme gender marginalizing.

"Haredim" is a generalization. I have Haredi family and Haredi friends who do NOT ascribe to this extreme marginalization of women. In fact, in my circle of Haredi family and friends, the women are business professionals who comfortably interact with both sexes all day.

There are, indeed, extremist groups within Jewish ultra-Orthodoxy - as there are with most religions. They are the ones who ascribe to this separation, to these extreme restrictions on women. It is not mainstream Haredi practice to stick women in a closet, where they will neither be seen nor heard, to protect the sensibilities of the men in the community.

We need to stop blaming "The Haredim" for all the problems in the extremist groups. We need to speak loudly and strongly against this marginalization, and ensure that Jews and the world know this is NOT the mainstream Orthodox view, but we also need to ensure that innocent groups do not get blamed for the extreme viewpoints of the few.

Juan Thomaz said...

Thank you. Too bad the people who need to hear this aren't the ones who will read it.

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Joy said...

I agree with some of the things you said but I don't agree that it's fair to label all of charedi society like that because of some marginalized groups. To use those examples that were in the paper, a few incidents that I agree were completely wrong and infer that the charedim are like that is wrong in itself because most charedim are not like that. As someone who has been living in israel for more than 12 years and been both in the Charedi and Dati Leumi world you should know that in Israel people will take a few incidents and blow them up as if the society is like that and ONLY focus on that while ignoring a lot of normal, healthy charedi people who vehemently disagree with these incidents. I agree that people get very extreme but they are not representing charedi society as a whole.Charedim are guilty of that as well, pick on some parts of Modern Orthodox society and act as if everyone is like that. Yes there are things that need to be changed in the charedi world but all societies have things to change. Many Charedi women are very content and don't feel pushed further and further into the background, many have important roles in society as well, as anonymous explained however they may look at things differently. I don't think all charedim need to change, just some, and if people are a little more strict, you may also be stricter than others. And instead of putting down charedim as a whole and say they need to change maybe it's possible to focus on your own society and see what needs to be changed there.It's human nature to focus on the other's faults. And I do believe that men and women both have the obligation to keep a modest society and it's not just a burden on the men.It's true that if a person is dressed from head to toe if a man has a problem it won't matter but that does not mean a woman should not do her part and not dress modestly. And by the way, pedophilia happens in all societies and not only in Charedi society and there is nothing specifically in the charedi way of dress or customs that encourages more pedophilia and other sexual disorders, they are illness that have nothing to do with modesty or immodesty, or being overly modest.