Thursday, June 30, 2011

That Is, Frankly, A Lie

“However, this is just how they roll”. Oh how very enlightened and tolerant. “They didn’t Photoshop Ms. Clinton out out of a fear of strong women or desire to hide women, but for the sake of keeping their religion to the fullest extent.” The two are the same. Their religion, as they practice it, precludes strong women and requires the hiding of women. Also, it would behoove you to note that while Avi Weiss ordained Sara Hurwitz, he also announced he would never give another woman the title Rabba - and practically every single orthodox figure and organization denounced even that one deviation. And that’s “Modern Orthodox”. Not even talking about old school orthodox (hassidic and litvak). Sure, strong women exist even in the darkest societies - including some way darker than orthodox Judaism. But to say that Orthodox Judaism and Feminism are not incompatible is, frankly, a lie. So by all means, reconcile your own personal spirituality with feminism, but don’t be an apologist.

I found the above comment in my moderation folder on my cross-post to the All Girl Army, where I addressed the whole Hillary Clinton Haredi newspaper Photoshop incident. (You can read the article here, which I suggest you do before reading the rest of this article.)

When I saw the comment, I was more than a little upset, which is why I did not let it through. (The commenter later commented “Interesting. I spent time and thought replying to your post, but I guess having a conversation isn’t why you have a blog. Enjoy then!”) But no, I want to have a conversation. I want to give the person who feels like this a response, but I wanted to dedicate a whole post to it rather than giving him or her a short response in a comment box.

To go in the commenter’s order, I’ll address the whole Clinton Photoshop incident first. I didn’t want to write about it originally, since I felt that it was an embarrassment to the Jewish community, and I didn’t want to further the hillul Hashem (desecration of God). However, I wanted to address it on the All Girl Army in order to dispel the “Judaism is sexist” myth.

All Jews, both male and female, keep tzniut, modesty in dress. (See my interview with Gila Manolson about this.) How exactly to dress varies from one sect to another. For example, Modern Orthodox Jews will wear vibrant colors and patterns; ultra-Orthodox Jews like Hasids usually don’t wear colors, staying confined to black, navy, brown, gray, and white. Part (note: not all) of the reasoning behind tzniut is to protect men from being turned on by women who are not their wives. As a result, Hasidic men go to the extreme to keep this from happening, and avoid looking at pictures of women. This is why the Hasidic newspaper Photoshopped Hillary Clinton out. Do I think that this is a ridiculous way to keep Judaism? Of course. But as I stated in my original article, that’s why I’m not a Hasid. Also stated previously, I don’t want to defend the newspaper for doing this, I just want to explain why they did it.

Now to discuss Sara Hurwitz and women rabbis. In the original article, I used Sara Hurwitz as an example; I could have used women like Rachel Kohl Finegold, Dina Najman, or Lynn Kaye just as easily. Yes, Rabbi Avi Weiss has been banned from ordaining more women with the title rabba, and Sara Hurwitz will remain the only official one. Honestly, that’s not important. As I said in my original article, there are many more women in Jewish leadership who are not rabbas. The title isn’t important. What they do is what matters. So if the Orthodox community doesn’t want to call them rabbis or actually ordain them, sure, don’t. But they’re still standing in synagogues and giving sermons and helping women and men of their communities connect to God, and that’s all that matters.

“But to say that Orthodox Judaism and Feminism are not incompatible is, frankly, a lie.” Not only did that part of the comment make me really mad, but that is, frankly, a lie. I’ve given many examples of how Orthodoxy/Judaism and the Torah support feminism, and there are millions more. I don’t even feel the need to give explanations for how the two mesh; I’ve talked about it before. I know it’s the truth. I know nothing about this commenter except for the fact that he or she is wrong. I’m not an apologist. I’m just telling the truth. And if people don’t want to accept that, then I feel bad for them. They will live in a world filled with inequality. So be it, if that's how they want to live. But it sure as heck ain't the way I want to.

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