Thursday, 12 February 2015

049) Writing Women Out Of Judaism

When 44 world leaders marched in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, an ultra-Orthodox newspaper, HaMevasser, reported on the event. The problem was that there were now only 40 leaders because 4 had been photoshopped out of the picture. Why? -Because they were women.[1]

Spot the difference between the first picture as seen through the real lens of a camera, and the second picture, as depicted in HaMevasser:

             A similar thing happened to Hilary Clinton who was also removed from a photograph taken during the Bin Laden mission, by an American Chassidic newspaper, Der Zeitung:  

Ironically in all these pictures the women were dressed very modestly with coats and jackets, but still, it seems as if the editors were less concerned with Geneivas Da’as (deceit), and more concerned with, totally obliterating women from the public arena.[2]

In a brilliantly jarring article, Shoshana Jaskoll writes:

“Do I care if an insular community, in their own place and tiny publications omit women? Yes I do; but I would not be writing about it if it remained within said small community. Instead it is spreading...
In some communities, women’s names are not printed. Not in publications and not in announcements such as wedding invitations.
A baby formula even stopped printing an outline of a mother holding her baby.
(...words like “breast cancer” are not used in Charedi society...Because of this extreme take on modesty, women are less aware, get fewer mammograms...The rate of death from breast cancer is estimated at 30 percent higher among Charedi women...Excluding women from health pamphlets, both as doctors and as patients, can only exacerbate this phenomenon.)
A (recent) book depicts a Shabbat table – completely female free. The entire book dedicated to the Shabbat, a day of family and Torah, is devoid of even one girl or woman. Where is Ima??
My preteen daughters were told to go to the back of the bus on their way home from school. Extremism seeps outward.
Beyond the damage it does to boys. Beyond the damage it does to girls. Beyond the damage it does to a healthy society where respect, interaction and balance between genders should be the norm. Beyond all of this – it is a is a LIE.”[3]

On the shelves of a shop featured below, the female has been covered over with a piece of paper:

Remember the iconic picture below? This is how the ultra-Orthodox weekly Bakehila (re)printed the photo, blurring out the face of the Jewish women:

Amazingly, we are quick to say ‘yemach shemam’ (may their memory be blotted out) when we speak of the Nazis. But now we print Nazis and blot out Jewish women. [4]

The great strength of the Kotzker Rebbe was his fearless ability to always stand for truth. He spoke out against so many things he believed to be wrong with the  Judaism of his day. I could never, even in my wildest moments of religious fervour, ever believe that this position on women is truthful Judaism. Keeping quiet and not registering opposition, allows the deception to perpetuate itself. Were that to happen, we would have written in new innovations that are nothing other than reforms... and have written women completely out of Judaism.

The Kotzker Rebbe wrote extensively against religious fanaticism, which was rapidly becoming prevalent in the mid 1800’s.[5] (He passed away in 1859). He said; “There will come a time when those who dress in white garb (i.e. the extremists), will need all the help they can get, to prevent them from turning to a distortion of Judaism”.[6]

[1] The four women were German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, EU foreign affairs and security chief Frederica Mogherini, and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt (who was cropped and only her hand remains in the altered photograph).
[2]It needs to be pointed out that not all Chareidim buy into this new trend of writing women out of Judaism. Unfortunately the term ‘Chareidi’ is very misleading.  I wish we would come up with another designation for the extreme ultra-Orthodox, to differentiate between them and the centralists. See a very balanced article; “Who are THE Chareidim?” by Ronit Peskin, Times of Israel May 22, 2013. Nevertheless, there does seem to be a gradual leaning towards the right, with many centralists tacitly endorsing some of the sentiments of their far-right counterparts.
[3] See full article; ‘Vanishing Women’, Times of Israel January 20, 2015.
[4] See Kotzk Blogs 42 “What They Forget To Tell Us”, for more examples of censorship by the ultra-Orthodox.
[5] See Kotzk Blogs 41 “The Reforms Of The Ultra-Orthodox”, for a short history of the rise of the ultra-Orthodox.
[6] Amud HaEmet p 187, par 3.