Rabbi Ralph Genende issued an opinion (hat tip to Ezra May) about Di Tzeitung’s photoshopping of women in an uncelebrated manner. There is a way to criticise this Satmar newspaper but Rabbi Genende has not simply sought to do that. Rabbi Genende has used this as an opportunity to trumpet modern orthodoxy and contrast it with ultra orthodoxy.
Let’s look at how he made his arguments, and ask some questions.
While modern Orthodoxy has long-championed the greater inclusion of women in Jewish public life, the Chareidi (ultra-Orthodox) world still struggles with, if not out rightly rejects.
In what way do Charedim struggle with the inclusion of women? My observation is that each group within the Charedi world has their own halachic interpretation which they pursue.
In what way are the modern Orthodox championing inclusion of women? The Rav forbade the inclusion of women on Synagogue boards and the RCA issued their displeasure with Rabbi Avi Weiss’ attempts to ordain women.
they don’t have the right to impose this on others as the “Torah-true way”
In context, only readers of their paper are ‘forced’ to see this picture through their lenses. Is that not their free choice?
I do have a problem with their zealotry, their conviction that they have the G-d given right to make women sit at the back of the bus or pressure them to move out of their allotted seats on an El AL plane because they don’t want to sit next to them.
I agree that women on a public bus should not be forced to move, but is this because of a lack of respect for women per se? I would have thought it was all about separation of sexes. I suspect that they would drag a man from the women’s section if he wandered over there.
More to the point, what has this to do with Di Tzeitung’s editorial policy unless one is simply trying to make the facile point that if they are extreme with one thing they must be extreme with others. Is Rabbi Genende implying that all those who choose not to publish pictures of women push women to the back of buses? Clearly that’s not the case.
To airbrush out pictures of women (which is done regularly not only in Di Tzeitung but also in other Chareidi publications) is a distortion of the truth which in Halacha is called gneivat da’at (being deceitful) and midvar sheker tirchak (keep away from falsehood).
How so? It is Gneivas Daas or Sheker if there is an expectation that they do not airbrush woman out of pictures. Is Rabbi Genende seriously suggesting that the readership of these papers is not aware of the editorial policy to do so? Come now.
The readership of the Tzeitung believe that women should be appreciated for who they are and what they do, not for what they look like”. I am not assured by this because the Tzeitung producers and readers are ‘fine-print’ shmekkers; they often focus on the most stringent minutiae of Halachik practise
So the implication is that anyone who aspires, as policy, to be a so-called בעל נפש must be telling a lie if they miss the fine print? Maybe yes, maybe no, but how does Rabbi Genende know?
Equally, it is sciolistic to suppose that the difference between Charedim and modern orthodox relates to the fine print. Is Rabbi Genende aware, for example, that the Rav, as scion of Brisk acted in Psak in a manner which tried to accommodate all opinions! Is this the difference between Charedim and Modern Orthodox? I think not. Was Rav Hirsch dismissive of the fine print? What about the Sridei Eish?
And I am not assured by their reverence for what women do because this is usually restricted to a very narrow area
Is Rabbi Genende now questioning the appreciation of all Charedim for their wives because their lives are less outward and worldly (in his parlance narrow) than his? What sociological study is he leaning on to support this assertion?
More worrying is the attitude of a large segment of the Chareidi world towards women and modesty in general. A group of Chareidi women and girls in Bet Shemesh have begun to wear Muslim garb covering their whole body (including their heads and faces) with rabbinic approval.
We are all aware of this radical group. We are also all aware that they have also been condemned by Charedim. What license did Rabbi Genende use to define this phenomena as a large segment. Is he engaging in hyperbole to push his own barrow?
There is an increasing tending in the Orthodox world to separate the sexes at schools, weddings, funerals and shule events. This was not the norm in the Orthodox world in the past.
Rabbi Genende has now moved from Charedi and Modern Orthodox to “Orthodox” in general. Do his claims stack up? Orthodox Schools were always segregated. Even the Rav who allowed it at Maimonides felt that once that community was able, that males and females should learn Torah in separate classes. On weddings, I’m not sure how this practice has increased in vacuo. Is Rabbi Genende also claiming that the level of immodesty has stayed constant during time? It has not. The levels of Tzniyus in clothing has greatly decreased over time. Indeed, the Rav refused to perform a wedding for a Chasan who was not wearing a hat, and did not perform weddings when the Kallah was wearing a plunging neck line etc. Once when the Rav was caught out performing Siddur Kiddushin for a bride who was immodestly dressed, the story is related that he kept asking for a bigger and biggur siddur until he was unable to see the Kallah past the siddur! There are also explicit sources which forbid the mingling of genders during funerals, including the Shura.
While modest, respectful, appropriate behaviour between men and women is what the Torah expects, it does not expect a total separation of the sexes.
Rabbi Genende is entitled to his opinion, but I’m not sure why he thinks he is entitled and they are not entitled to follow a contrary view?
As the wise rabbis of Pirkei Avot advised long ago: “Be careful with your words”.
I agree with this 🙂
Let us in the modern-Orthodox world encourage them to be more inclusive in their ways and views. You need fences for protection but you also need gateways and openings so that you can grow and move freely in Hashem’s varied and colourful world.
I am not sure if Rabbi Genende speaks for modern Orthodoxy, but I don’t see his article as encouragement! Nay, he is playing to his audience; his congregation.
Disclaimer: Let me be clear that I do think that what Di Tzeitung did was careless and gross and lacked an awareness of the world, but I do not agree with using this as a platform to bash and/or push one’s own barrow; something I contend is what Rabbi Genende achieved with his article.