Sunday, February 26, 2006

Damned if we do and damned if we don’t (part one)—the anecdotal evidence

I’m quoting these seemingly random readings in an effort to make a point, in the hope that their effect will be cumulative. So please stay with me through part three.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Bnei for the men, Braq for the women
"Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, the head of the central rabbinic court in Bnei Brak, is asking righteous women to kindly leave shul before the service is over for reasons of 'modesty.' "

One of my co-workers tells me that she won’t sing at all—not even z’mirot/Sabbath songs, a form of religious music—if any male(s) other than her grandfather, father, and/or brothers, is/are present.

Thirty-some years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for a Modern Orthodox man to sing in one of the Zamir Chorales, “mixed” Jewish choral groups (found, I believe, only in large American cities such as New York and Boston). Now, some of those same men, former Zamir Chorale singers, won’t even listen to the Zamir Chorale. (I read this somewhere [probably in Hadassah magazine some time ago].)

According to an article I read some time back, (probably that same Hadassah magazine article), it was once common for women in Modern Orthodox synagogues to sing prayers as loudly as they wished. Now, many women no longer feel free to do so.

Here’s more on that subject, from the comments to this Thursday, October 14, 2004 post:

PsychoToddler said...
I played a kumzitz [er, sing-along?] recently with my Rabbi. The men were arranged in seats to our right; the women to our left. The men sang all the songs with us; the women were silent. I kept trying to shake the feeling that I had water in my left ear. Somehow, I think we orthodox are missing something.
Fri Oct 15, 05:13:36 PM 2004

Renegade Rebbetzin said...
PsychoToddler -I'm not surprised that happened. I see it happen all the time, particularly at my Shabbos table, where I try to set an example by singing zemirot along with the men, and yet some of the women still stay silent! . . .
Sun Oct 17, 12:36:12 AM 2004

Shira Salamone said...
. . . PsychoToddler, you ain’t kiddin’ when you say the Orthodox are missing something when the women don’t sing—they’re missing half the Jewish people!
Sun Oct 17, 05:18:23 AM 2004

In his Sunday, October 17, 2004 post, “Ai du,” The Shaigetz discusses “. . . the separation of the sexes at weddings and functions now starting at the car park . . . ”:

“The late Rabbi Shlomo Baumgarten was the Rav of a yekkishe [German-Jewish] shul on the Hill and a great man. He would greet the ladies of the congregation, waiting to walk home with their cloven, with a polite Good Shabbes as he left the shul. With the Chassidisation of the Hill today, no Rav would risk being drummed out of town for that. . . .

I do not believe that the generations before us, where couples walked home from shul together, went together to sheva brachot and barmitzvas, that were celebrated at home and in rooms with no mechitza (partition wall between men and women), were more likely to cleave with the wrong mate than we who are so well insulated from any potential pitfalls. Nor do I believe that the reason five year old girls are no longer allowed to enter the men’s shul even on Simchat Torah is because there is a real problem of anyone being led astray by their good looks. I have never noticed any risk of cleavage with a five-year-old girl and if the strict segregation we practice leads to impure thoughts about kids then it might be high time we abolished either the rules or the kids.”

A word from this blogger: I have absolutely no idea where I read this, but some kind soul (male) was trying to explain to another kind soul (female) that she shouldn’t be upset if a man avoided inquiring as to her health and welfare, because he was simply trying to respect her modesty.

Saturday, January 07, 2006
the year in review
“the guys in my community were too frum to walk on the same side of the street on me or the opposite extreme, and i thought all guys were like that. you can imagine how alarmed i was when teachers talked to us about marriage. i just figured i'd be one of those spinsters who writes children's books and neatly avoid the whole unhappy scene.

no one ever talked to us about shomer negiah [see explanation here]. i guess they thought we would have laughed if they'd told us not to touch boys we couldn't have found if we wanted to, anyway.”

Voices from Our Side of the Curtain
Wednesday, April 13, 2005

“The F-Word”
“Don’t get me wrong. I think Tznius [modesty] is the best thing in the world for body image and woman’s sense of self-esteem. Except every teacher told me that the reason I had to wear long sleeves and skirts was because I didn’t want to cause inappropriate desires in a man. Because my body was a ticking time bomb, just waiting to explode and lead some man astray. Face it, my body was an act of sin waiting to happen. You have no idea how terrified I was of my own body. For years, I was afraid to even walk because my hips might twitch and send some guy the wrong message and then I would be the cause of impure thoughts. I’m still not fully comfortable in my own skin. I wondered about it. I wondered why G-d would give me a mitzvah [commandment] that was wholly dependent on someone else. Tznius didn’t make me a better person. It just made sure that men didn’t become worse people and I couldn’t think of a single mitzvah like that which applied to men.”

“Leaving Home”
“. . . suddenly, you get big and nothing’s allowed anymore. You grow these bumps on your chest and your legs get long and suddenly, you’re not allowed to walk the way you used to because you might turn some guy on. Suddenly, the male friends that you had when you were little are off limits, even though you’d sooner marry your brother than kiss one of them, and if you do talk to your guy friends, they call you a slut behind your back. Suddenly, the way you talk is too loud, your smile is too sexy, and your body is too shapely. Quick, whisper, stop smiling, cover your body with burkahs. It’s not proper to be who you are.”

Please read parts two and three. I am trying to make a point, but there’s far too much material for me to include in just one post.



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