Wednesday, August 04, 2010

An apology, and a course correction

I've been taken to task of late for both "Orthodox bashing" and being too judgmental concerning my fellow and sister Conservative Jews. I've always prided myself on writing respectfully, and regret that I have not been as successful at maintaining a diplomatic tone in recent months.

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I was honestly surprised by the complaint that I've stereotyped Modern Orthodox Jews and attempted to fit them into my pre-conceived mold. I will endeavor to listen more and talk less.

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One specific complaint was that I did not properly appreciate the "Jackie Robinson"--first of one's kind--aspect of Rabbah Hurwitz's position as the world's first rabbah as it related to the question of the degree of modesty of her manner of dress. (See my "role model" post.) I received an e-mailed response to that complaint from a Modern Orthodox Jew who had polled some of her MO friends--including rabbis--about whether it's truly necessary for Rabbah Hurwitz to cover all of her hair, and found that "they were of the opinion, "as long as it's within the bounds of halacha why should people care". " In all honesty, I'm undecided on this issue, as I truly believe that this is a classic case of both sides being right. But I do understand the concerns of those who sincerely believe that Rabbah Hurwitz may be undermining her own authority by not following the most stringent interpretation of the laws of modest dress. As Miami Al commented on the "role model" post, "Sometimes, we deal with what is, not what should be." "What is" is that many Orthodox Jews will hold Rabbah Hurwitz to a higher standard, fairly or not. As JDub commented, "leaders of the community should not be publicly using such leniencies." I tip my hat to my very-persuasive commenters, who have really forced me to rethink my position on this issue.

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(The same correspondent protested against a Modern Orthodox commenter's characterization of Modern Orthodox Jews as not very "intellectually rigorous," asserting that that, too, is a stereotype.)

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I was quite stunned that JDub considered my "Woman leads Kabbalat Shabbat" post an example of Orthodox-bashing. I had actually thought that I was being complimentary. In retrospect, I will grant you that I was writing from the perspective of an egalitarian Conservative Jew. Nevertheless, I daresay that one or two of my other recent posts skated a lot closer to the edge of diplomatic writing, so I was surprised that he chose that particular post to get mad about.

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For the record, I do believe that both Miami Al and JDub were right--it was too soon for Rabbi Weiss to make another controversial move. Thank you for helping me see this issue from an insider's perspective.

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Two e-mails sent by two different Modern Orthodox readers (from two different cities) turned out to be related. One correspondent explained that the problem is not that right-of-Centrist Orthodox men are woman-haters, but, rather, that it simply isn't part of their worldview to take into account the concerns and perspectives of women. Another correspondent suggested that I'm simply paying too much attention to the writing of people with such a narrow perspective. She may have a point, in that I tend to be sensitive—perhaps too sensitive—to the tendency of some right-of-Centrist Orthodox men to either misunderstand or completely ignore my comments on matters that are of direct concern to women, and this has been reflected in my recent more negative writing. (Right-of-Centrist? Right-wing? Please pardon the usual difficulties that I have, as someone who's never been Orthodox, in understanding the finer nuances of the Orthodox "observance spectrum," which I probably didn't get quite right in the linked post.) Much as I hate to say it, I might be less inclined to write in a negative manner if I simply avoid reading posts concerning women’s issues written by right-of-Centrist Orthodox men. I confess that I find it extremely difficult to keep an open mind and/or be diplomatic when I feel that women’s concerns and perspectives are being systematically dismissed as irrelevant.

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On the other hand, I've quoted several times in the past from a post by the British Chassidic self-described "Shaigetz": "Ai du" is a humor-infused complaint about what he sees as the excessive separation of men and women.

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I will try to return my blog to its earlier civility and open-mindedness, and to take into consideration the fact that I know more about my own Conservative crew than I understand about the opinions and workings of the Orthodox world. Thank you for your patience, and I sincerely hope that you will remain my readers.


Anonymous rivkayael said...

Shira, you are a much better person than I have my admiration.

Wed Aug 04, 05:08:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Miami Al said...


That is an extremely admirable post and very touching. I hope you continue to blog. I have really enjoyed your blog, and like Jdub, was less than enthused at the direction you've been taking things.

Stay away from the RWMO side of the fence, it won't make any sense to you, and is just so outside your frame of reference, you'll just get irritated with the process.

Wed Aug 04, 06:05:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Miami Al said...

Just FYI, as an example, in your Hurwitz hair covering post, you wrote, "You don't have to dress like a Satmar Chassid to be tzanua/modest."

Now, to MO Jews that try to balance modernity with modesty, can you see how that would be offensive? The idea that anything to the right of LWMO is "Satmar Chassid" (beyond a gender issue in the Hebrew/Yiddish, you normally aren't sloppy there)...

The Satmar comments is being flung as a slur, and used to slur observance. That's the "Orthodox baiting" that you're engaging in.

Wed Aug 04, 11:58:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

" . . . can you see how that would be offensive? The idea that anything to the right of LWMO is "Satmar Chassid" (beyond a gender issue in the Hebrew/Yiddish, you normally aren't sloppy there)..." [Er, Chassidit?]

The Satmar comments is being flung as a slur, and used to slur observance.."

You have a point. I think that, until recently, I made more of an effort to express myself without causing offense. I didn't always succeed, but that's the standard to which I intend to return.

Thu Aug 05, 12:35:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Colleen said...

I read your post about fellow conservative Jews and as another conservative Jew I think that conservative Jews that do not follow the laws of shabbat should not violate the laws in shul. They should be respectful of those who observe shabbat as well as the established rituals of the shul.

Thu Aug 05, 02:06:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Colleen, I agree, but I think that some education and/or rules are needed, since it seems clear that some non-Orthodox Jews simply don't understand the halachic issues.

Thu Aug 05, 06:08:00 PM 2010  

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