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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776
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Lakewood Girls School under Attack for Controversial Letter on Modesty

A "wonderful, diverse group of Camp Sdei Chemed girls" being both modest and cute.

A "wonderful, diverse group of Camp Sdei Chemed girls" being both modest and cute.
Photo Credit: David Teitelbaum

She said that the letter was the “exact opposite of what the school represents.”

A third woman identifying herself as an employee of the school and a parent with her daughter in the sixth grade said that the school maintains a positive attitude towards the laws of modesty.

“You don’t know the principal who has given the message of tzniyut in a beautiful way with song and dance,” she said, before describing a gathering the school has called “The Tzniyut Assembly.” She also said that tzniyut and the laws of modesty have been a focus of the school for several years.

“This is what the students like the best,” she said.

The woman, who declined to give her name, explained that she had no jurisdiction to speak of in the school but added that the public posting, out of context, was really “slander.”

Another woman claiming to be the English principal said that “nothing’s going on. It’s ours school’s issue and we don’t want to talk to you about it. You’re digging into stuff. You’re not trying to help the Jewish nation.”

One visitor to the Lakewood View post defended the letter, saying: “Am I missing something? Is there something wrong with teaching children about s’char v’onesh (reward and punishment)? Do you not believe in it? When should yiras shomayim (fear of Heaven) be instilled in kids?”

Gila Manolson, author of “The Magic Touch” and “Outside/Inside: A Fresh Look at Tzniyut,” and an occasional contributor to The Jewish Press, said that while “It’s appropriate for children to learn that there is s’char v’onesh (reward and punishment), they are far more likely to love God and Torah if the beauty of Judaism is emphasized rather than the fear of Gehinnom.”

Others say the letter is indicative of a specific type of teaching.

“This form of chinuch (education) – maybe it worked in some other age – I don’t know, It doesn’t work now,” commented Allison Josephs, who runs the blog “A Jew in the City.”

She said that the people who find her blog tend to be those who are no longer religious because “of the joyless, strict Judaism that was presented to them.”

Dovid Teitelbaum concluded his blog post saying that “Your letter might force some girls into wearing a longer skirt, but they will be doing it out of hate and intimidation, and once they get older and you have no more control over them, their skirts are going to get shorter,” if not worse.

He illustrated his blog post with a picture of modestly-dressed high school girls, their skirts down to their knees and their elbows covered, smiling against a desert background. We borrowed it for this article, too.

Michael Orbach

About the Author: Michael Orbach is the Senior New York Correspondent for JewishPress.com. His work has appeared in the JTA, The Forward, The Jewish Week and Tablet. He was previously the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Star newspaper in Long Island. He is finishing up a novel.

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