Readers’ divergent views regarding (the lack of) tznius: Tolerance versus Tongue-Lashing
I have been reading your column for years and have learned much from the challenges that people face and the advice that you and other readers offer. Over the last several weeks, I have been quite disturbed by the tone that some of your readers have adopted — from the letter writer of “Community (lack of) values” who made sweeping judgments without knowing her neighbors’ motivations, to her responders (some of) who were vicious, without giving any thought to what the young lady might have been dealing with.
Attacks were ridiculously levied against an entire Jewish community based on a few or even many anecdotal incidents, with writers suggesting that all of New York’s Jewish citizens are rude and unkind.
Then, just as the issue quieted down, along comes the judgmental indictment of “For shame!” For shame, indeed; again, an indictment of an entire group of people without knowing anything about them. How does the writer know what these women have gone through in their lives? Maybe they fight the yetzer hora of tznius with every ounce of their free will and are doing the best they can. Until we’ve experienced everything that they’ve experienced in their lives, how can we judge them?
I would hope to see the writers to your column return to trying to help people rather than trying to belittle them. We each have a unique set of challenges that Hashem has custom tailored for us, for our own good. No one can fully (if at all) understand the challenges faced by another. Let’s try to focus on overcoming our own tribulations and provide comfort and encouragement to others, rather than give ourselves a false sense of superiority by condemning those we know nothing about.
Remove Din, Be Empathetic!
The conflicts and disagreements sparked by the issue of tznius turn it into an endless and painful debate.
While it may be true that in today’s Jewish society some women may be a bit more lax in their tznius or more affected by the fashion trends all around us, I take offense at giving validity to a letter writer with such obvious anger and hate, a person who completely represents the antithesis of what a Jewish person’s middos should be.
For whatever reason, the letter writer is extremely angry about something. I cannot fathom how women who want to dress stylishly and beautifully can cause so much animosity, unless a) this is an extremely jealous woman whose husband is not showing any interest in her, or b) this is an extremely frustrated man whose wife makes no effort to be attractive for him.
The last paragraph, “It is my wish that these women will one day be given the cold shoulder and be made to feel unwelcome…” put me over the edge. The writer is not even ashamed of his/her blatant sinas chinom and sadistic urge to cause another Jew pain.
I am a beautiful, frum, spiritual Jewish woman who always felt judged and ostracized by the chareidi community from the time I was in high school. I have struggled with my self-esteem and always felt inferior religiously because I love fashion and dress myself well. May Hashem bless us to have peace with one another instead of trying to change everyone else, and to have the achdus needed to bring Moshiach!
A Fashion Isha
The anger that was so evident in a reader’s letter in your column on tznius did not shock me in the least. In fact, her frustration is shared by too many of us whose parental roles are challenging enough in today’s climate of moral corruption without having to explain to our innocents why the married woman next door wears her snood halfway down the back of her head with her naked arms visible through her transparent blouse.
While it is true (as you pointed out in your response) that we have a responsibility to one another, you must also be aware that, as a rule, others don’t take kindly to unsolicited advice, especially when it is more convenient to go about life with their heads buried in the sand (as opposed to facing the truth).
This is where your column, known for its outspokenness, plays an important role. Rachel, please don’t stop setting people straight by telling it like it is. You have the advantage of reaching out to thousands of readers, a privilege not granted to many and not to be taken lightly.
A grateful reader
I am sure not too many readers took For Shame’s letter sitting down and were plenty miffed at her strong words of condemnation. The sad truth is that while this generation has seen a tremendous baal teshuvah movement, there are far too many women/girls in our orthodox circles who seem to be completely oblivious to the laws of tznius and the repercussions of flaunting them.
I, for one, applaud the reader’s gutsy stand on such a vital matter. Hers may be a lone voice in the wilderness, but I hear it as a cry of pain and a championing of G-d’s word.
Rachel, it’s time to take a tough stand on an issue that in the long and short of it affects all of us.
Make no apologies
* * * * *
We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.