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September 15, 2014 / 20 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘satmer’

A Hasidic Role Model

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

First let me congratulate Mrs. Rachel (Ruchie) Freier for her many great personal achievements and contributions to both Judaism and the world at large. I honor and respect both her life choices and her values, many of which I am sure we share – including the primacy in her life of motherhood. But I have to say that I think her article in the Forward is a bit misleading.

Here’s the beginning of the article:

On Monday on the Forward, Judy Brown shared her perspective on motherhood, based on her experience in the Hasidic community that she left. Now, I’d like to share my perspective on motherhood from within the Hasidic community of Boro Park. Having children was always important to me and I chose to remain steadfast to Haredi ideology while pursuing a law degree and then maintaining a law practice without compromising my role as a yidishe momme to my children.

Would that her lifestyle was that of the typical Hasidic woman in enclaves such as Williamsburg. My guess is that this is far from the case.

I am not God forbid saying that the lives of these Hasidic women have no value. Quite the contrary. I believe they have great value in being mothers to their children and wives to their husbands. And I am equally sure that many of them have jobs. Some may even be professionals – like Mrs. Freier – but that would by far be the exception.

College is in most cases forbidden to Satmar and like minded Hasidim. I don’t know what kind of Hasidus Mrs. Freier belongs to, but I am all but certain it is not hard-core Satmar or similar – which I believe comprise the vast majority of Hasidim in the world.

Mrs. Freier’s article was written in response to Judy Brown’s article expressing a different view of motherhood than that which is typical of the Hasidic world. As most people know, Mrs. Brown is the author of Hush – a devastating indictment of Hasidic community in which she was raised with respect to the way they treat sex in general, sex abuse, and its victims. Although she is still observant – she has long since left that community to find herself. And she has written a series of critical articles about the world of her upbringing. That was the case with her latest article in the Forward.

Mrs. Brown wrote about the pain and anguish of having an unwanted pregnancy in a world where such thoughts are verboten! Mrs. Brown actually had such an experience. As did a friend of hers that had some devastating results. But she also shares the regret she felt at the relief of that burden when she miscarried late into her own pregnancy. A regret she had after being shown a picture of the dead fetus she gave birth to.

She now says she now lives with that pain. The point made in that article is that her former community does not understand the damage they do with such extreme attitudes about pregnancies and birth control. At the same time she expressed her own maternal instincts as over-riding any such pain in her own life.

Mrs. Freir does not actually contradict what Mrs. Brown said. She just wanted to emphasize that the Hasidic upbringing she experienced and the values it taught her are the values she lives with and honors – even while being a professional. Despite her success, her profession does not define her. Motherhood does. That is the value she learned from her parents, grandparents, and teachers. It is her children that makes her life complete, not her profession.

I have absolutely no problem with that. In fact I agree that the institution of motherhood that Judaism places primary focus upon for a woman is the most important thing a woman can do. But as is obvious from Mrs. Freier herself, it is not the only thing a woman can do. Just like men, they can walk and chew gum at the same time. Having a career and being a full time mother is not a contradiction in terms. One can do both quite successfully.

My problem with this article is that it presents a false image of the majority of Hasidic women. One might conclude from this article that many woman in Williamsburg have professional degrees… or at least have attended college. And that Mrs. Freier is but one example of that.

Tznius Squads: Can This Really be Judaism?

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

I’m sorry. I just can’t believe this is Yiddishkeit. No matter how tolerant I try to be, I can’t believe that customs (like those described in a Forward article) found among Chasidic sects like Satmar and Ger have even the remotest connection to Judaism. I simply do not believe that this is how God wants His people to behave.

I know that I have preached tolerance and acceptance of all Jews. I still do. And I still believe in Achdus in the sense of respecting the Hashkafos and customs of others. The above-mentioned Chasidic sects have every right to believe as they wish.But when those beliefs translate into actions that are harmful – like their Vaad HaTznius (modesty squads) or the events that have taken place with respect to the Weberman trial, then I don’t believe for a minute that they have anything to do with Judaism. I sometimes wonder if even the majority of the people in these Chasidic communities really believe in them in their heart of hearts.

These were the thoughts that came rushing into my head once again as I read the Forward article. The bullying and strong-arm tactics of Williamsburg’s Tznius squads were described at theWeberman trial. Not only is that an abhorrent misuse of power and a mistaken perception of what modesty in Judaism is all about, I think it actually degrades an individual’s humanity to insist on such extremes.

I still find it shocking that something like a Tznius squad exists and operates with impunity. What I do not find shocking is the fact that the people who are on these ‘squads’ are what my father used to call Leidik-Geyers – people who have nothing to do with their time. Of which they have a plenty since Williamsburg has plenty of residents that do not work. But… what kind of people constitute the Tznius squad is a side issue.

I’m sorry. This is not Judaism. It doesn’t matter that the Tznius squad is sourced in the Rambam as the writer of the Forward article explains. The Rambam was describing another scenario and I doubt that any extension of his ideas would have included the establishment of a Tznius Squad.
There is another thing described in that article has to be the most ridiculous nonsense I can imagine. It is the idea that a husband and wife are not buried together in their cemeteries. There is actually a separation of the sexes in the grave. I kid you not.

I mean… what are they afraid will happen? Do they think this will lead to the 2 corpses sleeping together? And even if they did, they were married for Pete’s sake! And no one would see them anyway because… they’re buried! How far can they take these Tznius concepts before even their own people start laughing at them?

How in heaven’s named can anyone ever really buy into this practice? And yet it seems that hundreds of thousands of people do. I cannot for the life of me figure out why. Are such customs worth the ridicule they bring upon Orthodox Jewry from the rest of the world?

I know, I know… I just said a moment ago that I accept their Hashkafos as legitimate even if I don’t agree with them. I do. I accept for example their stated reasons for opposing the State of Israel. I accept their heightened sense of modesty. And I applaud all the good works they are famous for. What I do not accept is the harmful behavior of some of them; those among them who insist on imposing their will upon others; and upon further reflection – questionable customs that would bring ridicule upon us.

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Religious Pluralism Within Orthodoxy

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Gil Student’s recent review of a book about Orthodox pluralism (R. Yisroel Miller’s In Search of Torah Wisdom: Questions You Forgot to Ask Your Rebbi) got me thinking about my own view on this subject.

Pluralism begets unity or Achdus.

There are different kinds of Achdus. We can be bonded by a wide variety of commonalities. We can all be united as human beings. There is also a sense of unity that we should feel as a people regardless of our ideology.

It is also legitimate to speak of unity within a defined segment of Judaism. Indeed even within segments there is a sense of unity that is often eluded. There can for example be a right and left even within Religious Zionism.

I have always sought to unite all of Orthodoxy. This includes even Satmar Chasidim, and the right wing Yeshiva world on the right – all the way to Left Wing Modern Orthodox (LWMO) movements represented by people like Rabbi Avi Wiess and his Yeshiva, YCT. The common bond being belief in the Torah and adherence to Halacha.

One may wonder about this considering my recent very harsh criticism of Satmar. Or my occasional strong criticism of some of innovations of the left – like the attempt to ordain women. Or my strong criticism of price tag raids by settler movements (consisting of extremist Religious Zionists) in Israel. The fact is that my criticism remains but it does not contradict my belief in a pluralistic Orthodoxy.

I disagree with the ideology of those to my right and my left. But I respect them all in the sense of Elu V’Elu. For example, I understand the Satmar objection to the existence of the State of Israel. It is based on the how Satmar interprets passages in the Gemarah. I have no problem with those who have this Hashkafa.

Nor do I have a problem with the belief of those religious Zionists who believe that we must settle all the land of Israel; that it is Halachically forbidden to cede an inch of the holy land that is now in our hands; and that we must risk our very lives to retain it. That is based on interpretations of Halacha.

Even though I disagree with both of those positions, I respect them. My only problem is when they act on them in ways that impinge on the rights of others or create a Chilul HaShem. It is trying to impose one’s religious values upon others that upsets me. Not the ideologies themselves. Ideologies, yes. Bad behavior, no.

Achdus, unity, or pluralism is not about agreement. It is about tolerance and acceptance… and the humility to understand and accept that we might just be wrong and someone else might be right.

This does not mean that one has to be apologetic about one’s strongly held views. One can argue his views with those of different Hashkafos and try and convince them of the rectitude of their own. Perfectly legitimate. I would even go a step further that if one has strongly held beliefs one ought to be able to make the case for them to a friend with different ideologies. At the same time, one must respect he views of others even if you think they are wrong. They too have thought things through and have arrived at a different conclusion that you have. In other words it is all about respecting the wisdom of others even when disagreeing with them.

On this level I respect the Hashkafos of Haredi thinkers. And I respect the Hashkafos of LWMO thinkers even though I disagree with them and agree with Centrist thinkers. Elu V’Elu is what it’s all about for me. My harsh criticism is reserved for extremist behavior that is a result of those Hashkafos – even if it is from my own.

Many in the Satmar community’s behavior with respect to sex abuse or right wing Religious Zionist settler behavior that results in a Chilul HaShem will raise my hackles every single time. Not the beliefs that generate them. One can be a principled pluralist – to use Gil’s expression – without rejecting the Hashkafos of others. There is no need to try and reconcile such wildly disparate views.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/religious-pluralism-within-orthodoxy/2012/12/24/

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