Against Erasure of Jewish Women and Girls
I am writing to applaud The Jewish Press on its practice of including photographs and illustrations of women and girls to the same extent that it depicts men and boys in its content and advertising.
In recent years, too many Orthodox Jewish publications (newspapers, magazines, books, and websites) have unfortunately erased women and girls. Sometimes they have digitally removed public female figures – including high-ranking politicians like Hillary Clinton as secretary of state – from photographs in which they appear, even if the women are at the center of an accompanying news story. In other instances, photographs are published with the women in them pixelated, thereby covering the women’s faces or forms. Sometimes, girl dolls have stood in for girls in advertisements, placing these dolls alongside human boy models. Women are also at times depicted with inanimate objects instead of with their photograph or likeness. There have also been recent examples of some Orthodox Jewish schools blacking out drawings of women as well as the word “girl” from secular textbooks they use.
Why are these erasures taking place? The publications that remove women and girls from photographs and illustrations tend to have a general policy not to publish any pictures of women and girls because they could be considered suggestive and run counter to their understanding of Jewish modesty. Even so, they often insist that they are not disparaging women and girls in adopting such a policy.
Erasing girls and women from Orthodox Jewish media is harmful to women and girls and to Jewish society more broadly. By leaving women unable to promote themselves effectively (or by depicting them as inanimate objects), their reach is limited and women are financially disadvantaged. Erasure also makes it harder, if not impossible, for women to serve as the role models they can be. Moreover, the erasure of girls and women undermines their dignity by treating them as lesser than boys and men, who are not similarly erased. And erasure objectifies girls and women by underscoring that they ought to be and are seen only as sexual objects and must therefore be erased. Beyond harming girls and women in the Orthodox Jewish community, erasure negatively affects how boys and men view and treat girls and women too.
For these reasons and more, the Jewish organization Chochmat Nashim advocates against the erasure of women. To help address the problem of erasure, the group has created the Jewish Life Photo Bank, which contains photos of Jewish girls and women in all aspects of life, and asks Jewish media organizations to un-erase girls and women by using photos from this repository.
Chochmat Nashim and others emphasize that women have historically been depicted in Orthodox Jewish media and this erasure is a modern trend disconnected from religious observance. In this regard, Judaism has no gender, and with continued support, girls and women will hopefully be depicted in their lives as freely and naturally as boys and men. Thank you to The Jewish Press for depicting all!
New York, N.Y.
No Whitewash, Please
Prof. Michael Berenbaum wrote a lengthy review of the Ken Burns Holocaust documentary, but in his very informed commentary he unfortunately discounts the failures of two prominent figures: FDR had been a typical WASP antisemite as governor (1929-1932) of New York, and remained so; Stephen Wise, a major Reform figure, elected not to even mention the Nazi persecutions in his 1942 Yom Kippur address. This address was attended by major newspaper and other media, yet this forum was not put to any purpose of trying to save the many remaining Jews in Eastern Europe.
These two, among so many others, and especially the U.S. State Department (yemach shemam v’zichram), willfully ignored the plight of the Jews when many could still have been saved. Let’s not rehabilitate any of these players in any way.
Samuel M Salamon, MD FRCSC FACS
The True Origins of the Holocaust
Regarding the Berenbaum article on the Burns Holocaust movie (Sept. 16): Did Mr. Burns give any time to what led up to the Holocaust? Hitler yimach shemo didn’t appear out of nowhere and say, “kill Jews,” and almost all Europeans agreed. The Holocaust was preceded by about 1,700 years of Christian church teaching that Jews must be exterminated. The Holocaust was preceded by pogroms, crusades, inquisitions, massacres, kidnappings, expulsions, thefts, torture, banning Jews from most occupations and university quotas, and every other crime imaginable perpetrated by Christians against Jewish people. In fact, Mein Kampf was co-written by a Catholic priest, Hitler’s best friend Bernard Stempfle, yimach shemo.
In Germany it was the Lutheran minister Martin Luther that preached “kill the Jews.” Luther wrote the book The Jews and Their Lies, which instigated violence against Jewish people. Even today there are Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany with frescos on the outside showing Jews eating pig’s anus. Christians will not admit their religion caused the Holocaust and that Jew hatred in their bible causes crimes against Jewish people; therefore, expecting the truth from Burns’ movie or expecting real Holocaust education in American public schools is futile.
For more on the origins of Christian Jew-hate go to Rabbi Tovia Singer’s YouTube channel, and if you have any intermarried relatives tell, them about the channel as well.