End of heterodoxy, deja vu.

Shira Schmidt

Shira Leibowitz Schmidt was raised in an assimilated Jewish home in New York, and became observant while studying at Stanford University in California. In June 1967 she told her engineering school professor she would miss the final exam because she was going to Israel to volunteer during the Six Day War. “That’s the most original excuse I have ever been offered,” he responded. She arrived during the war and stayed, receiving her BSc in absentia. She subsequently met and married the late Elhanan Leibowitz, and they raised their six children in Beersheba. Mrs. Leibowitz acquired a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning from the Technion, and an MSc in Civil Engineering from University of Waterloo. Today she lives with her husband, Dr. Baruch Schmidt, in Netanya. She co-authored, with Nobel prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann, Old Wine New Flasks. She has co-translated from Hebrew to English (with Jessica Setbon) From the Depths (the autobiography of Rabbi Israel Meir Lau); The Forgotten Memoirs (memoirs of Rabbis who survived the Shoah, edited by Esther Farbstein); and Rest of the Dove (Parashat Hashavua by Rabbi Haim Sabato). She and her husband appear in the documentary film about the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe, “Hidden Face.” She is available to lecture in Israel and in the US and can be contacted via www.cross-currents.com.

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7 Responses

  1. sarah elias says:

    Wow, Beth Tfiloh is an Orthodox congregation?! Knock me down with a feather! Live and learn.

    BTW, Rabbi Feldman describes how he got a mechitza into his shul in his book, “Tales out of Shul”.

  2. DMZ says:

    A good Conservative friend of mine went toe to toe with the entire movement a few years ago over the issue of driving. He’s shomer Shabbos, keeps kosher, and so forth. Anyways, he sent a letter to a particular Conservative journal about the matter – very well-researched, it was quite good to read. He didn’t succeed in convincing many new people of his position, but you know what? At least he got a lot of respectful responses, and responses from the very leadership of that movement (eg, Schorsch, Joel, etc.).

    That’s one of the few things that I think the Conservative movement gets “right” – you’re allowed to have a debate on the issues, and people treat you seriously if you’ve got a reasonable argument. The yeshiva world (and the MO world, to be honest) seem to get stuck in this rut of “well, that’s how it’s done, and we’re not going to talk about it, let alone revisit it”, despite some serious unresolved problems with said issue. A good example of this kind of issue would be tznius, where there’s two conflicting mindsets applied at once – if I were to make a serious argument that we apply one or the other, but not both, that’s just not going to get any serious response anymore.


  3. Ori Pomerantz says:


    What are the two conflicting mindsets about tzniut?


  4. DMZ says:

    “What are the two conflicting mindsets about tzniut?”

    Good question. Consider this:
    1. Nose rings are considered non-tznius anymore, yet our matriarchs apparently thought they were. Why are they forbidden? Because the culture has changed.
    2. Pants are considered non-tznius, yet the culture around us thinks they are modest and fine. Why are they forbidden? Because we don’t change just because the culture around us has changed – pants weren’t modest back in Europe, so they aren’t now. (And to head off the argument, I’m not referring to tight, hip-hugging jeans.)

    I think the contradiction is rather self-evident. I don’t really care so much which mindset prevails so much as that _ONE_ of them does.


  5. Ori Pomerantz says:


    It seems to me less a contradiction than a Chumra, defining something as non Tzniut when either:

    A. It is not Tzniut according to the prevailing culture.
    B. It had not been Tzniut according to the prevailing culture for the last x centuries.

    It seems similar to the way Yom Kippur is observed for 26 hours – in theory it is supposed to be 24. But we don’t know EXACTLY when it is supposed to start, so we don’t eat as soon as twilight starts, and we don’t drink drink until it is full night on the following day.

  6. Charles B. Hall, PhD says:

    Pants for women are permitted in some Orthodox environments. Here are two:

    [link to Jewish Outdoors Club currently listed unsafe by Google…]


  7. DMZ says:

    “It seems to me less a contradiction than a Chumra, defining something as non Tzniut when either:

    A. It is not Tzniut according to the prevailing culture.
    B. It had not been Tzniut according to the prevailing culture for the last x centuries.”

    That’s a nice theory, but could you show me where it’s been codified? From what I’ve seen, no such codification exists.


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