Girls Just Wanna Be Frum — Terrible, We Know
According to the New York Jewish Week, the Modern Orthodox community “may believe that it has made more progress in terms of gender equality than it actually has.” What’s the problem? “Even the most enlightened [emphasis added] of Israeli yeshivot for American young women,” “examples of ‘women’s progress’ in that they are devoted to rigorous Talmud study, as well as other Judaic subjects,” has a student body less than interested in Talmud, and even less interested in feminism — indeed, “any practices construed as feminist are considered dangerous.”
This impassioned critique emerges, like any number of other, similar essays and speeches decrying the rightward shift in Modern Orthodox youth, from someone on the left fringe of Modern Orthodoxy — in this case, Emily Shapiro Katz. “A graduate of Stern College, Shapiro Katz studied at Midreshet Lindenbaum’s Talmud program and later taught at Midreshet Moriah, Machon Gold and several other learning programs for visiting American young women.” After marriage, she “returned to the U.S. and is now on the faculty of an adult education program of a large Reform temple in San Francisco.”
Now, of course, any number of Orthodox educators participate in non-Orthodox educational programs in order to provide a traditional influence — but Shapiro Katz has this to say about her new post: “I’m a pluralist educator now and I feel liberated.” This alone is sufficient reason for anyone dedicated to the preservation of traditional Torah viewpoints to celebrate what she decries. Pluralism, as interpreted in the modern Jewish lexicon, means acceptance of views antithetical to Torah as “equally legitimate.”
The fact that she is “posul” (unacceptable as an Orthodox educator) not because she wears pants, but because her views run contrary to a traditional Torah-based outlook, escapes both Shapiro Katz and the reporter — neither, admittedly, coming as a great surprise. A single dissenting view is relegated to paragraphs 18-20 of the 24-paragraph article. Her obvious bias renders her not only posul as an educator, but posul as a witness to what is actually going on in the Modern Orthodox women’s seminaries.
What is most alarming about Shapiro Katz’s speech is that it was delivered at the JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance) conference in New York. Were none of the very Orthodox Feminists in attendance aware of, or concerned by, the fact that the speech on “The Year In Israel: Expanding Horizons or Narrowing Scope” was delivered by a woman who preferred to “widen” her scope to include views antithetical to Torah? One cannot but worry that her speech says more about the Torah bonafides of JOFA than it does about the actual nature of a year spent in seminary in Israel.
Several years ago, my friend Rabbi Chaim Frazer observed that the “Women’s Tefilah [Prayer] Groups” in his town were frequented by middle-aged women, especially those who had gravitated to observance later in life — and not by their daughters. A feminist view of Orthodoxy is not, in general, a multi-generational phenomenon.
Some of what Shapiro Katz describes is assuredly true — young women today are more interested in learning how to be more observant than learning Talmud. This is not, however, due to some anti-intellectual trend — there is quite enough to study in the realm of Torah, but outside the Gemara, to challenge the greatest of human minds for a lifetime. Rather, young women today are more likely to celebrate their roles in the service of G-d, than to subscribe to the misguided feminist view that whatever is incumbent upon men is by definition superior — and worthy of a young woman’s jealousy.
The seminaries have the right idea already anyways… the number of yeshiva boys who have zero idea what to do in a kosher kitchen and other halachic situations is astounding. Seriously – when I was in high school, my friends were paralyzed with indecision about opening an oven at a shabbaton, when it was really a simple halacha l’maaseh that you could.
I don’t mean to denigrate the study of Talmud, of course – but it’s being taught to the exclusion of other things, in my experience.
What are the parameters of the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah? Beyond the obvious obligation to learn the Halacha you need to practice, is there Halachic preference between learning written Torah, oral Torah, the words of the prophets, post Talmudic Halacha, Jewish Philosophy, and Mussar?
In other words, is anybody, male or female, obligated to learn Talmud rather than other subjects – or is it just a preference that men tend to have more than women?
the number of yeshiva boys who have zero idea what to do in a kosher kitchen and other halachic situations is astounding
You are totally spot on! Most of what I know of practical kashrus in the kitchen I owe to my wife. I and my cohorts in yeshiva received scant instruction in kashrus.
I have two comments to say in response to this article.
One is, it has long struck me that what is wrong with the feminist movement is that its name is misleading: because it disdains anything traditionally feminine, while almost worshipping anything that is traditionally masculine, wanting not only men but also women to act just like men, that what feminists should really call themselves are masculinists.
My second point is, I see nothing wrong with ideological pluralism in Judaism, as long as it is within the confines of Orthodox Judaism. All of its manifestations, from Chareidi Judaism to Modern Orthodox Judaism to Chassidic Judaism to Sephardic Judaism, have valuable things to teach and spiritually enrich to each other.
The Rambam is pretty clear on what constitutes talmud torah. He quotes the beraisa: You should divide your time 1/3 miqra (Tanakh), 1/3 misnah (established halakhah), 1/3 gemara (understanding how halakhah is established). At least until you master the first two, and only then the Rambam tells you to shift more to gemara. Tosafos defend what is now the common practice by saying that no one today spends the time necessary to do the beraisa’s plan, and at least they get pesuqim of Tanakh and halakhah in their gemara. I didn’t read the Tosafos as saying this is what they want, but rather defending what was and is done as not being against halakhah.
But regardless of proportions, the recipe spells out three components.
The Rambam puts the study of philosophy (and math and science!) as part of Hilkhos Yesodei haTorah (the Fundamentals of the Torah), not Torah study. In his opinion it’s part of loving G-d.
Mussar too he requires, but as Hilkhos Dei’os (Attitudes), not Torah study either.
Women, it would seem, would therefore be obligated in Tanakh, established halakhah, philosophy (if the Rambam, living among 12th cent Moslems had met a woman educated enough to begin the study), and mussar. And then there is the material we need our daughters to study so that they can see that Torah is no less profound than their secular studies…
The controversy is about two things: The content, if any, required by that last sentence, and whether that education should be formal or mother- (and friends) to-daughter.
>>>Were none of the very Orthodox Feminists in attendance aware of, or concerned by, the fact that the speech on “The Year In Israel: Expanding Horizons or Narrowing Scope” was delivered by a woman who preferred to “widen” her scope to include views antithetical to Torah?
Didn’t the Rambam “widen” his scope with views that are “antithetical to TOrah” (according to many of his comntemporaries who urged the burning of his books? Who decides what views are “antithetical to Torah”? Are any women involved in these decisions?
Why this polemic against an educated woman who for all we know and should assume is Shomer Shabbat/Kashrut/Mitzvot? This is indeed the “narrowing scope” she is talking about. She does not attempt to force her views on others, as some Haredi thugs do with stones, fires and assaults. All she wants is that women who choose to avail themselves of educational opportunities have those opportunities available to them. Are you really so threatened buy that? I can guarantee that the majority of women in the MO community who are not interested in Talmud study, fully support those who are. And by the way, the JOFA conference was attended and participated in by many prominent Rabbanim and Talmidei Chachamim, or does Rav Menken’s definition of pluralism exclude anyone who might disagree with his views? Eilu V’Eilu seems to be a lost idea.
“All she wants” is to breathe the free air of sheker [falsehood] while receiving plaudits for emes [truth].
re: about younger women not interested in women’ Tefilah Groups,the article comments that “a feminist view of Orthodoxy is not in general a multi-generational phenomena”. It depends what one means by the word, “feminist”. A lot of people think “feminists” are women who work outside the home instead of staying in the kitchen “where they belong”- by that standard just about every Hasidic woman is a “feminist”
Of course, JOFA has to be seen as a lay support group for YCT. When one reads the article in question including the fact that she is proud of being a pluralist and liberated educator in a community that is hardly a beacon of even LW MO, it is evident that both YCT and JOFA support what they call Open Orthodoxy but what is really Torahless and Halachaless Judaism.
Look at it this way. As R Wolbe ZTL comments many times in Alei Shor and in a recently printed book of letters, many people think that they are doing the acts of Pinchas when in fact they are acting like Zimri. That, IMO, is the lesson from the above excerpt of this article.
More profoundly, the article missed a basic point-obviously, even in seminaries that view themselves as MO or RZ, the overwhelming majority of the students simply are interested in people or chesed issues as opposed to the power agenda that revolves around women studying Talmud, WTGs and halachically questionnable notions of Hilcos Kiddushin and Gittin. Simply stated, the school that the article dreams about is not a seminary.
“it is evident that both YCT and JOFA support what they call Open Orthodoxy but what is really Torahless and Halachaless Judaism.”
That’s a bit over the top. I disagree vehemently with the direction YCT wants to go, but I really don’t get the impression that R’ Weiss wants halacha to go out the window.
However, I don’t feel like this blog entry was a hack and slash job on Ms. Katz, as JR seems to posit. She stated her views in public – it is not inappropriate to criticize her on those views. Eilu V’Eilu isn’t meant as some sort of blanket protection policy so that you can say whatever you want without repercussion, especially when said comments appear to legitimize non-halachic Jewish movements.
Besides, it’s pretty clear from my own online research that she attended and hosted mixed services when she was in San Francisco. She really is apparently on the left wing fringe of the MO movement – even farther than the Shira Chadashah crowd, which is generally considered one of the boundary markers. R’ Menken’s comments about her don’t seem totally inappropriate when you actually investigate a bit.
DMZ’s comments are appreciated. In addition, my piece was not a “polemic” against Mrs. Katz, but a dismissal of her polemic against Orthodox women’s educational programs in Israel. Every community has its hooligans, but they are irrelevant. It is frequently the educated, with their speeches filled with inaccurate complaints and calumnies, that can do far greater damage.
The desire of some women to learn Gemara may not be ultimately appropriate for their inner souls, but in the less-than-appropriate atmosphere in which MO kids grow up in today there might be something to it. Take a girl who is learning Gemara and is thrilled with it. The boy she hangs out with in Bnai Akiva is probably bored with Gemara and would rather do something else. He probably envies her for getting more Tanach, philosophy, well, maybe not halacha. Maybe, scratch that, certainly, Hashem has a wiser agenda than we do, and that may be the way that it will all work out. Meanwhile, of course we will all do what we believe we have to do, and it would be good to refrain from trashing others who believe and do otherwise. Criticize yes, trash no.
There is danger in taking our views too far. I have never met a real orthodox ffeminist,none of my girls are that way ideologically. That doesn’t mean tha they are subservient to their husbands and walk a few paces behind them. It is just that they don’t call it feminism to actually be equal or more to the man in their life. So, let’s get real. We are very much a part of the American millieu even if we pay lip service to segregation, sepeate seating on buses, letting a woman be a supreme court justice but saying her brain can’t handle gemara. Who are we kidding. We all live in a world of cognative dissonance. It is just that the women don’t care to take over in those parts of the public arena that give men a little feeling of being somebody. The women still have much more power than we realize and I think it was always that way in reality. They let them men think they are in charge.
There are many female scholars who are now being trained by Nishmat and Stern’s advanced Talmud program. There are also many female scholars teaching in Israel (such as Shani Taragin and Sally Mayer, among others) who can match almost any male teacher I know in terms of their scholarship and depth of knowledge. These young women, who are fully halachic in their behavior and practice, are not interested in promoting women’s tefila groups or other items on JOFA’s agenda. However, they correctly realize that real empowerment for women in Judaism comes from being able to study the advanced texts, and transmit them to a new generation of Jewish women. Does that qualify them as being a feminist? I don’t know, but I certainly applaud these women for their commitment and dedication to advanced Torah study.
WADR, I stand by my comments on this post-especially in light of the article in which the author seemingly celebrates R’L her liberation from Orthodoxy, her being a pluralist in hashkafa and where she is currently employed. I see no reason not to view JOFA as a cheering section for YCT and its goals,which IMO cannot be reconciled with the Mesorah of RYBS or any other Gadol.
I read the article and didn’t see YCT mentioned once. It appears that Shapiro Katz has no connection to them, so it is Motzei Sheim Ra to attack them for her.
It certainly doesn’t seem reasonable to call Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot or Rabbi Linzer, Rabbi Avi Weiss , Rabbi Berman et al as non Orthodox Jews just because this woman is featured in an article where she admits she has NO INFLUENCE ON THE ORTHODOX WORLD (emphasis mine)
Assuming this is the same Steve Brizel who writes for the YU Commentator, where I’ve seen him write of his positive memories of Rav Riskin. Would you attack Rav Riskin for hiring this woman before she came out publicly as not frum?
“they correctly realize that real empowerment for women in Judaism comes from being able to study the advanced texts, and transmit them to a new generation of Jewish women”
– this statement assumes that “empowerment for women” is a positive jewish value. not sure what the source or precebdent for this is.
– the proposed solution; i.e. “being able to study the advanced texts” is also not proven to be the “answer”. once could surely argur that, for example, strengthened taharat hapishpacha, tzniut, or devotional prayer would better serve the klal, and in that is their “empowerment” derived.
– FFB from Nassau County
“Women, it would seem, would therefore be obligated in Tanakh, established halakhah, philosophy (if the Rambam, living among 12th cent Moslems had met a woman educated enough to begin the study), and mussar. And then there is the material we need our daughters to study so that they can see that Torah is no less profound than their secular studies…”
I don’t want to miss an opportunity to point out that learning aggada (midrash, agada in gemara/eyn yaakov) is a kiyum of the mitzva of u’ldovka bo. “Rztoncha lhakir es mi she’emar v’haya ha’olam l’mod hagada, shemitoch kach ata makir es mi she’amar v’haya ha’olam u’medabek b’drachav.” I believe that girls’ schools should especially stress aggada, as that is a specific kiyum of a mitzva that they are obligated in, as well as being a kiyum of talmud torah. Emphasis on chazal’s philosophy and mussar within aggada gives a mechanism to ground one’s behavior in torah values and I think it’s particularly important nowadays, when there is so much free-floating mussar in the air, to absorb and get a solid grounding in chazal’s own words.
When it comes to what is called “practical halacha,” I believe it’s necessary to give enough conceptual background that the girls develop a halachic mindset, and have ability to recognize a shaila when they encounter one. In the Chofetz Chaim’s letter in support of Sarah Schenirer, he stresses that there is a need for formal education because people nowadays move far from their parents, and don’t stay close to home. Today, we live in an even more complicated world, and people need to recognize problematic situations, and sometimes be able to think on their feet when they cannot immediately ask a shaila, and some understanding of halachic process is necessary for that (this needn’t entail gemara, but it should entail good grasp of underlying concepts). A better understanding of halacha also helps develop a halachic mindset that is necessary as an anchor for mussar concepts.
At what point does in-depth Gemara study become an obstacle rather than a support to a woman’s primary mission? Even those whose would not rule out some such study must be willing to draw the line somewhere.
“However, they correctly realize that real empowerment for women in Judaism comes from being able to study the advanced texts, and transmit them to a new generation of Jewish women. ”
I am a Jewish, orthodox woman, and I somehow feel empowered just fine without learning Talmud. I don’t think I am in any way alone in that. In fact, my (MO) friend laughs about women with such low self esteem that they need to feel like men.
I’m touched that Rabbi Menken remembers my comments from several years ago. Things are still the same, only more so.
The local Women’s Tefillah Group has had several dropouts from its middle-aged members, and is attracting even fewer young ladies. At present, it’s on the verge of collapsing. JOFA is also suffering from a paucity of interested young women.
In terms of Katz Shapiro’s quoted feelings about participants in and graduates of Israeli seminary programs, I fear that her insight is not accurate. From what I have seen, contemporary young ladies are deeply attuned to their futures as wives and mothers as central to their future religious growth and development.
“Central” does not necessarily mean “exclusive”. So there are young ladies whose Jewish intellectual focus ranges from the most rudimentary Written Torah to the depths of Talmud, and everything in between. What seems to separate them from her is that these interests, as well as working or having a career “outside the home”, are subordinated to the responsibilities of wives and mothers-in which women have historically served as key guardians of our innermost spiritual values.
That focus, which is positive, tends to lead to a disinterest in “feminism” or any “ism” which devalues marriage and motherhood.
Rabbi Chaim Frazer
>“– this statement assumes that “empowerment for women” is a positive jewish value…”
Our very own Shira Leibowitz Schmidt seems to believe it is:
Although Ms. Schmidt appears to esteem “empowerment” as a measurement of worth with regards to segregated seating, I rather doubt she’s going to defend far more women’s at least equally “empowering” study of Gemara (a subject of generally absurd commotion in itself). Which all goes to show why 1960s-era catchphrases make rather poor bearers of intellectual value in a dispute.
“Which all goes to show why 1960s-era catchphrases make rather poor bearers of intellectual value in a dispute”
or … that none of us is exempt from the subtle influences of Western thinking, even when it has no real basis ib our hashkafa
Mordechai-I see no conflict between my very positive memories of Rav Riskin as a rebbe as opposed to discussing a student who clearly is not Orthodox. Anyone who can’t see the fact that JOFA and YCT push the same agenda should spend some time reading their websites, the material provided there as well as any related websites. I stand by my comments that most women who attend seminaries are not interested in the power agenda advocated by JOFA that revolves around WTGs, Talmud for women and very halachically questionnable remedies for agunos and basically ignores a Pre Nuptial Agreement that has substantially reduced the amount of litigation over issues arising from agunos in NY. In contrast, most women who attend seminaries are interested in enhancing their Avodas HaShem and Chesed.
I read Rabbi Mencken’s post, then read the article cited, and it is clear to me that Rabbi Mencken has read his own biases and ideas into the article, rather than take the article at face value.
Ms. Shapiro Katz desires to see young women take an interest in serious learning, including gemara, and also support ‘feminist issues.’ She is not happy that 1) even Modern Orthodox yeshivot in Israel do not seem to support ‘feminist issues’ 2) women educators are not given the same respect as the men and 3) many young women do not seem interested in either a scholarly approach to Yiddishkeit and/or feminist issues. Therefore, she is encouraging parents to help resolve these concerns.
Rabbi Mencken then accuses Ms. Shapiro Katz of having views contrary to “traditional Torah based outlook”and who ” preferred to “widen” her scope to include views antithetical to Torah.” This statements appear to be based on Rabbi Mencken’s own definition of the word pluralism, and his own definitions of what a “traditional Torah based outlook” happens to be. I wonder if Rabbi Mencken asked Mrs. Katz if, when she used the word ‘pluralism’, did she really mean Rabbi Mencken’s definition of it: the acceptance of views antithetical to Torah as “equally legitimate.”? I would very much doubt that this is what she meant. However, Rabbi Mencken states this as a matter of undisputed fact. Once Rabbi Mencken’s biased(and most probably incorrect) interpretations are removed, we are left with a basic disagreement in orthodoxy about the role of women. Unfortunately, Rabbi Mencken has twisted this article to serve his own bias. It is quite ironic that he accuses Mrs. Katz of a similar bias, and in fact disqualifies her as an observer based on that fact. Perhaps he should disqualify himself as an observer(and according to his own words, as an educator) in the Modern Orthodox world.
To paraphrase Rabbi Mencken, this article says a lot more about Rabbi Mencken’s biases and desire to deligitimize a section of Modern Orthodoxy, than it says anything about the article in the newspaper. It is one thing to have disagreements about hashkafa and halacha in a respectful environment. It is quite another to hurl accusations of embracing non-Torah values and question someone’s commttment to Torah and Mitzvot.
As far as Rabbi Fraser’s observations regarding the Women’s Tefilla Groups, the plural of anecdote is not data. I do not have any data either, but my anecdotal experience is quite the opposite.
– looks like he’s given you a C
I apologize for the poor spelling.
Noam could, of course, be right on everything but the spelling of my last name. If my writing reminds him of H.L. Mencken’s, that’s probably not entirely a bad thing!
But I challenge his alternative interpretation of Mrs. Shapiro Katz’s remarks about pluralism. First of all, it is not “my” definition of pluralism that is at issue. The meaning of “pluralism” has been discussed here previously, and has — as I mentioned — a standard definition in the Jewish lexicon. And, in addition, there is every indication that this is precisely what Shapiro Katz had in mind.
When she was in Israel, Mrs. Shapiro Katz taught at Modern Orthodox seminaries including Midreshet Moriah and Machon Gold. It is on this basis that she claims to offer an insider’s perspective. Then she moved to America, where she “is now on the faculty of an adult education program of a large Reform temple.” And her reaction to her change in venue is “I’m a pluralist educator now and I feel liberated.”
If the move from Modern Orthodoxy to Reform can be described as “pluralist,” yet mean something other than the acceptance of non-Torah views, by all means let’s hear it — but not by some vague implication. If Noam says that he “would very much doubt that this is what she meant,” then let him at least offer a reasonable alternative definition.
Otherwise, the assumption made regarding her use of the term “pluralist” is no less valid than those regarding her definitions of words like Reform, Orthodox, Modern Orthodox, and seminary — without which the entire article would be meaningless. With these definitions, her stated views render her invalid as an internal critic of the workings of Modern Orthodox seminaries, as I said.
If one needs further proof, it is found in the articles referenced by DMZ in comment 11. Barring some solid evidence to the contrary, it would appear that it was Noam himself who developed biased (and unfounded) interpretations; Mrs. Shapiro Katz indeed legitimizes that which runs contrary to Torah, and I was merely taking her at her word.
If the husband’s intellectual world centers around the Talmud, if he uses Talmudic logic and terms in his everyday life, wouldn’t it contribute to marital harmoney if the wife thought and spoke in the same terms? Shouldn’t husbands and wives take interest in each others’ lives?
My wife wants to become a professional photographer. These days I comment on pictures, think about lightening and props, and learn a bit about the physics of lens. How is that detracting from my primary role in life, which is to be a husband and father? Kal va’Chomer if the husband wants to learn Torah, and the wife wants to understand what her husband is learning.
I looked at the articles referenced by DMZ. I didn’t see Ms Shapiro Katz’s name there. I am troubled by this – on what Jewish basis are they being relied on against her? And how can they be called “further proof”?
In keeping with what I understand to be the halacha, let me offer an interpretation of Ms Katz’ reported remarks which are to her credit, and not her discredit. She is reported to have said, “I’m a pluralist educator now and I feel liberated.” The context was a speech about a gap year in Israel and its value.
So, I assume she meant that working with non-orthodox people led to her constantly having her ideas challenged and that she felt liberated because her commitment to Judaism and her belief in Torah is strengthened by knowing that her Judaism can be tested and survive. And also that she has seen that, despite non-normative beliefs, there are non-orthodox Jews so committed to Judaism and learning that it is possible to see their education moving them on.
In other words, Ms Katz has internalised the message that the direction and speed of travel is more important than where you are right this minute.
And, in the context of a gap year which increasingly poses no such challenges, that was a good message.
It seems to me that my interpretation is equally valid. The difference is in how one wants to see the picture, not in the brushstrokes on the canvas.
“I’m a pluralist educator now and I feel liberated.”
1. I am teaching people who come from many different backgrounds, and now I am free to do that
2. I believe in different viewpoints within halacha(elu v’elu) and I am teaching them in a surrounding that allows me to do that.
3. I no longer have those on the right of me trying to stifle what I am trying to get across.
Rabbi Menken referenced an article about how pluralism is used by a member of the Reform movement. I still dont understand why that definition automatically gets grafted onto the statement above. There can be pluralism within orthodoxy(elu v’elu). Certainly if Ms. Katz confirms that she embraces views antithetical to Torah, then I would apologize to Rabbi Menken for doubting his interpretation. Until then, I think the liklihood remains that he has jumped to the wrong conclusion. (Obviously whether egalitarianism, and the definition of such is antithetical to the Torah may wind up being another discussion)
The sources referenced by DMZ reveal that she davens at a minyan that embraces the concept of egalitarianism, but stops short of having women lead devarim shebikidusha. Whether they have crossed a halachic line would depend on whether one accepts as halachically valid the viewpoints of R. Mendel Shapiro inter alia. Certainly they tread very close.
I would suggest that examining every bit of internet evidence regarding Ms. Katz in order to determine if she is an ‘orthodox Jew or not’ is not only bittul zman, but insulting to her. If R. Menken really thinks she meant what he wrote, perhaps contacting her directly to clarify the matter would be the appropriate way to resolve the issue. If I am wrong, I will be the first to admit it and apologize for jumping to conclusions myself.
Noam Stadlan-WADR to R Mendel Shapiro, AFAIK, he is not and has never been considered a Posek. It is very evident from the context of the article with no exercise in bitul zman, etc that the author views herself as a pluralist who is no longer constrained by Orthodoxy and Halacha.
I hold no brief for Emily Shapiro Katz. But I do not understand Yaakov Menken. Does he mean to say that those young and not-so young women who want to study Gemara or who are Toanot rabbaniyyot or yoatzot hilkhatiyyot do not want to be frum?! The record is clearly otherwise.
Wow! I hope you use your imagination for great things!
Steve- I did not realize that in order to espouse an halachically valid opinion one needed to be on the Steve Brizel approved list of poskim. From what I understand, Tradition is going to print R. Shapiro’s rebuttal of R. Rothstein’s critique along with other letters in an upcoming volume. Rav J. J. Schachter spoke a few months ago and was pretty emphatic that each shul and community Rav should decide on issues for their own community. Obviously R. Shapiro’s opinion may not be appropriate for your community, or even my community, but I dont think it should be discarded just because his name doesn’t appear on the top 10 of poskim.
It is also clear to a fair minded reader that the author views herself as an Orthodox Jew, who is not happy with the state of Orthodox Judaism. It seems that you and Rabbi Menken are like Groucho Marx, waiting for someone to say the secret word, except here they dont get prizes, and the duck doesn’t come down, but saying the secret word exposes them as frauds and heretics. Nowhere in the article does it say that she does not feel constrained by halacha. Certainly there is a disagreement as to the specifics of the halacha, but please point out, other than the very strained and probably inaccurate drasha on the word ‘pluralist’ where it says that she is not orthodox and not constrained by halacha. The last time I checked, teaching Torah to Reform Jews(even in a Reform institution) did not make one a Reform Jew, and was not neccessarily an endorsement of Reform theology.
As I noted above, a calm and source based discussion on the halachic issues regarding women and halacha is one thing. What is outrageous and maddening is this impulse to try to discredit those to the left. If you want to discredit them, show how their view of halacha is wrong. Bring some sources. Understand what they are saying and then show why you think their way of thinking is not accurate. You may find that there is a halachic basis for what they believe and do after all. Calling people names, impugning their motives, and jumping to conclusions when all you have to go by is one article in a newspaper(and possibly a few internet pages) is not very fair.
Why do I get the feeling that skid upon skid of file boxes with evidence supporting Rabbi Menken’s points would still not sway some people?
Noam – I agree with every word.
hp – I try to use my imagination to envisage why people say the things they do. In undertaking that exercise I assume (unless I have cast-iron evidence to the contrary) that they are neither wicked, wilfully undermining Judaism nor stupid. Not only does that seem to me to be compliant with the halacha about how to Judge things (which is my day job) but I am wholly unsure of the extent to which my life or my middot are improved by doing otherwise.
I hope that helps.
“As I noted above, a calm and source based discussion on the halachic issues regarding women and halacha is one thing. What is outrageous and maddening is this impulse to try to discredit those to the left. If you want to discredit them, show how their view of halacha is wrong. Bring some sources.”
Problem is, they’ve got their sources, and they’re entirely satisfied with them NO MATTER WHAT. They’re not interested in hearing yours as to why they’re wrong. For instance, the entire Shirah Chadasha system is basically built on the back of R’ Shapiro’s (admittedly well-written) article in EDAH, and that’s it. When R’ Henkin wrote a response arguing with it, did any of the people using R’ Shapiro’s article actually care enough to stop? Or did they just ignore it and move on? Don’t get me wrong: the far right of Orthodoxy to much the same extent.
I’m not saying the individuals involved don’t mean well. But at a certain point, ego gets so invested that well-meaning people can’t see that the path they’re moving down isn’t going to lead anywhere good for the Jewish people. And, unfortunately, there are people who will use any flimsy halachic excuse to justify their own behavior, rather than using halacha to guide their behavior.
“I looked at the articles referenced by DMZ. I didn’t see Ms Shapiro Katz’s name there. I am troubled by this – on what Jewish basis are they being relied on against her? And how can they be called “further proof”?”
Use the power of your browser – eg, the find function. She’s there. And like I said, the timeline is corroborated pretty well – that’s almost certainly her. As for what Jewish basis – what’s that supposed to mean? Do I need two edim and a beis din for this discussion?
I personally don’t care much that she davens at a mixed minyan. I have a lot of good friends who do the same. But, guess what? When they start calling it “Modern Orthodoxy”, I also rip into them for it, too. No one’s relying on anything to be “against” her. We’re using them to establish that she is on the left fringe of MO, and should not be treated as a representative of the movement as a whole, which then leads into why JOFA is having someone like this speak, and what that means for the organization.
Noam-which issues did RHS say that each rav should decide on his own for his community? It is great that Tradition is allowing R Shapiro to present a rebuttal to R Rothstein, but the simple fact is that R Shapiro is not regarded as a Posek or someone with a connection to any of the Gdolei HaPoskim, including RHS.
Noam-My reading of the article is that the author deems herself a pluralist, liberated and therefore capable of teaching anything to anyone.
I’d like to try to clear up a few things about Emily Shapiro Katz and her session at the JOFA Conference. Emily’s JOFA session was based on interviews she conducted with friends, colleagues, and former teachers who worked with her in the Modern Orthodox midrashot, and CONTINUE to do so.
Emily’s JOFA session was focused on feminist ideas and the experience of self-identified feminists (students or teachers) in the midrashot. Emily is not on a crusade to spread feminism in the Orthodox world – she acknowledges and respects that women have (and choose) different roles in different Orthodox communities. Her message to the Orthodox feminist community was simply that it should not assume that the midrasha programs share its values, in spite of their expressed commitment to women’s Torah study.
Finally, Emily’s Orthodox “bona fides” are solid – Frisch, NCSY, HASC, Midreshet Moriah, Stern, YUSSR, Machon Gold, Midreshet Lindenbaum, Atid. Emily was every inch a young female leader in the Modern Orthodox community. Nevertheless, when pushed regarding how she identifies today, Emily finds herself unable and unwilling to say that she is Orthodox. This, in spite of being shomeret shabbat, kashrut, etc.
I would suggest that the “liberation” Emily feels has everything to do with having gotten away from the tzitzit-checking and witch-hunting that characterizes some of the above posts.
It has been fascinating, and at times dismaying, to see how some members of the Orthodox community think and write based on so little information or understanding.
On one hand, there is the “dan l’kav zchut crowd” who, baruch HaShem, demonstrates that this midah is still alive and well.
But then there is the “let’s make judgments about a person’s commitments and beliefs based on a quote or two in a newspaper and whatever a Google search turns up” crowd…
The number of people who disassociate from Orthodoxy because of this crowd are too many to count. (And the numbers keep rising).
DMZ: “Further proof”, “almost certainly”, “establish that she is on the left fringe”. Yep, you need a Beth Din. You’re using legal terminology and you’re attempting to reach a conclusion with personal and communal consequences. What else would do? Conjecture? Guesswork? Prejudice?
Which is what I mean by a Jewish basis. Or possibly just fairness. But I prefer the former as it imports an ethical dimension to forming a judgment on another human being on the basis of hearsay from the internet.
Someone (can’t think who ;)) said the problem was that “at a certain point, ego gets so invested that well-meaning people can’t see that the path they’re moving down isn’t going to lead anywhere good for the Jewish people”. Spot on I think…
“But then there is the “let’s make judgments about a person’s commitments and beliefs based on a quote or two in a newspaper and whatever a Google search turns up” crowd…”
I think you’re reading too far into this, and trying to shove motivation on to me that isn’t there. If you wanted to know more about me, what would you do? I’m guessing that Google would be a good place to start. In fact, let’s try it: my real name is David Michael Zakar, aka DMZ. A quick Google search gives back:
1. My home page (with blog!)
2. An AIAA paper I co-wrote.
3. Random internet posts I’ve made about Linux and programming.
4. My Facebook profile.
You could easily assemble a very good picture of me from what I’ve said on the Internet, and one that would be both good and bad in the final viewing. I’m not assigning her a standard any different than mine. Not everyone is as public as I am, I admit, but that’s how it is.
I’m glad to hear Emily Shapiro Katz is keeps Shabbos and kashrus, and so forth. Then again, I’m pretty sure I never accused her of _not_ keeping those things, because I have no evidence that she does not, and no reason to believe she doesn’t. I’m sure she’s a great person. The only thing she was accused of was being far left on the MO spectrum (I did that), and of being an unfit Orthodox educator (that was the article author). In EH’s entire rant, he never actually got around to disproving my point, except by quoting irrelevant “bona fides”, as though people never change. I know I have.
In any event, in respect to the other folks here, I will drop the subject.
EH-Certainly, at the points that Ms. Shapiro-Katz was involved with or studied at any of the institutions mentioned in your last post, Ms. Shapiro-Katz could certainly have well been within MO. However, her own comments reveal that she is pluralist, liberated and that she considers herself beyond the boundaries of MO.
Once again, the notion that a majority of MO views a power oriented agenda of Talmud study, egalitarian oriented rituals or radical changes in Hilcos Gittin as a major part of their community’s agenda as to what women should study cannot be demonstrated by the evidence on the ground. The simple facts are that the overwhelming majority of MO women are interested in people issues that impact on their interaction with other people and how to be a successful spouse, mother and educator within Halachic boundaries as opposed to power issues that in many instances reflect an externally driven agenda.
One more point on this issue-those who defend Ms. Shapiro Katz show an almost Pavlovian or reflexive need to do so without considering either her admitted evolution or whether the same is simply another version of the ongoing discussion within MO circles as to the “shift to the right.” It is as if all who differ must accept her POV as being Toras Emes, when, in fact, differing perspectives, such as a returning seminary or yeshiva student who has grown in observance, should be presented for a full dialogue on this issue. However, given the hashlkafic tendencies that run rampant at JOFA, I tend to doubt that any such discussion at a JOFA conference would ever occur.
“The number of people who disassociate from Orthodoxy because of this crowd are too many to count. (And the numbers keep rising).”
It was never my intention to go on a witch hunt. It was my intention to validate R’ Menken’s assertion that this person, whom I’m sure is a fine, observant Jew in most ways, seems like an odd choice for a representative of Modern Orthodoxy – especially, as you say, if she refuses to call herself Orthodox.
EH wrote, “I would suggest that the “liberation” Emily feels has everything to do with having gotten away from the tzitzit-checking and witch-hunting that characterizes some of the above posts.”
If she’s no longer checking her tzitzit, is that not scandalous?
“The number of people who disassociate from Orthodoxy because of this crowd are too many to count. (And the numbers keep rising).” Comment by EH — February 28, 2007 @ 12:58 am
I would rephrase the state of American Jewry today:
“The number of people who are associating with an Orthodox lifestyle are too many to count. (And the numbers keep rising).”
(yes, I don’t have sources to back up my assertion, either)
>“The number of people who disassociate from Orthodoxy because of this crowd are too many to count. (And the numbers keep rising).”
Today’s fashionable fundamentalism in the feeling-its-oats right wing of Orthodoxy is something I indeed find repugnant. But let me tell you that the far Left of Orthodoxy (of which Ms. Shapiro seems an able representative) is only slightly less unattractive (to me) and not doing a great job of keeping people engaged with Torah either (a far more important criterion than the label of “Orthodox” BTW).
EH may reject the “tzitzis checking” and “witch hunts” on the right–as well an intelligent person should. But the push for ideological conformity is also depressingly powerful in the Orthodox far left, whose avant garde often seems to pulse to the beat of chic academia and the 1960s.
The excessive fixation on ‘power issues’ and “gender” “equality” (some terms that beg for definition), and the sickening infiltration of cold and dessicated academic attitudes and moods into far Left MO bode very poorly for the long term sustainability of that camp–and when I say “sustainability” I mean in terms of a project even worth sustaining.
The disgust for views (almost any views!) even slightly farther rightist/conservative on the far Left seems basically to mirror the disdain for farther left/open views from sectors of the Orthodox right–again suggesting that that particular battle is less about who’s more generically “open-minded” than it is about core attitudes and philosophical orientation. Which is fine, but we need to be clear at all times about what the issues really are. (And of course there’s everybody else who’s not at one of the extremes).
As for Ms. Shapiro Katz, when she says she’s “liberated” does she mean from the politicized suppression of uncomfortable parts of Torah on the right? (which as I know happens often enough) Or does she mean “liberated” from the frameworks of Halacha, Midrash and Chazal that are key in the life and learning of the Jewish people? I don’t know, but for her own clarity she should.
I suppose all of this, including some of our silliest politicized schisms in the name of “Torah” (of which the “girls learning Gemara” split is one), as well as the dessication of Torah that has occurred on the right (and motivates many to head leftward), is part of the tumult of galus.
If you want to see more about the true nature and essence of JOFA, one need only see a four page paid advertisment in this week’s Jewish Week. When one reads this advertisement ( even without checking to see who signed) , one would think that Gdolei Torah throughout the ages never informally or via a Bes Din or written ShuT ever lifted a finger for an agunah. In fact,as both R Chaim Jachter indicates in his book “Gray Matter” ( vol.2) and the author of an article in Mishpacha stress, the evidence is completely to the contrary.
Moreover, the ad is consistent with the position taken by JOFA on this issue-the RCA PNA is treated as a non-entity and suddenly all of JOFA’s supporters become talmidim muvhakim of R Elyashiv, as if they had all followed R Eyashiv’s Piskei Halacha on a wide variety of issues, as opposed to the Gdolim in their own backyard. When one goes to the JOFA website, one sees nothing at the site either praising the RCA PNA, urging its use or commending the fact that its use has reduced the amount of agunos and litigation. One can offer numerous reasons for this, but IMO JOFA’s founders and supporters would rather not accept a valid solution that was written by a Gadol in their own backyard and endorsed by other Gdolim simply because of their lack of approval for other aspects of JOFA’s anti-halachic agenda. IMO, those who cry out “Tzedek, Tzedek, Tirdof” and deny the existence of “any meaningful effort to remedy the plight of agunot” should realize that the Talmud tells us that while “emes yesh lo raglayim, sheker ain lo raglayim.”
” However, her own comments reveal that she is pluralist, liberated and that she considers herself beyond the boundaries of MO.”
It seems to me that Steve Brizel is also a pluralist, as he lives in a pluralistic society here in the United States. He is also liberated, and in fact will be celebrating the anniversary of his liberation next month with a week long event, complete with special foods, dinners, and prayers. He also considers himself outside the bounds of traditional(Chareidi) Judaism. By the way, he doesn’t hold by absolutely every psak of RYBS(see specifically the Rav on teaching Talmud to women, and the educational system at the Rav’s school in Boston).
Isn’t it great how one can take things out of context for the sake of one’s point of view, even if it really is totally misconstruing the truth?
This discussion is getting more than a bit silly. I hope we all agree that there is nothing wrong with teaching Torah to Reform Jews (Torah.org does it on a daily basis), and of course there are many reasons one might feel “liberated” and, perhaps, a few different ways to define “pluralism.”
But when one leaves Modern Orthodox seminaries to take up a position with a Reform Temple, and says regarding this transition that “I’m a pluralist educator now and I feel liberated,” some pretty amazing hoops must be leaped through to avoid the obvious: she finds it “liberating” to be associated with teaching “pluralist” material that Modern Orthodox seminaries would not teach.
Pluralist, in a Jewish setting, means a variety of Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and other takes on Torah. That’s what it means. Torah, anti-Torah, and everything in between. It is also the only thing she *could* have meant, because contrary to what Noam implied earlier in comment 32, the seminaries where she taught certainly explore the “eilu v’eilu” within Orthodoxy (and are not known for having “those on the right… trying to stifle”). And call that “eilu v’eilu” what you wish, no one calls it “pluralism” in a Reform educational system.
As EH said, “Emily finds herself unable and unwilling to say that she is Orthodox.” In other words, Shapiro Katz is not the internal critic of the Modern Orthodox seminary system that the article presents her as being, but rather someone out on the left fringe (or, apparently, perhaps even beyond it) with her own biases.
Somehow that seems awfully reminiscent of the point made in my blog entry, and this entire debate about what pretzel-twists we might explore in order to take the word “pluralist” out of its simple meaning… is rendered moot.
I would certainly agree that the discussion has gotten silly. However, from my point of view, the pretzel twisting was done in the initial post. Despite the post and 54 comments, there has not been any evidence produced to support R. Menken’s initial interpretation of the words “pluralism” and “liberated”. Wouldn’t it have been easier to contact the person and find out what she meant before jumping to conclusions?
Regarding these attempts at redefinition:
“Well, who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”
Chico Marx (in Duck Soup)
Noam — to be blunt, no. Not for those of us comfortable with the meaning of “is” without asking a lawyer. The definitions of both words are well established in Jewish communal life; Google “Jewish pluralism” and you will have 954,000 entries to peruse. If you find even one in the first 50 that does *not* mean pluralism across the various modern forms of “Judaism” (when used in an intra-Jewish context) you might have an argument.
“The Orthodox community recognizes pluralism within the confines of halacha and one certainly encounters, for example, Orthodox synagogues with Ashkenazic, Sephardic, and chassidic minyanim all in one place. So too, one finds Orthodox educational institutions of many different flavors sharing teachers, rebbeim and staff.)”
– Rabbi Michael Broyde
I also offered other alternatives of what was meant(comment 32).
I dont know Ms. Shapiro Katz. I have never met her. Until this article I had never heard of her. The shul she goes to seems to do things that I wouldn’t agree with. I dont know for sure what she meant. But I have to speak up when words are taken out of context and twisted into meanings that don’t neccessarily fit. It seems that someone dedicated to Torah, whose seal is Truth, would want to make sure that what they write is really and actually the Truth, and not just their own interpretation of it.
I will refrain from posting any more comments on this topic.
The quote from Rabbi Broyde, in context, says quite the opposite of what Noam implies — further proving that unless explained further, “pluralism” means across Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. The pluralism that Orthodoxy recognizes is pointed out specifically vs. the standard form, which Orthodoxy does not:
* Orthodoxy cannot with integrity allow itself to come across, either to the non-Orthodox community or to its own community, as a choice among equals.
* The same is true for an educational institution that teaches its students Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform perspectives of Torah and halacha with no notion of what is correct and what is not. It is the ultimate perversion of Orthodoxy to require that it validate perspectives that violate its fundamental tenets.
* (This stands in sharp contrast with the diversity that one sees within Orthodoxy and its institutions. The Orthodox community recognizes pluralism within the confines of halacha and one certainly encounters, for example, Orthodox synagogues with Ashkenazic, Sephardic, and chassidic minyanim all in one place. So too, one finds Orthodox educational institutions of many different flavors sharing teachers, rebbeim and staff.)
The article, entitled “Orthodoxy and Practical Pluralism In American Judaism,” then moves from core ideology to practical applications — and, lo and behold, the “pluralism” whose practical application is discussed is precisely in accordance with the standard definition:
* Reality plays a strong role in these determinations. Therefore, I do think that Orthodox students can pray in the Orthodox minyan at Hillel even though that same institution hosts Reform and Conservative services precisely because the students in such a minyan do not perceive Hillel as compelling the Orthodox students to validate the Conservative service.
Indeed, enough said, since this was proven 5 iterations ago.