The Women’s Empire Strikes Back!
A group of intrepid women is pushing back against a problematic practice in our community. We should all try to help them out.
There are twelve gates in Heaven, to accommodate the different forms of prayer of different subgroups. When the Bnei Yisrael crossed the Reed Sea, according to one midrash, twelve paths stood in front of them, providing a different walkway for each of the tribes. We are fresh off the celebration of Purim, one of whose themes is the achdus, the essential oneness of our people. And yet, as R. Zev Leff, shlit”a, points out, Chazal assigned different days for different parts of the community to celebrate. Unity can coexist with diversity.
It is a terrible error for a group of Torah-abiding Jews to claim a monopoly on rectitude, oblivious to the gifts and advantages of competing practices. Each group ought to be able to acknowledge the thinking of the others, even when they have good grounds to reject it for themselves. It is also tragic when those who should be taking one path through the raging sea are pushed into one of the other lanes.
This is precisely what has happened, with great ill effect, in regard to the non-publication of women’s pictures in many Orthodox outlets. Such a practice had no place in non-chassidic circles just a few years ago. Market forces dictate that the numerical strengths of different subgroups count; Chassidim have become the largest subgroup, and their needs now prevail in media, and in setting kashrus standards. That has meant, however, that other subgroups that are far removed from some of their thinking have been wrenched from their paths and forced to march on a different road.
To mock chassidishe standards in regard to mechitzos – real and virtual – between the genders, to treat these practices contemptuously, is small-minded and wrong-headed. We ought to understand and embrace the longings for kedushah in which they are sourced. We can and should do this even as we can be skeptical of whether the methodology works, critical of the problems it generates, and absolutely certain that it is not the way for the rest of us to serve Hashem.
When it comes to expunging women’s faces from public presentation, we must have the courage to say that this is harmful, dangerous, and not for us. It may serve the needs of some, but not those of us who have different needs. I have heard from many women of unimpeachable frumkeit and yir’as Shomayim how painful it is to them to have become visually marginalized. How they cannot explain to their daughters why women do not seem to have a place, even though (outside of Chassidic circles – and even inside many of them!) women have assumed much broader roles in the community than their grandmothers, all the time hewing to the demands of halachah and tzniyus. How they cannot explain to their sons that yesh gevul – there are defined standards of modesty, and that once met, there is nothing at all wrong with a woman’s picture being displayed when appropriate. How they have no answer to the mocking of Torah that this practice precipitates in the greater world – a world that was once opaque to the eyes of outsiders, but is no longer, and will continue to drill down on what they can point to with derision.
For those of us who are concerned with the inroads made by groups who have crossed over to the other side of Orthodoxy’s border, this practice has been a disaster. We seem to have broadcast loud and clear: You might as well join with the falsifiers of Torah, because the traditionalists have hit upon an extremism that is simply incompatible with who we are.
For those who have not given up on Jewish neshamos still waiting outside the borders of halachic commitment, the publicity that has attended to this practice has created an insuperable problem. Who wants to join a religion of mullahs?
A group of women is doing something about this situation. Their effort will likely win a hechsher from the OU, but not the Badatz. Please study their proposal, and sign on to their effort.
There is another change to frum publications that I think bears mention.
Compare some of the ads in today’s magazines to those of the JO of the 80’s. Today’s ads, even for men’s clothing – no, even for chasidishe men’s clothing, shtreimelach and all, unabashedly promote “image” in a way that would have possibly passed for the purim spoof edition of the frum media 30 years ago. To say nothing of some of the children’s clothing ads which rival the clothing ads found in non-religous media in their materialism and objectification.
Doubtless, the magazines will create policies that ban women’s images from ads, even if the petition succeeds, but I think that our attitudes towards photography, imagery, and marketing in general are responsible for the Chasidish community’s attitude that photos of women are objectionable. They can’t ban photos of shtreimelach, so the influence of the street manifests there, in a weird, humorous way to non-shtreimel wearers, but it belies an underlying obsession with appearance that has crossed the spectrum.
Rabb Adlerstein, thank you for your support — and for speaking up. Our community needs to hear it. I am in awe of your post.
Beautifully stated. Thank you for putting this concern on the radar. It is so difficult to explain to an 11 year old girl why there aren’t pictures of the girls and mommies in all of our shabbas magazines. When saying “some people don’t think it is tzniyus.” And she says “how are tzniyus girls and mommies NOT tzniyus?”. How are we even to answer that?
With all due respect, this is not a battle worth starting with publications that are owned/managed by chassidim. Binah is a non-starter. The leadership is a proudly chassidic woman who defers to chassidic leadership and takes their mandate of supporting literary development in the chasidic community as sacrosanct. I think this may be an exercise in futility. Mishpachah, though, comes from a different place.
With many of these Chareidi magazines, the pages are fraught with conspicuous consumption for vacations, gourmet kosher food ads, fancy Pesach hotels, and “retreats” for Kiruv, Chinuch and like organizations. For that, economics certainly drive the liberal advertising policy which most certainly goes against the axiom of “hatzneah lechess” (isn’t that the source text for Tzniyus?) But obviously, no pun intended, those ads do bring home the bacon.
I somewhat disagree with the premise of the petition that it is strictly a matter of economics in order for these publications to be able to broaden their target markets to include Chassidim. That may have been the original intent. But, we all know that the fact of the mater is that invitations for almost all Yeshivos today, even those sent out independently by mail include the photo of just the male with the hat, over the caption of “Rabbi (or Mr.) & Mrs.”. This leads me to conclude that the phenomenon goes well beyond the appearance thereof in paid publications. It has gotten to the point where if you are a Yeshiva or mossad trying to maintain Yeshivishe “street cred” you will not want to have women’s pictures in ads, lets they be branded as “Modernishe”.
Many in the Livishe world will either concoct a post hoc Halachic rationalistion for this or will say something to the effect “and what’s so bad about enhancing Tzniyus?”. While I wholeheartedly agree with the post here and elsewhere, that this is indeed a horrible destructive development the community, you will have Rabbonim. Roshei Yeshiva, and Askanim who will endorse the contrived Halachic justification. Therefore, the aforementioned “we’re OK with this” people will see the petition as emanating from “Modernishe” or feminist forces (R”L) and must be opposed.
In the pre-Election issue where Mishpacha tried to test the waters on this, they put a digitally generated photographic negative of Hillary. There was an uproar seen in subsequent Letters to the Editor, including from some women of this being “poretz geder”! So, I don’t see the proposed petition gaining any inertia whatsoever. What might be more effective would be for honorees of mosdos to walk with their wallets away from the dinners of the Yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs who have ridden this wave and placed such ads in these Chareidi publications. When they call, tell the Askanim and Roshei Yeshivos, “if you want to exploit me and my money by giving my wife’s name a cameo, then she gets into the picture too”. And those hit up for ads or reservations to the Dinner should express the same sentiment.
I totally get the difficulty that many women would have, and explaining it to their daughters. But can’t we as males call a spade a spade, and admit that seeing an attractive woman in a picture triggers a different thought process than when a woman sees an attractive male?
There’s only so much you can put upon us. That’s why we dress modestly according to halacha which is what Hashem in His divine wisdom requires of us. It’s time to put the responsibility back on the man. Whether it is our pinky or our covered hair and exposed face, the onus is on him. Let’s normalize this and not over-sexualize what is permitted. If a person wants to be extra careful with shmiras einaim and finds he will be gazing at a picture of a modestly clad woman, then that is his achrayus, but I do not believe the modest woman is serving as a stumbling block.
the burka babes of israeli fame would disagree with you. they may attract ‘attention ‘ , but engender no sexual attraction
Where does it state that frum means you have to be frumpy? Why can’t men be able to control themselves and know that not every woman is responsible for their reactions? Be responsible and respectful. That’s the same mindset that bad men use to excuse rape, “they were asking for it.” I believe that our religious men should be held to a higher standard.
That is probably true, but there comes a point when we men have to exercise self-restraint rather than expect all of society to accommodate us.
Couldn’t have said it better myself, Raymond!
Also agreeing with Raymond.
Thank you, Alexandra Fleksher and RK. I comment pretty regularly on this website, but hardly ever know if the things I say make any sense to anybody, so it is nice to be validated like this. And speaking of the topic at hand, I have to wonder how far some people are willing to go in censoring any possibility of any man seeing a woman’s face. Taken to the logical extreme, all Jewish women should wear burkas, or perhaps never leave their homes at all. It would almost be a comical scenario, until one realizes that we would then be imitating the ways of the primitive, barbaric world of the islamoNazis, which probably is not such a good idea to do.
If you cannot so much as look at the face of a woman without your thought processes being triggered, you have no business going outside, where real women exist.
Sounds like the petition is actually re the WOMEN’s supplements. So- what is the likelihood the men even are reading those?
-If a picture in a magazine is an issue then how about the grocery store or at school orientations etc.? Once we say that seeing (pictures of) women who are tzniyusly dressed is not ok- then where does it actually end?
– Re the issue of photos being potential triggers; why is it different than real life? IF a neighbor is over to speak W your wife – youd just refrain from spending time speaking or looking at her; so why is it different with pictures?
Do you want women to walk around in a burka for fear of arousing a lustful thought in men? Which Rabbi would support that?
Hashem made women to be attractive to men and for men to appreciate them, but as Tehillim 31 says;
“Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that fears Hashem, she shall be praised”.
If men and women fear Hashem, no harm will come of it.
Hilchos yichud proves that halachah does not agree with this sentiment that, which is quite recent, that its up to men to control themselves and has nothing to do with women. On the contrary, halachah does put some responsibility on woman to dress a certain way in order not to attract the attention of men. This is not a PC view of gender relationships, and some would view this is a part of “rape culture” (see criticism of Mike Pence being a part of rape culture because he practices a form of “yichud”). However, we don’t live our lives based on the expectations and views of our surrounding culture about how men should be and how women should be. That’s not to say that I agree with the ban on pictures of women, but we have to honest that we also don’t agree with a license to show pictures of women to the same extent as we do men.
Hilchos yichud prove nothing of the sort. Being alone with someone creates a situation where a person might act impulsively based on attraction. Therefore there is a halachah on the subject. Reading a magazine containing a picture of a woman doesn’t lead to rash actions. Therefore it is permitted.
“”While I wholeheartedly agree with the post here and elsewhere, that this is indeed a horrible destructive development the community, you will have Rabbonim. Roshei Yeshiva, and Askanim who will endorse the contrived Halachic justification.””
I disagree. I don’t know any RY’s, etc. who would endorse a halachic justification. It might not be an issue that bothers them too much, but they won’t invent halacha. They tend to strive be very true to Original Halacha.
How to explain to “my daughters”: This is a mishugas. There are many, many mishugassen in this day and age, and my daughters can identify many examples… In this generation, there will be mishugassen, and if this one subsides, it will only be replaced by worse ones. So, to those outside of the “borders of halachic commitment”, I say: you are swept away in so many worse mishugassen. If you can’t abide this curious behavior of “chareidi media” to the point that it is a primary reason for you to reject “halachic commitment”, then, honestly, I don’t miss your participation.
Rabbi Hollywood, perhaps the loss of of Yiddishe neshamos is not a matter that bothers you, but it seems to be a matter that has mattered a great deal to gedolim for generations.
Loss of Yiddeshe Neshamos bothers me at least as much as it bothers you.
However, those who are “outside the borders” are varied, as you know. Most who have begun to stumble into an interest in Judaism (Torah Observance) are not going to be put off by or even find distasteful the weird and curious behavior of “chareidi media”. They will hopefully not see it as anything more than just another magazine, which they can like or dislike as they choose. The few who are really “put off” by this, are still in the Derech Eretz Kadmah Latorah stage, and when their personal realization of Derech Eretz is ready, they will not be put off by some expensive newsstand rags any more than they are put off by materialism, rudeness, vanity, profligacy, mendacity and other unadmirable traits that they undoubtedly will encounter, on occasion, among several individuals and institutions within the Orthodox world.
Right near the end of the article above, the words I was about to write were taken right out of my mouth, so to speak. What I mean is, in reading the above account, I kept thinking to myself that such a practice of censoring Jewish publications from having pictures of even the most modestly dressed women, strikes me as something worthy of our fanatical islamoNazi counterparts. It has no legitimate place in our civilized, mature religion…but if it does, then I have no interest in being part of something so completely absurd.
Yes! It’s so annoying to read a profile on a woman in a women’s magazine and the only pictures are of her male family members.
Oh yes! This always drives me nuts. An article about a woman’s accomplishments, showing a photo of her husband. Um, awkward. Even worse is when it’s an umarried woman and they show photos of random men.
Wait, someone profiled an umarried woman?!
“To mock chassidishe standards in regard to mechitzos – real and virtual ”
It is never appropriate to mock any standard that has a real basis in halachah, and there is a huge variety of opinions regarding the necessary height for a mechitzah. A long time ago I resolved never to get into a machloket regarding mechitzah height in any shul — the local rav has the right (and maybe the responsibility) to follow whatever position he sees as justified. It is not my job to argue with him. My position on a mechitzah is is that there should be one!
I want to share two stories, though. The first involved my wife and me. We were in Brooklyn and needed to daven so we went to a shul known as a “minyan factory”. My wife asked where the women’s section was and she was directed upstairs. She got to the balcony and there were several guys learning. They refused to leave. She had to daven outside on the sidewalk.
I was only an observer to the second. I was at an old established congregation for afternoon/evening services and got there early. A guy was there with his wife and he was ragging on the low height of the mechitza. When it came time to daven he ordered his wife into the hallway while HE stayed in the beit Knesset — and several OTHER women were in the women’s section.
Sometimes it isn’t about the rules or the customs it is about derech eretz.
1. Ami Magazine was not mentioned in the petition. In “Reporting from the White House”( 3/15/17 issue, pg. 28), there is a picture of Jake Turx and other reporters, and a female reporter is visible in the corner of the picture…
(If Hillary would have won, Turx might not be in this scene, but on the other hand, his editor, R. Yitzchok Frankfurter, told Turx’s mentor, Ari Goldman, of the Columbia Journalism Review(9/30/15), that to not publish her picture , “would be disrespectful.”).
2. Just as there are non-Haredi publishing houses of books, there can be non-Haredi media with women’s pictures which could provide an alternative.
3. Why is there a difference between seeing a rebbetzin in an Artscroll biography versus in a newspaper? Perhaps in the newspaper, it’s an issue of everyone reading something jointly and weekly as a community, which could be considered more of a community issue. By contrast, people read books do so separately, as individuals, so it’s not publicly breaching a certain standard.
4. Hamodia has a statement that was quoted in both Avital Chizik’s Haaretz article(8/11/15), and in the above-mentioned Columbia Journalism Review:
… Purity and modesty are natural to women, not public exposure. It is unfortunate that modern times deny women this precious quality and instead turn them into objects. Preserving respect for women’s rights for privacy and modesty is our guiding principle not to publish women’s pictures. We are backed by thousands of years of Jewish tradition that had women demanding their rights for modesty, purity and privacy.
The women’s issue aside, I would recommend “Raising Healthy, Happy, and Resilient Children” on this year’s Agudah Convention website (Women’s Sessions section) about Hamodia’s superlative editorial sensitivities.
“Why is there a difference between seeing a rebbetzin in an Artscroll biography versus in a newspaper?”
Good question. One justification (a financial one) is that even if only some issues show women, they will lose readers who will unsubscribe since they can’t tell in advance which issues have such pictures. (Whereas they can usually tell before buying a book.)
Second, a book has a much longer lead time than a weekly magazine. Editors can carefully consider if an illustration is appropriate. Magazine staff can’t spend too much time on any one picture. If that means that they illustrate an article about WWII refugees in Shanghai with a picture of the skyscrapers of 21st century Shanghai, or put the modern Egyptian flag next to the name of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut [actual examples], well, only nerds like me will care. But if they overlook that one of the women in a photo is dressed inappropriately, a lot of people will care. Blanket prohibitions are much less work.
Blanket prohibitions are also work, because you have to carefully scrutinize every crowd photo to make absolutely sure that no female face or form can be seen. This can take a lot of time when you have crowds of dozens or hundreds.
Two other examples of how “mainstream” this practice is, well beyond Mishpacha and Binah. A couple of years ago, a mainstream Chareidi book publisher published a biography of a famous Rebbitzen and the cover had a picture of her house! (A biography without a photo? gevald, just skip the graphic altogether!) Second, a few years ago, a certain Chareidi Kiruv organization sent our shul a video and asked us to show it as part of a video program on Tisha B’Av. It was essentially an infomercial of that project. The video profiled a formerly secular Israeli who encountered a Rebbitzen on a plane. The two struck up a conversation and ultimately she was instrumental in his becoming frum. Yet, after a very brief cameo, the producers spent the rest of the segment interviewing her husband on camera about the man’s kiruv journey. It was obvious that the husband was neither charismatic nor really involved in the guy’s transformation. He just happened to live at the same address as the host Rebbitzen, and was male. It was obvious that the organization was reluctant to record the woman on camera since they new that the target audience of amateur Mekarvim would be Yeshivish. Needless to say, I was not all that “inspired” by that transparent absurdity and that was the last time that I ever agreed to show the organization’s material.
Phew! Sigh of relief. Thank you, Rabbi Adlerstein for bringing this up. This practice has been a turn-off. If a Rebbetzin is profiled or eulogized in a Binah or Mishpachah, please show me a picture. Show me her smile, inspire me visually, not only verbally.
I’m pretty sure that we did not allow photos of women before the 19th century. Definitely against our Mesorah.
As an advocate of Jewish activism I applaud this petition.
The Jewish community during the last century stood on the sidelines waiting/hoping/sometimes praying for change while the prominent modus operandus has been Passivity with a capital P. (I am well aware of the years 1960-80s during Meir Kahane and SSSJ demos but that was when there existed a different religious mainstream).
The last decade has brought a whiff of activism and gathering of forces for Jewish rights usually in the religious realm. The voice of politicians in Albany and the pen of Charedi journalists have shown a marked shift in direction. (from non involvement/passivity to an active stance on issues). I would venture to say that global & Israeli behavior has seeped into our kehilla proving that protests, demos, letter writing, boycotts, harassment and cherems have shown results. I just read this morning that the Eida Charedi of Jerusalem has urged WOMEN to use their power of ‘speech” and call/protest/harass military officials of the IDF to protest Charedi enlistment. It has been shown that the women marches in America against political candidates and issues has brought results and the Charedi world is ready to duplicate the process.
Now, we are visually saturated with media’s addiction to videos, film strips, billboards, posters, flyers and advertisements. They are non-avoidable. The frum kehilla is trying every-way possible “all or nothing” to protect its kehilla by banning media devices, magazines with women’s photos, store displays, shtiels of certain colors or lengths, social apps, etc.
The campaign is KEDUSHA – increasing holiness and purity. Unfortunately in every crusade there are victims — we females are the victims in the Kedusha campaign. (the latest schmooze about Ger chassidim and their kedusha mission – which is a minority opinion of righteousness & sancity will be next on the mainstream Charedi wagon!).
Therefore, count me in as a participant in this petition. Will it work?? Doubtful yet voices must be heard since banning of photos can not lead to banning of the woman’s voice – a g-d given beautiful character trait.
It never occured to me that the 100’s of old JO’s I keep were actually treif. B’H , we no longer live in such blindness—what can you do, the generation was weak and couldn’t do what halacha really required— like in the 50’s when haredim in US were forced to join in zionist celebrations of the State due to their weakness in numbers and lack of back bone.
to paraphrase sen goldvasser– kana’us in the pursuit of frumkeit is no avlah, moderation in the pursuit of kovod habriyos is no ma’aleh…
the efforts perforce will fail. NO halachic authority could see backing down on any chumrah if the reason is because the rabble is discontended. Mishpacha and Ami already have to compete as to who is frummer.
the irony is that the MO community where this is not an issue [ the oilam wouldnt stand for such a chumra] is not interested in reading such material at least not on a weekly basis. thus, there is no community that would support such an endeavor– MO doesn’t want or need it , and haredi publications must be in a can-you-top-this mode.
maybe getting the ever-more-decadent ads for gashmiut [foods,restaurants, pesach programs , $$$dirot, etc ] could be more successful—there have actually been kol korehs that succeeded a bit in limiting wedding exorbitance…
As a Yated and Mishpacha subscriber ( as I have explained previously), I wholeheartedly supply such a petition.
When I read profiles of great women like R’n Sarah Freifeld A’H (who was a teacher of mine) and Prof. Jean Jofen, I want to see their pictures. I want to be able to show young women what those women looked like, including what their dresses and their sheitels looked like. There is a distinct LACK of tznius in the way too many young women dress these days–even though they may be technically covered up–but it is extremely difficult to find pictures to show them how real tznius used to look and should look.
The article about Prof Jofen included photographs of her husband, her sons, the front cover of her book and even of her house. I kept turning pages and asking, “What is missing here?”
The article about R’n Freifeld certainly did not show and did not even mention that she was beautiful. She used to remind me of her namesake Sarah Imeinu, who at age 20 was like a child (as Rashi says) in her innocence and purity. One way she expressed her love of Eretz Yisrael was that she made a point of wearing dresses with Israeli embroidery, simple and lovely. I really wanted to see a picture of my teacher.
In support of your position – Mishpacha’s “Tichel Tales” columnist described being inspired by pictures in Reb. Kanievsky’s biography of the rebbetzin, and her mother Reb. Elyashiv, in tichels.
Why can’t the magazines offer two versions, one with women’s pictures and one without? If necessary they could go with different names for them but mostly the same writing.
I can’t imagine that would be financially sustainable.
As a frum woman I completely disagree. It is praiseworthy that frum newspapers do not publish pictures of women. You won’t see women in any Muslim newspaper, and we need that zchus.
You don’t want to be writing an article in 4 years about how untznius pictures of frum women are now in every newspaper.
You also won’t find observant Muslim men who pray fewer than five times a day, or fast fewer than forty days of Ramadan.
Not every practice of other religions needs to be adopted as a zechus.
What makes you think you won’t see pictures of women in Muslim newspapers?
His is to verify I made the comment below
I’m ambivalent in general about having pictures of women in magazines.
I also feel that there is a big difference between a haskafah magazine like The Jewish Observer or an inspirational Godal biography having pictures of women and a magazine that is meant for recreation and entertainment purposes having such pictures.
The former will certainly only have appropriate pictures. The latter may not end doing so.
Great post, but I have a hard time agreeing with the extreme deference to Chassidim on their treatment of women. For example, is it really OK to make women shave their heads at pain of excommunication?
“I looked down at my dark shoes and thick beige stockings. How did the Va’ad Hatznius find out? It must have been the neighbors who saw a stray hair, who noticed that I wore the same turban all the time. It was the only turban I could find that would fit on top of the large, white knit kippah I bought in the hosiery shop, the type that Hasidic men wear to sleep at night, which held my mass of hair securely in place. I would spend many hours a day with these neighbor women while my children were playing outside. They must have ratted me out. Or, perhaps, the mikveh attendant reported me because I had been absent for more than a year. Since my hair had started to grow out, I had stopped making the monthly trip to the strict Kiryas Joel mikveh to do the ritual bathing after menstruation, as required by Jewish law. Instead, I went to a mikveh in Rockland County, N.Y., where women with hair are allowed to bathe. I knew that the Va’ad Hatznius was going to catch on to my secret at some point, and now it had.”
“”Great post, but I have a hard time agreeing with the extreme deference to Chassidim on their treatment of women.””
Disagree with Chassidim all you want, even criticize their practices. Declare that there is a lot that you disagree with about much of Chassidic practice. That’s fine.
But don’t refer to what you disagree with as “their TREATMENT of WOMEN”. That is the practice of their own women, not their “treatment of women”.
Disagree with the “threats of excommunication”, etc. But don’t call it mistreatment of women. That just reveals your prejudice. The fact that some woman writes in her book accounts that support your prejudice doesn’t make you any less prejudiced.
If you were really familiar with that world, you would know that the women are “treated” like queens. They are part of the Chassidic way, and they are a fully participating part of their community and its “quirky, oh-so-backward” practices. The women are not some class of servant, property or second-class citizen.
Shame on you for your bigoted thinking!
“But don’t refer to what you disagree with as ‘their TREATMENT of WOMEN’. That is the practice of their own women, not their ‘treatment of women’.”
I am specifically referring to their treatment of women. What the referenced story shows is that shaving of the head in that community is a coerced practice. If you don’t do it, they won’t let you go to their mikvah, they will track you down (even though you keep your hair covered), and they will kick you out of the community.
“Disagree with the ‘threats of excommunication’, etc.”
I don’t understand the distinction. The threat of excommunication for recalcitrant women certainly falls under the category of the treatment of women.
If someone wants to voluntarily shave their head, refuse to drive, or not have their pictures printed, then I can’t object (well the first one seems to be against the halachah, but let’s say they have their own interpretation). The problem is that this is not voluntary and the rules are decided by men while the restrictions fall on the women.
Here is a non-chasidic example: my non-chasidic formerly Charedi friend told me of story of his town in Israel. There was a balcony collapse and the town wanted to know what T’shuvah to do in response. They (the men) voted to henceforth disallow the girls in the town from riding bicycles (!).
I will agree that the coercion is not only directed towards women. The New Square arson attack demonstrates that. And some closed communities are equal opportunity in denying their children a basic secular education, including learning English. Of course, that is all of a piece with the coercion, since excommunication for someone who can’t read/write/speak the local language is all the more effective.
‘If you were really familiar with that world, you would know that the women are “treated” like queens.’
The question is: what if someone prefers not to be treated like a “queen” and to drive themselves into town? Will they allow it? We all try to treat our children like “royalty” but we also allow them to grow up and make their own decisions.
Hooray ! For years I have been screaming this as loudly as I can and getting only criticism.
In out of town Baltimore there has been a pernicious change and no one says a word. The last time I attended the annual dinner of the largest girls school where 3 generations of my wife’s famaily have attended, was my last. They honored women who deserved recognition and did not let them get the award.Rather their husband went up to be presented on behalf of his wife.
When I asked the head of a major institution why we no longer see piuctures of females in newsletters, he smiled and said,”The Hungarians won.” Evenhe doesn’t believe in it but market forces are in play.
I wonder if the present style for almost all females,young and old, in my community to wear black, opaque stockings is done for style or modesty. Wearing hosiery is no longer permitted if you want to get a good shiduch, I guess.
I hope that the campaign succeeds,but, the Chassidim and the Lakewood style Litvish are dominating and we old fashioned normative Jews are viewed as living in the past. In fact that is exactly the answer I received. “You are a dinosaur”.(and they don’t even believe in dinosaurs.)
“”I wonder if the present style for almost all females, young and old, in my community to wear black, opaque stockings is done for style or modesty. “”
It is style. Ask anybody who works “in the city”. So says my wife, who works “in the city” sometimes.
I know it is hard for us men to always be content with trends in women’s fashion, but we need to accept – “Nashim Am bifnei Atzman” – and to trust that they are trying to be stylish and attractively dressed. Not our business to meddle, unless, in the plurality, we find a fashion to be provocative.
I stopped buying Mishpacha and stopped contributing articles to them largely because of this issue. This sort of policy smacks of the lowest form of religious fundamentalism — where will it stop?
Several years ago, I posted a photograph of my four children, then late teens/young adults on my web site, which attracts many non-Jewish and non-Orthodox readers. I had never “gone public” showing my family, especially as it was clear from their outfits that this was an Orthodox Jewish family, with my sons wearing hats. Within a week I was called by an editorial assistant at one of these magazines, asking for permission to use this photo, because it was almost impossible to find a stock photo of frum teens. Then she said, “But don’t worry, we’ll airbrush your daughter out of the photo.”
It was hard for me to contain my anger, I gave her an earful, and as you already will have guessed, refused permission.
One other thing to consider, which seems to have been covered in some earlier replies here, is that many women (and men) don’t want to have their faces published. If one in three “profiled” women tell the magazine writers to leave their pictures out of it, it may have just become easier for the magazine to just publish pictures of male substitutes as a policy, for sake of uniformity. (It’s their policy decision to make, even if I would disagree with it.)
It’s quite a coincidence that lots of men are willing to have their pictures published, but none of the women. I guess that if they are profiling 3 men and one doesn’t want his picture published, then it will be easier to just publish female substitutes?
In my experience, most women – Jewish or not – are naturally more averse to having their pictures publicized online than men . . .
You mean that this is all ado about nothing and Hilllary and every other women who ever could have been in those papers and magazines did not want to have their picture published there? Amazing!
You missed my point.
I am saying that a partial explanation for the disparity in images of women (especially online) is due to their more common aversion to having their pictures publicized generally. Most of the frum women I know don’t want to have pictures of themselves all over the internet; some don’t even have it on their own Facebook pages.
Sensitivity to having pictures of one’s teenage daughter online is basic common sense as well a privacy/safety issue. Many non-Jews are careful about this too.
That being said, I am opposed to the general banning of pictures of women – just that some of it is their preference.
My apologies for misinterpreting your point and then responding sarcastically. I agree that people’s preferences should be respected, but that this doesn’t justify banning pictures of women.
But the inevitable response to your post, RYA – and one I find difficult to answer, even though I agree with you – is, “One man’s ‘too much’ is another man’s ‘just right.” In other words, other Jews , including observant Jews, believe wearing wigs and much of other current-tznius norms are too much, and yet it hasn’t stopped orthodox society from politely ignoring them and forging ahead.
We Jews are stubborn by nature, and never more so when it comes to a religious matter. Objectively speaking, is removing women’s pictures any more or less logical than wearing a dress while skiing or running a marathon? It doesn’t matter, once it becomes a matter of halacha. I therefore don’t see why the chassidishe world wont do the exact same thing orthodoxy generally did, particularly since (as you note) they’ve got the numbers, and continue on their merry way.
We will not allow those publications in our house even if they publish pictures of women. The advertisements are more of a concern to us as being anti torah.
One step forward, two steps back. in Israel an ad with 4 smurfs has been edited for Bnai Brak standards, removing the one female smurfette. Not being expert in smurfology, i did not even notice that particular image was a she. if someone made this up, it would not be believable, but alas, this is NOT fake news. if it really helped, i might not even notice, but the news from Israel suggests it might not!
I wrote a similar post (3/22/17) the day before this was published linking to the same petition Rabbi Adlerstein linked to.
Although my spin was slightly different, I obviously I agree with everything Rabbi Adlerstein said. I mention this only to note that that post generated a whopping 343 comments to date! Which I believe shows how strongly even many Charedim feel about it. Most Charedim that are not Chasidic tend towards moderation. They comprise the mainstream of the Charedi world.
Perhaps a huge response from mainstream Charedim on that petition might get leaders in organizations like Agudah to support ending a practice that – which is may done for the right reasons but that has an effect that is far more deleterious than what is gained by it. Yotzah Scharo B’Hefseida.
between your post and Rabbi adlerstein’s, the petition was modified as many of the comments on your site suggested. on your original link, the financial element was a bit much; currently it has been moderated. you helped
1. Some suggest a mesorah for images of ladies appearing in print e.g. the JO.
Both the photographic quality and print quality of the images shown in the JO is very poor by todays standards. It is stretch to claim a ‘mesorah’ that would therefore allow – for example – a full colour high quality picture of a lady staring out of the front page of a frum publication.
2. Some have very intelligently and very obviously raised the issue that it is accepted (and the reverse rejected!) that frum ladies can have their faces seen in public ‘in real life’ so to, it should be the case that a frum lady can have her face shown in a magazine.
It is a fact that, for most men (certainly every one that I’ve spoken to about this) there is a difference in effect(see the rashi below) between a real woman and an image of the very same woman. This applies even to his wife. [see rashi on shemos 38:8]. Referencing point one, I’m just not sure that a grainy black and white photo smudged onto paper will have the same effect!
“Some suggest a mesorah for images of ladies appearing in print e.g. the JO.”
I don’t pretend to speak for Rabbi Adlerstein, but I don’t think that he needs a “mesorah” to allow something which is not Assur to begin with. What the pictures show is that this rule is fairly new, even for the community in question.
Your argument about quality is quite unconvincing. They do not print even older photographs, and modern technology can “blur” the photographs to whatever degree they desire. The truth is that their publication rules have changed in a rightward drift that characterizes a lot Orthodoxy. An honest defense is “yes, we are doing it better now”.
“It is a fact that, for most men (certainly every one that I’ve spoken to about this) there is a difference in effect(see the rashi below) between a real woman and an image of the very same woman.”
Most men can look at chaste pictures of women without having prohibited thoughts.
“This applies even to his wife. [see rashi on shemos 38:8]. ”
I think that you misunderstand the Rashi. He says that they would look into the mirrors along with their husbands (so as to see their images together) and tease their husbands by saying that they (the wives) looked better than their husbands. I’d also point out that this contradicts your first item about image quality, since the mirrors were polished copper (or maybe copper basins with water in them?), not the high quality glass mirrors that we are familiar with.
How can Group A impose on Group B in a matter like this unless both leaders and followers among the latter won’t stand up for their Torah values and publish or post accordingly, through their own channels? That timidity is the greater problem.
The matter of ads, etc., encouraging conspicuous consumption was also raised here. If that’s not an egregious offense against Jewish modesty, what is?
Although the women in my family do not feel marginalized by the omission of such pictures, I fully understand the irony of a “woman’s” magazine containing only pictures of males. I would appreciate that the advocates please address the following points
1) Acceptable women’s fashion today in the frum world is much more provocative than what was the norm in Jewish Observer’s heyday. Covering every square inch does not equal modesty.
2) A photograph of a well-groomed person that remains a fixed image on a printed page engenders a far different effect than walking in the street encountering people in the normal bustle of life. The JO images at the top of this post are candid general images that happen to be of women, but don’t put their bodies on display. I imagine that even the advocates cannot possibly desire that magazines print high-quality, close-up profiles which is now the trend. Is this a correct assertion? In some feature articles, the lead photo exposes every pore in the poor fellow’s face! (Re: Marc’s comment above.)
3) In the new sefer (in English) of Rav Schachter shlita”s shiurim on the Parsha, he discusses how men too must emulate Keil Mistaseir and eschew public appearances, limiting them to what is necessary to accomplish the required task. Men, and certainly women, who are imbued with innate tznius, are uncomfortable when their pictures are published. We live in an increasingly visual world where such values are often violated. Jewish magazines and websites have a difficult task in judging what is appropriate and what is not. In this area, I would think any doubt should go l’chumrah.
“I would appreciate that the advocates please address the following points”
I’ll take a crack at it.
“Acceptable women’s fashion today in the frum world is much more provocative than what was the norm in Jewish Observer’s heyday.”
It’s common to decry the current state of reality and point back the the halcyon days of old. In fact, I think that at least certain halachic measures, like hair covering, is much more widely adhered to today. But either way, publish pictures that are chaste and not those that aren’t. #2 is basically the same.
“Men, and certainly women, who are imbued with innate tznius, are uncomfortable when their pictures are published.”
No one is arguing for publishing pictures of people against their will. But many people who accomplish something important do appreciate the recognition and, possibly altruistically. also gain from the publicity to further their mission.
“Jewish magazines and websites have a difficult task in judging what is appropriate and what is not. In this area, I would think any doubt should go l’chumrah.”
Your argument logically leads to the conclusion that no pictures of people, men or women, should be published. How you get out of that reasoning that only women’s pictures should be omitted is incomprehensible. Since, at least according to you, women have less of a base desire for publicity, the only pictures that should be published should be of women.
Setting that aside, when you have a doubt, you can be Machmir for yourself. It is completely improper to say that because you have a doubt about something, *someone else* has to adopt a chumrah against their will.
In addition, you don’t consider the benefits of publishing such pictures. As mentioned above, the benefits encouraging efforts on behalf of the public by recognizing those who make those efforts applies to both men and women.
Finally, I really don’t think that these reasons are the true reason for the policy. As an example, none of them explain the need to cut Hillary Clinton out of the famous Osama bin Laden situation room photo.
Thank you Rabbi Adlerstein for lending a well-respected mans voice to this issue that is often ignored when protested by those of us to whom this matters most.
To illustrate how this trend has progressed beyond economics and subscriptions:
For years a friend of mine has sent Purim greetings with a tasteful family photo in costume (benign and appropriate, of course). This year it was worrisome to receive their Purim greetings with a “family” photo of her husband and children. When asked why she wasn’t included, her reply was that she lives in Lakewood. When it becomes innapropriate for a mother to be part of a family photo, then we have gone beyond the comic and bothersome and have entered the realm of macabre and sinister.
I was recently made aware of a website selling modest clothing, ostensibly marketing themselves to the frum market. Oddly, while displaying modest clothing on human models (none posed provacatively), the girls all had their faces either blurred or wearing masks (!yes, eleborate masks a la fifty shades!). The trend of erasing womens faces has become completely separated from any idea of tnius, to the point where companies recognize that to sell to the frum market, even when displaying female bodies, the faces have to be erased.
Thank you for lending a voice to this issue.
I would just like to note that if this succeeds in changing the policies of Mishpacha but not Ami, that is not necessarily an indication of Ami’s extremism. As I understand it, Mishpacha has always been a strictly Yeshivish magazine, while Ami has tried to appeal to the Yeshivish and Chassidic alike, and even the Sephardim and Modern Orthodox to some extent. So it would possibly be harder from Ami to make the change, even though I’m sure 80% of its readership would be fine with allowing pictures of women.
Interestingly, what is really missing from the frum weekly glossy market is a magazine focused on the Modern/Centrist Orthodox and/or the Dati Leumi. There would be quite a large market for such a magazine, and I have no doubt pictures of (modestly clad) women would be printed without hesitation.
So many frum women today who are fully covered dress extremely provocatively. Case in point- I rent space in a non-religious upscale area for my not-for-profit. Four frum female family members came to see our space. My eighty year old landlord came over the next day and had a lot to say about the appearance of these female relatives- and this is a landlord who sees all the secular young women in his area and yet the attractiveness of the ffrum women stood out-and not because they were so eidel that it shone a light around them.
An 80 yo man finds 4 young women to be attractive and this means that they must have done something wrong? There is simply no way for women to dress that is going to prevent men from finding them attractive, short perhaps of burkas or locking them up in the house.
I do think that your response captures well the mentality of the purveyors of the periodicals in question.
there is very real difference between looking attractive, something the halakha encourages, and dressing to provoke sexual attraction in a normal individual. clearly these differences are not precisely defined and what is a normal male reaction is not either, but that is how many halakhot are formulated.
and btw, i have seen men dressed to attract sexual reaction from women and those dressed in an extremely attractive non-sexual fashion. like in many areas of halakha it is best to behave in way that one feels does not reach the (subjective) point of real doubt. the desire to delineate precisely may not be possible or desirable.
“There is simply no way for women to dress that is going to prevent men from finding them attractive, short perhaps of burkas or locking them up in the house.”
David, your misuse of reductio ad absurdum argumentation informs the reader that promoting your agenda supplants sound logic. It’s wonderful that you care enough to follow the comments and reply, but please stick to the point raised. Attractive is not synonymous with provocative.
Yossi’s anecdote is, unfortunately, just a sampling of many similar incidents. A shul rabbi (not an “extremist” type) was brought to tears when a congregant, whose wife works as a therapist in a public school district, reported how a female non-observant professional supervisor expressed her initial shock and then dismay when meeting with the Yiddishe women in her jurisdiction who consistently dress more provocatively than their often non-sleeved and non-skirted counterparts. (Yes, this is worded euphemistically as the actual quote is not appropriate for these pages.)
<i>David, your misuse of reductio ad absurdum argumentation informs the reader that promoting your agenda supplants sound logic. It’s wonderful that you care enough to follow the comments and reply, but please stick to the point raised. Attractive is not synonymous with provocative.</i>
I think that my logic was sound, but let me spell it out more clearly. The commenter “Yossi” told a story about an 80 year old man who expressed his attraction towards the commenter’s female relatives. This was supposed to be evidence that they had dressed improperly. His logic was (man attracted to woman) implies (woman sinned). I responded that if such a standard was applied consistently, then women who leave the house without a burka are sinning. I think that my logic is sound, but feel free to poke holes in it.
I also said that his comment is right in line with the female picture banners/censors. After all, since there might (will?) always be someone attracted to the woman’s picture, and attraction implies sin, so it must be a sin to print the picture. Please feel free to poke more holes.
“Yossi’s anecdote is, unfortunately, just a sampling of many similar incidents.”
The plural of anecdote is not data.
I’ll also suggest something else. I don’t know anything about the trends in how Orthodox women dress. But given the fact that there are many more young people in places like New York who practice somewhere in the spectrum of Orthodox Judaism, and many come from cultures that would have wider standards of acceptable dress, it is certainly possible that as people take up observance in greater numbers, it give the appearance of Orthodox people dressing with wider standards than before, even though, in truth, the actual trend is to a narrower standard. I don’t claim this to be true; I’m just pointing out that even if the facts are as you claim, the underlying trend may not be.
Finally, we all tend to think that the past was better, even when it wasn’t.
Quote from Yossi:
this is a landlord who sees all the secular young women in his area and yet the attractiveness of the frum women stood out
Unless all the secular young women were dressed in burkas, your logic fails.
Thank you again, David, for providing a thoughtful and respectful response. I’m not going to further argue the point, because:
1) The responses from “Mark” and “Marc” already indicate that others think differently from your line of reasoning, and I don’t have much to add. And,
2) It seems to me that computer-science-esque logic structure may not be the best way to approach a topic of this sensitive nature. There are many subjective feelings and personal experiences (including: upbringing, community, exposures) that influence our feelings on the matter and, in turn, they surely affect our conceptions of “logic”.
I would welcome a broader symposium on this topic, of which publishing photos is just one manifestation. Since it’s so close to Pesach I’ll mention that a review of the numerous scholarly sources detailing the immorality prevalent in ancient Egyptian society perhaps sheds new light on the life of our slave ancestors. One can’t help but draw parallels to our current society. (After reading the sources one can easily understand why the arayos are so prominent in Sefer VaYikrah!) “Ain chovush matir atzmo mi’bais ho’ assurim” – whatever one’s feelings on Da’as Torah, it would be refreshing to hear the the open and honest assessment from Torah-informed figures who understands the issues and struggles.
I testify that I stood right next to Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky ZTL at a grandson’s
wedding. There was no mechitza I deference to his very strong opposition to it.
During the dancing the two circles were nor at all far from each other.
He stood there right next to me ewith a huge smile enjoying the dancing!
He surely kknew that some men may be challenged but that was the Lithuanian approach. There needs to be ballance and not evert thing that can presents a challenge for some should be banned.
We need to take responsibility for ourselves and learn to deal with challenges.
During the dancing the men’s circle and women’s circle were not at all far from eachIothe
at the wedding of the president elect of YU’s parents 50+ years ago, RMF’s Rebbitzen ztl danced with the women in a similar situation. of course she sat with her husband. i still remember noticing the energy with which she danced.
some have argued that fashions have changed and as a result the halakha must adjust as well. while i would normally support that argument, i would note that the commonality of changed attire is so prevalent, that the reaction of the other sex has been impacted as well. the Levush argues similarly in his defense of mixed seating.
“I think that my logic was sound…” Is that how you understand the story?! Yossi didn’t say the Zokein was attracted to the women, he was making a comment about their appearance being more alluring than the secular women that he normally sees. Think about it.
“The plural of anecdote is not data.” That’s right and the plural of blog post isn’t phd.
“I think that my logic was sound…” Is that how you understand the story?! Yossi didn’t say the Zokein was attracted to the women, he was making a comment about their appearance being more alluring than the secular women that he normally sees. Think about it.
Quote from Yossi:
this is a landlord who sees all the secular young women in his area and yet the attractiveness of the frum women stood out
Unless all the secular young women were dressed in burkas, your logic fails.
Marc and Mark, you seem to be engaged here in what is known as “special pleading”. Your argument seems to be as follows:
Yes, we know that men will be attracted to women even if they are dressed modestly and they may express this attraction. So, a man talking about his attraction to a woman does not generally imply that the woman is sinning.
But this 80 yo man is different (here is the special pleading part). We know for sure that, unlike other men, he will only comment about a woman’s appearance if they have violated a norm. We know this because we did not observe him commenting on non-orthodox who did violate our norm (why he didn’t comment on them is a mystery; their violation apparently was not severe enough). But since he did comment on the frum women to their relative, there must have been some super-severe violation of the norm, even though they adhered from a technical perspective. After all, he commented on them, and didn’t on the others, even though they don’t even dress according to orthodox standards. The only possible explanation must be that they did something wrong. (The fact that the commenter presumably doesn’t shadow around the 80 yo man and so really has no idea what he does or doesn’t comment on is not even necessary to undermine the analysis).
This swiss cheese argument may be Gevinas Yisrael since it was produced by kosher and well-meaning people such as yourselves, but it is inedible.
Getting back to reality, men will observe and comment about women no matter what. I send my children to schools where they get the dress code is well beyond what halacha requires. If some 80 year-old man’s attention is attracted anyhow, I’m not going to blame them. And if they accomplish something worthwhile and have their picture printed in a magazine, I’ll be happy about it.
To go one step further, women who go out into the world in any way are unfortunately subject to all sorts of unwanted attention, advances, and even assaults no matter how they dress. I would hope that those, such as the commenters on this website, who study Judaism deeply and understand and believe that man possesses an evil inclination starting in his youth, and that there is no reliable trustee in sexual matters, would not find this surprising.
I believe Mark and Marc are correct. Not because they did or did not violate a norm-because he specifically spelled out how much they stood out.
And to call a spade a spade, they stood out because everything is PERFECT. Perfect shoes, perfect shaitels, everything perfect to the T in a way that is so dressed up that even though they may have not violated anything, the attention they draw is SO MUCH MORE than the jean wearing Mercedes SUV driving secular woman.
To drive this home a little more- I was in a class given by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Abramoff of JME fame who said he gave a taharas hamishpacha seminar with his wife Rebetzin Tehila to secular college kids. He told them about the Jewish idea of modesty, and how in our circles it is not that we are against sexuality but rather that women keep it as a private matter between them and their husbands .
At that seminar, there were religious young men and women that came to help out as staff. One of the secular college kids gets up and says “Rabbi, you are full of baloney. When I see the women that you’ve brought wearing their long sensual wigs and they’re always so perfect clothing dressed in a way that is clearly meant to attract, I just don’t buy it. The rabbi said he was mortified because he felt that there was a lot of truth to it.
He also pointed out that he had attended a wedding in a religious Zionist community and one in an upper-class ultra orthodox community in the same evening. Now of course, the ultra orthodox community officially adheres to a higher standard of modesty .
He said that there is no doubt that while the ultra orthodox wedding covered more of the official places that one is supposed to cover, there was no doubt that the modern wedding was much more modest.