Her Future on an Index Card

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43 Responses

  1. Alexandra Fleksher says:

    Thank you, Rifka Wein Harris, for bringing this extremely important perspective to this discussion — and in such a poignantly beautiful way. Thank you for telling us about your strong mesorah and being so honest about how it conflicts with the messaging we are giving our daughters today.

  2. Jacob suslovich says:

    No one has “potentials without limit.” A person who is color blind should not aspire to be a painter;. Any person has limits to what they can and what they may do. Those limits should not be set artificially low, but they exist and must be realistically evaluated.

  3. Tali Posner says:

    The solution to all problems is not simple. But the one about women’a pictures is.
    STOP buying magazines that won’t print them. Write a letter to the magazine telling them they are wrong. Write to advertisers in those magazines and tell them you won’t buy their products.
    Then, we need to secure funding to start a kosher weekly magazine that has pictures of women. Start with a column highlighting bios of accomplished wome. Show their photos.
    Also….we haven’t just taken women out of the picture. We’ve also allowed many fiction pieces to be censored and can do better there….

  4. tzippi says:

    This was beautifully stated.
    But you realize that as long as “Rabbi” is not on your incredibly broad list, some people will say you are being disingenuous.
    Just playing devil’s advocate.

  5. Bob Miller says:

    Don’t we have enough devout Jewish women with the knowledge talent, desire, and resources to write and publish for the girls and women described here? Why wait unnecessarily for others with other agendas to do this for you? Some won’t accept your output, but so?

    • devils advocate says:

      Look at the mastheads of the frum publications that aren’t publishing women’s pictures… the article writers. MANY women. There is parnassah involved here. Curious why we aren’t asking the women involved in producing these magazines to take a stand – and why are we asking the men? And if we won’t pressure the women – sorry, no business pressuring the men.

  6. ” In the same way children universally prefer the books with the pictures, she needs to see what frum actualized and accomplished women look like to hear their message clearly.”

    I hesitate to add to your already extensive library, but your daughter should read the Artscroll biography of Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky.
    http://www.artscroll.com/Books/9781422612064.html
    There are pictures of frum, actualized and accomplished women all over the place –just not on the cover.
    Is that okay?

  7. Dr. Max says:

    “Mommy, what can a frum girl be?” Doesn’t seem to indicate a lack of confidence. Maybe you are “reading ” too much into it. I give you a blessing that your daughter should be able to verbally discuss with you what’s on her mind, rather than having to produce props (or, “visual aids” like the Nevi’im…) for your guest posts.

    Well, if she turns out to be a religiously disappointing mini-me product (CH”V), at least we know to blame the Chareidi Fake Press.

    Much Hatzlocha

  8. Jolly Chareidi says:

    “And for girls who do not think it is crazy that the image of a young child’s face is deemed dangerous and necessarily hidden — girls for whom this practice coheres with the rest of their experience — just imagine what that child’s view of her own place in the world might be. Such a tiny circumscribed box with no legroom in any direction”

    Sorry what is the connection? Can’t a person achieve great things in life without their photo being splashed over a newspaper/magazine?
    Also what does “Kol Kevuda Bas Melech Penima mean and does it have halachic ramifications
    (Very nice article otherwise and much truth said in it. I agree women should be able to achieve in whatever field halachically appropiate)

    • met says:

      If people don’t need to be “splashed over a newspaper/magazine” in order to achieve great things in life, why are men’s pictures featured at all? Why do men get their photos next to articles they write? Why do men get their headshots above their names in real estate ads? Why do articles about men and their accomplishments feature their hi-res photos? And what exactly do you think the connection between “kol kevuda bas melech penima” and pictures of women is? Is it inherently untznius to show a picture of women? If that’s the case, why does the chareidi world think it’s perfectly valid for boys (because they are not men) in shidduchim to request pictures of women to scrutinize if they are attractive enough to date?

      • Jolly Chareidi says:

        my question was why the esteemed author concludes from the fact there’s no photos that there is no legroom for achievement.
        how did people achieve anything before photography?

        My question re kol kevuda was – does this impact the choice of career a woman should take, e.g. for a woman to be president of USA – would kol kevuda say she shouldn’t? Similarly any public job.

        thank you

        • met says:

          You didn’t address any of my questions, which point out how absurd it is to question why a woman should have her picture next to her name when men can take it for granted.
          Why don’t you first define the halachic impact “kol kevuda” is supposed to have? Have you read the comments below from dr. Bill?
          And as I stated above, I find it quite hypocritical of a society that claims that pictures of women are not tznius while demanding pictures of women for their sons to look at before going out with them.

    • dr. bill says:

      When you write “Also what does “Kol Kevuda Bas Melech Penima mean and does it have halachic ramifications”? you are clearly asking two questions. I have gotten blank stares from many a Rabbi when I asked him to tell me what “Kol Kevuda Bas Melech Penima” actually means. Chazal used it as a drasha in halakhic or at least quasi-halakhic contexts. For what it means see Daat Mikre for example; its halakhic implications are subsumed under our laws and traditions vis-a-vis modesty. in many contexts, the extent to which various rulings reflect the overall environment or are hard and fast halakhic strictures is subject to debate. a drash does not normally impact such disputes.

  9. Yossi says:

    David, I don’t know what you mean that her potential shouldn’t be limited by her gender. Of course it is; I think it’s silly to say that gender doesn’t hold you back. It does hold you back. A woman can’t be a rabbi, and a man can’t be a Rebbetzin. A Yisroel can’t get Kohen, a man can’t give birth.

    In fact, so much of social science is currently showing that as women in general are outpacing men academically and in many achievements (see the Ted talk The Flaming Out of Guys), that there are challenges in general that make success more elusive for males today than it used to be.

    Maybe it’s the vast amount of guys that are playing video games instead of working, the inordinate amount of time spent on pornography and other time wasters, but actually being a guy growing up or graduating these days basically says that statistically, you’re going to be doing worse academically than women.

    My point- every role is different, and the sky is the limit within your limits.

    • David Ohsie says:

      Yossi, I’m not sure where are you going with this. The fact that women now outnumber men on college campuses doesn’t prove that men should limit themselves any more than the fact that men previously dominates should have limited women. This is the very point made by the OP. Don’t limit yourself based on current gender roles and role model; instead expand the role models across genders.

      I don’t want to get into a debate about the word Rabbi, but women already do lots of things for which the title Rabbi would be applied if they were men. To take a simple example, every 1st grade male Chumash teacher is Rabbi, while 12 grade women Chumash teacher is not. So again, if not being titled Rabbi is seen limiting, then it is a problem to be solved. Even being a posek or dayan is not limited to men if their authority is voluntarily accepted. And as the halachah says, a Mamzer Talmid Chacham precedes a Kohein Am Ha’aretz.

      Anyhow these edge cases don’t detract from the main point: there is a lot of gender role limiting which is as real, but as invalid as the old 90/10 male/female medical school ratio. We should work against that.

  10. dr. bill says:

    Kudos if missing pictures rises to the level of requiring mention. In Slabodka, many went off the derech, so to speak, some incorporating academic Talmud into their derech ha’limud, REK and RYYW zichron tzaddikim liverocha among others, and many others who abandoned traditional practice entirely. In Lita, pre-WWII, many a traditional married woman did not cover her hair after marriage. Besides the Rav ztl’s wife, other RY, some heading now chareidi institutions, practiced similarly.

    Your litvishe traditions are but a long-lost relic. In my children’s homes, thank God, objectionable magazines of both extremes are not to be found. And I do not believe that women need become rabbis, at least not yet. But when women talmidei chachamin of the highest order are acknowledged as such in a site like cross-currents, I will care not a bit about the absence of women in publications.

    And now for a story. In the late 50’s/early 60’s, RMF ztl would spend many a summer at the home of a dyed-in- the-wool litvishe family, with whom his wife was friendly. His interactions with their then way, way less than 10-year-old bas zikkunim were edited in his Artscroll biography to better conform with current standards. (I was an eyewitness around BM at the time.) Roll forward 40 years and MTJ wants to honor the family; it took herculean intervention to allow that now 40 something year old women to accompany her brothers to receive an award. Today, herculean effort without Divine intervention would not be sufficient. We are making progress; sheailot about meat at a woman’s siyum during the 9 days are being asked. However, there is an equally troubling trend in the other direction, much more troubling than missing pictures.

  11. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Your mini-me is not alone in this world. My daughter, a Bais Yaakov graduate, went on to earn a BS in physics, and is now working for a university physics lab in Maryland. One question she remembers with some scorn is from a menaheles who asked her: Is there a place for a frum Jewish woman in physics? My daughter found hers.

    • Jake says:

      Your daughter should have responded: “That is a great question – let’s try to come up with an answer (and not rely on made-up chumros) both Halachically and Hashkafically while looking a wide variety of sources … when should we start?” 🙂

      • Lawrence M. Reisman says:

        Her answer was a simple “yes.” I would have been temped to say “There’s a place, even if it’s not as large as the place for frum Jewish men in Otisville.”

  12. lacosta says:

    sadly, the same people [leaders] who would avidly discourage certain mehalech’s for frum women , will have no problem later using the fruits of their success [their money, their expertise, their homes, their show-them-off-for-kiruv-purposes etc] . pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, said the Wizard….

    • Bob Miller says:

      What point is there is offering advice with these three elements?

      1. Run the household
      2. Be the breadwinner
      3. Accept only low-paying jobs

      Item 3 makes Items 1 and 2 more difficult.

  13. rochel taub says:

    i know an amazing frum wine taster (according to Halacha) who has been doing it for 25 years. she loves her job , and her frumkeit is never in question. mini me go for it.

  14. Dr. E says:

    Rifka:

    That was a very touching and poignant piece. Unfortunately, it’s a package deal, if you have not figured that out already. Within the Chinuch choices that you will likely make for high school and seminary, you are picking a team and buying into a System, being forced to go with whatever that flow brings in the future. That will include teachers who are unprofessional and/or have an agenda which will be inconsistent with (or opposed to) that of her parents and your “mini-me”. The end game and evidence of success that they have will be based on the extent of her conformity and her potential to perpetuate the aforementioned agenda. The schools and seminaries will be led by those who will instinctively question any of her ambitions that are out-of-the-box as being inconsistent with “the Mesorah” (i.e,, their agenda).

    As lacosta points out, any financial contributions to support the narrative will of course be welcomed. But, as dr. bill mentioned, it would take an eis laasos to make an exception for any “public” recognition. And of course, there will be those like Jolly Chareidi, who will encourage you and your mini-me to just live and let live.

    I support you and your daughter in this uphill battle. But, realistically the Yeshivish establishment has never capitulated to what they see as a feminist protest. So, it’s not just the faceless female presence in Mishpacha and Ami that you are protesting. You are going up against an entire Establishment that in the past 30 years has continuously deviated from a Mesorah, which up to then was quite traditional. When you look at this entire parsha, it’s evident that the facelessness phenomenon is merely a symptom of that.

  15. Esty Karmen says:

    Your daughter has asked what she can be. I suggest that instead of focusing on what she can be, you focus on what she should be. She should be honest, she should be sincere, she should be considerate, she should follow halachic requirements and Torah guidelines and lifestyle, however you choose to define it. She should develop her skills and use them, as well as her talents and temperament, to have a positive impact on the world around her, whether it’s her family or community or coworkers. If she can feel confident that her chosen career, community, or lifestyle can satisfy the criteria of what she “should” be, then that’s what she “can” be.

    Regarding the limitations set on women by frum society, there’s no question that halacha holds people to different standards. Elbows? OK for men to uncover, not OK for women. Ditto for knees and singing in mixed company. Hair needs to be covered for married women but not for single women or for any men. It is in the eye of the beholder to consider these differences as practical wisdom, inconsistencies or double standards.

    Regardless of how you perceive the difference, the problem with extending that halachic “double standard” into non-halachic issues such as photographs or careers is that it’s very hard to know where to draw the line. But again, the perception is in the eye of the beholder. You can say that not publishing photographs is evidence of a belief that a woman’s face is dangerous and needs to be hidden. You can say it’s proof that women are not held to the same standard as men or don’t have the same rights. You can say it’s a way of respecting the social mores of the many different groups that read these magazines. You can say it’s a beautiful way of demonstrating that yes, women can be authors, poets, artists, “architects” of great Lego creations, and it can be done while still adhering to a high level of tznius. You can say that not using photographs shows it is the quality of your work and not your photograph that gives your work value. It is the eye of the beholder that can change this from something positive to something negative or vice versa. Or more bluntly, it is your choice to take this as a sign of a systemic push to minimize the opportunities for women or as an editorial decision that tries to be respectful to the sensitivities of many of its readers.

    When your daughter associates the word ‘crazy’ with the word ‘frum’, why not point out that this magazine has managed to compromise by not restricting the work of women while still conforming to what many Orthodox Jews consider appropriate tznius guidelines. And that it’s OK that their compromise does not align exactly with your beliefs of how to balance tznius and opportunity or potential.

    Why do we expect all frum values to align directly with ours? Why are we willing to accept the dissonance of worldview from the secular world but not the frum world? We need to be able to teach our children that while we can (and should) respect other people for their beliefs and standards, we need to decide for ourselves how to be the person that we “should” be.

    • Eli Blum says:

      “When your daughter associates the word ‘crazy’ with the word ‘frum’, why not point out that this magazine has managed to compromise by not restricting the work of women while still conforming to what many Orthodox Jews consider appropriate tznius guidelines.”

      Because she will say that those Orthodox Jews are crazy. If you validate their opinion as acceptable, you go back to the same problem.

      The way I would put it is similar to what Rav Malikiel Kotler did when Rabbi Dr. Lander was nifter. Hamodia put in a section about his accomplishments, as befitting one of the Gedolim and perhaps the greatest “Roeh Es HaNolad” implementer of our time. The Lakewood Shittah is anti-college, so Rav Malkiel couldn’t support it. He also couldn’t be against it, both from a practical standpoint (the Noverminsker was at the funeral) and from a reasonableness outlook (as tens of thousands in Klal Yisroel’s Parnassh in America is through the Shlichus of Rabbi Dr. Lander). He therefore simply said that Rabbi Lander was “Eino Min Machanenu”, or not from “our” camp.

      We can do the same here. Explain that there are many who pay money for this magazine, both those who are “Frum” and those who are “Eino min Machaneinu”, and the magazine needs to cater to both groups. You don’t have to validate their “crazy” shittah, just like Rav Malkiel didn’t “validate” college.

      Otherwise, you are just being lukewarm about transmitting your own mesorah.

      • dr. bill says:

        i find it sad that one might suggest talking to a child using the political language of someone constrained by his public role. telling a child someone is outside their camp teaches a version of judaism that is not what we should be promoting to our children. sadly, that message will be heard elsewhere; we should do our best to negate it.

        • Eli Blum says:

          Sometimes you have to tell your child “this is wrong”, even when “Frum” people do it. This is one example of a method to tell a child that what someone else does is wrong, even though they keep Kosher and Shabbos.

          More so when it seems like others are keeping a “Chumrah”, you have to be able to explain that (and preferably why) the “Chumrah” is wrong, and is in fact anti-halacha. You may find that a more perfect phrase works for you, but the concept is the same.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Ask anyone who goes to Touro Brooklyn -there are car loads of women commuting from Lakewood to Touro attend college al taharas hakodesh so as to be ready to support a husband learning in BMG or elsewhere. R Malkiel’s comments seem rather tame when compared with those of R E Svei ZL who had much stronger and far more negative views about Touro.

  16. Steve Brizel says:

    Excellent article! I completely agree with the author but I see no need to engage in throwing out the baby with the bathwater logic either by invoking what was the practice of some great Litvishe Talmidei Chahcaqmim but by no means all by blaming a legitimate sense of Tznius rooted in the Drashas Chazal of Kol Kevudah Bas Melech Pnimah-After all, there are many Pesukim in Tanach where the halachic meaning as understood by the TSBP is quite different than the Pashut Pshat of the Pasuk in question

  17. Joe Hill says:

    This crusade to force the Chareidi press to publish pictures of women is certain to end in failure. But that aside, to attribute that the “Litvishe Mesorah” lacks that “shmiras einayim is of such overriding importance” is a falsehood.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Every press can choose to follow its own or its mentors’ or customers” standards. If any substantial group has another direction, it should set up its own press (meaning media in general)—what is gained from beating one’s head against the wall?

  18. Yossi says:

    I think we can’t get carried away with the fact that just because their pictures aren’t shown doesn’t mean they can’t be successful.

    In fact, David pointed out that a first grade male teacher will have the title of Rabbi but a 12th grade female one won’t. So what? She is still teaching 12th graders And definitely has much more influence than the first grade teacher. Yeah, it’s not fear that she can’t get a title if she wants one, but I don’t see how that hold her back from actually being what she wants to be.

    It’s important not to confuse not being able to get your picture showing in a magazine with not being able to have a tremendous impact.

    So many Lakewood women have prominent jobs and are professionally successful as therapists of all kinds, entrepreneurs, and so many other things. When I was dating as a Lakewood future kollel guy, most of the women I was dating were going for advanced degrees or were already working in professional settings.

    In regard to hashpa’ah, so many Rebbetzins speak, write, and inspire. What’s missing is women paskening Halacha in the Yeshiva world, so is that the whole issue? Is that what you’re afraid will hold your daughter back?

    In my personal life, my mother had a PHd and was successful in the professional world while finishing Shas on her own twice. All while having children attend mainstream yeshivish yeshivos. Who’s holding anyone back?

  19. Chamie says:

    Thank you, Rifka, for sharing your concerns with the klal.
    These are real concerns, ones that, as a mother of daughters myself, I certainly share.
    It behooves us to continue to push for recognition and respect for women in the yeshivish community.
    We do not ask that women be given the title rabbi, we do not ask for “equality” in areas where the are clear halachic distinctions. We only ask that our frum culture find ways to include our women rather than ways to systematically push us out of the picture.

  20. Ann Koffsky says:

    Yossi: Sure. Women can be amazing, and overcome these obstacles and become Phds, etc. But why as a community would we choose to put obstacles in their way? How many women are NOT becoming PHDs etc, just because it’s too hard?
    Put another way: Fred Estaire and Ginger Rodgers both got to dance on screen. But Ginger had to do it backwards and in heels.

    When we keep women’s photos hidden, we are giving many women a set of five inch heels, and asking them to dance backwards. Some have such ambition that they can manage it despite the obstacles. Others, quite reasonably, say, forget this, not worth it!

    How much more could they accomplish and what would our community gain if we just allowed them to wear a pair of flats and see where they were going?

  21. Yossi says:

    Ann,
    I understand what you’re saying, but clarify it for me practically. What would a woman today like to be that she can’t be, and that the Orthodox community would conceivably make room for?

    Because if it’s rabbis and rabbahs, that’s not happening for a large segment of the population. Yoatzot- already happened for a large segment of the Modern Orthodox world. Teachers of Torah- happens all over the Modern Orthodox world, less so but growing in the black hat world. I mean for heavens sake, Project Inspire’s Tisha B’av video for frum black hat Flatbush Boro Park, Lawrence, Monsey MEN was about three prominent women.

    Professionals- happens in many circles.

    Explain to me what segment of the population you’re talking about, and what field they can’t strive for without five inch heels.

    This is not to say that I think women have it easy- because they still have to put up with things that make no sense- but in what they can be, I’m not clear how they’re being held back.
    If you can tell me how you see it, I think I would understand better.

    And to be honest, and also clarify that I’m asking for real, I’ll tell you that I have a bunch of daughters, am part of the Yeshiva world on some level, and don’t want them to be relegated to a life of shallowness and living their Judaism vicariously through their husband.

  22. A says:

    If not for the age gap.. I’d marry her today. I and many others have the problem from the opposite end. We search desperately for girls with a modicum of color, intellectual curiosity, and perhaps even torah interest. The frum system has usually beaten any or all of those traits out of the girls by the time they reach dating age.

    • tzippi says:

      Really? I know so many incredible young women; I’ve been more concerned that the young men out there aren’t worthy of them.
      Hatzlacha to your and your friends and may Hashem be memalei kol mishalos libchem for the obvious tova.

    • Perla says:

      As a 22 year old orthodox girl, I can tell you that your statement is blatantly untrue. I have many single friends who have a lot of intellectual curiosity. They usually find that the problem is the other way around. Maybe you’re not being set up with the right people.

  23. David Ohsie says:

    Yossi, the OP answers your questions. Her daughter has been taught artificial limits and she asks what her role is. Your answer is something like “well if everyone was super-rational, they would ignore all external influences, including their teachers, and just do what makes sense”. This is generally not possible for adults, let alone children.

    Yes, there are many circles where this is not such a prominent problem. There are also circles where women are not allowed to drive. She’s talking about the circles where this is a problem.

    Finally, you say that things are changing. Well, that is precisely the reason for this post: to help us move in the right direction. Change doesn’t happen by itself.

  24. Tali Posner says:

    A…there are girls like that out there.
    Keep looking.

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