#Metoo: Why Asking Whether Sexual Harassment or Adultery is Worse is a Terrible Response
By: Chayi Hanfling
A recent post to Cross-Currents questioned whether sexual harassment or adultery is worse. It then posited that since the left excuses all sorts of sexually sinful behavior they have no right to lecture “us” about sexual harassment from our politicians. It was a provocative post and readers will surely gain from hearing another perspective on such a sensitive topic.
The author begins by saying that this recent “moral crusade” is very confusing and that anyone who is the “slightest bit guilty” is being punished . Let me break this down for those who apparently find this “moral crusade” confusing. It really shouldn’t be; it should also not take a “crusade” to point out what should be obvious to anyone, especially observant Jews: Don’t touch a woman without her consent. Don’t make unwanted sexual advances towards a woman, particularly in the workplace and particularly when you hold a position of power over her.
The author speaks of the left making a big deal if “you make an inappropriate comment to a woman”. This line is especially telling. It minimizes what women have experienced, and creates a straw man in place of our experience. (It must be pointed out that “women” in this regard include more frum women than anyone wants to believe, including too many at the hands of supposedly frum men.) Not a single man that has been accused in the last few months since women have started coming forward has been accused of “making an inappropriate comment.” Most of the charges have been actual sexual assault with some cases of extreme sexual harassment, the details of which are best not made explicit in a frum publication. In a world where Brock Turner sat in jail for only three months after brutally raping an unconscious women, acting like men are being crucified for “making comments” is incredibly out of touch with reality.
The author claims that “the left” doesn’t care about adultery, citing some famous leftist heroes who committed adultery and yet remain revered. This does not stand up to fact-checking. Adultery is not and will never be a partisan issue, but simply a human one. In search of Republican icons who are known adulterers, there is no need to go back to the 1930’s, when according to the thinking of many, men were real men, and women knew their place. The very current honor roll includes Newt Gingrich, John McCain and Rudolph Giuliani, among many more. And then there is the inconvenient fact that only one party ran an unrepentant adulterer for president, and it wasn’t the “left”.
While speaking about Donald Trump, the author says that if those on the right would be outraged by his behavior it would be his adultery not his “alleged sexual harassment”. Trump was accused of sexual assault by about 15 women and counting, and extreme sexual harassment of many others. He was caught bragging about sexual assault on a recording that we were all “privileged” to listen to. Roy Moore, who the author mentions later, was also accused of the sexual assault of several women, some of them minors. One would assume that someone who is attached to his Jewish values would be able to summon outrage over this heinous behavior, irrespective of whatever adulterous indiscretions he was also guilty of. With all our emphasis on kedushah and tzniyus, how could it ever come to pass that disappointment (or even outrage!) at a licentious attitude towards so-called “private” sins between adults could lead to less sensitivity and outrage about the abuse of women through sexual assault and the wholesale cheapening of women through persistent, pervasive harassment, even if they are not all capital crimes like adultery? We get exercised often enough about halachic failings that are also not capital crimes. Why are we so glib and cavalier in dismissing common behavior that the Torah regards as repulsive and hateful?
The author then says that the reason “we” are not outraged is because we believe in teshuva and that men can repent and be forgiven for previous wrong behavior.” Firstly, repentance after committing a grave sin of bein adam lchaveiro does not merely happen through “feeling sorry”. Forgiveness must be sought from the ones wronged and that has clearly never been done by the likes of Trump, who has only responded by further ridiculing and shaming the women who have come forward. We all know that Trump and repentance don’t belong in the same sentence. He bragged about sleeping with married women and said that he doesn’t need to ask G-d for forgiveness about anything. He did no teshuva when confronted with the recording of his famous words but rather minimized it to “locker room talk.”
The author says that the left has no problem with adultery. Although I don’t think that most people think adultery is ok, it is certainly true that people are more likely to overlook adulterous behavior in their politicians than sexual assault. Consensual sex between two adults in this country is legal whereas sexual assault is a crime. People are going to tolerate legal behavior even if they view it as immoral more than criminal behavior that physically or psychologically harms another. Additionally, examining the pervasive issues of sexual assault and harassment also requires an examination of power dynamics and the way that women will be systemically exploited by powerful gatekeepers in various aspects of society. In this regard, and in many others, the issues of sexual assault and harassment and adultery are not comparable and therefore ought not to be compared. If the author wishes to bemoan modern society’s lost connection with Judeo-Christian values and, in his view, their increasing acceptance of adultery, then would it not make sense to urge us to maintain a higher standard of ethics for our politicians? If, as the author says, he would love to see a “return to a more moral America” then wouldn’t it make sense to start by saying no to sexual harassment and assault, even if one thinks there are worse crimes?
It would only make sense that a Torah driven response would be to be grateful that our society is standing up against sexual assault and harassment and then go on to say that we should continue to hold those who represent us politically to a higher moral standard including an intolerance for adultery. To say that because “the left” tolerates adultery therefore the “right” should tolerate sexual assault and harassment, since the Torah views adultery as worse, is simply wrong. The desire to compare the two in an effort to minimize sexual assault is so lacking any kind of sensitivity and basic human empathy and the answer that the author gives is, even from a purely Halachic perspective, very simplistic and therefore not entirely accurate. Sexual abuse is bad. It is very very very bad. You don’t have to be getting your morality from the “godless left” to know this. Any attempt to minimize it disguised as moral indignation against the “left” rings extremely hollow.
The author then goes on to say that since secular society is hyper-sexualized, one can hardly be indignant when men act on their sexual impulses inappropriately. Yes, society is hyper-sexualized. We should still expect decency and when, instead, there is criminal behavior, we can and should summon more than mere outrage. Of course the author makes sure to say “a sin is a sin is a sin. Nothing excuses it”. He then went on to do just that -excuse it -with statements like “Is it really fair to inundate Americans with sexual jokes and images 24/7, 365 days a year and still expect them to act like Puritans?” A great compliment to Puritans to be sure but a severe insult to everyone else on earth, including Orthodox Jews who are not “Puritans” and yet who also don’t tolerate sexual assault and harassment.
If what the author means to say is that sexual assault and harassment are terrible things, and if society truly wants to eradicate such behavior then we need to examine the way other aspects of society such as the normalization of porn, the sexualization of women in mainstream media and the acceptances of adulterous behavior create a society that is hostile to women, objectifies them and will ultimately lead to sexual violence, then we are in agreement. But to say that until society does that we will not take sexual assault or harassment claims seriously truly leaves me scratching my head. Is it a Torah position that if they go low then we will go lower? Wouldn’t being a light unto the nations mean expecting more and better and showing this by not tolerating such behaviors from those we support? As frum Jews who wish to uphold the highest moral sensitivities we should strive to be the first to protest the mistreatment of women and the last to allow unfaltering loyalties to highly flawed human beings to tarnish our moral compass.
Chayi Hanfling holds an MSW from Wurzweiler School of Social Work and currently works for JAM at UCLA.
Thank you for writing this. It is a needed and well written response to the recent post.
Wow, an incredible response. Thank you!
Thanks for the thorough rebuttal. It is much appreciated and unfortunately was necessary.
Yasher Koach to Chayi Hanfling on this intelligent, compelling and necessary response.
Thank you, this was a well thought out response to an extremely disturbing article.
Finally, sanity. Kol Hakavod.
Orthodoxy, to be true to itself, has to reject sinful behavior categorically, and not try to make fine distinctions among the major violations. Opposition to and vigilance against all forms of personal assault and humiliation should be a 100% requirement of participation in our communities. Whether or not general society falls off a moral cliff, we have this duty among ourselves right now. And we have had this duty in the past, with no excuses for dereliction.
All political parties contain violators, so we’ll still be stuck at election time with choosing among people who epitomize various bad behaviors, and we’ll still have to weigh all factors appropriately.
I remind you that before, during, and after 2016, Hillary Clinton maintained her adulterous relationship with Huma Abedin. Are you the last to know?
You write: It must be pointed out that “women” in this regard include more frum women than anyone wants to believe, including too many at the hands of supposedly frum men.)
Can you back that up? It’s a terrible attack on frum men.
And saying that no one got fired just for saying inappropriate things- Leonard Lopate was fired from WNYC and when he asked them to explain why, they wouldn’t tell him. No allegations he touched anyone.
The Torah doesn’t allow any of this behavior and does indeed see it all as bad.
But, I think this whole MeToo movement has very little to do with our community. The halachos of yichud, tznius, and gender separation don’t allow half of this to start.
Women don’t go up to men’s hotel rooms in the first place, and starlets whose only came to fame is their immoral dress and acting in a way that the Torah doesn’t allow don’t exost in our circles. לא דברה תורה אלא כנגד יצר הרע; the Torah is realistic and doesn’t sermonize or moralize about these things because אין אפוטרופוס לעריות.
So I guess I don’t really agree with the first article. But I think what the author misses is that in matters of arayos you will not see Chazal being as shocked or as righteously indignant as she is. Chazal knew that we have to have the proper safeguards for this never to happen, and weren’t surprised when it did.
That’s not morally supporting indecent behavior; that’s recognizing that his whole outcry of #MeToo wants to have it both ways- that women can be in any situation no matter how indecent in the first place, and still register shock when something happens.
In order to maintain Chazal’s attitude, I dare say that many of us would have to subscribe to standards that as modern Westwrn individuals we probably wouldn’t accept- like having men as teachers for women, and women for men. And like having women at the forefront of front line Kiruv.
But we’re part of a Western culture, and want to have the benefits of it without paying the price. Good luck with that.
All inappropriate sexual behavior can’t be condoned or allowed, and the original article, while making perhaps an interesting point about the hypocrisy of the left, probably did give the wrong message about possibly condoning these behaviors.
You wanted proof of the fact that women experience sexual harrassment at the hands of frum men, seemingly because you are not aware of just how common it is. You imply that the halachic of yichud and negiah should help prevent it. I’m sorry to tell you that they don’t. It happens regardless of Halacha, and often in cases where men hold positions of authority over women. You may not be familiar with the story of Nechemia Weberman or the former principal of the seminary Peninim. They are not the only ones. It is difficult for women to come forward and say that these things have happened to them, but the #MeToo movement has helped change that. The movement does not “want to have it both ways”: women live their lives. The accused men felt the need interfere and commit disgusting acts. It doesn’t seem like you are very familiar with the circumstances surrounding even the famous cases that have been publicized in the news; are you familiar with the fact that Charlie Rose had a button under his desk to close and lock the door when a female colleague walked in? Are you suggesting that it’s the provocative clothing of women that causes men to make ugly choices? Women who have been assualted have fended the question “what were you wearing?” many a time. You may be surprised that it doesn’t actually matter what they were wearing or looked like. Women in all forms of dress are assaulted, yes, even frum women. Your comment seems misinformed, so I suggest you talk to women, and listen to what they have to say.
Thanks for your comment Yossi. It is not insulting to frum men to say that there have been too many cases of frum women being abused by frum men. There are many frum men who say the same thing and work tirelessly to end the problem. I’m not sure what exactly you want me to back up since I claimed no numbers but there are frum men who have been convicted of sexual assault of frum women. I assume you agree that regardless of the exact numbers that any number is too much.
A simple Google search of Lopate brought up allegations of harassment and bullying that had been going on for over a dozen years. Which is very different than making a comment. Are you actually suggesting that someone who has been making innappropriate comments to female colleagues for years and received warning about it, not be removed from his job?
The particulars of the allegations that started the movement may not happen in the frum community however the point was not the particulars. It was showing how pervasive sexual abuse and harassment are and how damaging. In that respect our community does not escape and we have our own versions of powerful men using their positions to exploit women though you are correct in that they are not usually movie producers.
The idea that dressing modestly will prevent unwanted sexual contacted has been debunked and it is so painful for frum women that were observing hilchos tznius and were still abused to suggest. I agreed with you in my article that society is hyper sexualized and we should certainly be critical of that but equating a woman who dressed immodestly with a man who exploits her is simply wrong.
This is also not about being shocked or surprised. Yes, women should be able to not be victimized and when they are we should hold perpetrators accountable. Like I said in the article, that also doesn’t mean that we should look at those situations in a vacuum but rather examine how multiple aspects of society contribute to this problem
I’m not sure I understand your point about Kiruv. Since you think men should teach men and women should teach women then I would assume you think that both men and women should be at the forefront so that both secular girls and boys can be taught.
@Yossi: There is no evidence that sexual abuse is less common among Orthodox jews than the rest of society. It is possible that the percentage is lower, higher or the same. Unfortunately, the belief that it is very unlikely is what helps protect abusers. A student of the Gemara would know that no one is trusted agent when it comes to sexual matters.
If you need some anecdotes, here is a small sample:
Survivor Ruth Krevsky: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEjrha4Qglc
Survivor Sima Yarmush: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wffN3mYWCCw
Video of inappropriate behavior by a school principal (not for the squeamish), denial by school authorities and FBI followup:
Abuser Ephraim Shapiro: https://forward.com/news/10596/baltimore-roiled-by-abuse-charge-against-late-rabb/
Abuser Baruch Lanner: https://www.jta.org/2002/07/10/archive/sex-abuse-conviction-of-rabbi-closes-difficult-chapter-for-orthodox
The list is a lot longer if you need more. There are just the links that came to mind quickly.
I was horrified to read the original article. A society that asks “which is worse” is not more moral, but lacks even a basic understanding of the trauma caused by sexual assault. It must be, because otherwise how could their be so little empathy?
An eloquent response to a tone-deaf original article. Yet again, the response (and the commentary of encouragement above mine) are solely from bnos Yisroel to what is, at its core, a human issue rather than a woman issue. Have we men chosen to pigeon-hole this phenomenon in the not-my-problem category?
Thank you for saying that, and yes, that is exactly what men have done.
When I was in Israel I heard that one of the reasons religious girls being forced to serve in the military is prohibited is that it creates a situation of “yehareg v’al ya’avor” because having male officers in command of girl soldiers creates a situation where officers can use their position to victimize the girls they command. This is an excellent description of the misuse of power that we are seeing in the reports of harassment.
And in general, and excellent article, which also reminds us of Rabbi Avi Shafran’s previous article on “Perils of partisanship.” Supporting someone whose behavior is disgusting just because he’s on “our side” diminishes us as Torah Jews, and leaves us open to the charges that we don’t really walk the walk, we just like to play at being holy when it suits our interests. Believe me, the world is watching.
So we should have Hillary, who actually lost to such a boor and poor candidate like DT? Or, are you saying that we shouldn’t have supported either candidate?
So sad this needed to be said. Well done.
The author of this article, as well as previous commenters, don’t seem to understand. The point that the author of the original article, Elliot Resnick, successfully made is that adultery is worse than harassment. How can anyone disagree?
Let’s say we have two scenarios:
1. A man propositions a woman (he is married, she is not; she is married, he is not; both are married; regardless: at least one of them is married). She is as disgusting as he is, she acquiesces and they commit the shameful act.
2. A man propositions a woman, he is too persistent, she makes disgusting remarks, he resorts to unwanted touching. She is presumably a decent woman, she say “NO” and, as the phrase goes, “nothing happened.”
How can anyone in his right mind, or in this case her right mind, disagree that 1. is FAR FAR worse than 2.?
In the second scenario, I meant to say that he (the harasser) makes disgusting remarks, not she. Sorry, a typo.
Something did happen. The man sexually assaulted the woman. That’s not “nothing.” How can anyone in their right mind disagree?
In the bein adam l’Makom it’s worse; in the bein adam l’chavero the second is worse. And there are many sources in Chazal that on the societal level Hashem is more willing to “overlook” sins of bein adam l’makom, even avoda zara, than sins of bein adam l’chavero.
Sorry, NT, but adultery is a sin bein Adam leHaviero – it appears on the “second” tablet of the 10 Commandments, between admontion against murder and admonition against kidnapping.
Western society believes that because the “cuckolded” husband does not know of the affair, therefore “what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him”. This is the issue we have with the liberal mores, because adultery is not only one of the 3 severest sins, but it erodes the foundations of society.
However, that does not minimize the severity of sexual assault – which erodes society no less.
He was conflating sexual assault and harassment. My point was that it doesn’t matter what is worse. What matters is that society is finally waking up to a terrible issue which Judaism also says is terrible. We should be happy that they are addressing the issue and encourage further moral introspection not minimizing the crimes and sacrificing our values on the altar of partisanship
I agree with your comments and your response to Mr. Resnick. However, in response to your comment of January 5 above, the problem we have is that we have a society that is morally depraved on the adultery end of things addressing, and only addressing male predatory behaviour, You will never see the liberal Hollywood class get up at a Golden Globe awards and condemn promiscuity, adultery, and other sexual depravity. The reason for that is that our society is now at a point where consensual sexual activity, no matter how depraved al pi haTorah, is no longer treated as immoral. That is disturbing.
It might be disturbing but we should at least support them when they declare nonconsensual sex unacceptable. Otherwise we have allowed our disagreements with them to pervert our values
Can we discus whether the pre feminist definition of rape can and should be distinguished from the definition advanced by Catherine MacKinnon and other similar thinkers or is such a query to be rejected out of hand?
you did an excellent job of articulating the current batch of leftist talking points, but you failed to address the thesis of the post that you are disagreeing with. the author of the other post posits that the behavior practiced and encouraged by many of those who express horror at the ever growing category of “sexual harassment” is in fact far worse (by torah morality) than said sexual harassment. your point that SH is in conflict with such jewish values as kedusha and tzniyut, is true but irrelevant, insofar as the behavior that that they are encouraging as an alternative to SH (adultery, homosexuality, etc.) is in much deeper conflict with those jewish values. the fact that you mischaracterize the famous trump recording as being about “sexual assault” indicates that you are operating under the influence of a bias, and failing to independently asses these talking points before repeating them.
in the culture wars for a life of kedusha and tzniyut, those who fail to rise above human nature (as the torah expects us to) are our allies against those who wish to pervert human nature.
Many have observed that only one major US party endorses abortion under all circumstances, even during the delivery itself, and resolutely defends its high officials as long as the latter support unlimited abortion, too. Ted Kennedy got a free pass. No feminist sympathy there for Mary Jo Kopechne. Bill Clinton got a free pass. No sympathy there for his numerous assault and rape victims, back when they were raped and assaulted—were these not understood as crimes then? This crowd was more than pleased to take Harvey Weinstein’s money while having no illusions about him whatsoever, because his support fueled the crusade for abortion. This is what we ought to call pro-death. With a little digging, one could probably discover Torah strictures against killing the defenseless.
i assume you as i supported trump, but i believe our agreement ends there. your diatribe against the democratic party and media bias (i.e. fake news) is something, with changes in language, i do not disagree with fundamentally.
but what all this has to do with the problem of abuse, eludes me. an event to counter abuse of (mostly ) married women in the Orthodox community drew a large crowd of orthodox attendees at a recent fundraising event. what goes on in the Orthodox community is not substantially different than other communities in many respects. for an am ha’nivchar, that is not high praise.
We need to stamp out abuse in our communities and in the country as a whole, but should carefully consider what alliances we make in the process.
Hi bemused thanks for commenting. I am pretty sad that you see an article unequivocally condemning the exploitation of women as leftist talking points, but I suppose here we are.
I pointed out that adultery is tolerated by both the left and right (see my article for specifics) and though it is true that adultery is tolerated too much, the fact that society is protesting sexual assault and harassment is a good thing, should be supported by frum Jews and we should then encourage them to continue introspecting in other areas such as their tolerance for adultery.
Where on earth did you get the idea that adultery and homosexuality are alternatives to sexual harassment? Again, it is true that modern secular society does not agree with Torah on all aspects of morality. However the parts which do line up with Torah, such as, hopefully, not tolerating the victimization of women, should be celebrated not condemned by frum people.
Grabbing women by their private parts is not sexual assault?
It seem you seem to have a clear distinction in your head about who exactly is perverting human nature and sexual abusers just don’t make the list so they are your allies. How about just agreeing that all sinful and repulsive behavior be condemned by frum Jews irrespective of our politics?
when i first read your essay it struck me as so out of touch with the reality in which we live that i assumed that you were deliberately being disingenuous and engaging in political propaganda. your apparently sincere reply here leads me to question my original assumption. perhaps you really believe what you wrote, and simply are taken in by the nonsense that is so pervasive in western society.
if so, you deserve a proper reply (without the snark). unfortunately, pointing out how the assumptions that you are operating under are both false and self contradictory, would require a book length essay of my own, something that is impossible in this venue (not that i have the time, even if it was possible). as such, i will limit myself to a few “chapter headings” in the hope that it might invoke some genuine introspection by those readers who want to consider the issue beyond the politically correct dictates of secular society.
1. “adultery is tolerated by both the left and right”.
that is not true. adultery is engaged in by both left and right, but on the right it is seen as something shameful, to be hidden from view if possible. on the left it is seen as something to celebrate. the same is true of homosexuality, transgender behavior, etc. from a torah perspective the celebration of an immoral act is in many ways worse than the act itself.
2. “the fact that society is protesting sexual assault and harassment is a good thing”
it is very naive to think that the powers that are promoting this issue in the media are concerned about appropriate interaction between the sexes. they find hetero normative values offensive and that is what they are trying to suppress. they are merely using using “sexual assault and harassment” as a wedge issue to get naive people such as yourself to give them the political power to force their agenda upon the rest of us (including yourself).
3. in order to accomplish the above they have greatly expanded the definition of both assault and harassment beyond all recognition. the point is to get people such as yourself to react emotionally to benign behavior in the same way that all of us would react to truly criminal behavior. in the service of the same agenda they have invented all kinds of “trauma” that is unique to women that undergo sexual harassment, that somehow humans failed to notice over the past few thousand years, and even now have no objective criteria.
4. for years feminists (since you are repeating their talking points, i assume that you are sympathetic to their cause) argued that there are no meaningful differences between men and women, that “anything a man can do, a woman can do”, and they redesigned society to reflect that. now they suddenly discovered that women are in fact terribly delicate, and their psyches can’t handle the daily traumas that men have always had to deal with (while aggression between men generally doesn’t take on the sexual overtones that it does with women, in is no less “hurtful” and ubiquitous). this is such a national emergency that it requires the suspension of all kinds of human (and in the US, constitutional) values such as freedom of speech and due process.
5. while your invoking the trump recording is merely a political talking point, it is symbolic of the larger issue of how you are allowing yourself to be manipulated. i do not know how old you are or if you are married, and it would be inappropriate for me to get overly graphic in this forum. therefore i will limit myself to pointing put that among normal heterosexual couples “grabbing each other by their private parts” is fairly common (and not considered at all wrong by the torah). trump was merely pointing out that as a celebrity, sexually loose women are glad to interact sexually with him. it is of course boorish to speak (and act) that way. the torah expects better from as jews. but the grossly immoral behavior promoted by those who used the recording to political ends clearly indicates that their objection was not to the lack of kedusha but rather to the fact that it was so “hetero normative”
i don’t have the time to continue in this vein, but i hope this gives you and your amen corner on this blog somethings to think about.
While I don’t entirely disagree with your post, you make some statements so wildly off that they shouldn’t go unchallenged.
“adultery is engaged in by both left and right, but on the right it is seen as something shameful, to be hidden from view if possible. on the left it is seen as something to celebrate”
This is not remotely true. The OP is correct. No part of mainstream western society celebrates adultery, unless I’m hopelessy sheltered. The accepted societal response to adultery is to see it as a betrayal and to condemn the adulterer, even if half-heartedly. Thus the headlines when someone prominent is found out, and that’s true of left and right.
I’m assuming that by adultery you mean sexual infidelity by someone married, rather than a looser, and inaccurate, definition.
“among normal heterosexual couples “grabbing each other by their private parts” is fairly common”
I am not going to be any more graphic than you, suffice to say that, firstly, I think that you must either have a different definition of ‘grabbing’ to the normal, or decidedly odd habits. Because by any standard definition that is not common, normal or advisable. Perhaps check the dictionary.
Secondly, and perhaps more pertinently, the grabbing in question was not not invited or consensual. Trump’s accuser described manhandling in a public, social situation.
By way of waiver, not arguing with the other points doesn’t mean I agree, just that those two points stuck out a mile.
An excellent response to an aeticle that asked tough questions but IMO made the mistake of looking at feminism and Hollywood as sources of morality. Weareat a cultural nadir because many dont know the meaningbof Lo Sinaf and Lo Sirtzac and not actingike a Kadesh or Kadesha regardless of their political ideologies.
Thanks for your comment Steven. Nowhere did I say to look towards feminism or Hollywood for morality but rather that when something that comes out of Hollywood does coincide with Torah values (such as in the case of condemning SA and SH) that we not dismiss it outright simply because it came out of Hollywood
1. “adultery is engaged in by both left and right, but on the right it is seen as something shameful, to be hidden from view if possible. on the left it is seen as something to celebrate”
any facts to back that up since as far as I can see Donald Trump is the most public unashamed adulterous politician ever and he is a Republican.
2. How do you know that the “powers” that are promoting this don’t care about women? another baseless assertion. Also, are you aware that this #metoo movement is grassroots? What powers exactly are you referring to? an attack on Hetero normative values? huh? Again if you want to make a point you need to back things up not just spout conspiracy theories.
3. um no. I defined sexual assault and harassment in my original article and I apologize if that is “unrecognizable” to you though I assure you that the Torah would have no problem “recognizing” it as sinful.
4. “Feminists” include a spectrum of individuals some of whom have argued there is no meaningful difference between the sexes and some of whom have not. And this is also completely irrelevant.
5. The statement by Trump of “grabbing” was following a statement where he said “he doesn’t even wait” implying not waiting for consent. which would be sexual assault. The proof that even Trump understood his own words that way was that at the debate that followed when Anderson Cooper asked Trump whether he ever did these things, Trump said no. If it was referring to consensual behavior then it would have been ridiculous to deny. The entire premise of the question and the response was that it was referring to non-consensual behavior.
” Not a single man that has been accused in the last few months since women have started coming forward has been accused of “making an inappropriate comment”
I have not followed all the allegations that have been made in the last few months so I am not in a position to judge whether this statement is correct. I winder if the author has actually studied each and every case. But it is clear that the definition of sexual molestation being bandies about does include activities while perhaps in poor taste are not worthy of the crusade being waged. For example in one article the following was a woman Rabbi’s complaint “I stopped wearing suits with skirts because of the sheer number of comments about not sitting cross legged on the bima — lest the upper thigh show — and instead opted for pant suits all the time, or very long dresses.”“For years I was called kiddo by several highly regarded male members of the synagogue where I worked [and] I received often more comments from men and women about how I looked than what I said or how I led a particular service,” Rabbi Ridberg wrote. “When going through chemotherapy for breast cancer, a female congregant let me know that the hat I was wearing to hide my bald head was ‘not a great color for me’”
Now being called “kiddo” is not respectful and if used as a form of address only with regard to men and not woman is an example of unequal treatment, but it unworthy of a crusade.
And how about the cases that I have read when a woman complains of having been raped and not at least breaking off contact with the rapist but rather going again to his hotel room and being raped again? The pendulum is definitely swinging too far.
I was referring to the famous cases of the politicians and celebrities which are being discussed in the media.
Although the examples you cited are not necessarily examples of sexual harassment, I think they are relevant because it is important to not look at things in a vacuum but rather at how various factors contribute to a problem. A pattern of condescension to women like calling an adult “kiddo” can and should be part of the conversation when discussing society’s exploitation of women.
Rape has complex psychological impacts and a woman maintaining a relationship with her abuser does not mean the crime didn’t happen.
Women are exploited and victimized throughout our society. The pendelum has not swung too far
Is a woman exploited or actimg inappropriately if she wears clothing which is li tzanua or fitting for a beach on a midsummer afternoon and she emciinters wolf whistles and the like while walking past a predominantly blue collar male constructuon site? Is it mot correct that Hollywoodand many womens glossy fashion maszines generate misogynistic imagery that is available for a click daily with no protest from.women and especially feminists?
you must learn that asking as “either or” a false dichotomy proves nothing other than perhaps exposing the views of the questioner. a question like “Is a woman exploited or (sic) actimg inappropriately” is not A or B. the answer can be either both or neither. in this case, both seem correct.
just so it isn’t only indignant women applauding this. Thank you Chaya. This was a necessary and well-done response.
the fact that a number of women lined up to express their support for a litany of leftist talking points and feminist propaganda is to be expected insofar as they are easily manipulated by the zeitgeist (that is the definition of nashim daatan kalot), however as a man, it is not worthy of you to allow yourself to be so easily manipulated. do you really believe that the terrible “trauma” undergone by the victims of offensive remarks or unwanted touching is in any way a moral offense comparable to aishes ish or homosexuality? because that is the thesis that you just joined the chorus in expressing support for. be well my friend, but think for yourself and not as part of the herd.
Read the article again. The whole point of it is NOT to compare offenses. It doesn’t matter which is “worse”. You are blind if you cannot realize they are both wrong and immoral. Even if you think the left is crazy, hypocritical, etc. a broken clock is still right sometimes and in this case they are right that rape and sexual harassment is wrong. As an aside, if that’s what nashim daatot kalot hen means I suggest women wear that badge with pride as sometimes (some) men are so busy debating Halacha (I.e.) – or politics – that they lose sight of the spirit and zeitgeist of what we are doing. The Gemara and other early sources document numerous examples of this and I am posting one below for your reading pleasure:
Four hundred Judean youths were enslaved by the Romans for immoral uses and transported by ship to their destination. The young men onboard deliberated whether those who drown themselves will attain the World to Come and merit resurrection. They concluded in the affirmative, based on Proverbs: “And I shall restore from the depths of the sea” (68:23). The girls, upon hearing this, did not linger. They threw themselves into the waters below. Upon witnessing this, the young men said: “If for these [women] for whom it is a natural act, shall not we, for whom it is unnatural?” And so they too threw themselves into the sea. (From Jewish Action)
Wow. Il leave aside the casual “this is the definition of nashim daatos kalos…” classic misuse of sources to buttress blatant sexist ideas. Il also leave aside your ad hominem about me “joining the herd” and you cajoling me to “think for myself” which, of course, is synonymous in your mind to thinking like yourself, oddly enough.
Il just they that yes, the trauma undergone by men and women, as a result of sexual assault and sometimes even harassment (though where harassment has the most deleterious effect is usually on a person who has previously suffered assault) is an often life-shaking, or sometimes life-ruining, or life-ending event. I know this to be a fact.
I’m not sure what in the article was leftist talkings, certainly not “a litany”, I could see only one. The characterization of the access Hollywood tapes as “bragging about assault”. To my mind, when someone says “when you are rich, they let you….” he may be deluded, he may be wrong in his assertion, but he is certainly not “bragging” about “assault”.
Other than that, I thought this was an excellent rebuttal to the original article. I’m not going to address your question about what’s worse, homosexuality or sexual harassment, because I don’t see the comparison.
one of the down sides of using your real name on this type of venue, is that when someone points out (often in a less than kind manner) that you are wrong about something, it takes on a personal connotation and becomes offensive. i was guilty of giving such offense in the way that i replied to you (what i wrote is true, but i expressed it in an offensive manner). so i apologize.
that aside, most of what you are contending here, i already addressed in my reply to ms. hanfling, so no need to repeat it. there are two points that you raise here that i should respond to though.
1.” leave aside the casual “this is the definition of nashim daatos kalos…classic misuse of sources to buttress blatant sexist ideas”
i don’t know the significance of an idea being sexist. either it is true or it is not true, that should be the only yardstick by which the worth of an idea is measured. many classic sources point out that nashim daatan kalot is the reason that women are passul l’edut as well as the reason why they are patur from the mitzvah of limmud torah. in both cases the explanation given is that they are too easily influenced by those around them. it doesn’t mean that women lie in order please their cohorts, rather that they the truth becomes altered in their minds under the influence of their environment. this a feature, not a bug, they were designed that way by god in order to function in the feminine way that he wanted them to function. it is true that in western society in our generation men have become so effeminate, that this distinction is harder to observe than it should be. true feminists would simply retort that chazal had no idea what they are talking about, but i don’t get the impression that you share that attitude towards chazal.
2. “I’m not going to address your question about what’s worse, homosexuality or sexual harassment, because I don’t see the comparison”
in that case you have ignored the entire point of the discussion. an essay was published on CC arguing that given the political options available, torah jews should be forming alliances with the “right” despite the boorish behavior of the president, insofar as his behavior was far less toxic to the moral fabric of the US than that of the alternative.
to that argument ms. hanfling countered that in her view sexual harassment and assault (including the vast amount of normal human behavior that has been added to those categories) are of at least equal moral gravity and therefore torah jews should not be allying themselves with politicians who are guilty of engaging in such behavior.
i pointed out to you that comparing the moral depravity of aishes ish or homosexuality to the lack of kedusha involved in inappropriate conversation (which is ms. hanfling’s argument) is absurd. a little like comparing a traffic offence with capital murder. true they are both illegal, but they are hardly comparable in their gravity or their affect on undermining morality in general. it seems strange to me that you would feel the need to enthusiastically support her argument, but when challenged, decline to address the key point that she was making.
Bemused it seems that it is you who has missed the entire point of the article. Nowhere did I say that SA and SH are worse than adultery. Rather, I said that the question is an irrelevant and innappropriate response. Irrelevant, because all we need to know is that SH and SA are wrong in order to condemn them and innappropriate because the entire motivation of the question was to minimize SA and SH which is a terrible thing to do.
I don’t think the comparison she was making was between aishes ish/ homosexuality vs “the lack of kedusha involved in an inappropriate conversation.” She was pointing out that conflating Sexual sins on one side, and predatory behavior on the other, seems strange (and incorrect). Her invocation of Trump was that the right voted him, a wholly unrepentant philanderer. As i mentioned below, i disagreed with her as to how to interpret the nature of the access hollywood tapes.
The right tacitly accepts philandering, even if they might denounce it publicly. we both know this to be true. While il agree that the left seems to be less moralizing on sexual sins, find me a prominent Democrat politician who would endorse spousal cheating (I’m not saying there aren’t differences between them, i just saying they aren’t nearly as extreme as you make it)
The right is merely a few years behind the left in terms of legitimizing Homosexual unions.
both the author of the original article, as well as you, recognizing that perhaps the #metoo movement encompasses too large a swath of offenses, and has the potential to conflate minor with major crimes, the seek to only compare grave biblical sins with only the weakest level of what #metoo is referring to-sexual harrassment that isn’t clearly defined, thus leaving open scary possibilities. Wha about the rest of what #metoo includes. Remember, none of the high profile cases allege “mere” harassment.
Besides, sexual predatory behavior has been proven beyond a doubt to be highly correlated with Major Depression, Suicide Ideation, Eating Disorders, (i could go on) and the harmful after effects must be included in determining which sin is more “chamur”.
Thank you for your apology (though i am mystified at why how you somehow managed to turn my transparency as a point against me).
I will not adress your little excursion into explaining feminism and left right politics, we simply won’t agree.
Hear, hear! Kol hakavod.
This is mostly very good and necessary. I’ll accept the attacks on republicans because the author of the first article made claims that warrant it. 🙂 but a couple”nitpicks”: I don’t know why you call Turner’ s “rape” brutal. Both he and the girl were very drunk. She was all over him at the party they left. The jury found it was rape, which isn’t hard to do in California where any intercourse with a drink girl, much less a girl who at some point passed out, is rape. Even with your wife. So the judge who heard all the facts determined that Turner was on the lower e n of the spectrum for sexual assault and sentenced him. People didn’t like it, fine. But no need for more adjectives. And really that’s the best case you can come up with?
And I hate being put in a position to defend President Trump on morality, but he supposedly wasn’t minimizing his language with the locker room talk claim, but explaining that he didn’t really do such things, he just talked about them. And indeed this is how even many good decent Americans talk (but don’t act). Thankfully not in our community. As to his accusers, they are just that until something is proven in court. I don’t mean that glibly or naively, but wealthy celebrity controversial men attract more false accusers than most others.
Lastly, as others have noted, men indeed have lost jobs etc from inappropriate comments. Not sure why you think otherwise. Those are usually comments nobody in our community should be making (although some are misunderstandings as well). But perhaps sometimes the crime doesn’t fit the punishment. Even if you are not a man perhaps you know some men and might great for them to be falsely accused or harshly punished.
To this end and only to this end, I would recommend Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix production, The Birdcage. His idea is allowing for mass tshuva instead of mass punishment.
The girl Brock Turner raped was unconscious. One of the witnesses said that what he saw was so brutal that it made him weep. She suffered tremendous physical and psychological trauma. Yes it was brutal. And its actually extremely difficult to ever convict anyone of rape in any state because there’s hardly ever witnesses. In this rare case that there were witnesses they were able to convict but that is hardly the norm.
The point about Donald Trump’s statement was questioning the validity of the consideration that he did teshuva. He certainly minimized what he said. It was basically “this is no big deal and now let’s get back to ISIS”. Also yes it is almost impossible for people to get convicted of sexual assault because there are rarely witnesses but when you have a man who has, for years, made degrading, objectifying comments about women, who is then caught on tape saying that he sexually assault women, who is then accused of sexual assault by a dozen independent women it does not take much to come to the common sense conclusion that where there is smoke there is fire.
“As to his accusers, they are just that until something is proven in court. I don’t mean that glibly or naively, but wealthy celebrity controversial men attract more false accusers than most others.”
There are many accusers over the years and many of them related their stories to friends contemporaneously. What you are suggesting amounts to a conspiracy theory. BTW, he also discussed on a radio show walking into women’s dressing rooms while they were undressed and then women confirmed that. He later denied that, too. Do you see a pattern here?
WRT to your claim about court, most cases of abuse don’t end up in court to begin with. For example, in NY, the statute of limitations on both civil and criminal cases of child sex abuse is until the victim is either 21 or 23. It often takes longer for victims to get to the point where they are in a position to sue or prosecute such cases. Unfortunately, Agudath Israel along with other religious groups is fighting to keep that limitation in place.
Thankfully not in our community.
If only that were a true statement. Halevai!
Kol hakavod! Thank you for so eloquently expressing the outrage that so many of us felt at reading that first article.
What a beautiful well thought out response. Thank you.
Sexual harassment isn’t worse than adultery. Adultery isn’t worse than sexual harassment. BOTH are wrong. However, rape is also wrong, and sexual harassment which isn’t dealt with by someone with power to stop it frequently does lead to rape. We are commanded to keep ALL the mitzvos, and not to “step” on those we regard as minor. Ranking aveiros (outside of the “yehareig” ones) makes no sense. Neither does thinking that all non-frum Jews or all non-Jews are necessarily alike. The original story made no logical sense. It’s like saying that John is better than Robert because John only cheats on his income tax while Robert shoplifts. Both are wrong. It’s time we stopped echoing the radio talk shows and started thinking for ourselves.
Adultery is a yehareg aveira, so is it okay to rank it as worse than sexual harrassment?
As someone said above, we don’t generally rate aveiros. Safe to say it is a very serious evaira. But as someone said sexual harassment and/or rape can also be very serious as far as Bein Adam l’chaveiro.
Quite apart from the major issues currently debated here, this point has been made by a number of people. And it is simply incorrect. The gemara rates aveiros all the time. The general way that it rates them is according to the severity of the punishment attached to them. Capital crimes are rated more severe than non-capital crimes. (Even within capital crimes, the gemara differentiates the different methods of execution). Aveiros that carry with them a sentence of flogging are weightier than those that do not. Etc. There are exceptions – for cause – but the general rule holds up. Applied to our situation, there is no gainsaying that one of the three aveiros (adultery with a married woman) which not only is a capital crime, but for which a person must die rather than violate if given a choice has to be considered weightier than other sexual offenses, as revolting and damaging that they are.
Given this understanding, I would like to share a comment mentioned by R Yankie Horowitz in the name of R Dovid Cohen at the recent Jewish Heritage Center event (panel discussion available online). R Dovid Cohen was asked why we don’t see any mention in the Response literature of sexual abuse. How could it be? R Cohen answered that in America, until a few years ago, the treatment of the issue was as an issue concerning “Nezek”, but recently we have discovered that it is really an issue of “dinei Nefashos”.
Leaving aside how the answer answers the question-and i have several theories-it is clear that, at least according to R Dovid Cohen, the byproducts of sexual abuse, which is the issue we are taking about here, just of a different kind, are not ancillary, but are halachically relevant. If an aggressive act by in a vacuum isn’t as “chamur” as another, but the former has the power to cause a chain of events that are life endangering, that potential is accounted for in determining the severity of the sin.
People seem to be confused by the admonition in Pirkei Avos not to disregard seemingly minor mitzvos in favour of seemingly more major mitzvos into thinking that because we should not rank mitzvos according to their seeming importance we should also not rank aveiros according to their severity. Which is,of course, a fallacy.
Thank you to both of you for correcting me on this point and thank you Rabbi Adlerstein for publishing this important piece.
This is one common scenario that prompts serious questions:
A really important man in entertainment, news, politics, business, or any field asks a woman up to his hotel room or bedroom or some other private place, whether he applied mental or financial pressure beforehand or not. Do big shots invite women up to play Scrabble? What is her personal responsibility to refuse and not enter a compromising, threatening situation? Does careerism justify her going to his room anyhow? And do we then toss off bad decision-making to stupidity or weakness? How demeaning this would be to women!
This is generally true, but simplistic.
What would your attitude be towards the following two people:
Person A tells you, that, after engaging in complex philosophical speculation, concludes that the sun is a god, and that he has started worshipping it. The moral values that he believes the sun
propagates are generally similar to Judeo-Christian values.
After saying hello to Person B, he informs you that he just raped a couple a Bais Yaakov girls (CH”V).
Who would you have a more feeling of disgust towards? I suspect that you would want to eagerly
engage in a hashkafic conversation with Person A, while hoping Person B sits in jail for 30 years, perhaps
even wishing him physical harm.
Why? Person A is chayiv misa, while Person B is just chayiv to pay a knas!
The obvious answer is that you absolutely cannot always tell ultimate severity of an aveira just by its
punishment from beis din.
I disagree. Closer to my reaction would be the following: “My first thoughts are to treat B with disgust, revulsion, and anger. My second thoughts remind me that I am programmed by my Creator to react strongly to offenses that I can intuit or understand. But there are considerations that I am not immediately privy to, which come from the Divine Mind. If the Torah treats three aveiros as the cardinal sins of our people, then they must be more serious for reasons I must look deeper to understand. Those reasons might include the damage that they do to the neshama of the perpetrator, to society, or to a victim. They might include reasons that humans will just not understand. But G-d is not arbitrary. If He deems something serious enough to mandate capital punishment as a punishment, then I will trust him that it is a serious offense. I will remember that of the three cardinal sins (as Maharal observes) one is a sin to G-d, one a sin to Man, and one a sin to himself. Consent doesn’t make a difference here. A sin to the perpetrator’s own soul as still reckoned as an unusually severe sin.”
Rabbi Adlerstein, I think that there are many problems with your argument:
1) As the Ran points out, the punishments mandated by the Torah are theoretical. No actually pre-messianic society can run on a principle where robbery is punished by return of the object robbed and larceny by some small multiple of the amount pilfered. Nor could the Torah’s rules of evidence and fore-warning ever be used practically. Practically, Torah societies must and have made up their own set of rules and punishments, either as the Ran claims as part of the law of the king or as an emergency measure.
Since that it true, it is entirely appropriate that civil society do the same (the Noachide code appears to grant them the right to any punishment up to death for any violation). This would even including halacha-based Jewish societies (and has). If we see that rape or sexual abuse in general needs to be dealt with more seriously than the Torah-mandated punishment for any practical reason, then the Torah 100% supports this.
2) You are now arguing based on Chok. You can’t explain why A should be true, but you expect civil society to simply accept A based on your personal interpretation Torah’s order of punishments. This is not a reasonable expectation. If we followed such reasoning, then you could end up in the situation where anti-semitism was codified into law because of similar interpretations by other more numerous religious authorities from other religions.
3) The contradiction based on your interpretation is not just between our feeling and the Torah. The contradiction is internal. What is the punishment for atheism? Not active Avodah Zarah, but simple non-belief. No actions, no proselytizing, just unbelief. There is none. Yet this is the worst possible sin between man/woman and God and the greatest harm to self according to the Torah.
So you will answer, yes there is no punishment in the hands of man, but there is divine punishment.
But that destroys the entire enterprise, since you don’t know what the divine punishment for rape is. You are arguing entirely based on punishment in the hands of man.
4) In civil society, our job generally is not punish people for sins to God or Self. That would lead to each religion attempting to impose themselves on everyone else. It is entirely rational (and very beneficial to us Jews) for civil society to focus on sins to Man/Woman. On that scale, rape is generally considered by people to do at least as much harm as adultery. That is why consent is relevant. When the harm is one person to another, then civil society needs to step in. When it is a sin to God, we want them to stay far away.
5) As has been pointed out, this is all academic. Trump’s affairs while he was married are not classified as adultery by the Torah to begin with.
1) I do not understand the Ran that way. Not at all. I assume you mean in the 11th Derasha
2) I don’t expect them to do anything. As a Jew, I remain guided by HKBH’s value system. I don’t believe for a second that adultery is a chok. Or even promiscuity, for those who are forbidden to engage in it. I do believe that even where the Torah does not forbid non-Jews to engage in particular behavior, they will lead better lives when they voluntarily follow the advice implied by what halacha demands of Jews. And when they don’t, some will find themselves in trouble.
3) There is no contradiction. The Torah reserves humanly executed punishment for actions, not for inaction. Even for non-Jews. There is no action that is coupled directly with an attitude of atheism.
4) Of course consent is relevant. The question is only whether it is the sole criterion. It shouldn’t be. The Torah finds personal morality important. Societies that ignore it will show the consequences of immorality.
“This is one common scenario that prompts serious questions:
A really important man in entertainment, news, politics, business, or any field asks a woman up to his hotel room or bedroom or some other private place, whether he applied mental or financial pressure beforehand or not. Do big shots invite women up to play Scrabble? What is her personal responsibility to refuse and not enter a compromising, threatening situation? Does careerism justify her going to his room anyhow? And do we then toss off bad decision-making to stupidity or weakness? How demeaning this would be to women!”
Bob Miller: You need to read those stories more carefully. Weinstein et al. and their female accomplices knew that the women would be suspicious. So they set up situations where there was supposed to be another woman there (or multiple people there) to alleviate suspicions, and then the situation quickly changes with woman leaving or the arranged party lots of people having been faked. Do you think that any one of them really thought “he is inviting me to a meeting in order to rape me”?
You’re making a good argument against naivete and against Hollywood itself. I realize that some women were tricked very plausibly and had no way to know what awaited. What do you say about others?
Rav Adlerstein –
What you say is undeniable true, but it’s where people today will understandably have a hard time accepting the Torah’s ranking of these crimes.
Basically, Al Pi Din Torah, the most violent rape imaginable of a Pnuya is not really a ‘crime’ per se. There’s a fine, payable to the father, presumably to cover his losses, similar to other fines for monetary damage incurred. I’m aware that there are a few Mitzvot Lo Taase that the rapist can be ‘booked’ for, but there’s no special punishment other than the fine.
Sexual harassment that doesn’t reach the status of rape or פיתוי is basically not a crime at all.
So not only is sexual harassment (‘other sexual offenses’) less serious than adultery, it’s less serious than basically any other Lav in the Torah. The same is probably true of many forms of child abuse!
My point is that it simply isn’t clear how helpful it is to rank these aveirot on the basis of how the Torah addresses them, at least in terms of the current discussion.
I don’t believe that this is true. Rape certainly is a crime, and an actionable one at that. The fine that the Torah imposes does not preclude it being treated as a case of bodily assault, for which payment can be extracted. At times, it can meet the definition of kidnapping, which is a capital crime.
Your point is well taken, I still don’t fully agree. The Torah mandates punishments to serve other functions as well, the Maharal not withstanding. And, to be honest, I believe the Torah’s strangely nonchalant towards rape – pay a fine to the family and obligate the rapist to marry the victim (!) – is due to cultural factors present at time the Torah was given. If you look around, there are other example of this. This may appear controversial to some, by I would frankly rather say that, than that the Torah doesn’t think that rape a particularly big deal, which, going strictly by the punishments, is the unavoidable conclusion.
Also, see a few parshios ago were the rape of Dina caused Shimon and Levi and to completely massacre the inhabitants of Shechem – it wasn’t their avodah zarah.
The Meshech Chochma (I forget exactly where) also has a fascinating piece were he explains that there are aveiros, while severely punished in beis din, are often tolerated on the national level, and conversely, aveiros, while not punished by beis din, are not tolerated nationally, and are often the cause of that nation’s destruction (e.g., the Churban, the dor hamabul, etc.).
One can also violate a bein adam le’chaveiro in an extreme way, such that it is still not punishable in this world, but will be severely punished in shamayim.
Again, I think generally speaking, you can tell the severity on an aveira but it’s punishment, but I just it’s not always so cut and dried.
Hey, totally anecdotal thought. I once spoke to a non-jewish (and totally non religious) psychologist about the psychology of rape, we came on to the topic of the Torah’s punishment of forcing the rapist to marry his victim (if she wishes) and barring him from ever divorcing her. He told me that in his opinion there could be no worse punishment for the rapist (i.e. worse than death) – because what many fail to understand about the rapist is that at his core he seeks power, not his own physical pleasure. Being compelled to marry his victim, his power is gone, he is trapped forever! I’m not a pyschologist and can’t say if this view is contraversial or broadly accepted, but if true, the Torah’s attitude to rape would be anything other than “strangely nonchalant”.
Thank God that someone wrote a reasonable response.
The comments here attacking this article as “leftist talking points” are sadly funny. I guess that since all leftists believe that 2+2=4, orthodox Jews should claim that it is really 5.
certainly we should not reflexively reject 2+2=4 just because leftists accept it. on the other hand we shouldn’t accept it just because it is the politically correct opinion of the “enlightened elites”. if it contradicts common sense, the experience of countless generations of humans who proceeded us, and appears to be agenda driven, it behooves us to be highly suspicious. of course you chose the example of 2+2=4 precisely because it doesn’t have all of the complications i listed above. on the other the author of this essay’s endorsement of the elevation of crimes against feminism (some real, most not so real) above all other moral considerations does have the above issues.
“Certainly we should not reflexively reject 2+2=4 just because leftists accept it”
Fantastic. Now rewrite your arguments to remove all of the ad hominem references to leftist X or leftist Y and let’s see what you’ve got left (no pun intended).
Once a person feels the need to bash Donald Trump, they have lost all credibility with me. Such people on the Left are apparently incapable of talking about any subject at all, without eventually bringing it back to bashing whichever Republican happens to be in the White House at the time, just as they did to George W Bush before Donald, Ronald Reagan before George Bush, and Richard Nixon before Ronald Reagan. For the fact is, that the Left simply cannot tolerate any non-Leftist having any real political power.
As for the subject of sexual harassment itself, all I can say is that the more men who are accused of doing such a thing, the more suspicious I become of the women making those charges. After a while, I just assume that women are trumping up such false charges whenever they dislike any given man enough to make him lose his job. And if I am not mistaken, somewhere in our Talmud, poverty is equated with death. Stopping a man from making a living is thus like taking away his life, which is probably why work is called making a living, or earning one’s livelihood. If this trend continues, men will understandably be so reluctant to work or even be present anywhere near the vicinity of women, that soon we will have a totally segregated society, as exists in the major parts of the moslem world as well as in the extreme end of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish world. Such are the eventual consequences of the Leftist world view, which often does not measure their words and actions by their long-term consequences.
Since every human is a unique creation, no one can say that all accusations have equal worth, or that all accusers have equal credibility. Members of genuinely oppressed classes have no automatic right to be believed. Sometimes, the oppressed don’t even realize who really is the oppressor.
Since the original article was about sexual harassment and Donald Trump, then it would make sense that a response to that article would touch on those points.
“As for the subject of sexual harassment itself, all I can say is that the more men who are accused of doing such a thing, the more suspicious I become of the women making those charges.” That’s an interesting response. Some people would say that the more women come out and say that they are abused the more pain and empathy they feel and the harder it is to ignore the validity of what they are saying. If one women accused I would assume you would say how can we believe on woman? Why would more women accusing be any less credible?
“After a while, I just assume that women are trumping up such false charges whenever they dislike any given man enough to make him lose his job. ” Again, why? This is simply not logical. If a business man is accused of doing business dishonestly by one person then that is one thing but if he is accused by ten independent sources then that would make us take it more seriously not say well I guess they are all making it up.
The frustration I expressed was not directed only against you, but against all those for whom Donald can do no right, no matter how much good he is bringing to this country. I will say, though, that given what a friend that he is to us Jews and our Jewish State, that it especially disappointing to me when opposition to him comes not only from Jews, but from traditional, Orthodox Jews. And as for why I have developed a skepticism toward the endless stream of sexual harassment charges against men, the answer to that seems obvious to me. It gives women a chance to get their revenge against men. They may feel rejected by men, or perhaps they engaged in certain behavior with men that they cannot admit to themselves, and so they try to push the blame onto whichever men they were involved with. There can be all sorts of motivations for women to simply make up such charges for their own personal gain. Most maddening of all in the public sphere, is a certain rather famous, self-described feminist attorney who also happens to be Jewish, who very publicly brings charges like these and others, to whoever the Republican candidate happens to be, suddenly dropping those charges the moment the particular political race is over.
“The frustration I expressed was not directed only against you, but against all those for whom Donald can do no right, no matter how much good he is bringing to this country. ”
Raymond, perhaps I can help you:
I vote Republican. I like generally like the cut to the corporate tax rate. I generally like Trumps’s court nominations. I liked his campaign statement that we couldn’t simultaneously fight IS and try to remove Assad.
I believe that Trump engaged in sexual assault many times.
“There can be all sorts of motivations for women to simply make up such charges for their own personal gain.”
I suspect that you haven’t actually bothered to read a lot about these issues. In Trump’s case (and many others), the victims reported the assaults to their friends at the time, but did not report to the authorities because they thought nothing would be done. It is a strange way to get “personal gain” by telling your friends about an assault and then waiting to go public after the statute of limitations is up for civil litigation or criminal prosecution.
“And as for why I have developed a skepticism toward the endless stream of sexual harassment charges against men, the answer to that seems obvious to me.”
It seems obvious to me too. It is because it is inconsistent with your worldview and causes cognitive dissonance.
No, actually, it has nothing to do with cognitive dissonance and everything to do with the proverbial boy crying wolf one too many times. Donald cannot say or do ANYthing without the Political Left going ballistic over it. He can cure cancer, and their response would be to call him a racist. In their eyes, he is Evil Personified, having committed the Cardinal Sin of not being on the Political Left. He has even been compared to adolf hitler and Joseph Stalin. So no, I do not believe basically anything said by his detractors….plus I have to wonder about any proud Jew who opposes him, given what a great friend he is to our Jewish State of Israel. We Jews should be his strongest supporters of all.
Raymond – the author only took on trump because she was responding to the original article that minimized both what he has admitted to doing and what others have accused him of doing. I listened to rush limbaugh and Sean hannity for enough years to know that the “right” simply cannot tolerate any non-Rightest having any real political power. I never heard either of them compliment any move by a democrat – ever! Further, they attack republican “Rinos” almost daily. Who are you kidding. I am not left or right – I try to understand what the Torah wants to me by learning and speaking to Daas Torah when I am unsure. I suggest you do the same thing. You may have some more clarity on this issue if you start listening to rabbanim and the Torah instead of Michael savage…
But I do not listen to Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity. And while I do consider myself to be a political conservative, I do have praise for some Democrats, such as Harry Truman, Robert Kennedy, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Alan Dershowitz….in other words, those Democrats who are or have been the most strongly pro-Israel. For me, Israel is everything, which is why I became a Republican in the first place, and why I see nothing wrong with listening to talk radio shows like those of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. I only do not listen to them because they are on at the same time as Dennis Prager and Michael Medved, plus I still do have to work for a living. As for acquiring Torah knowledge, while of course I will never be a Torah giant, it is still possible for me to follow world events and study Torah. In fact, this whole website we are on now, is built on the assumption that we Jews, while tied to our Jewish roots, nevertheless do take an interest in world affairs. Nevertheless, I will acknowledge agreeing with you that I need to shift my focus more to Torah studies and less to politics. I did not feel I could do that during the Obama years, so horrified I was as I watched him do whatever he could to bring this country down. Now that Donald is in office, I feel confident enough about the fate of both America and Israel, that I can gravitate toward following your suggestion.
So one has to be a Democat to criticize Trump on moral grounds? To be astounded that someone who could write memoirs detailing his exploits could actually be considered as a nominee? To find the “you go Tweeter in chief, wish we could all be as unfiltered” mentality one hears on some RW radio disconcerting?
One can argue that this criticism can be irrelevant to a discussion, or ad hominem but one can’t ignore reality.
Ok, so let me try to understand where this all takes us.
Sexual harassment is bad. Adulterous is bad, and as Rabbi Adlerstein pointed out, according to the Torah, worse.
As Mrs. Hanfling pointed out, we don’t condone and must condemn all of them.
Women are mad for having been treated this way.
Orthodox women are mad. Are Orthodox women mad at Orthodox men?
Am I naive? Because all the people in these harassment cases talk about everyone else knowing, and I’ve worked in Kiruv for many years and have never seen a hint of an inappropriate comment from an Orthodox man to an Orthodox woman.
But there are cases as people pointed out. I don’t know what event Dr Bill was talking about, but I’d venture that unfortunately many young males have suffered much more sexual harassment in our system than have young females.
And I’m well aware of a prominent Rebbetzin who has committed some serious sexual harassment.
But my question is- why are all these frum women angry? Is it because of their secular lives, or is it because of what happens in our world? Mrs. Hanfling, how do you see it in our world?
From my perspective, while the institutional power certainly is in the hands of males, I see the women in frum society as having tremendous power. And much of it based on frum men being stellar, metschlich, and realizing that power brings responsibility.
So go get the Harvey Weinsteins, the Wieseltiers, but are people saying this is a real problem in our camp to women? Are the women who are so angrily and passionately posting here saying they’ve suffered this? That they see this?
I hope not. If yes I’d be very sad. But it’s not the world I know, and not just because I’m a guy.
But is it possible that some of this is a rejection of male patriarchy, of an absorbing of the rejection of traditional gender roles and norms? Is it possible some of our own frum women are just fed up by being told what to do by male rabbis- that there’s a little Chovevei in everyone (G-d forbid)?
I ask this seriously, and I’d love to hear thoughts.
“Orthodox women are mad. Are Orthodox women mad at Orthodox men?
Am I naive? Because all the people in these harassment cases talk about everyone else knowing, and I’ve worked in Kiruv for many years and have never seen a hint of an inappropriate comment from an Orthodox man to an Orthodox woman.”
As I pointed out in an earlier comment, there it is unknown whether abuse rates are higher or lower in the Orthodox community.
But, yes you are naive. Abusers try not to do things in the open. At the very least you have the following individuals involved in various forms of “kiruv” who abused women:
1) Baruch Lanner
2) Barry Freundel
3) Leib Tropper
There are a bunch of other cases linked in a previous comment of mine. Are you familiar with them? If not, you are “naive” as you put it.
“I’d venture that unfortunately many young males have suffered much more sexual harassment in our system than have young females.”
It is true that sexual abuse of males is also common, but the perpetrators are most often (but not exclusively) other males.
“So go get the Harvey Weinsteins, the Wieseltiers, but are people saying this is a real problem in our camp to women?”
Yes, of course. To repeat myself:
Survivor Ruth Krevsky: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEjrha4Qglc
Survivor Sima Yarmush: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wffN3mYWCCw
“But is it possible that some of this is a rejection of male patriarchy, of an absorbing of the rejection of traditional gender roles and norms?”
Not wanting to have others touch you without permission is a “rejection of male patriarchy”?
BTW, what world do you live in and what male patriarchy? In the US, 50% of medical students are women. Women study TSBP in the most right wing institutions. Women function as Rabbis without titles (e.g. running schools). Are you just talking about the Rabbi title? I think that the posters here for the most part don’t want to be Rabbis. They also don’t want to be raped.
I’m well aware of all the cases that you cited. Those are indeed too many, but still not many over a span of time and a large population. That doesn’t show at all that it’s a serious problem in or camp. I’m well aware of the seminary issue as well- but that’s it- over so many years there are very few seminary stories. I have family members, make and female, who teach in every aspect of female Jewish education and they don’t think his is a huge issue.
And I don’t think it’s about wanting to be called rabbi. I think they’re sick of men supposedly being “in charge” because society tells them that if men are the heads of institutions, honored at dinners, etc then whether they know it or not, they are victims of male abuse and control.
“Because all the people in these harassment cases talk about everyone else knowing, and I’ve worked in Kiruv for many years and have never seen a hint of an inappropriate comment from an Orthodox man to an Orthodox woman.”
“I’m well aware of all the cases that you cited.”
So then we conclude that your anecdotal testimony as to never having seen a hint of inappropriate comment is absolutely and utterly meaningless. Abuse has gone on and continues to go on without your knowledge, and you are oblivious to it until the next investigative report exposes an abuser and then you say “that can’t be true, the alleged victims are all lying to disrupt the patriarchy”.
You are providing a wonderful example of the problem that #metoo is addressing. There is a widespread assumption that everything is fine and abuse could never happen in *my* institution. It is is always *somewhere else*. The problem is that all institutions always state this before (and sometimes after) abuse is found in their institutions.
And the examples above include institutions that continued to deny (as you do) that any abuse could have occurred even after bringing the abuse to their attention. In fact some Orthodox institutions *may* be worse, because even videotaped evidence of the abuse as it is happening (as cited above) is not enough to get them to admit there is an issue. If you ignore all proof of abuse, then of course, you think you have none. (As I mentioned, there is no evidence that Orthodox Jewish institutions have either higher or lower rates of abuse).
It would much more convincing if you had said “yes I’ve seen grooming behavior and we immediately fired the employee and provided public notice that he should not be hired in any other institution”. Then I could believe that your institution might have lower rates of abuse than others. If you haven’t seen it at all, then you aren’t looking, and if you aren’t looking, then it is happening without your knowledge.
The lack of even private notice really bothers me. An institution can’t just shove its problems onto others who are unaware. Would they send dangerously infected patients into somebody else’s school?
Yasher koach to the author for this piece!
To the respondents: I am sure if you would like to weigh and parse the legalistic ramifications of adultery vs rape vs stealing a cookie that you could give long shiurim on the topic. But what is so disturbing is the tone deafness in the course of that discussion. The above responses have focused too much on minimizing the importance of consent, and dismissing The female perspective on the situation. Please: take a step back from the minutiae and look at the larger situation: what was the overall point of the original piece? Because it sounded to me like its message was that sexual harassment is not such a big deal., because the general culture is yucky. That’s a ridiculous message. CAn we all please just agree that rape is bad and the fact that the general culture is gross doesn’t make rape ok?
This article, I’m inclined to think deliberately, totally misses the point. Traditionally, and within Judaism, is has been understood that some forms of sexual activity are inherently deviant. It has been the goal of some on the Left (now a majority) since the latter decades of the 19th century to abolish this understanding. Stage 1 was advocating an ethic of ‘free love’, and successfully so, but the problem is that this does not correspond to what the overwhelming majority of people desire for their lives once they finish sowing their wild oats, thus leaving a vague yearning for the return of traditional sexual morality. Stage 2, then, is to create a new replacement sexual ethics, minus the concept of deviancy, based on two principles: (i) consent and (ii) equality between men and women. The first of these, at a stretch and with modifications, can be reconciled with the Torah, the second is obviously opposed.
However, that is not the real objection. One can critique the new sexual ethics on many grounds. It seems fairly incoherent; on a weaker reading it would take much of the fun and spontaneity out of sex (I ‘groped’ my wife this morning); on a stronger reading it arguably renders *problematic* all normal heterosexual activity (which inevitably has an inequality built into it: one gives, one receives). The decisive objection to the new sexual morality, however, is simply that it is a replacement for the old one, specifically designed to bury the concept of deviancy once and for all.
We can then freely admit that the #MeToo campaign involves attacking immoral behaviour. We can even admit that it attacks it for the same reasons as the Torah (though, for the most part, this does not seem to be the case). Supporting it, however, would be like supporting dekulakization on the (true enough) grounds that the Torah condemns greedy usurers.
Of course, you don’t have to oppose it either. Sometimes, it’s best to sit things out. Western civilization has probably passed terminal point. What must be resisted at all costs is people who wish to promote feminism within the orthodox Jewish world.
“What must be resisted at all costs is people who wish to promote feminism within the orthodox Jewish world.”
Got it. We’ve got to set our priorities. Rape is not good, but let’s not lose focus on the real problem: female doctors and lawyers.
Another intelligent contribution from everyone’s favourite true conservative. Here’s a graph of the U.S rape rate by year. if you try very, very hard you might see a pattern. I’ll leave you to look up the demographic information yourself. If you were actually interested in decreasing rape, your priorities would be very different: immigration from trashcan countries and muh civil rights would be top of the list. Similarly, people who were actually concerned about campus rape culture would be campaigning for an end to football scholarships, but instead they search endlessly for imaginary Haven Monahans and get wildly excited when they find one someone like Brock Turner who is, at a pinch, guilty of something sort of resembling rape.
You want to promote feminism, sexual deviancy, female promiscuity and the demonisation of normal masculinity within the Jewish world. You have your reasons, I’m sure, but don’t try and pretend you care about rape.
Do you really believe that today’s feminism is about putting more women into professional positions? Just watch what happens when a respected female professional in general society comes out as a political conservative, pro-life, pro-free-speech on campus, etc. If feminism among Orthodox women is something else, let them declare all their principles.
“Western civilization has probably passed terminal point.”
Ironically, many Americans back Israel because it looks to them like a plucky little USA that subscribes to Western values.
So well said. And I’ll tell you what’s so interesting- I find all the cases of MeToo not surprising on the men’s part, and certainly deserving of condemnation and punishment. And I think the victims deserve their day in court. And they deserve not to be blamed.
But there’s no doubt that it’s going way overboard, that there is almost a bloodlust desire for revenge that feels like feminism gone wild, and hearing it from within our camp terrifies me.
What I’m so unsettled by is even my own reactions. When I heard about these stories, I was happy to see these out of control, self righteous yet immoral bastions of liberal institutions go.
But then when I see Oprah saying “time’s up!”, hear another actress talk about “restorative justice”, hear another woman on NPR talk about how she hopes men quake in their boots now and that yes, many will lose their jobs now who don’t deserve to but that’s ok, I’m out.
And then somehow I go from feeling comfortable co denning this to feeling uncomfortable that a Kiruv Rebbetzin feels the need to take to a public forum to talk about sexual matters that mostly relate to the secular world and let us know what our reaction should be. It seems off.
But I do think the cat’s out of the bag. I think feminism has reached the Orthodox world in a serious way- some that are positive, but many that are negative and heavily influenced by our culture, which we are a product of.
We can sit by and watch how it will play out in the general society, but we’re a part of that, and don’t think this won’t affect us as well.
Additionally, please provide factual support for your statements above
“But there’s no doubt that it’s going way overboard, that there is almost a bloodlust desire for revenge that feels like feminism gone wild, and hearing it from within our camp terrifies me.” How exactly is there “no doubt” that #metoo has gone overboard and please find one statement from my article that indicates “a bloodlust desire for revenge that feels like feminism gone wild”
Again since you seemed to be obsessed with feminism and seem to feel that the “cat is out of the bag” please provide any statements from my article that would support that conclusion. Quite interestingly, did you react when a man chose to write an article about #metoo or do you only “feel uncomfortable” when a woman writes about the issue? Yes, to anyone reading these comments it does indeed seem that the cat is out of the bag regarding your true feelings.
I see I’ve touched a nerve; I never said and didn’t mean that your article shows a bloodlust for revenge gone wild. I think the general tone of the movement is that, but I wasn’t atteiviting that to you.
Let me save you the trouble of “outing me” by you deciding that I’ve let the cat out of the bag and that you’ve found out what my true feelings are; I’ll happily share them.
Yes, of course I would be more uncomfortable with a woman writing an article with certain sexual subject matter than I would a man- wouldn’t you? Of course it depends on who the audience is, etc, but I definitely would. I thought that the reasoning is obvious, but I’m not sure.
Now, you say you know my true feelings, but what if you’re wrong? What if I’m a compassionate and empathetic supporter of women who encourages the women in my life to achieve their dreams, helped encourage an immediate female family member to finish Shas, employs women in positions where they have a voice and an ability to affect policy matter? What would you say then? (And they’re all true.)
So why do you sense some serious pushback from me about MeToo? Because I think most “isms” are the wrong way to go.
I may personally be uncomfortable with a lot in our society, and yet would defend against one who takes too strong a position one way, because it’s usually reactionary and over the top.
So I’ll defend the rights of women to the hilt, have a zero tolerance policy in my organization and have warned from the get go that ANY impropriety is grounds for dismissal, but when the pushback becomes so intense, that is when I fear we’ve gone way overboard.
Not sure if that clarified anything for you, but I hope it does.
My article literally mentioned nothing about male Rabbis or male leadership. You are railing against feminist ghosts that make no appearance in anything that I have said. Moreover I had no intention of ever writing about this topic until there was a previous article written that required a response. Did it make you uncomfortable when that article was written? If not you might want to consider why that is.
You missed my point again. I’m not talking about your article anymore, but the point that I did make is that yes, it makes me more uncomfortable when women talk about sexuality in a public forum than when men do.
Is that mysoginistic in our view, or can it be an acceptable view of tznius?
And I would say clearly that I’d have a similar issue of men were discussing this with women in many instances. Do you find that offensive, or does that possibly make sense?
The bottom line is that we’re having conversations about a sugya of arayos. Men learn it in forums with men, women with women, and in many traditional, non-mysoginistic circles it’s not considered tznius for people of one gender to write or speak to the other, or a mixed crowd, on these topics.
The original article made me less uncomfortable from a tznius perspective; it made me uncomfortable for other reasons.
I hope I’m making some sense, and you can depersonalize this and separate it from whether you should or should not have written the article (not my business) and articulate whether you think what I’m saying is far fetched or whether you can hear it.
Yossi, this is getting tiresome. You used my article to explain why you see that bloodlust in “our camp” and wondered aloud whether my motivation was really that I just don’t like men in charge. If you are changing your tune that is fine but to say that you never said it to begin with is disingenuous.
Your last question as to whether I can “hear” your position is a bit complicated because you have said several contradictory statements and therefore I don’t really know what your position is. But to clarify I certainly agree that it is more tznius for men to speak to men about sexual topics related to men and for women to do the same for women and that neither should ideally speak to mixed groups about it. I think when it comes to the written word its a bit more ambiguous about whether that is entirely still accurate but honestly that is really irrelevant because that’s not what I did. While I don’t think that position is misogynistic at all, what I do think is misogynistic is only applying that standard when a women speaks to a “mixed crowd” but ignoring that standard when a man does. Unless you think Cross currents is a male only space which would explain your position though it would be based on a false assumption.
What I do find particularly disturbing is that the #metoo phenomenon is a topic that particularly affects women and the fact that you would want to silence my voice about the topic because of my gender is quite bizarre. Ultimately, my article (and the original article I was responding to) were not discussions on arayos or sexuality or whatever else you seem to think they were. The original article was a political post which asserted that we need not take sexual abuse seriously since the left tolerates adultery. I had many issues with the post and clearly articulated them in my article but it was not a “discussion on sexuality”. Hope you can “hear” my position
I hear your position loud and clear, and I agree this is getting tiresome. I would never want to silence your voice and don’t think I did anything of the sort. It’s such a trite cliche to say that when someone disagrees with you they are trying to silence your voice. It may be argument or debate, but not silencing your voice. The public forum is an uncomfortable space to discuss issues, and other people’s opinions can make you feel uncoimfortable, but that doesn’t mean that they (I) am trying to silence your voice.
When you throw that at me, what am I supposed to say? Should I post trigger warnings? I don’t think I did anything by post my opinions, some that you found upsetting, possibly offensive (which was truly not my intention) and some that you found contradictory. But never to silence your voice.
If that’s what you took from our conversation, or if that’s what I actually conveyed, for that I sincerely apologize, all differences of opinion aside.