Cultivating an Attitude of Tznius in our Media

by Bracha Poliakoff

Since at least the time of Sara Schenirer, there have always been Torah-observant girls and women of all stages of life who struggle to feel connected to their Yiddishkeit, their community and even Hashem. One specific issue of our day that has been strongly impacting the women of our community is the pressure for young women to “put themselves out there” whether on a shidduch resume (full body shots are now becoming standard!) or on social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn. These avenues of self-expression glorify the superficial through self-promotion, supposedly modest fashion, and creating a sort of false reality – all in the name of “influencing” and “brand building”. In this shifting culture, it becomes ever more challenging to hold on to the value of tznius and retain a focus on internality and what really matters. So many of our young women, even from the frummest of families, are struggling with this issue which is likely what inspired the Agudah to invite Faigie Zelcer to speak about this topic at their last convention.

Another current issue, which seems to be in direct contrast to this one, is the relatively recent “disappearance” of women from frum media. I began reading Mishpacha Magazine when I was a seminary student, and I don’t remember noticing the exclusion of women’s pictures initially. Many women in the Yeshivish community, like me, either did not notice their exclusion or were unbothered by what they assumed to be a halachic-based decision made by the rabbinical board of the magazine. It was only in the last few years that I have begun to meet women in the community including rebbetzins, kiruv professionals, and mechanchos who truly struggle with the now ubiquitous practice of excluding pictures of women from magazines, advertisements, and shul dinner invitations. The negative fallout of this policy (which I later learned has no halachic basis in the Litvish community) on these women, as well as their daughters and students, is starting to become more and more apparent. (Dr. Leslie Klein spoke about this on Dovid Lichtenstein’s Headlines show last year and many articles have been published on this topic since then.)[1] These women, who believe strongly in the value of tznius, also believe that it is important to have some sort of visual representation in frum media.

Both of these challenges – the pressure to be “out there” as well as the opposite pressure to make ourselves less visible – point to the importance of how we relate to and understand the value and middah of tznius and its impact on our personal and communal decisions.

Interestingly, the Jewish Observer, a magazine that was put out by Agudath Israel and endorsed by many of the America’s leading gedolim, did include pictures of women and demonstrates the ability of these two values – tznius and inclusion of women in media – to coexist. Articles in the Jewish Observer included images that were tznius-compliant, refined and dignified. They complemented the subject of the article in a way that inspired the readers to grow in their avodas Hashem and learn from the ideas and lives of the individuals that were discussed in their magazine. I know this firsthand because I was one of those readers. I read the magazine cover to cover as a high schooler (the magazine stopped being printed shortly after I graduated) and even clipped the articles I particularly appreciated to reread later.

Current media options stand in sharp contrast to the Jewish Observer and other periodicals of that time. Shifts in design and publishing have contributed to a very different look which includes large loud and glossy images. When weekly magazines write an article about a well-known talmid chacham, Rebbe, or community influencer, the image is usually larger than life, with each wrinkle showing. Since there are multiple weekly magazines that are all in competition with each other, the trend is to use images and headlines that are sensationalist and splashy in order to sell more magazines. In my opinion, a lot of these images do not demonstrate the middah of tznius – not because of their subject or the mode of dress – but due to the way they are portrayed which is objectifying and sensationalistic. Even the advertisements are often done in this style and feature huge slabs of meat with shimmering swirls of fat or exorbitantly-priced shaitels or luxury vacations that are highly ostentatious. These expressions of extreme materialism and showiness do not fit with the value of tznius as they put the focus on our physical selves rather than our spiritual selves.

We need to find a way to include pictures of women in print and we need to revisit what tznius means to us – beyond women and dress – in our images and media. We need to make sure that when we choose to include images of women in our publications – as we should! – the images that we use are tasteful and reflect the values of the subject as well as our community. There are many wonderful books that effectively use pictures in this way such as Rebbetzin Kanievsky, Emunah and Chicken Soup, Dr. Grunfeld and others. In order to truly perpetuate the value of tznius, which promotes dignity, refinement, and internality, and pass it on to our children, every woman and man should have the option to be featured in a way that is respectful and refined – and inspires others with their words and faces.

Bracha Poliakoff is a clinical social worker who lives in Baltimore, MD with her husband and three children. Over the last decade, she has taught Torah to both high schoolers and adults in a variety of settings. Most recently, she has been involved in creating community programming through the OU Women’s Initiative. 

  1. Headlines – Tznius – Contemporary Shailos ; Alexandra Fleksher – Faces Of Frumkeit; Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein – The Women’s Empire Strikes Back

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51 Responses

  1. Shmuel Gorenstein says:

    First, let me point out what appears to be an inaccuracy. The Jewish Observer, which I also read never missing an issue, did use pictures of ladies 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲𝗿 𝘆𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘀. But, if my memory serves, during the later years of that great publication’s existence, such pictures were not included.

    Mrs. Poliakoff’s article did make me think and I like many points that she made. But she couldn’t reconcile, at least to my mind, her two assertions: on one hand, she doesn’t like girls’ “put(ting) themselves out there” on 𝘴𝘩𝘪𝘥𝘥𝘶𝘤𝘩 resumes and on social media (and neither do I), on the other – Mrs. Poliakoff wants (tznius-compliant) pictures of women to be included in today’s colorful glossy 𝘧𝘳𝘶𝘮 publications.

    Perhaps, Mrs. Poliakoff will respond here or writes another article, which I will read with great pleasure and attention, explaining this seeming inconsistency.

    Shmuel Gorenstein

    • Techiya Levine says:

      I’m sure the author will clarify more eloquently than I; but I just wanted to respond that I appreciate that you are asking the question and willing to consider the nuances. Personally, I see no inconsistency with these two ideals. It seems to me that Mrs. Poliakoff is pointing out that tzniyus would imply that including a full body shot in a shidduch resume is demeaning as what scutch pictures reveal, should not be the basis of a young man’s decision about meeting someone. SIMULTANEOUSLY, tzniyus does not dictate that women be entirely unseen; rather that when relevant, tasteful and dignified pictures of women and girls in publications are entirely appropriate and matim.

    • Yehoshua Duker says:

      Even if your memory serves you correct, it is unclear what the relevance of it is. The point of the author of the article is that in the Litvish tradition, there is no halakhic basis for refusing to publish pictures of women. I do not think that the halakha concerning this matter changed during years that the JO was published. So if, in fact, the JO changed their policy during that time, it was not for halakhic reasons, but for others ones. And this would only reinforce the point that the author is making.

    • Alexandra Fleksher says:

      What Mrs. Poliakoff is bringing to light here is the challenge frum women face due to the mixed messaging they are receiving. On one hand is this pressure to “put oneself out there” whether it be with shidduch pictures or building their brands on social media. That is one extreme. On the other side there is the message that no picture of a woman is tsnius enough. So there’s this “wholesale marketing” feeling on one end and disappearance on the other.

      I think one of the goals of this article is to help people understand this experience of many frum women. The author wants balance BECAUSE of this inconsistency. She wants to trust that the magazines will be able incorporate appropriate tsnius pictures of women compliant with our values, and move the needle away from social media/shidduch pics-style exposure to normal, regular representation of frum women. Having women in magazines shouldn’t be equated with “putting themselves out there”, if it’s done tastefully. Women can still be seen in pictures while preserving their inner and external modesty. But what’s going on with Instagram and full-body shidduch pics has a completely different ta’am. This is the nuance the author and commentators here are bringing to the fore.

      What the author is also telling us in the first paragraph is that this tension even has an impact on how many frum women identify with frumkeit and their place in it. They are caught between these two poles.

  2. Bracha Poliakoff says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond to my article. As far as I know, the policy was consistent throughout the time that the magazine was in circulation. It should be easy to find out either way as the archived magazines are available through the Agudah’s website (I do not have time to check, but let me know if you do!) That being said, it’s a moot point because the Agudah CONTINUES to publish pictures of women in many of their publications including their weekly emails (last week’s had a picture of Betsy Devos for example).

    It sounds like you picked up on the fact that there is significant nuance to this issue and it is not “black and white”. To me, and I know others will disagree, tznius = tasteful and refined so any picture that meets that criteria and will be used in a way that is mkadesh shem shamiyim should be included. Please read the articles I linked to for a fuller discussion of the topic and some of the fallout of choosing to exclude tznius pictures of women.

  3. I agree on so many points here. If a woman who is compliant with the halachos of tznius is not allowed to have her image grace the feature article written about her, nor allowed to have her image on the invitation to the gala celebrating her event (some of these invitations don’t even list her first name), we are sending a message that no matter how well a woman follows halachah, she is not deemed okay to be viewed as a role model–this at a time when many women struggle to find a place in our community (because they feel so many doors are shut to them).

    Simultaneously, it’s perfectly acceptable for young men to demand (yes, demand) full-length photos of women who they may or may not ever even date, let alone marry. It is perfectly acceptable, as the article mentions, to display other images clearly appealing to taavah–meats, luxury clothing, furniture, and housing out of the price ranges of many frum magazine readers–when these are clearly for commercial/marketing photos.

    Something is wrong with this picture.

    (Pun intended.)

    • tzippi says:

      What happens when a truly chashuv woman, who could and should be a role model for everyone, but who does not cover every bit of her hair, or whose neckline is borderline, is quoted in an article? Who might even be the focus of the article?

      I wonder, what will the nuts and bolts of picture guidelines be beyond “compliant with the halachos of tznius” and “tasteful and refined”? Whose standards?

      • Alexandra Fleksher says:

        This is a real issue and an important one to bring up. Especially because the readership is so broad. We have chassidish standards, yeshivish standards, American standards, Israeli standards. Besides the financial implications that must be dealt with (there will be families who will not bring these mags into their homes if there are pics of women period, and then there will always be objections to how tsnius the women need to be), there’s is the big question as to which hashkafa/minhag to go by. In a way, the mags are avoiding a very sticky situation by just not printing any pics of women. I would say that just as the rabbinical boards determine appropriateness of content, they would need to do the same with pics. But there’s no doubt it would be complicated and I think a move like this would be a problem for chasidish readership, and many yeshivish. It’s risky.
        One possibility is to start including women in the women/family magazines/supplements. The men who are uncomfortable seeing pics of women will need to make sure they don’t go looking at the women’s magazines.

  4. Eta Kushner says:

    Such a well done, inclusive article! I agree 100%. I hadn’t been reading any of the glossy frum publications for quite a while and when I saw one recently I was also struck by the “expressions of extreme materialism and showiness do not fit with the value of tznius as they put the focus on our physical selves rather than our spiritual selves.” I found it rather disheartening, to say the least. (Trying not to be so harsh as to call it “sickening.”)

  5. Batya says:

    I would never subscribe to publications that exclude images of women, and I encourage other frum women to boycott them as well.

  6. emet le'amito says:

    One must object to the inaccurate use of the term halakhic where either religious or perhaps customary (minhag) is meant. Both the Rav ztl in Halakhic Man and Prof. Jacob Katz AH who became the Rav’s son Rabbo Muvhak in Israel make that critically important distinction. I am reminded of a sheailah posed to a famous talmid of RAL ztl who answered by saying, which of two minhagim that have no basis in the talmud or rishonim have precedence is not a halakhic question.

    I am not a sociologist and will not venture to explain current hareidi custom. But 4 years ago at my 50th Torah Vodaath anniversary, they hatched the face of Rebbetzin Pam AH, then in her 80’s. When I attended Torah Vodaath in the early 60’s, it was primarily an openly Litvishe Yeshiva; there was only some nascent hassidic behavior.

    What defines extremism? I do not know. But it certainly feels like we are adopting the ways of some of our Muslim relatives.

  7. Chava Rubin says:

    I also have seen some ads in frum magazines, for children’s clothing stores which seemed to border on child porn.

  8. lacosta says:

    1– the look of haredi judaism would have been different but for the fact that the primary sect of survivors came from the areas of EUrope with the most right wing chassidus. it is well known that O judaism and much more so haredi judaism looks over its shoulder to the right [ i remember a JO article with a godol commenting that he always paid attention to criticism from his right–they might be correct–but not from the left ].
    Not only does haredi judaism bear great influence from the rightest wing chassidus in its midst , it also must respond to the milieu of israeli haredism , which is much more conservative socially than US brand

    2— Follow the money. If thousands of families stopped buying Mishpacha ,Ami , Binah etc something MIGHT change . but that isn’t going to happen. what would people do on shabbos without ….

  9. M.K. says:

    In (I believe) 1987, the Jewish Observer printed a tribute to Rebitzen Kaplan ZL, founder of Bais Yaakov in America. It was in honor of her first Yartzeit and included many pictures of her, formal, as well as simply playing with grandchildren.
    It never entered anyone’s mind that it was inappropriate as that notion is totally absent from the Litvish mesorah.

  10. D K says:

    A nicely written article and the problems brought up were important to bring to light.
    It seems that almost everyone agrees with the first part, where the author bemoans the lack of of Tznius in the frum world regarding shidduchim, and i agree wholeheartedly.
    However, i believe that this is all regarding people who have grown up in a Yeshiva world and live with Yeshiva goals and aspirations, as the author seems to indicate as her background. Regarding a boy who is not from these circles, whether because he is more modern or a Baal Teshuva who has not spent enough time in Yeshiva, his demands to see a full picture of a girl before he meets her simply indicates his high level of superficiality. The shadchan (or parent’s of the girl) can just take this as a sign that he is not as spiritually oriented as he may seem (from his picture).
    Similarly, regarding pictures of women in frum publications. As the the author herself writes: “Many women in the Yeshivish community, like me, either did not notice their exclusion or were unbothered by what they assumed to be a halachic-based decision made by the rabbinical board of the magazine.” Simply said, the ones that were Zocheh to grow up in a Yeshiva oriented environment are not bothered by the lack of pictures.
    Regarding role models; all Beis Yaakov girls have had a plethora of teachers and Rebbitzens that they have interacted with over the many years of schooling and Seminary/College that makes the need to read articles that include pictures of the great woman, who is the focus of the article, not so necessary.
    What is important, is to not let Feminism rear it’s ugly head in our communities and destroy our lifestyle and family. Even though the lack of pictures of women in our publications come off looking bad in the face of western culture, erring to the side of caution is not such a bad idea…

    • Bracha Poliakoff says:

      Thank You! I didn’t completely understand your comment about girls’ “shidduch pictures,” but my concern was about the norms changing even within the Yeshivish community – I am not sure if that was clear enough. To your second point, I agree! Many girls who grow up in the Yeshivish world, don’t notice/care. However, (1) that is changing (as I wrote in the article) and (2) it still has an impact (read the articles in the footnote for more information). As someone who graduated from Bais Yaakov and seminary, I was absolutely blessed (as you wrote) with a “plethora” of wonderful role models. However, I am now in a different stage of life which is in some ways very removed from that time and do not have as many opportunities for “inspiration” and “connection”. Unfortunately, many women in this stage, fill this vacuum with all types of shmutz and social media as I spoke about in the beginning of the article. Many women do not have time to read the types of books that would expose them to the types of role models we are discussing such as the ones I mentioned, but will pick up a magazine which is why our media has some level of responsibility to provide inspiration (in addition to “entertainment”). I don’t think this is a feminist issue, but more of a common sense issue once we way the pros and cons, but I understand that not everyone will reach the same conclusions as I did about this and I am open to hearing other perspectives. Thank you for taking the time to respond!

    • JunJun says:

      In my experience, it wasn’t the modern or Ba’alei teshuva guys who were asking for pictures, but the more right-wing guys. The right-wing guys were much more superficial.

  11. I hate to be the devil’s advocate here, but there is one thing Mrs. Poliakoff touched upon that is being ignored. Based on her comments about there not being any Halachic issues WRT publishing pictures of women in the Litvishe world – by inference, there must be a Halachic issue about it in the Chasidic world. If that is indeed the case, how can we ask any of these publications to violate the chasidic standards of so many of their readers- and expect them to buy and read their magazines? How can we ask these publications to do that? …no matter how we personally feel about it?

    • Bracha Poliakoff says:

      Harry – I did not write about the Chassidish world, because it is not an area that I am any sort of “expert” on. In addition, there are hundreds of sects within the Chassidish world, each with their own sensitivities and customs. That being said, I remember reading that most Chassidish newspapers in the U.S. used to include pictures of women as well (Again, not sure if there is variance among Chassidish groups in this regard!). In addition, if you look at Only Simchas, Simcha Spot, etc. it is full of pictures of Chassidish couples so this must not something all Chassidim subscribe to. Even Ruth Lichtenstein, the Chassidish editor of the Hamodia/Binah, has her pictures published on various media platforms (but she will not put it in her own papers). Just a thought…

      • A famous Yerushalayim figure who is a pioneer journalist in Chassidishe circles here did an interview recently in which he gathered all the chassidishe sources that used to print names and pictures of women till fairly recently. While he couldn’t quite say that he thought that the change was wrong, it was clear that he was saying that there was no strong source for the practice even in the chassidishe world.

  12. Bob Miller says:

    Info about women and their events is everywhere in the frum media, including the ads, but any accompanying pictures are of…men! Even obituaries and memorial articles about women lack pictures of the deceased! I get the impression that it’s sometimes not the greatest poskim who set the community’s cultural bar, but rather the greatest kanoim. Who let the latter grab veto power, even outside their own circles?

    BUT note that commercial publications and advertisers know their markets, and can’t be expected to offend major market segments. Somebody might be able to influence the core attitudes of market segments, but it’s not the merchants.

  13. Alexandra Fleksher says:

    Harry Maryles, I agree wirh your concern (see my comment above). It’s like making an event cholov yisroel even though not all guests keep it, out of respect for those who do. I also say that these publications are often the main source of news for many in those circles, whereas readers who don’t have a problem seeing pics of women can get their news elsewhere.

    D E, regarding role models, young women are so media saturated today. Print, images and photography is powerful and thanks to social media, is the name of the game in terms of influence. And the influence of the secular female role model is pervasive. So the idea of having frum role models in print is important. It’s wonderful and powerful to see a picture of the woman (at her job, with her family, etc) who is being featured in the article. Women who are written about are presented as role models and we women really appreciate the visual to go along with it. Pictures matter. That’s why our magazines are full of them.

    • M.K says:

      I don’t think this is the same as serving Chalov Yisroel out of respect for those that observe it.
      The drinking of Chalov Yisroel by someone who relies on lenient opinons does not undermine our mesorah’s definition of a value such as tznius and does not lead to the normalization of dangerous policies and practices that were never dreamed of by Litvish gedolim.

  14. Bracha Poliakoff says:

    Just because something is not easy, does not mean it is not right. Agudath Israel sends out weekly emails that include pictures of women (Betsy Devos was just in this week’s) Somehow they manage to figure out how to do this on a weekly basis. Maybe it is not as hard as we think! (BTW Agudas Yisrael is overseen by the Moetzes Gedolei Torah).

  15. Adina says:

    Here we go again….
    I think we should ban all photos from magazines and shidduch resumes.

  16. tzippi says:

    Alexandra Fleksher wrote: “One possibility is to start including women in the women/family magazines/supplements. The men who are uncomfortable seeing pics of women will need to make sure they don’t go looking at the women’s magazines.” (Sorry, there didn’t seem to be a reply option to the post.)

    Which to me begs the question: Are we going to start segregating the papers? This is the ezras nashim and sorry, you’re not welcome? What will be considered veibish, and what will be in the men’s section? I shudder to think of such a day.

    • Sara Elias says:

      @tzippi Maybe I’m missing something but aren’t Family First and Ami Living “veibish” already, even without pictures of their target group? And no one would be segregated unless by their own wish not to come across photos of women.

      • tzippi says:

        So if there is a women’s section to the paper, is there a men’s section? Will there ever be a point where it’s pas nisht for each gender to read the other’s section? I don’t want to mention specific writers or columns who/that appear in those and equivalent sections.

      • Sara Elias says:

        I don’t quite see the problem. It’s not okay for men to look into the women’s section of shul – or at a simcha – but women don’t have the same problem with the men’s section. In the same way it can be “not pasedik” for a man to read the women’s magazine section (and I’d have thought we’re already at that point. I mean, a man who has a problem with a woman’s picture in a magazine should not be reading articles about pregnancy or childbirth, should he?) but not problematic for a woman to read any part of the magazine.

    • Shades of Gray says:

      “What will be considered veibish, and what will be in the men’s section?”

      There are articles in the women’s section I read, such as biographical pieces, that are of universal interest(some items are apparently hard to classify, as the Yated recently moved its long-running shidduch-advice column from the main paper to the family magazine section).

      Some years ago, one of the women in my family saw me reading one of the frum women magazines and asked why I was reading a “veibisher magazine”? I responded by asking her how “womanly” can such magazines be if they are designed with the express consideration of male readership, as in the lack of female photos! She answered that all she meant was that the women in the family should get to read them first.

      From the other side of the editorial “mechitzah”, Inyan, Hamodia’s “regular” magazine, has a column by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller. I became aware of certain Torah references I never heard in my yeshivah career through her articles. You might consider this an instance of a woman publicly teaching Torah to men and women under the aegis of a Gerrer-affiliated publication.

  17. dr. bill says:

    Comments above require precision. Undoubtedly, providing holov Yisroel milk that has no downside is a textbook example of zeh neheneh ve’zeh lo hasar. However, not providing half-half for my coffee, an absolute requirement for my satisfaction, because a holev Yisroel brand is unavailable is a different story. Ba’avonasainu ha’rabim, 😊 this happened last Pesah at the program I was attending.
    Similarly, not considering the harm of “women pictures free’ to normal young women is incorrect as it can be a significant source of a misguided sense of worth.
    If as was suggested this is financially driven given hasidic reaction to pictures of women, then let’s stop saying religious reasons, and call a spade a spade. And as noted above, stop misusing the term halakhic when you mean religious!!!!
    But let’s not go overboard. The displays of opulence in these self-same magazines is hypocrisy to the extreme; however, anyone sexually affected by the pictures of young girls ought to seek psychiatric help immediately. Ask your local Rav; it may be doheh Shabbat 😊.

  18. Bob Miller says:

    Dr. Bill,
    Maybe blatant appeals to materialism are sprinkled among the uplifting words of Torah and other wholesome content to confuse the Satan.

  19. dr. bill says:

    Bob Miller, If the words of Torah were truly uplifting, I might not even notice the display of materialism. 🙂 But seriously, I am reminded of the litvishe expression – de galach iz frum, a yid darf zein ehrliche. Gedolim I respect live by that aphorism.

  20. Norman says:

    Will the publications risk alienating thousands of customers who desire magazines free of women’s photos?

    • It’s anyone’s guess. Mine is that likely not. Remember that chassidishe communities are not monolithic. The real hard core loyalists are not going to allow Mishpacha into their homes for a host of other reasons. Those who read it are on the “progressive” side of the community. Despite the best efforts of chassidishe leadership, (informal) estimates of internet connectivity in Williamsburg run pretty high. I’ve heard 70%; people have told me it is higher. Not everyone is towing the public line. If you don’t know what “teena beigel” means, find out.

  21. Norman says:

    The woman in my life, whom I can only describe as normative Bais Yakov grads with successful careers would be very uncomfortable if their picture appeared in a magazine or public forum. Nor would they speak publicly to a mixed crowd Any of the women out there feel the same way? Care to weigh in?

    • Bracha Poliakoff says:

      Everyone is different! I used to feel that way as well, but now after observing the damage created by these policies and the increase in unrealistic “standards” of beauty (i.e. perfection) in the community (which contributes to very real issues including disordered eating), I feel that it is very important for girls and women in the community to see images of REAL, frum female role models in their media, books, etc. I cannot tell you how inspired I am from reading books like Daughter of Destiny, Emunah and Chicken Soup, etc. – Pictures make a huge difference! I also feel that it is important for boys to grow up with a healthy, realistic perspective about what real women look like – but that is another story completely… For that reason, I now include a small head shot with articles I write which is something I did not do in the past.

    • M.K says:

      I will weigh in!
      The absence of women CREATES a sense , when seeing one, that its not consistent with tznius.
      Women who have grown up in the “post pictures of women” world feel that its inappropriate.
      Similarly, the growing practice of the kallah not coming into the men’s side during the dancing,
      CREATES a feeling that its inappropriate. That’s despite the fact that every single non Chassidic Gadol
      of my generation danced before the chassan and kallah!
      In the days that men attended the high school graduations, the principal, often a woman, spoke and neither she nor the fathers felt uncomfortable.
      Women (and men) who become accustomed to there being a mechitza at a sheva brachos in a private home, totally unheard of in the past, may FEEL that no mechitza is wrong, as the practice CREATES such feelings.
      I’m sure that many women who wear burkas would feel uncomfortable going out with their faces exposed.
      Burkas (towards which we are headed) CREATE that feeling!

      • Chaim says:

        You hit the nail on the head. This is an incredibly incisive insight as to the issue at hand.

  22. Shades of Gray says:

    “A famous Yerushalayim figure… chassidishe sources that used to print names and pictures of women till fairly recently”

    One can find this Hebrew interview, “Interview with Rabbi Shmuel Papenheim, Editor” on the “Frumwomenhavefaces” website in the Articles section.

    One of the papers R. Papenheim shows(5:10 in interview) is the 1933 Agudah paper “Kol Yisroel” which has an advertisement of pictures for shoes/socks worn by a woman. R. Papenheim says the newspaper was under the editorship of R. Amram Blau, known for his zealotry!

    While the newspaper masthead lists his brother R. Moshe Blau as editor, Rabbi Papenheim seems correct as R. Amram was also an editor of Kol Yisroel before he broke away from the Agudah in 1937 to form the Neturei Karta(see his Wikipedia entry). I suppose this can also count as a Neturei Karta source, as the Neturei Karta didn’t split over the issue of printing frum women’s pictures 🙂

  23. Dr. E says:

    I feel that this topic has been beaten to death already on CC and on social media. In most cases, the commenters are preaching to the choir. We have already heard ad nauseum that the policies on printing photos of women are merely business decisions and not purely Halachic. We know of the hypocrisy of the aforementioned publications to not put in photos of women yet consistently breach tzniyus through the glitzy pictures of expensive food and luxury properties in Yerushalayim. Not to mention the $200/year price tag for a subscription. And we all know that the Jewish Observer and other publications once included photos of women. Been there, done that. Whether Mishpacha created the standard or was just reacting to changes in the Chareidi world is really just chicken-or-the-egg and therefore represents an academic discussion that is practically moot.

    It is no secret that the Chareidi world of today has been built as top-down. That’s what “Daas Torah” is all about, right? Yes, the Askanim have been involved in shaping the top. But in the end, they work the system to further their agendas. So, any “protests” on social media by the rank-and-file are a bracha l’vatala.

    If you have been keeping score, two “changes” have happened. First is that some institutions who want to avoid negative PR from yichidim in their potential donor communities have done away with photos in their banquet ads altogether. It also saves them the time and expense of the photo shoot of “Mr. ___________”, but it is gratuitous. Second is that Mishpacha ostensibly threw frum women a bone by having a headshot of a woman in the online edition which few people read because the Internet is treif.

    Since Mrs. Poliakoff has been involved in this area professionally, I think that it would be informative to hear some of her observations on the following:

    1. What are some of the specific outcomes and ripple effects on high school and post high school young women that you have observed from the removal of images of women from our community? Here I am not just referring to this in a literal pictorial sense, but in a broader one as well. After all, contrary to the expectations and assumptions of the Bais Yaakovs, many of the girls might in fact be connected to reality. What messages are being conveyed when their mothers might present to both men and women in their professional settings, yet are expected to leave their brains, mouths, faces, and skills at the door when they return daily to their personal and communal lives?

    2. How do the (young) women with whom you work deal with the fact that the Chareidi community seems to value mediocre, underachieving, and sometimes misbehaving males to a greater extent than above-average or talented women?

    • tzippi says:

      “yet are expected to leave their brains, mouths, faces, and skills at the door when they return daily to their personal and communal lives?”

      I beg to differ.
      I know women who are making tremendous communal impacts, and doing so much with their lifes skill during their 5-9 lives.

    • Bracha Poliakoff says:

      Thank you for taking the time to respond even though you “feel that this topic has been beaten to death already”. Obviously, it still strikes a chord with people as evidenced by the number of comments it has received both on and offline! Just to respond to some of the points raised, the point of the article was not just to highlight the hypocrisy exhibited by such magazines, but also to demonstrate the challenge involved with introducing women’s images back into a media that has a completely different style and focus (one that I will argue is inherently less tznius) then it did when women’s pictures were still included. I am sure that many would disagree with you regarding our community being “top down” at this point – especially on this issue which seems to be completely consumer driven. Even in Chassidish communities (again, which I am not an expert on!) there are certain issues where daas torah does not seem to be followed as strictly – use of internet, vaccines, lavish weddings, etc.) I appreciate your observations regarding the changes you have seen. I will add to your list: (3) the magazines have let more pictures of women into the magazine (but usually in the background, older girls, etc.) and some children’s books in Israel have reintroduced women (4) a number of women’s and children’s magazines which show pictures of girls/women have started (5) more women and men are advocating/care about this issue and (6) the organizations that already show pictures of women (such as the majority of schools and shuls in my own community) have not changed their policies. In other words, we may have stemmed the tide somewhat – which is still success in my book. As far as your last question, I have worked with young women in the past (middle school, high school, post-seminary) but most of my recent experience has been with adults. I will see if I can get people who are currently working with this demographic to respond as most of what I have to offer is second hand and I think it will be more relevant from someone who is currently in the trenches. I do recommend listening to the Headlines podcast referenced since Leslie Klein has a number of thoughts on this issue which are worth hearing especially the part about body image and role models (something I have seen in my work as a social worker as well).

      1. What are some of the specific outcomes and ripple effects on high school and post high school young women that you have observed from the removal of images of women from our community? Here I am not just referring to this in a literal pictorial sense, but in a broader one as well. After all, contrary to the expectations and assumptions of the Bais Yaakovs, many of the girls might in fact be connected to reality. What messages are being conveyed when their mothers might present to both men and women in their professional settings, yet are expected to leave their brains, mouths, faces, and skills at the door when they return daily to their personal and communal lives?

      2. How do the (young) women with whom you work deal with the fact that the Chareidi community seems to value mediocre, underachieving, and sometimes misbehaving males to a greater extent than above-average or talented women?

  24. Steve Brizel says:

    Mishpacha is an excellent magazine that pushes the envelope of its intended audience. The issue is what is the basis in Halacha, Midas Chasidus or Chumra for anyone to assert that a picture of an appropriately dressed woman especially a woman who is a communal role model is no different than a woman paid to wear next to nothing in a magazine.

  25. bo says:

    Who remembers which famous Hassidic Rebbi coaxed his Hassidims appetites toward food in order that they should be away from other things? He also laconically said, “nexteh mull zull zain dickerreh korbonos”(!). But anyway, his Hassidim must have clout with all the publishers.

  26. Bob Miller says:

    The “misbehaving males” seem to include convicts and ex-convicts who can tell self-flattering stories to minimize the offenses that landed them in jail.

  27. Shades of Gray says:

    “We know of the hypocrisy of the aforementioned publications to not put in photos of women yet consistently breach tzniyus through the glitzy pictures of expensive food and luxury properties in Yerushalayim”

    The magazines might argue that luxury ads subsidize the costs, and savings are then passed on in the form of less expensive subscriptions. There is a balance in the way to advertise luxury items; of course, if pictures of women are to be allowed, there would also be no issue of “hypocrisy” in advertising luxuries.

    Creating a magazine that would appeal to values of the center-left of the yeshiva world (such as appropriate pictures of women) and parts of modern orthodoxy would solve the problem, but the question is how to keep the costs down. This was an idea posted from someone of the NJ Jewish Link on R. Slifkin’s blog (“How to Save Orthodox Judaism”, 12/29/17):

    “Several weeks back, a meeting took place at the offices of the Link to discuss…launching a “modern” Orthodox magazine with a Torah Im Derech Eretz perspective… The overarching goal of the magazine is to produce appealing, thoughtful pieces that would enrich and elevate the frum community, from the secular to the yeshivish… The key is to be unflinchingly loyal to Torah and to Truth wherever it leads you. That is attractive to (almost) anyone…

    The chief hurdle is financial. For such a magazine to be successful it would need both top-down and bottom-up support. Top-down from investors who see this as a worthy project and won’t necessarily expect a financial return on their investment. Bottom-up from subscribers such as those who tune into this blog, and who will be willing to buy a $35-$50 annual subscription for themselves, plus a couple more as gifts for family and friends. The magazine does not need to produce a windfall for its publishers, but it has to eventually (in true TIDE spirit) support itself.”

  28. Yehuda says:

    Perhaps build out and expand the jewish Action. It fits the bill exactly!

  29. Chaim says:

    Mrs. Poliakoff,
    Thank you for such a thoughtful and insightful piece on an increasingly important topic. Particularly, your words about the overall value of tznius (or lack thereof) and how this expresses itself even in pictures of food/apartment projects, provide a valuable context to the discussion.
    I hope Hashem grants you much hatzlacha in your endeavors.

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