Oct 30, 2011

The Haredi Influence Increases Especially regarding Gender Separation (video)

The Haredi Influence Increases Especially regarding Gender Separation

Israel's Channel 2 news ran the following report on the increase in gender-separation, and the fight against it, even by people within the Haredi community.

There are certain aspects of this that bother me, like the way she goes looking for trouble handing out fliers on the bus and arguing with women who will never support her (at least not in public and not in that type of situation). I also doubt the veracity of the claim that they get a lot of phone calls from the same women who crumple up the fliers. The Haredi community is not one that complains to outsiders, and the only ones who would complain are the more modern or moderate haredim - not the ones she was talking to on the bus. That is fine, but it is not the moderate Haredim who set the tone of the Haredi community. It is the more extreme Haredim who set the tone. Perhaps one day that will change, but right now that is fact.

Rav Benny Lau makes a good point, and the woman explaining why it concerns her so much makes a good point (she does not care what they do but it trickles into other communities as well).

This topic has come up a lot, with increasing frequency. Rethinking it many times has recently made me wonder where the segregation is appropriate and where it is not. It is ok to expect gender-segregation at weddings but not on bus routes? It is ok in shul but not at the medical clinic? I know shul is different because of the religious environment and the requirements for prayer, but I mean once one is arguing against it, at what point does one stop and say segregation is acceptable here, here and there, but not there there and there. If we want to cancel all gender-segregation, based on the discrimination involved and using the law on our side, will we end up seeing the next fight take place in the shul - will we see some people trying to cancel the mehitza in shul and go to the Supreme Court with the anti-discrimination laws in hand to support it? If we accept it in shul and in other aspects of our lives (even in places we know it is not really necessary such as at the meal of a wedding), how do we reject it in other circumstances?


  1. what is the question? at private events or in private institutions you do what you want. in public areas (and a bus is a public area even if it is a private company providing the service since it the state that gives said company the right to operate that line) you don't have the right to tell women were to sit.

    ben (who uses segregated buses regularly and sits in the mens' section assuming that there is no added discomfort)

  2. and what do you do when they get to shuls next and say gender segregation is discriminatory and must be abolished? why does society say weddings should be separate and thats acceptable to most but when they try to say buses should be separate that is crossing the line?

  3. It's the difference, again, between public and private funding. The line is very clear and I'm surprised you can't see it. A wedding isn't expected to serve a community fairly and equally. Nor does a shul- each shul serves the needs of community who created it. I wouldn't expect a Reform Temple to a provide a mechitza any more than I'd expect the rebbetzin to clop on the bima to get mincha started at a shteiblach.

    It's irrelevant whether the charedi community wants or doesn't want separate bussing.Public buses are mandated to serve all passengers equally and fairly, without regard to sex. As far as I know, there is no such mandate for shuls and I can't see that happening any time in the future.

  4. I dont know. Shuls in Israel get a lot of money form the government, both in the form of discounts and exemptions (arnona, various taxes, etc),along with budegttary allocations for religious services. A case can easily be made that shuls are public areas.

    Rav Moshe Feinsteins responsa on the issue of gender-separation, IIRC, makes that distinction, and he says shul is a public place which is why it requires gender-segregation while weddings do not because they are private..

    I have not changed my mind, and I am against the segregation, but I have recently started wondering to where it might lead.

  5. After watching this I thought of an idea to test out how important this really is to the Hareidi community.

    Take a few "Mehadrin" buses and designate 3 or 4 rows in the BACK of the bus for MEN. Put up a curtain to divide the section so they have the excuse of being able to see the backs of the women's heads.

    Then let's see how crowded this section gets.

  6. It is scandalous incidents such as the one reported here that dissuade me from living in Israel.

    This "black" side of charedi Judaism serves to make a mockery of all strands of orthodox Judaism in that country.

  7. That's a great idea Menachem Lipkin has.

    As to Rafi G.'s good, thought-provoking question - first, I think Judaism is all about making distinctions between different situations and issues.

    Segregating the sexes in shul is backed by years of tradition and strong halachic authority. I think one could make a valid comparison to circumcision in this respect - most people do not propose making circumcision illegal (I know there are groups like those bigots in San Francisco, but they seem to be a small minority). Yet, female circumcision is considered by most people to be barbarous - the only difference I can see is that one practice is sanctioned by scripture and years of practice by large groups of people, while the other is not.

    Weddings - well, one can argue that the segregation of the sexes at weddings is also a new innovation, and not necessarily a positive one - I don't think it is seriously disputed that many of the American gedolim of past generations gave weddings that were not sex-segregated, and plenty of Orthodox people today (by my standards at least, maybe not by the standards of the "yeshivish" world) continue to have mixed weddings. But more to the point, weddings, unlike public transportation, are private.

    Public transportation is a completely different animal - note the word "public." It's operated for the public, and therefore, no group, whether small or large, has a right to impose its chumras on the rest of the public. Moreover, there is no real authority from halacha or tradition for segregated buses, as much as their supporters sometimes twist the sources to try to come up with such support.

  8. Hey Darth, Check out the news stories about the B110 bus in Brooklyn. Same deal. You'll need another excuse. :)


  9. Ben, shuls are also public areas sanctioned (and often even partially financed) by the state! So I'm not sure that argument alone is sufficient.

  10. Mark, the difference is that shuls are not providing a basic everyday service that nearly everyone in the country wants or needs. Everyone needs to get from place A to B for some reason. If you don't have a car, then you need the bus. Not everyone needs a shul everyday to take care of necessary needs.

    Also, bus lines are established by direct tender from the government. Shuls are not established through government tenders, though they may make use of public space.

  11. not sure about that Abbi. government guidelines for building a neighborhood include the building of a shul. they even have a formula for how many shuls must be built depending on how many residents the neighborhood is meant to house. That formula is different for a secular neighborhood and for a religious neighborhood (though I no longer remember the numbers)

  12. people are really but really mixing things up. not every institution that accepts government money becomes a public institution.

    a synagogue is by definition private. it has members, a board of directors, its scope (area of work) is extremely limited.

    furthermore there is no tender given to a group which gives it exclusive rights to serve a population. anyone can build a new shul assuming that they get the land and money.

    bus lines are public by definition and nature. the state hands out a license to a company to serve anyone who wants to get from point a to point b. doesn't matter if the line is egged or illit. they are not defined to serve any particular group.

    that people get confused isn't because they can't tell the difference between a shul and a bus (and a wedding!!!) the problem is that some people are told that they are b'seder and that what they wants counts. add in some uber emphasis on modesty at the expense of other values (read more on this on the "we are all orot banot" page) and you have recipe for disaster.

  13. rafi there may be a minimum but there is no maximum. it is an open market.

  14. Rafi, you raise an excellent question, one that I've been struggling with almost non-stop lately vis a vis the Orot trauma.

    Baruch Gitlin's "Judaism is all about making distinctions between different situations and issues" is beautiful. That's how I see it too. Jewish fine-tuning and fine-tuning till we approximate Truth.

    The public vs. personal sphere is a very helpful distinction, but it's not enough. I'm very interested in the deeper reasoning. Where does the difference between segragation/separation and prejudice/exclusion ("hadara" - current Hebrew buzz word) lie? At what point is there a value judgement made against women - mentioned and discussed on this blog too, the inherent threat of their sexuality etc.. - resulting in insulting exclusion, and when is the separation legitimate? In shul,when humans of both genders are meant to be concentrating on their connection with God and not with each other? (and I'd like to think that that is the underlying Halachic premise). Are there other contexts in which the separation is benign and is only meant to focus concentration on the purpose of a gathering? (Obviously, at least to me, in any public-serving sphere - reshut haklal, transportation etc. - it is abhorrent.) How do other people see this? (I apologize for the length)


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