Jan 22, 2012

Machon Meir Apologizes For Blurring Face Of Ruth Fogel hy"d

And if you thought the issue of "hadarat nashim", or the exclusion of women from the public sphere, was the problem only of the haredi community (and Arab, but it seems MK Yitzchak Herzog believes we can ignore it by the Arabs), it is time to think again.

Much has been said about the increasing trend toward extremism, and that extremism filtering down to the Dati Leumi communities as well, this happened pretty quickly, and that it happened despite the current backlash and general atmosphere surrounding the issue of hadarat nashim makes it almost unbelievable.

In the latest, Machon Meir, an organization somewhere between Dati Leumi and "Hardal", printed in their shabbos newsletter-parsha sheet an announcement of the upcoming memorial service for the five Fogel family members that were killed in Itamar. The article ran a picture of the victims, with the face of Ruth Fogel, the mother, blurred out.
the blurred picture of Ruthi Fogel
This upset many, and from what I saw it seems like there was an ad hoc campaign of many letters of complaint being sent to Machon Meir. Some were upset by the specific blurring, while some were even more upset by the notion that the need to blur is already filtering down from the haredi community down to the Dati Leumi community.

Machon Meir has apologized claiming a human error in the decision to blur the face. they said because this publication is meant to be read in shul they have had a policy of not including pictures of women.

I don't know if they have published pictures of women in the past or not. Maybe this is new policy, maybe it is old. If this is really their policy, they should have just left the picture out completely.

Either way, the problem of hadarat nashim is far more widespread than previously assumed, and is not limited to the haredi public alone. I have thought and said all along that the issue is far greater than just accusing the haredi public, and one can find examples of it throughout our society, if one were to only look. Our society, and I do not limit this to Israel alone, is very sexist. As much as we have advanced in equal rights and treatment of women, of minorities, of those who are needy and others who have been treated badly throughout history, we still have a long way to go. Blaming it on one specific community will not solve the problem.


  1. I appreciate that they felt the need to apologize, which is more than most Haredi publications would do, but I find their apology about as sad as the actual blurring. The fact that the person doing the graphics could err and feel the need to block out the face of a dead woman (let alone a live one) is a sad indictment of where we have got to.

  2. Did anyone bother to ask the family, I suppose her parents, what their wishes are?

  3. Our society, and I do not limit this to Israel alone, is very sexist. As much as we have advanced in equal rights and treatment of women, of minorities, of those who are needy and others who have been treated badly throughout history, we still have a long way to go. Blaming it on one specific community will not solve the problem.

    To open a can of worm ;-)...
    This is the reason why I feel it is so important to continue saying shelo asani ishah. As much as people might think that there is equality (especially in the Western world), the position of women is nowhere near as that of men (and that's forgetting about the Arab world, and many Asian and other non-Western cultures). Yes, there are affirmative action programs, trying to get women to participate more in gov't, etc. But at the end of the day (or in this case the beginning of the day), if a person, objectively, looks around their environs, they will see it much better to be a man in the world than a woman. If a woman isn't objectified, then her value in many eyes are still not equal to a man. Physically, a woman is not the equal to a man (w/ a few rare exceptions). In many situations, it is definitely disadvantageous to be a woman (how many people worry about the safety of their sons in the same way as they worry about the safety of their daughters?) Girls might want to have fun, but they are discriminated against much more than boys are. If the people on TV really wanted to take up a cause, instead of printing up T-shirts that have on it Baruch SheAsani Ishah, it would be better to go out and try to bring a true equality. The law that the Kenesset wants to pass of "Hadrat Nashim", just proves the point that a woman is, de facto, considered by society as "inferior" and in a weaker position than men.

  4. I can't help but wonder if the administration of the yeshiva really knew that this would be done, or even that the weekly pamphlet's staff had such a policy regarding pictures of women. The Machon Meir that I knew well back in the 80s was surprisingly moderate regarding public policies, even while the atmosphere in the beit midrash was quite 'frum' (in keeping with its deep connection to Mercaz Harav). I really can't see this coming from Rav Begon's desk.

  5. Mordechai - I never really knew MM intimately, but having had a number of friends learn there over the years I had an impression of it and it was never one of intolerance or extremism.

    That being said, I can, in a general sense, understand such a policy, if it really existed. I look at such a policy as meaning - we go to shul and sit separately from the women. Should we then publish alonim that have pictures of women so the men can sit there in shul and look at women anyway? That opposes the entire purpose of the mehitza.

    They should have left the picture out rather than blur it.

  6. Rafi I agree with you 100%. There is no need to have pics of women in a torah sheet that is read during the rav's drasha in shul. On the other hand there is need to be stupid about it and the pic shouldn't be published at all.

    I also disagree with those who say that Machon Meir has become extreme over the years. I was at Machon Meir many years ago and yes it is a very tolerant place and holds that if one sees a person breaking Shabbat or a not tzanua woman then the person should be spoken to respectively and gently with a lot of ahavat chinam and not chas v'shalom behave like the sikrikim would. But on the other hand Machon Meir is affiliated with the Hardal tzibur of which Rav Aviner is one of their prominent rabanim. Rav Aviner has never allowed pics of women to be published in Beit El publications and he is also one of the leading rabanim that has called for separation between boys and girls in B'nei Akiva not from today but already in the 70's.
    I found it astonishing how so many National Religious can make such a fuss over publications not showing pics of women but when it comes to making a stand against publications that show scantly dressed women then suddenly become tolerant and say "live and let live"

  7. I would say that we dont say anything about the scantily clad images because we like to look at them. By the heimishe publications it lets us feel frum to oppose it

  8. Shimon - that is probably an entire sociological study of its own. But, if I had to wager a suggestion, I would say that the reason is because we, or most of us, dont feel connected to it. if we see it, we just "write it off". Who are we going to speak out about it or try to persuade to stop it?
    When something is within our own society we feel more connected to it.


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