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Apr 20, 2015

Why It Is Time To Stop The Madness

Posted on behalf of a group of concerned residents

There is an increasing trend in the Orthodox Jewish world- one that can be seen here in Bet Shemesh and worldwide.

The erasing of girls and women from magazines, newspapers and billboards.
It has gotten to the point where hardly any of the circulars delivered to local homes have images of females, or even images that hint at the feminine.
To understand the issue and the problems with it we suggest taking a look at this post - Vanishing Women. http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/vanishing-women/
A group of us, being concerned about the future of this city and sympathetic to the women who are harmed by this practice, produced a flyer to raise awareness of the damage of this policy.

This post is a response to certain feedback that we have received. The overwhelming reaction to our efforts has been positive. Charedi and Dati women contacted us and have spoken about the difficulties they are having due to this phenomenon.

For example: female speakers are prohibited from publicizing their pictures, newspapers alter photographs and history by erasing women, phonebooks list only the husband’s name, families are honored but only the men accept the awards, etc. This causes the women to feel increasingly marginalized. It also severely hampers kiruv efforts.

Some feedback was not positive. Responders who oppose our view that erasing females is wrong, told us that we “do not understand”. We have been called everything from ‘misguided’, to ‘dead wrong’. One local resident actually referred to us as  ‘Satan’.
The usual explanations come in one of the following forms (from actual letters):
  • If it bothers you, just don’t buy them, its really that simple.
  • Women are so sexualized in the world that we must do the opposite:
  • A woman’s worth, her beauty is internal.
  • Achdus! Why must you start up?
  • Its always been this way
  • We are telling our daughters that their externals are not important.
  • Preserving women’s privacy does not prevent them from having a major influence in our lives.
  • It’s our right

If it bothers you, just don’t buy them, its really that simple.

Well, no its not. Because these circulars are delivered to our homes and then our families are exposed to this distorted, offensive worldview- a view where women are objects and men are uncontrollable.
We are forced to throw away these circulars without opening them and yet, we are counted as numbers to the poor advertisers who actually pay because they think we are reading them. (Is this not dishonest by the way?)
It is offensive to us to see publications that discriminate against women. We do not want them delivered to our doors. Yet we are given no choice.
Moreover, you fail to consider the women who are put at significant disadvantage to their male counterparts. Open the RBS Views and you will see smiling male doctors, male real estate agents, male store owners, male health practitioners, but you will not see one woman. There is a reason that people put their pictures in ads. It elicits trust and recognition. By not allowing women to advertise with their pictures you are directly harming their parnasah. Is that ok?
We should also mention here that it is illegal.
It is illegal to discriminate according to one’s sex.
We realize this will not matter to some, but we feel it is worth mentioning.
If a magazine feels it cannot print women, it must also not print men. Having one without the other is blatant discrimination.

“Women are so sexualized in the world that we must do the opposite”:
Let's put this clearly. We have a Torah. God created male and female. God gave us laws. We are meant to live Torah, choose life and not sway right or left. The middle ground is the holy ground- so says the Rambam. Far from being reactive and simply swinging far away from the world. We should be the guiding light. We must show that women are not to be exploited, not through nudity and not by erasing them.

“A woman’s worth, her beauty is internal. She is precious and her image should be guarded and reserved for her and her husband alone.”
This amounts to telling a woman where she should and should not be. We will counter by saying that we are not jewels to be put into and taken out of a drawer when you so choose. Women are p e o p l e who have been trusted by God to know right from wrong. We have been given sachel and mitzvot to act appropriately and with honor-- and most of us do.
And we want to tell you a secret.
When and if there is a woman who is less modest than you believe she should be, it is your commandment to look away. Yours. And the pasuk that people like to throw about “Kol Kevudah Bat Melech Pnima” and claim that it means that her worth is internal and that she must remain behind the scenes. That pasuk-- from tehillim, is used by Chazal to exempt a woman from activities requiring her appearance in public. It does not prohibit her from such activities. If she chooses, she can abstain. The key of course here is that it is her choice. It was not meant to manipulate a woman into staying out of sight.

Achdus! Why must you start up?
Well, this is a very difficult thing to discuss as this word is thrown into the faces of those people who tirelessly work to make things better. Achdus does not mean keeping silent when people are being hurt. It does not mean avoiding discussing problems in a community. Judaism has always been about encouraged arguing L’shem Shamayim and it shouldn’t stop now. But why, when people say, “Hey, this is damaging and its getting out of control” are we the ones being accused of sowing discord?
We have seen a chumash, the Torah itself -- edited for content in a girls school. They took out the stories of Lot and his daughters and that of Tamar and Yehuda-- the subjects  they think God should have left out. We have seen Megillat Esthers, with no image of Esther- the same with female free hagadot etc. and picture books for children with no drawings of girls or women.
When you remove women and girls, you are altering the way Hashem made the world and you are removing the balance Hashem intended. You are also removing personal responsibility which is a core value of Judaism.
Allowing people to bully others -- and many of these publications are bullied into this policy -- is not Achdus. Enabling the discrimination of women business owners is not achdus.  Teaching little girls that they must be hidden and little boys that they are lust filled creatures who cannot be trusted, is not achdus.
And if we are going to speak of achdus, why do our sensitivities not come into the equation? What about the bullied publications and store owners?

It’s always been this way.
No. No, it hasn’t. It is part of the growing extremism. Please watch this:

As I woman, I feel that preserving women’s privacy does not prevent them from having a major influence in our lives.
This is simply untrue. This is not a privacy issue. No one is publicizing women who do not want to be publicized. What is happening is censorship of women who do want their name, face, product out there for parnasah purposes. Moreover, it is a censorship of an entire gender that is being normalized and it is a fallacy of logic to not see where it leads. When women are made pasul they are taken less seriously, have less of a voice, and will be seen as less worthy. It is a natural and inevitable conclusion. As mentioned above, it is not only faces that are being censored. Even anonymous photos of stockinged legs, or skirts are not being allowed in these publications.

We are telling our daughters to be modest and that their contribution to the community has nothing to do with their outward appearance.
No, you are telling them that their appearance is a PROBLEM that it causes sin and is offensive and thus they must be hidden. What you are saying is that even a modest, respectable woman is a problem and that men cannot be trusted not to lust and so YOU girls, must hide and YOU boys, are lust filled creatures who cannot normally interact with a female because she is not a person, a spark of God you can respect, you can only see her as a sexual thing (YES that is what you are saying) and so we cannot allow you to have normal interactions.

And this. This is our very favorite:
“Must everybody do as you do? Don’t we also have the right to free speech?”
Apparently, sir, the irony lost on you that your free speech silences all women.
What you call a ‘right’ not to see women means removing their right to be seen.
And so, when you claim that it is a community’s right to hide, to shame, to put a girl in the back of the bus, you are not only physically erasing her but you are silencing her as well.
Friends, erasing women and girls from books and magazines is not a holy thing. It is a thing that comes from one of two places.  It comes from misogyny, from thinking it is your right to tell a woman where she belongs. Or, it comes from a place of over sexualization, a place where men and women cannot interact normally because men cannot see a woman as more than her parts.
Is this who we are?
We desperately hope not. It certainly isn't who we are meant to be.


Concerned Jews who want to stop the madness,,

Shoshanna Jaskoll,  Gary Swickley, Mark Granat, Michael Lipkin, Eve Finkelstein, Yehuda Fulda, Chuck Davidson, Alisa Coleman, Nili Philipp, Naava Swirsky,  Rena Hollander, Miriam Weed, Etana Hecht, Yaakov Har-Oz, Leah Berman, Gillian Kay, Sandy Cash, Daniel Goldman, Naomi Silverman, Miriam Friedman Zussman, Irena Gossels, Len Gossels, Alana Assaraf, Ashley Coleman, Shifra Friedman, Bracha Epstein, Jessica Golomb, Helen Abelesz , Sorcha Mildiner, Marta Berman, Lenny Solomon, Steve Ganot, Brenda Ganot, Ruth Wellins, Faige Spolter, Avraham Nacher, Rafi Goldmeier, Naomi Kruger Arram, Rifki Orzech, Susann Codish and more

Please note: As a rule, we do not engage with anonymous commentators. 

To add your name to the letter, send an email to Weareallbeitshemesh@gmail.com

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  1. Two things: 1: I am a chareidi in RBS A and agree with you 100%. 2: If you put underlined words in an online article, people will think it is a hyperlink. The convention is to use bold or italics for emphasis online.

  2. There was a time when our family would have respected this idea of minimizing women's photos. But discussion on this issue and now this campaign have helped us realize - making distinctions is very, very important. We don't bring in publications with photos that are clearly outside the bounds of modesty, yet we now appreciate publications that apply high standards and can provide good examples of how a professional woman presents herself (or a man for that matter), or how an ad can be attractive and halachically appropriate at the same time.

    And regarding censoring for-profit publications so they are "safe" for certain readers - let's think in reverse of what a Gadol B'Yisrael once wrote in a haskama for a Rabbi Teller book - that it's "good for women and children to occupy their time": if there are men who shouldn't be looking at commercial publications that contain photos of women, those men are undoubtedly better off learning Talmud instead.

  3. this is the alternative. https://youtu.be/ft87_HUDh10 the modox ortho feminists rallying calls is that in modern society we are equals in all areas so why not in religious practice to the ortho response is to make them unequal in all areas (I am not defending hadrat nashim just explaining why its necessary)

    1. Either say the world is a mess and I'll create my own island, or create distinctions and live by them. Tidal waves wipe out an island far worse than the mainland.

    2. #1 explaining why something is necessary is defending it
      #2 because women danced with a Torah women can't be shown in publications?

    3. no i am explaining that if if one wants to maintain an orthodoxy that includes rules precluding ladies from wearing tefflin and torah dancing they must invalidate the argument that in 2015 in all areas of life woman are equal to men

    4. which has what to do with women being erased from book magazines and publications?

    5. if they are erased then they are not equal so any argument to allow an equal role in the religois sepher can't start

    6. Ok...let me try to understand.... I am female and I am not obligated to lay tfillin THEREFORE I cannot compete with men in the Real Estate business and have the same sort of advertisements that they have. Sorry , I am struggling with the logic of that ...It must be because I am so Kalat daat.

    7. no eve you are failing to understand becuase of your anger at their disgusting actions is blinding you from recognizing that in the context the kanoim are operating their actions are very rational. however until you avnoledge the root of their behavior it will be very difuclt to combat it so try to bear with me as I try to explain what I think is driving them. in past generations a womans place in the social ladder was very clear so there was no need to enforce it through banning their public appearance, but in the modern world that has made many inroads into the ultra O camp woman have started to be viewed as equal which raises the obvious question why can't they also be equal in religious rituals, to combat this problem the ulta O's feel the best solution is to reinforce the fact that woman are not equal to men in the public sphere

  4. Women are so sexualized in the world that we must do the opposite:
    - very much true IN GENERAL and this is IMO, a reason and natural outcome why the conservatives are getting more conservative. I think it is actually a worldwide phenomenon trend, BUT IMO, it does not justify what 'they' are doing in BS in this case.

    we are counted as numbers to the poor advertisers
    - so? This is the power in your hands - to contact the advertisers and explicitly tell them - I throw out the magazine and will boycott your store as long as you support these radical magazines.

    But at the end of the day, it will come down to demographics.

  5. How about a link to the petition?

    1. there is no petition (yet?).

      if you want to add your name to this letter, email me at israeli.jew @ gmail . com

  6. Our daughters are taught nothing about these lack of pictures being shown of them in the press. They are not absorbing these messages that you assert they are. They are taught that they are holy and precious and that their inner neshama is their essence. We are taught across the board that the more something is hidden the more holiness and bracha it contains. Our girls are taught self respect, they are each a bat Melech. They would never even have a reference to think of themselves as an object, let alone a sex object.

    The lessons we teach our girls are not the conclusions you make from your own perspective. No one is teaching our girls that they are sexual objects that men must be protected from. They don't know from sexualization. They dont conclude that there is something wrong with having women's images excluded, but they KNOW there is something very special about women and special about a woman being modest. We are modest even around each other, our modesty is not in reaction to men. It is a reflection of our inner holiness.

    Our lessons do not reflect all these conclusions made from a purely secular perspective.

    And please all you naysayers, get off your high horse. You think the opposite is better? I have seen the secular advertising out there. They even turn children into little sexual objects. Look at how children are posed... look at the subtle message in advertising that uses sex to sell everything. So we go to the other extreme in your eyes, but our way hurts no one. Really. It doesn't.

    Oh it does, it hurts us because people with a secular perspective use it to see the Haredi way of life in a negative way and build up their hatred of our way of life and give them excuses for more lashon hara about our way of life.

    Why do I see so many haredi bashing article after Haredi bashing article on this subject. Why is their no dialogue to understand why this approach is valuable to us. Everyone seems to feel they know better than us and we are made up of a bunch of chauvinistic men from the stone age oppressing women.

    Come into our community and see that we take guidance from some of the most learned men on the planet. People who are so dedicated to intellectual pursuit that they spend every minute of their day deepening their knowledge. Their vision is further than yours. They see the outcome from a tiny action. Our women are educated and have as strong an intellectual capacity as yours. We aren't starting riots to get our pictures in advertising circulars. We are also Jews. Stiffnecked and discerning. We aren't asking for advocacy on our behalf from your community. If we feel we need to stand up for ourselves, we will. Our way.

    Ask yourselves, do these negative judgements fit into a Torah view. dan l'kaf zechut. Are all the negative attitudes toward us and bashing fall under Torah Prohibitions. It is not helping our community or yours. What is the point. We wont take direction from someone who's world view is based on secular values or heavily tainted by that world view. We dont look for guidance from editorials by journalists, from people who feel they know better than our advisors that are seeped in Torah Learning. It is simply causing a stir, and increasing judgement. Our changes wont come from your negative press about us. It is destructive journalism. It doesn't increase understanding or collaboration with the other communities. It does not make the Haredi want to be like you or bow to your approaches. And it makes others with a desire to judge us feel more justified and righteous in their sinius chinum.

    Written by a Bas Yisroel, a Haredi woman living in a Haredi city who has no complaints against our way of life.

    1. please erase this pathetic knee jerk defense of the indefensible

    2. You are ignoring the fact that your people are attempting to force others to adhere to their standards, even though such standards have no basis in Halacha. And it's not only secular Jews who are being mistreated. Dati (MO) Jews are also forced to hide themselves lest they earn a beating or have to put in an insurance claim after their business is trashed.

      I have mixed feelings regarding your attitude. On one hand, I am glad you appreciate your way of life and find beauty in it. On the other hand, I feel you may be suffering a bit from Stockholm Syndrome. You make it sound as if women and girls are choosing to accept what they are taught and that they find it sensible and good. However, the truth is that you are forced to behave this way. Anyone who deviates is ostracised at best. Beaten and abused at worst.

    3. @ vafsi ode

      That is not a reasonable request. The reply is well-written and presents the other side's view. If you insist that only your view is correct, or even tenable, you are little better than the Charedim in question, who are trying to force their views on others.

    4. @avi i see nothing inherently wrong with insisting there is a right veiw on a some questions IE s it ok to cheat on taxes? I think showing pictures of woman in public publications is one of these qustions that has only one correct answer

    5. Go for it! You and your community can be as insular as is desirable and as you deem fit. But to pressure advertisers that the "only" way to have a frum paper is by deleting women, as if they only make parnassa in very simple fields, is not a reality and imposing your view on others - who are upholding a valid view in the eyes of halacha - and actually causing them damage. Just ask those papers not to distribute to your box, your block, your insular neighborhood. It isn't a majority who want the censorship in Bet Shemesh.

    6. If you truly live in a "Hareidi city" then this has nothing to do with you. The issue here in Bet Shemesh is when your views are being forced, sometimes by terror and extortion, onto a mixed society. You want to subscribe to the Yated, that's your business, but I don't want the Yated stuck in my mailbox any more than you want Playboy stuck in yours.

  7. Anonymous - there is explicit teaching, which is what you mean by what we intentionally teach our kids. Then there is implicit - what we see all around us, and then absorb. After all, nobody "teaches" immodesty - but still, people are afraid of their kids seeing blatant nudity and vulgarity around them, and absorbing it. Same goes for eradicating women from all spheres of life. It's not being explicitly taught, but if it's insidiously everywhere, it will be absorbed into the individual and collective consciousness. If a Kupat Cholim can't show a normal family with a mother and a sister on the "family" part of their website - this DOES have an impact. It may not be as much of a wallop as blatant nudity - it's more erosive, but definitely still powerful.

  8. I see no reason to delete anything. everything has been respectful so far. nothing wrong with discussion and argument

  9. I note that the word Charedi is not once in this post- hardly the stuff of Charedi bashing.


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