Stories and commentary about extremist views and actions. Extremism is any approach to Judaism that elevates one single Jewish principle above all others without regard to the Jewish values it is destroying.

Haredim Trying to Increase Control Over Area Around Jerusalem’s Central Shuk

Editor’s note: the HaAretz article mentioned below says the woman in question lived in Machane Israel, not Mahane Yehuda. We are currently inquiring from HaAretz if they indeed meant Machane Israel. Machane Israel is not even remotely a Haredi neighborhood. It contains two non-orthodox yeshivas: Hebrew Union College (Progressive/Reform) and the Conservative Yeshiva and two large centers housing visiting groups for the Progressive and Masorti movements. It also contains the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), four hotels and one under development catering to business travellers and mainstream tourists. Women regularly walk through the area in pants and many HUC students rent apartments in the area.

Note posted on apartment door asking a religious (Masorti) woman to leave because she isn't modest according to the Torah.

According to a report in HaAretz, Masorti (Conservative) Jewish woman living near Mahane Yehuda, the main stall based shopping market in Jerusalem, was sent a threatening letter last week demanding she leave the neighborhood. The letter was signed “The Modesty Police” It complained that she had transgressed the Torah’s rules of modesty.

The woman says she moved into the neighborhood because she needed a place to stay after she returned from America. She did not know that the neighborhood was predominantly Haredi. She also says that she gets along well with her neighbors, and was not aware of problems. She says she wears pants but does not wear short ones.

Police have said they will step up surveillance in the area, but the woman is still afraid. A friend of hers who ignored the warning had her apartment burned down.

The area around Mahane Yehuda is culturally diverse and includes haredim, hippies, and middle class professionals attracted to an area with a lot of character and ripe for renovation projects. There are many different styles of Jewish religious life, both Sephardi and Ashkenazi, progressive and traditional.

Haredim in the area have been trying to extend their control over the area. For several years the Kolben Dance Troupe had covered their rehearsal room with shades because of Haredi complaints about the women dancers. The Dance Troupe is on a main road leading out of the main Jerusalem commercial area and is in no way Haredi. It is part of a complex that includes a public library and one of Jerusalem’s major performing arts venues. However, there is a residential cluster of Haredim one to two blocks away off of the main road.

Haredim have also complained about entertainment in the Mahane Yehuda shuk. The city government has been hosting street festivals in the area for the last few years. Haredim dislike that women are included in the performances, seeing it as a violation of their understanding of Jewish modesty. They have threatened to set up their own strictly gender seggregated shuk.

Most Jews, including religious Jews, do not consider the Haredi understanding of gender segregation to be required by the Torah,  nor even later Jewish law nor identity.

Hat tip: Failed Messiah

Categories: Exclusion of Jews, Extremism, Gender Segregation | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Exclude Women from the Circus Ring? Modiin Says No

South African Modiin residents picnic in Modiin Park (Shabbat haGadol)

According to HaAretz (Hebrew version) during Chol haMoed a female volunteer was asked to leave the stage in Modiin when a Haredi women from the audience complained and asked that the circus use a male volunteer. The woman had gone backstage and told Rafi Vitis, the host of that a woman volunteer violated the sensibilities of “most” of the audience. In fact “The Shambuki Show” was being performed in Anabe Park in Modiin.

Modiin is a mixed secular and religious town, but the religious in Modiin primarily come from Progressive (Reform), Masorti (Conservative), and National Religious camps rather than Haredim. Non-haredi orthodox believe separation of men and women belong only in the synagogue and have varying opinions about hearing women sing. Non-orthodox relgious give men and women equal access in all areas of adult religious and secular life. One Modi’in religious resident told haAretz,

Instead of enjoyable time out with the family we received an alarming example of how normal it has become to take women off stage and marginalize them in the public sphere, even in a city like Modi’in where the population is not predominantly Haredi, and where Haredi politics don’t prevail,…It was striking to see such a flagrant case of exclusion of women from the public sphere. Here in Modi’in, it is unacceptable.

A Modiin official and the city council took swift action to prevent future attempts by self-styled police to segregate women. The Modiin city council told HaAretz

As soon as the incident was brought to the attention of the director of cultural activities he rushed to the scene and gave a specific order that it was unacceptable and that the show would go on as usual. Afterward we circulated specific instructions that all changes to shows at Anava Park cannot be approved by anyone other than the city council.

Avi Elbaz, city council member, told haAretz:

The incident with the acrobatic show didn’t take place in Modi’in Illit, Ramat Beit Shemesh or another Haredi city. If it doesn’t suit you to see women on stage, don’t come. It’s unbelievably rude to go to a show in a secular city and make these demands. This place is not owned by the Haredim

Avi Elbaz is also chairman of Free Modiim , a group that defends the rights of secular Israelis . Modi’in Illit is a nearby town that is predominantly Haredi. Members of the nearby Haredi town sometimes come to the park and have caused problems in the past when they’ve insisted that park events and other park visitors act according to their values.

Different spins in different languages

The Hebrew and English haAretz versions of this story have different slants. The Hebrew version, like this article, stressed the action of the city government and local officials. The English version stressed the conflict between Haredim and Modiin residents. In Hebrew the article summary in bold at the start of the article says “Modiin city hall: we gave instructions that an incident like this shouldn’t happen now or in the future”. The English version says “Modi’in residents angered by ‘unacceptable’ act. “.

This difference in coverage may have been motivated by the assumption that English readers are predominately out of country and will not care about municipal details. However, downplaying the governments quick response also leaves the mistaken impression that non-Haredi Jews are a beleagered and defensive minority in Israel. In reality, the majority of the population supports women’s presence in the public sphere and accomodation to secular lifestyles. Most of the difficulties regarding women come from non-enforcement of laws rather than the lack of laws.

Respect for whom?

The haredi woman who approached the acrobat show’s host and the hosts decision also illustrates some common theme in stories about the exclusion of women.

Often the decision to remove women is made by non-Haerdim with the intent of being respectful to Haredim. Rafi Vitis told HaAretz “I was trying to do my best to show consideration for their sensibilities and didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings.” The decision of Beersheva to segregate playground at their local zoo one day during Chol haMoed Pesach had a similar goal which they described as “harmony”. However, exclusion decisions are never neutral. If there is a single event, there is no way to both include and exclude at the same time. Being sensitive to a person who believes in excluding women is going to offend women who want to be included as well as bystanders who believes women should not be excluded.

The MC’s lack of awareness that he was going to offend someone no matter what he did may be related to the way Israelis typically view religion. There is a tendency in Israeli culture to view religion as a continuum with secular antagonism at one end and Haredi extremism at the other. There is only one way to be religious and it involves becoming more and more like the Haredim. Objection to Haredi lifestyle can only reflect either a lack of religious passion or even anti-religious intolerance.

This contrasts with the more pluralistic view found in the Diaspora and in academic study of Judaism. These later perspectives see religious Judaism as something more like a tree with many interpretations branching out of a core trunk of common texts and history.

The notion of a continuum leaves little room for disagreement since relgion is viewed as additive rather than diversifying. If Haredim see exclusion of women as a positive religious goal then inclusion must represent the absense of commitment to that goal rather than a religiously motivated opposition based on a different understanding of Judaism and human dignity. The person opposing segregation must either be (a) indifferent and happy to comply (b) anti-religious (c) assimilated to a world of non-Jewish values (d) selfishly trying to go beyond her God appointed role. Most people want to think of themselves as nice people. Compliance is the only option that doesn’t have some sort of negative connotation.

A second common theme is the belief that “most” people agree with the Haredim. This was the argument given by the Haredi woman who approached the acrobat show’s host. She believed her objections to the female volunteer were shared by “most” of the audience.

The HaAretz article doesn’t give any attendence numbers, but there have been many incidents where Haredi sources have grossly overestimated their numbers or general agreement with their valeus. In 2009, Hiddush did a study of Israeli attitudes towards segregated buses. They found that 50% of the general public did not want to ride a segregated bus. Haredi men and women had put the estimate at less than 30%. In February, when the Tel Aviv city council decided to work towards making buses available on Shabbat, local rabbis told the press that 80% of Tel Aviv was against it. Tel Aviv is a predominantly secular city. Furthermore several national studies show that 60% or more of the country is in fact in favor of making public buses available on Shabbat.

This tendency to overestimate may be related to the psychological process of salience . We tend to overweight something that attracts our attention. There is little doubt that the distinctive dress of Haredim can dominate one’s perception of a space even when there are not many present. Additionally, many Haredim live in a self contained world so they may simply be unaware of the diversity of viewpoints outside of their communities.

Categories: Extremism, Gender Segregation | Tags: | Leave a comment

Fathers Excluded from Ramat Gan Bat Mitzvah

Group Bat Mitzvah: 20 Girls in Ashkelon

When the sixth graders at Noam-Haro’e religious school in Ramat Gan celebrate their Bat Mitzvah, the fathers won’t be there. The school is excluding the fathers because the Bat Mitzvah celebration will include girls singing and dancing. Since these 12 year old girls will now be adults in the Halachic sense the school says that fathers can’t watch them.

Father Ram Gal and other fathers wanted to see and celebrate with their daughters, so Ram Gal’s wife approached the school with a compromise that would allow fathers to be present during the parts of the ceremony that did not involve singing and dancing. The school would not budge, so this Sunday morning, Ram Gal’s daughter had her Bat Mitzvah without her father present.

Ram Gal, who himself grew up going to religious schools, says he does not remember schools being so segregated when he was a child. He admits that the neighborhood around the school has changed in the last several years, but he feels the segreation policy is the result of a few vocal parents. His feeling is that the school’s policy does not reflect the desires of the “silent sane majority” of parents.

Ram Gal’s feeling that the religious schools are changing is not his imagination. Today 65% of elementary religious schools have some form of segregation, some starting as early as first grade and some starting in third or fourth grade. Just ten years ago, in the early ’00s, only 25% were segregated

This change not only annoys some parents, it also costs money and sometimes violates Education Ministry policy. Education Ministry policy is that classes should not be split up until there are more than 40 students per school. Schools with gender segregated classrooms split up students regardless of whether or not they have reached the 40 students even though this goes against policy. Segregated elementary school classrooms cost the school system an additional 11m NIS according to HaAretz sources.

However proponents of the segregated school insist that they are want parents want. The principle of one school told HaAretz:

The vast majority today accepts the separation because being a part of the Torah education system is a label. This population is truly leading today … The national-religious education system is a mirror of religious Zionism as a whole.”

With all sides claiming the majority, it is impossible to know who is correct. However, that may be beside the point. Rabbi Avi Gisser, head of State Religious Education Council, says the Ramat Gan school was mistaken and acted against the State Religous Education Council policy. The council believes Bat Mitzva events are meant for the whole family and is opposed to excluding fathers as was done by the school.

Mistake or not,Ram Gal was not able to see his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.


Related articles in Jacob’s Bones:

Categories: Extremism, Gender Segregation | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A Rabbi, Rape and War

Several years ago, a military rabbi, Colonel Eyal Qarim, was asked about rape during war. The answer he gave at best avoided the question he was asked and at worst endorsed rape as a weapon of war.

Qarim was not on staff at the time he wrote the response. However, he has held important roles in the Israeli rabbinate both before and after the period when he wrote this. Prior to this question he was the religious adviser to a commando unit. Currently he is a senior officer in the IDF rabbinate.

This very old question and answer made waves last week when Israeli blogger Yossi Gurvitz wrote about it in a 972 blog post. He took the position that Qarim was endorsing wartime rape and even suggesting it was necessary to win the battle. He raised two issues (a) this answer was blatantly unethical by current moral standards (b) this rabbi is on the IDF payroll.

Is the Beautiful Woman Law a Justification for Wartime Rape?

The questioner wanted to know if the biblical laws on “the beautiful women” (Deut 21:10-14) provided a justification for wartime rape.

In a nutshell, if a man at war falls in love with a woman on the battlefield and thinks he wants to marry her, he must wait. She is given a grieving time and he is given time to cool his heels. Only after the waiting period may he take her as his wife. If he decides not to marry her, he is forbidden from keeping her as a slave:

When thou goest forth to battle against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God delivereth them into thy hands, and thou carriest them away captive, and seest among the captives a woman of goodly form, and thou hast a desire unto her, and wouldest take her to thee to wife; then thou shalt bring her home to thy house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; nd she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thy house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month; and after that thou mayest go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not deal with her as a slave, because thou hast humbled her. (Deut 21;10-14)

A glaring problem is that the passage is told only from the man’s point of view. There is no mention at all about her own willingness for such a union.

Rabbinic literature takes an extremely dim view of any sort of forced intercourse even in marriage. Sukkah 29a tells us that the suffering and moral wrong caused by a rapist seizing someone and no one coming to help was considered so great that it could cause a solar eclipse. Eruvin 100b tells us that all intercourse requires consent. Nedarim 20b enumerates categories of coercion, including psychological coercion (fear, anger, hatred). None of these are permissible.

To harmonize that belief with the written words of the text they were forced to reinterpret any implication that the passage was about rape rather than consensual marriage. This approach is common with other passages having to do with unusual hook-ups. For example if a man tries to have sex with a woman without going through the usual betrothal process, the biblical text in Deuteronomy 21:27 says he must marry her and cannot divorce. The rabbis were quick to note that the text refers to his obligation not hers. Later rabbinic literature took that to mean that she had the right to marry him if she wished, but did not have to. If she chose to marry him, she had no responsibilities in the relationship and could demand the normal financial support of a wife from him as long as he was alive even if she never saw him again. This was really a mechanism to ensure her economic security. If she did not wish to marry him, she got the equivalent of a full ketuba payment.

There is a further problem with this passage: can someone in a situation of captivity act from any motive other than fear or possibly hatred? According to the modern understanding of sexual choice, the answer is no. The power imbalance between captor and captive would make it virtually impossible for there to be a truly consensual love relationship. From a modern point of view, the law of the beautiful woman falls in the same category as the rebellious son: it applies to a situation that can for all practical purposes never exist: a captive person that freely consents to marriage and sex.

Rabbi Colonel Eyal Qarim’s Answer

None of this is spelled out in the biblical text.

Hence the questioner needed to know: what does the rabbinic tradition and later halacha say about rape. Does it use this passage to justify it or find way to read it that prevents its use to justify wartime rape?

However, Rabbi Qarim didn’t talk about any of this in his answer nine years ago. He doesn’t say “no, this is not a justification for rape”.

Instead he talked about how rules in wartime aren’t like rules in peace time and rules in mitzvah wars commanded by God aren’t like rules in regular wars. He avoided the question of rape entirely and instead talked about the broad category of sexual relations. From the response he appears to be talking about visiting prostitutes

The wars of Israel are justified mitzvah wars (מלחמות הרשות ). … In the same way that war breaks through [normal] fences around one person endangering their own life on account of others, war also breaks through fences around modesty ( צניעות ) and kashrut. For example, non-Jewish wine is prohibited in peacetime but allowed in wartime in order to preserve the morale of the fighters…. Thus also in wartime, certain standards of sexual relations (צדדים מסוימים של גילוי עריות ) are also pushed aside, including even strong prohibitions against unions with non-Jews….

If you didn’t know the original question, you’d think he’d just been asked “we know that normally Jews must marry Jews, so why can Jews marry non-Jews in wartime?”

If you do know the original question, you’d likely assume that he is explaining why it is OK to rape during war when it isn’t right at other times, i.e. normal rules don’t apply and God is on our side since it is a justified mitzvah war. This is how Yossi Gurvitz read Qarim’s answer.

The post created a small fire store. The 972 article was critiqued by the Huffington Post monitor which also monitors HaAretz and 972 as well as the Huffington Post. Gurvitz updated his own post to respond to the claims of the Huffington Post Monitor.

The next day, Kipa, which had posted the original Q&A, published a clarification. Qarim denied that he ever intended to say that rape was permissible, either during wartime or not. He merely meant to explain why it would be allowed to marry a non-Jew (consensually) when normally marriage between Jews and non-Jews is prohibited. The clarification suggested that it should have been obvious to the reader that rape was not acceptable.

Pleading that it should be obvious that rape isn’t acceptable doesn’t explain the poor original answer. The questioner was asking about whether rape was or wasn’t acceptable.   The answer obviously was not obvious to the person asking.

Why We Need to be Careful about Vague Statements about Rape and Sexual Relations

Rape may be an uncomfortable topic to discuss, but we need to be very careful about the kind of vague statements that were used when originally responding to the question of wartime rape.

First, research on social attitudes that interfere with effective prosecution of rape cases has found over and over that people often see rape as “bad sex” or ‘forced sex” rather than a separate category. We readily understand the difference between a hug by a lover and a strangulation hold by a robber. We would never say that the involvement of the shoulders means that a potentially lethal strangulation hold is just a forced or non-consensual hug. One is love and the other is assault. But as a society we are not so clear about sex. If one uses vague terms like “certain standards of sexual relations” צדדים מסוימים של גילוי עריות ), some people are going to think that one of those standards that goes by the wayside during wartime is sexual consent.

Even in the bible גילוי עריות (to reveal nakedness) is an ambiguous term that can include both consensual and non-consensual interactions. In Genesis 9:20-27 , Ham, a son of Noah “saw” the nakedness of his father while Noah was drunk, meaning he took sexual advantage of him. To restore their father’s honor, the other two sons walked backwards and covered their father so that his naked body could no longer be seen. It isn’t enough to vaguely say “certain standards” are suspended. Suspending any standard is dangerous. One must be very specific about which ones are cast aside and which ones remain in place.

Further, even if someone has studied in yeshiva all day long all their life, it is still no guarantee that he will understand that rape is off the table. These days even the most basic rules about the way we treat our fellow human beings (mitzvot ben adam l’chavero) are being challenged by Jews who think anything goes when God’s perceived honor is being defended.

Judaism has always placed a high value on not shaming people. Still, just a few months ago in Israel a man was interviewed on national TV saying with great confidence that both the Torah and his rabbi approved of him spitting on little girls and calling them prostitutes because he had healthy male sexual feelings and because women are supposed to be cover up their bodies like the Taliban woman who walked by his car during the taping.

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Israeli Hotel Refuses Torah to Egalitarian Minyan

A boy and two girls relaxing at Kibbutz Shefayim's Water Park

This year seniors from the Solomon Schechter School in Westchester county New York had first hand experience of how the Israeli religious establishment treats women when they were unable to have a Torah service at Shabbat morning Shachrit.

The students were in Israel as part of their two month senior trip to Poland and Israel. When the school made reservations at the hotel on Kibbutz Shefayim near Hertzliya, the leaders had requested a room for their prayer services and the hotel offered use of the hotel synagogue after the hotel sponsored Orthodox minyan had completed their prayers. The hotel did not inform them that Torah scrolls were only available for services with mechitzas where only men read. They arrived at the hotel and found out on Shabbat morning that they could not use the hotel’s Torah. The group was forced to pray Shabbat Schachrit without a Torah service.

The Solomon Schechter schools are run by the US Conservative (Masorti) movement. Conservative Jews, count women in their minyans and allow women to be called up to the Torah. The school staff and rabbi considered the inclusion of women a matter of obligation and could not accept use of the Torah under the hotel’s conditions that women not read from the Torah.

When the Jerusalem Post contacted the hotel, they insisted that their policy is that groups provide their own Torah if they want to conduct their own services apart from the hotel’s standard morning minyan. The hotel refused to comment on the specific incident except to say that no formal complaint had been made.

The school group leaders contradict this explaination. They say they asked for the hotel Torah prior to their morning service. The hotel’s religious supervisor said that he would be willing for them to use the hotel Torah but only if they agreed to a mechitza and only if males alone read from the Torah.

It should be noted that the kibbutz hotel advertises itself as “especially suited to celebrate different occasions also for the religious sector: Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and Groom Saturdays are a true experience, will make available everything required.”

If the hotel follows orthodox standards then the Bat Mitzvah must take place in a private woman only minyan. This would imply that they do indeed allow private services using the hotel Torah. Surely they don’t expect families to arrive with their own Torah for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs?

It should also be pointed out that the kibbutz runs a water park that does not in any way adhere to Orthodox standards of modesty. Thus it cannot be said that the kibbutz is merely enforcing its own adherence to an Orthodox interpretation of Judaism. Orthodox Judaism believes Torah should affect all of life and cannot be limited to the synagogue only.

The Talmud specifically allows women to be called to the Torah and to read it and specifies that the only impediment is the “honor of the congregation”:

The Rabbis taught (teno) that anyone can be numbered among the seven [called to the Torah on Shabbat], even a minor, even a woman. But the Sages said that we do not call a woman to the Torah because of Kevod HaTzibur (the dignity of the congregation). (Megillah 23a).

Non-orthodox Jews believe that the context of the phrase and also interpreters such as Rashi require us to read “kevod haTzibur” as an insult or annoyance to the congregation, rather than a violation of the fundamental nature of the congregation. Thus many non-orthodox Jews believe that saying women insult the dignity of the congregation is an insult to the dignity of women and has no place in modern Judaism.

Orthodox partnership minyanim also agree that today one can no longer say that women reading from the Torah imperils the dignity of the congregation. Today women study Torah on level of equal sophistication to men. Orthodox minyanim that disallow women reading from the Torah argue that “k’vod ha tzibbur” reflects a timeless category that has nothing to do society’s view of women or women’s scholarship.

The school chose to use the incident as a teaching moment about conflicts in Israeli society. The group’s leader told the Jeruslaem Post:

We wanted to stick to our values of having an egalitarian service…we also saw it as an educational moment and explained to the group participants that this is one of the biggest conflicts within Israeli society – the meaning of what a Jewish state should be. The goal of Zionism today should be to try and perfect the country we have, not to get frustrated and work against it, even when the government or the mainstream religious establishment rejects us.

Rabbi Andrew Sacks, head of the Rabbinical Assembly of Masorti Rabbis in Israel stressed the importance of respecting Diaspora religious traditions:

In light of all of the difficulties we face at the moment, it is particularly problematic that we would make it more difficult for the Diaspora community to practice their Judaism when visiting the Jewish state.

Non-orthodox Judaism is not strictly a Diaspora phenomenon. Collectively non-orthodox religious Jews make up about the same percentage of Israeli society as do Haredim (Ultra-orthodox). According to the Avi Chai/IDI study 8% of Israeli adults identify as either Reform/Progressive or Conservative/Masorti. Haredi Judaism also represents 8% of Israeli adult society.

Despite this Haredim control official religious life in Israel. Reform and Conservative rabbis cannot hold government jobs as rabbis no matter how well they know Jewish tradition. Nor can they serve as judges in religious courts. Women are also excluded from all these roles.

The state will not recognize marriages performed by non-orthodox rabbis. Religious non-Orthodox couples must leave the country and have a second marriage in a foreign country in order for their marriage to be recognized in Israel.

Even though Reform and Conservative conversions are recognized as Jews for citizenship under the law of resturn, they do not have the right to be married or buried as Jews in Israel. Nor are the children of women converts recognized as Jewish. They are not allowed to marry Jews or be buried as Jews.

Women in Israel are also constrained in their ability to worship as they wish. Women, for instance, may not pray at the Western Wall with a Tallit, nor may they have a Torah service if they pray as a group at the Western wall even if the minyan is composed exclusively of women.

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Community Blames Mother, not Mohel, for Death from Metzitzah b’Peh

According to the New York medical examiner, on September 28, 2011, a two week old infant died at Maimonides Hospital from a Herpes Simplex I (HSV1) infection acquired after the child was circumcized by a mohel who used direct oral suction to “clean”the wound.

The case is currently being investigated by the Brooklyn DA, but the family is not cooperating. Despite the medical examiners report the community is closing ranks around the mohel and instead blaming the mother, claiming that she did not care properly for her child.

Oral suction (metzitzah b’peh) is a high risk practice that has been rejected by many Jewish halachic experts. The Haredi community insists it is an essential part of circumcision and considers its right to continue the practice a matter of religious liberty.

The last recorded death from Metzitzah B’Peh acquired HSV1 was in 2004 when two twins were allegedly infected by mohel Yitzak Fischer. Fischer was banned from performing oral suction in 2007, but the ban does not appear to have been enforced. The Jewish week found that he was still scheduling brit milah with oral suction even two weeks ago. The Lower Hudson news reported that Fischer is also under investigation in connection with the most recent death.

New York City’s attempt to crack down on the practice in 2005 ended with a state wide 2006 “protocol” that allowed the Haredi community to continue the practice despite objections of medical personel and on-going concerns about health risks. This protocol was rescinded in 2007, but Agudat Israel who played a major role in the 2006 protocol claims that they were never informed of the change. The Health Commission plans on letting the Brooklyn DA take the lead in the current investigation.

In 2005 Mayor Bloomberg vowed not to interfere with religious practice, has begun to shift his rhetoric:

There is probably nobody in public life who fights harder for the separation of church and state than I do, but I just wanted to remind everybody: religious liberty does not simply extend to injuring others or putting children at risk … And we will continue working with the community and others to prevent more baby boys from suffering these tragic fates. (Source: NY Times)

Only time will tell if this new assertiveness will result in government action. Many of the themes of Haredi-state interaction apparent in Israel also seem to be at play in New York. Continue reading

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Protests Begin at Restaurant Banning Thursday Night Waitresses

Protesters in front of the Heimishe Essen restaurant. Click image for additional photos.

Yesterday men and women gathered on a cold Thursday Jerusalem night for the first time in front of the Heimishe Esin ( ‘היימישע עסין’ ) which removed women from busy Thursday night shifts after Badatz of Agudat Israel demanded it as part of its Kashrut certification process.

About 30 male and female demonstrators gathered for over an hour to sing a selection of popular Israeli songs that includes both songs about the love of Israel and Jewish religious values. The singing ended with HaTikva and the waving of the Israeli flag. They included secular and religious Jews from a variety of streams and even earned some applause from on-lookers, as well as Jerusalem Council member Laura Wharton.

The demonstration was organized by the Jerusalem branch of Israel Hofshit (ישראל חופשית)  . Protesters plan on meeting again at the restaurant next week on Thursday night unless Badatz withdraws its demands and women continue to be employed as waitresses on Thursday nights.

The owner told photo journalist Nir Alon that the protests are unnecessary because he convinced Badatz Agudat Israel that women will only serve tables with women and men will only serve tables with men. However, when asked directly by News1 if women will wait on tables on Thursday nights or serve only in the kitchen he did not give a direct answer.

The Heimishe Esin restaurant is located in the heart of pre-state Jerusalem. There is a secular high school across the street from the restaurant and the majority of the area is secular/non-Haredi dati. It’s in the heart of the very secular original post-independence Jerusalem. The Jewish Agency building where statehood was proclaimed by Ben Gurion is virtually around the corner. Teddy Kolech’s old aparment was a few blocks away. So is Golda Meir’s home.

Expanding Media Coverage

Since our coverage of this story at the beginning of the week the story has been picked up by two major Israeli papers, HaAretz and the Jerusalem Post, and syndicated to US Jewish world papers such as the Los Angelos’s Jewish Journal on the West Coast of the USA and the Forward and Vos Iz Neias on the East Coast . It has also been picked up in the Israel Haredi press via LaDaat. The story is also beginning to make the rounds of the blogosphere: Failed Messiah, Frum Satire, and Life in Israel have all featured pieces and reader comments.

Based on mynet’s poll of its readers and the tenor of blog comments, opinion is strongly against this demand of Badatz Agudat Israel. A mynet reader poll resulted in 91.5% disapproval rate.

Discrimination or Just Good Business?

The owner sees this as a customer preference. He told HaAretz, “My right as the restaurant’s owner is to do anything I want.” . He does not see his actions as discrimination because no one is being fired. They are only being asked to switch to less busy shifts. He told the Jerusalem Post, Continue reading

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Dimona Girl Kicked out of School for Working at McDonalds with the Boys

The rooftops of Dimona

Efrat Daniel, in senior at Shalhevet HaDarom (“שלהבת הדרום“) High School in Dimona, has been suspended from school for the last three months because she worked at kosher McDonalds during the previous summer.

Dimona is a small desert town near Be’ersheva in the south of Israel known for its nuclear reactor and a settlement of black Hebrews. The population is diverse due to waves of immigrants who have settled there.  Because of the high number of immigrants,  the Jewish Agency educational has been actively involved in local educational projects. In 2008  the Dimona’s school system won the National Award for Excellence in 2008.

However Efrat went to one of the local semi-private Haredi run schools.  Haredi schools are private in the sense that they are allowed wide latitude in choice of curriculum and policy, but public in the sense that they receive state funding. Her school received 618,165 NIS from the department of education in 2010. Continue reading

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No Waitresses if you Want Badatz to Certify your Kashrut

A restaurant in the Rehavia neighborhood of Jerusalem, Heimishe Esin ( ‘היימישע עסין’ ), was told that it could not hire waitresses on Thursday night if it wanted a Badatz kashrut certificate.  So he removed women from those shifts. Thursday is one of the busiest nights so it also means that women are excluded from a night where table tabs are high, customers frequent, and significant tips accumulate in the kitty.

Rehavia is a mixed religious neighborhood in the center of Jerusalem. It includes secular and religious Jews from many different streams of Judaism. The restaurant which serves classic Ashkenai home style meals attracts a lot of students from a nearby yeshiva but it also serves local secular and non-Haredi residents and has a large secular high school across the street.

A Badatz certificate increases the marketability of a restaurants food, especially in neighborhoods near Haredi insitutitions. The extra economic edge means that Bedatz can use economic incentives to encourage practices that are prejudicial against women employees.

Source: רוצים הכשר בדץ? אל תעסיקו מלצריות בחמישי, MyNet, 2012-03-08

Correction: The picture originally with this post incorrectly showed Badatz Edat Haredit.  The kashrut organization responsible is Badatz Agudat Israel.  The picture has been corrected.  Thank-you to commenter Daniel below for noting the oversight.

Categories: Extremism, Gender Segregation | Tags: , , | 19 Comments

Burial Societies Interfere With Parents Mourning Still Births

According to ITIM, a religious advocacy group, several parents have been refused the right to observe mourning practices for their stillborn children. Parents are not informed that they have options at the hospital. The burial societies habitually refuse to allow the parents to hold a funeral, attend the burial, set up a headstone, or even know the location of the grave.

Halachically speaking there is nothing to prohibit a parent from mourning their stillborn child. Traditional mourning is left to the parent’s descretion when a child does not survive more than 30 days, In many communities a custom developed of the parents not mourning at all. However, the burial societies have turned a tradition into a rule and are denying mourning practices even from parents that want them.

ITIM has published a report describing the situation. It blames the Religious Services ministry for the situation, saying it has failed to compel burial societies to respect the wishes of the parents. ITIM is considering proposing legislation to remedy the situation.

For the full story see the Jerusalem Post.

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