Link to a Letter

This is not really the focus of this blog, but someone did complain that were unable to google up this letter regarding my personal experience as a Orthodox Jewish woman, so I’m linking to it here. Now, if you do a search for “Tales Out of Bais Yaakov” and “Rabbi Lob” and “women” and “education” and “discrimination” and “honor” and and “Agudah Convention OTD Panel” maybe even “mezumenes” and “women and kiddush” — this page should come up. I hope. 

And for everyone who has no idea what I’m talking about, please don’t click through. Just take the blog at face value.

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Link to a Letter

5 thoughts on “Link to a Letter

  1. Dana Friedman says:

    I didn’t grow up Charedi, so it’s really not my place to speak about the Charedi experience. However, I’ve listened closely to my friends who are “OTD”, or who are finding a different derech that works better for them. It seems that Dr. Lob’s remarks centered around the family, and how the family can do better. I’ve heard many wonderful things about Rabbi/Dr. Lob, but I think he was either holding back (because he was “playing to the room”), or that he has a blind spot in this one area.

    I was raised Modern Orthodox, and figured maybe my ex-charedi friends could, rather than leave Judaism entirely, take a “step down” to Modern Orthodoxy. I now understand they don’t see Modern Orthodox as a step down. They were taught that Modern Orthodox people aren’t practicing Judaism. There was a little bit of latitude in my friends’ upbringing, but not enough to allow for Modern Orthodoxy. Besides, after the way they’d be treated, they didn’t want any of it.

    But among the girls and women I found one scary thing to be prevalent: they weren’t allowed to ask questions. The few who did ask were either not given an answer, or were given the type of pat, infantile, rhetoric-based answer that wouldn’t satisfy with anyone who really wanted to understand. They were told it’s not their duty to understand, it’s their duty to obey. I guess “Na’aseh v’Nishmah” didn’t mean anything to those educators and leaders? Dunno.

    For some there were no outside newspapers, no media, and little or no exposure to people who weren’t part of their community. When someone / something with even the slightest hint of difference comes up, and is shunned, what’s a kid supposed to think? If they were taught that all non-Jews are evil, and they meet one who’s amazing, and brilliant, it flies in the face of everything they’d been taught. Of course someone’s going to question. If the answers they get are anti-intellectual, racist, bigoted ignorance, it’d make perfect sense to question whether these people actually have the truth. I wonder why Dr. Lob didn’t go within ten miles of that territory. Did he not know? Did he think it wouldn’t be accepted? Does the Agudah need to be slapped hard to be awakened to real life? Are they that cluless?

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    1. > But among the girls and women I found one scary thing to be prevalent: they weren’t allowed to ask questions. The few who did ask were either not given an answer, or were given the type of pat, infantile, rhetoric-based answer that wouldn’t satisfy with anyone who really wanted to understand.

      The same is true for guys. Guys have it a little better, in that we get to see “under the hood” of halacha, but ask any questions about theology or try to understand how the metaphysics work, and you get the same kind of response.

      The letter was really good, and should be widely disseminated. It shows sincerity, a person who’s not trying to make trouble, but just wants basic fairness and to understand.If I could, I would have every girls’ school teacher and principle read it.

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  2. AR says:

    I’m not usually one to comment on blogs, but I couldn’t resist commenting here (about a year too late). I grew up in a yeshivish household and went to a BY for high school, although both were towards the left. I found many of your experiences growing up compelling, as I’ve definitely experienced comparable ones, but with some huge differences.

    1. Being taught that my most important goal in life as a woman was tznius/supporting men: One of the first classes we had in Parsha in 9th grade focused on the Akeidas Yitzchak on Chava’s name, where he discusses how Chava had two names to delineate her two roles in life: the primary role was that of serving Hashem as a person, and the secondary role was that of Aim Kol Chai (I don’t have the text in front of me, so apologies for any inaccuracies). Tznius was never the focus of our schooling, and my biggest exposure to tznius was through Gila Manolson’s Inside Outside, which definitely doesn’t stress the men’s side of it.

    2. Simchas Torah: I do remember feeling somewhat marginalized, but I also danced in circles behind the mechitzah (in one Orthodox shul) and outside the shul (in a shul with a small community – we didn’t let the men go out that way) :). I also remember a friend’s brother bringing over the sefer torah for us to kiss on Simchas Torah.

    3. Shabbos table conversations: My father would always include all of us in Talmudic/halachic discussions – in fact, if he was giving a devar Torah, he would say “[Name of me or my sister], are you with me?” and then re-explain if we were lost. In fact, he learned Halacha with me for a while straight from the Gemara, and would sometimes go over his chaburos/shiurim with me beforehand to have someone else to talk it through (he was a high school rebbe).

    4. Mezumenes: if we had three girls at the Shabbos table and not enough men, we always formed a mezumenes.

    5. and slightly off-topic, but since it’s something you discuss a lot on this blog – my family/school absolutely never discouraged questions.

    I’m not denying that your experiences occurred, and they’re probably more common than mine. My mother is in a leadership position in elementary education and has been frequently frustrated at the lack of respect accorded her by men. My in-laws are less feminist/more chauvinistic than my family.

    However, I do want to point out that experiences like mine do occur within the realm of yeshivish/BY Orthodoxy, and I think it’s somewhat unfair to claim that “Orthodox Judaism is very solicitous of the honor of its men. But it is downright dismissive of the honor of the woman.” Yes, there are people and streams of thought within Orthodoxy that do not respect women fully. But it’s definitely not a foundation of Orthodox Judaism itself.

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