As I've said before, I agree with some things that Kolech stands for. There are definite issues and concerns with the status of women in the religious world that continue to evolve and evoke debate. I also agree that it's important that this debate be held under civilized circumstances (does that happen anywhere anymore?).
But there are also lines to be crossed and Kolech seems to enjoy crossing them. First there was the issue of female rabbis, the "rabba" as it were. Now, in this latest editorial at Ynet, Rivkah Lubitch does her organization great damage by revealing their agenda once and for all. Interestingly, she doesn't start that way:
Thankfully, Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira retracted his recent statement that the Kolech organization, and organizations of its kind, are "Neo-Reformers," since it is fair to assume that even in his own backyard there are women who identify with most of Kolech's principles, even if in practice they have not changed anything in their lives.
A fair enough statement. To say that all women with the frum community, especially the Chareidi part, are happy with how the recent obsession with tznius and gender separation have taken over the public square, would be ludicrous. But then Lubitch says something which destroys her entire perceied moral advantage.
Really, how can anyone not agree with Kolech? Is there anyone today who doesn’t recognize that the issue of sexual harassment, which Kolech is involved with, affects religious society as well? Is there anyone who doesn’t understand women's interest in taking a more central role in religious life, or their desire for more intensive Torah study? In all honesty, is there anyone out there who still really thinks that it is a sin to teach women Gemara?
Her positions are so clear that they're beyong argument? That's an arrogant statement that is usually to describe her opponents, the self-styled upholders of the true mesorah. As for the rest of her questions, they come fast and furious but carefully looking at them shows a disconnect between them.
Yes, there are people who don't recognize that the issue of sexual harassment affects religious society. Their heads are in the sand, when they close their eyes they pretend they're still in a shtetl in Eastern Europe and no amount of sane reasoning is going to change their minds. Fine, I can agree with her on that.
But the next question is on a totally different tangent. Is there anyone who doesn't understand women's interest in taking a more central role in religious life? Excuse me? Women are already responsible for the centrepiece of Jewish life, the home. They are in charge of a family's observance of kashrus, Shabbos and taharas mishpacha. Are all these things suddenly peripheral in Lubitch's Judaism? Then there is her linking it with intensive Torah study. Again, this is a false association. No one outside the Chareidi community questions a woman's right to engage in intensive Torah study. What does that have to do with their roles in Jewish life?
Finally, there are still people who think it's a sin to teach women Gemara. In this case they aren't a bunch of peripheral wingnuts either but a substantial portion of the Chareidi community who are still, whether we like it or not, the most intense part of the Torah observant world. One may recognize that significant Gedolim like the Chofetz Chayyim and the Rav have both noted that it is essential for women to learn like men nowadays but to casually dismiss other important figures who disagree is incredibly presumptious.
What's more, having expressed relief that a former chief rabbi doesn't really think of Kolech as a form of Reform, Lubitch then goes and proves his assertions correct:
Equality between women and men in the public sphere; single life in the Orthodox world; feminist ritual object; creating Jewish rituals for women; Kol Isha; and of course the rabbinic courts and agunot.
"Equality uber alles", the rallying cry of the non-religious Jewish feminists, has come to the Orthodox world and its name is not Kolech.
Let us be clear: Judaism does not believe in equality between men and women because men and women are not equal. That does not mean that Judaism believes men to be superior to women, chas v'shalom. In fact, despite the dismissiveness its detractors usually apply to such concepts, Judaism actually attributes multiple aspects of superiority to women. It is feminists with their constant sense of grievance and jealously, the ones who want everything the man has while disparaging that which the halacha has given them, that deny this truth. The home? Feminists degrade "women's work" more than men do. For them it's all about the public, the ritual, the "here I am, I am a Jewish woman, hear me whinge!" The modest side which Judaism truly values lacks aggrandizement, hence it lacks value to them.
The beauty of Jewish familiy life is rooted in the inequality between man and woman. If they were truly equal, why would one need the other? Each gender has an imperfection that can only be rectified by the opposite one. Denying this means denying the beauty of a well functioning marriage and family.
With this article, Ms Lubitch turns Kolech into an organization that is just as intolerant of opposing points of view as it considers its detractors to be. The other is a pseudo-Reform group more interested in secular equality than Jewish truth. Much of their good work will probably be ignored because of this. More's the pity.