Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Sunday, 19 February 2012

They have Money For This?!

(Hat Tip: Orthonomics)
The obsession gripping the Chareidi community with the issue of gender separation is truly frightening.  Here is a community with so many problems, both social and financial and all they seem to be able to do to response to announce new ways to hide women from the sight of the men or limit their existence in their society to an even greater extent.
The latest example of this has been covered by both Orthonomics and the Emes v'Emunah blog, both of them quoting from a story in the American Jewish press about preparations for the upcoming Siyum HaShas celebrations being put on by the Agudah.
Never mind all those stories you hear about poor Chareidim with empty fridges and shoes worn through.  Forget all the stuff about schools being forced to cut back or close due to lack of funds.  In the Chareidi community there is, in fact, plenty of money as the decision to spend a quarter of a million dollars on a mechitzah at the festitivites shows.
Now one may point out that it is a priority for the Agudah crowd to have not just separate seating at the event but visibly separated seating.  After all, there are many who would want to participate in the event who don't really care what halacha has to say about separate seating at public events and will insist on attending only if a large mechitza has been erected.  Nothing says "Look how frum I am" like one of those.
But a quarter of a million dollars?!  For a one time thing?  From a community that never hesitates to cry poor?
As Rav Maryles notes, the "We want to be inclusive as possible" line is also a lie.  The Agudah couldn't care less about participation by those who are to the left of its hashkafah.  Their leaders would like nothing more than to look out into the crowd and see only black hats.  Not suedes, not knitted, and certainly not those rayon pointy-topped ones.  Are they going to include prominent non-Agudah rabbonim whose merits, piety and knowledge are certainly on par with theirs?  Not likely, not by a longshot.
So in summary: they have the money to spend on a fancy divider, but not on food and schools.  They are prepared to put a five-star party on even as so many of the community, especially in Israel, live in parking lots or on the street wondering where their next meal will come from.
This is Torah behaviour?  This is really the mesorah?


ahg said...

I don't think it's "Look how frum I am". Actually, quite the opposite. I think it's a quarter million dollar publicity stunt.

The chareidi element, represented in the US by Agudah, has been under attack in the media lately for its exclusion of women. (Reports from Israel of separate sidewalks, back of bus seating, etc.) The last thing they need is to have their most major event of the decade, with 90,000 in attendance, and not one woman in the group.

They could have taken advantage of the built-in mechitza of the separate levels. The article in the Five Towns Jewish Times reports they are looking to separate 20,000 seats. Interestingly enough, the Mezzanine Level provides 21,323 seats. Some would say that should be close enough, save a quarter million dollars, and reserve that level for the women. However, nothing says we care about the women like a quarter million dollar mechitza across the field.

SJ said...

The money could be and probably is, under the table, meant to pay for other things. who the fuck knows what exactly. what i do know is a quarter million for a cloth just doesn't happen in the real world.

AztecQueen2000 said...

Since the Siyum haShas will be in a stadium, why not reserve sections (as opposed to rows) for women? Most stadiums organize seating by column number anyway, so why not reserve sections N-T for women and save the quarter-million for tzedakah? Or, you could argue that Agudah cares more about gender segregation than the needs of its followers.

Dovid Shlomo said...

The women will be in separate sections.

The mechitsa will be used only during mincha and ma'ariv, which are highlights of the event. I would think that a legitimate argument could be made as to its halachic necessity.

As for your other point, the purpose of this event is clear (although never stated explicitly): To show honor to Agudah and its Rabbonim. Non-Agudah Rabbonim, except those to their right, do not fit into that agenda.

This is because a significant part of the Agudah identity is based upon being against YU and Modern Orthodoxy.

MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

I don't think it's so much being against YU and MO as it is ignoring them as if they don't exist. They don't have a podium full of rabbonim and announce that they were careful to exclude Rav Schechter, et al but rather they simply announce that they've invited all the rabbonim who matter and let you figure it out.
Besides, Rav Harry Maryles already pointed this out a few days ago and I didn't want to sound like a copycat.

ahg said...

"They have Money For This?!"

One quick remark on the post's title. - They are charging $1000 for the premium seats. While I don't know how many premium seats there are, if we can assume that there are at least 250, then their cost alone paid for the mechitza. The revenue from the other 89,750 seats can cover the other event costs and them some.

I think the quarter million dollar mechitza is only a small fraction of the overall cost to put on such an event. But I also think it has to be a very, very good fundraiser.

Dovid Shlomo said...

Agudah makes its money -- or rather its hay -- from differentiating themselves from the "Left Wing" and the Modern Orthodox, not by ignoring them.

I suspect you were not a regular reader of the Jewish Observer.