Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Thursday, 14 April 2011

An Image To Maintain

Matzav recently reprinted a piece from The Forward on the recent exploits of one Naama Shafir, a university-level Israeli basketball player playing for the University of Toledo.  The story is one that warms the heart of the right person.  A young Jewish girl, observant by background, leads her team to its first championship win.  Read further and the article is even more inspiring.  The championship game was on Shabbos so afterwards the young lady separated from her team and walked home so as not to violate Shabbos laws.  Furthermore her team has worked hard to accomodate her, allowing her to wear a more tzanuah version of the standard uniform, making sure she has kosher food wherever she goes and ensuring that there are no practices on Shabbos.
All in all quite inspiring.
What was not so inspiring were the responses from the Matzav comment gallery, predictably the "she's not really Orthodox" variety.  Now given the closed environment that most Matzav readers live in, it's not entirely suprising.   Many in the frum community have a strong interest in creating a definite image of what observant people look and act like. Anything that deviates from their narrow image but still claims to be observant is a threat to their "If you're Orthodox you must look and act like us" agenda. If this girl wasn't frum this story would simply not have appeared on Matzav.  They wouldn't care about any ol' non-religious Jewish girl playing basketball, but because she actually observes Shabbos but doesn't wear a semi-burka and speak Yeshivish while eschewing sports and physical fitness she is a threat.
Although she doesn't realize it, Ms. Shafir is actually a threat not only to the Matzav crowd but also to secular Zionism.  As opposed to many in the Chareidi community who are insistent on the old-fashioned look, many in the secular community insist that Zionism was about creating the "new Jew", one freed from the religious restrictions of old Europe and as physically active and materialistic as any in the non-Jewish world.  Ms. Shafir, by working to balance excellence in her sport with a commitment to frum living has shown that one can be both without sacrificing either. 
A woman like her should be celebrated, not scorned.

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