Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Does Criticism = Hatred?

At the request of rav Kornreich, I recently read over an article in The Jerusalem Post Magazine featuring Naomi Ragen's latest critique of the Chareidi community.
Now to be sure Naomi Ragen is not loved by Chareidi writers.  She has written repeatedly, both in newpaper columns and in her fiction novels about the deficits she perceives in their community.  She has done so to tremendous acclaim and popularity.  For too many people her portrayal of Chareidi life is a window into the community that is never questioned. 
Her recent conviction on charges of plagiarism was breathlessly reported by Rav Yaakov Menken repeatedly from his pulpit at Cross Currents.  her subsequent successful appeal that lead to the clearing of all charges?  Well that he has yet to write anything about.  Hmmmmm.....
So it was that I went through her article and was not so shocked by what she had to say.  She detailed the rise of the Burka Babe cult and the subsequent, much-delayed backlash from the Eidah Charedit with which many in the cult were aligned.  But then she noted the obvious:
The Burka Babes are not some isolated phenomenon, the product of a group of diseased minds.  They are based on simple logic - if sleeves to the wrist are more modest than those just below the elbow (wasn't that what the fight was all about in Immanuel at that school a couple of years ago?) then mittens are the ultimate form of modesty.  If covering one's hair is good then covering one's face is even better.  The Burka Babes are the natural end of a campaign that tells women that they can never be tznius enough, that their presence within 5 metres of a God-fearing man leads to all manner of issurim from the Torah and that they have to be isolated and hidden at every possible opportunity.
A bit ironic, wouldn’t you say, after a decades-old campaign led by extremist elements in the haredi world to make their women invisible, a campaign which started with sealing off tiny, inhospitable women’s sections in synagogues, and requiring separate gender seating in separate halls for weddings? A campaign that included fighting against electing women to religious councils (kudos to Leah Shakdiel), signs on public streets demanding every woman cover up according to some male-invented fantasy of how to erase women’s sexuality.
It escalated with the closure of women’s seminaries for higher education, segregated buses and streets and waiting rooms and bakeries and barriers at the Kotel (Western Wall), the erasure of all women’s faces from street ads... It gained momentum with the idea, pushed at every opportunity, that women’s lack of modesty was responsible for every disaster befalling the haredi community – including bombs on buses.
Not knowing when to stop is surely not a problem only of the veiled women.

Yes, Ragen's suggestion at the end of the article is somewhat tongue-in-cheek:
I have a modest proposal (with apologies to Jonathan Swift). Since God-fearing, pious Jewish women are separated from men from birth and taught to stringently keep covered at all times, we cannot reasonably expect them to has v’shalom get into bed naked with a man (so what if he is her husband?).

Baruch Hashem, modern technology can solve this problem. What I suggest is that artificial insemination take the place of this immodest act. The men will deliver their half via other men to women doctors who will see that the next generation gets started in modesty and piety. Now when the kids are born, the boys will be sent by rocket ship to one planet, and the girls to another...
However, I myself have suggested to friends that the first person to develop human parthenogensis will make a mint off the Chareidi community.  Imagine how successful a business that can guarantee the creation of a reproducing community of males only will be!
Honestly, did anyone take Ragen's suggestion seriously?  Or mine?
Unfortunately this is not just anti-Chareidi hatred but rather a conclusion based on what we on the outside have been observing for several years now.  It is a criticism, yes, but not hatred.  It is a desperate plea from those of us who, despite everything, still see Chareidim as our brethren, to reign in this campaign of craziness masquerading as an attempt to increase religiosity.  We do not protest because of vindictive feelings but because we still care and we see a bad end coming from all this.


Rabbi Sedley said...

Great article which needed to be said.

I just wanted to point out one slight technicality:

I think there were two separate court cases against Naomi Regan for plagiarism. Sara Shapiro won her case, though it is being appealed. Michal Tal's case against Regan was rejected.
That is probably why Yaakov Menkin didn't mention it.

Avraham said...

i have long thought that the problem in the frum world is the lack of ability to accept criticism. In fact i in fact wrote a not yesterday to this effect on some blog (i forget where). while in no way knocking the importance an greatness of Torah i think that when people like Darwin came along he should have been accepted immediately into regular Torah education.--not because it is science but rather it relates to understanding of Torah itself--and anything that relates to understanding Torah is an integral part of Torah education. This i not any different that the Gemara itself which tries to find contradictions in Torah and to resolve them.

Pragmatician said...

the reason of "never tsnius enough" makes a lot of sense and might indeed be the answer to "how can they"?

AztecQueen2000 said...

If criticism was hatred, we'd have to excise the entire section of Nevi'im from Tanach. (oh, wait a minute...)

Anonymous said...

Criticism needs to be perceived as constructive. Frontal assaults don't cut it.

Chana said...

Ragen absolutely DID plagiarize from Sarah Shapiro, as well as from Sudy Rosengarten. She admitted as much to Shapiro, too.

Not plagiarizing is a secular value too. My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs.Kay Johnson taught us all about it. It's like Levy's rye bread--You don't have to be Jewish.

S. said...

"Not plagiarizing is a secular value too. "

Arguably it's primarily a secular value.

Avraham said...

when i was in Geula i noticed the local charedi rags copied Word For Word articles from yediot and haartez the regular Israeli newspapers. But they would just delete parts they did not like. I am pretty sure they are still doing this until today.
You can tell this yourself. Just walk into gelah on erev shabat and get one of the charedi newspapers and you will see that ever scrap of news is plagiarized.

(In those day i was living in geulah but picked up the yediot from rechov jaffa.)

Nishma said...

I think that it is important to further recognize the underlying root of the problem -- which is the desire to make value perceptions and decisions simple, black-and-white. You can go to the extreme in your view of tznius because you do not see any value in sexuality as a countervailing value force. This is indicated in Ragen's and Garnel's tongue-in-cheek quips. After all, if there is no value in sexuality, why not go to the extreme? But then what do you do with Ramban, Shemot 21:9 (amongst may other sources) that gives value to sexuality? Tzniut cannot mean an absence of you now have a complex value that needs to be examined and correctly considered. Simply, you have to use your mind. Therein lies the essential charedi problem -- a society built on trying to avoid using the mind but trusting someone else's decision making. This is not to say that I challenge the authority of a gadol. The difference is that those I always considered gedolim, even as they expressed their opinions, always encouraged thought in those listening. See the Hakdama to the Iggrot Moshe for example.

Further on the concept of tzniut, I have a series of shiurim on the topic available on Koshertube ( if anyone is interested.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Avraham said...

To add to the note of Rabbi Ben Hecht: Moralism tends to abolish the all value outside of ethics) outright through the denial of beauty and aesthetic value , and the inability to experience pleasure or the moral condemnation of pleasure.

I don't know the ramban but I accept a multivalued theory of value--(ie ten sepherot)

Anon1 said...

Hatred does exiat, but widespread belief in the perfection of one's own circle also exists. Both cause and perpetuate problems.