Friday, November 8, 2013

Why Orthodoxy?

My hashkafa is closer to Conservative Judaism than Orthodox Judaism, yet I affiliate with Orthodoxy for the most part.

I've often articulated it this way - aside from some small pockets (think JTS or Hadar, etc) in big cities (in which I do not live), nowhere can you find the living vibrancy that you can in Orthodoxy, nowhere else is there such a high level of Jewish literacy among many, not just a few, and nowhere else is there the mass observance of Shabbat & Kashrut. So I generally spend my religious time in Orthodox synagogues, though I reside at the very leftwing edge of that spectrum, and sometimes go to the local Conservative shul.

But I particularly like this line by Sarah Miriam Liben, in her article on the gender divide in Conservative Judaism (men are becoming Orthodox) and her desire to stay true to her egalitarian Conservative Jewish ideals. Though she is talking about college campuses, I think this is applicable to the feelings of people like myself in the adult world:


"Given this picture, it is easy to understand the pull factor of the vibrant Orthodox communities in college where being a committed Jew doesn’t make you a rarity or simply the most educated or most observant, but places you among a sea of peers."

A defense and a minor apology to R Yair Hoffman

It's very easy to attack or make fun of people's writing on the internet without thinking about them as real human beings, only caricatures.

Rabbi Yair Hoffman wrote a piece on women's tzniyus the other day. He did put it out there, and he opened himself up to criticism. And cricize him many of us did. The piece certainly deserves strong criticism. I wrote a post myself, titled "Tziyus Fetish"

This morning, Rabbi Hoffman himself commented on the post:

"Actually I wikipedia-ed the information and never saw the issue of non-tzniyus drop-ffs myself. The information was brought to me by a number of women, a few of them. I wrote the correct halacha and do not appreciate the attacks on my character for simply writing halacha. I have been called a sexual pervert, a fetishist, and worse for this article - for simply writing halacha. I am not sure why people think that it is okay to do this. I am very disappointed."
I obviously hurt the feelings of Rabbi Hoffman. His article, in my opinion, was ridiculous and deserved deep criticism. But I should not have implied that he was a sexual fetishist. I obviously never believed that, I was just using hyperbole to make my point. Here is the reply I wrote to Rabbi Hoffman's comment, which contains a more balanced criticism and an apology:

I think there is something deeply wrong with the contemporary charedi obsession with and focus on tzniyus, which sexualizes women just as much as contemporary secular society. The way you and others elevate this to the main thing that girls and women should focus on, has, in my opinion, the unspoken purpose of shutting them up, hiding them, and stifling them.

The attention paid by rabbanim such as yourself to the minutae of women's clothing DOES appear to be highly disturbing to most people not in the charedi culture, and seems like the OPPOSITE of tzniyus, if anything.

And it is that obsession with the way women dress that makes men sensitive to every single accidental glimpse of a woman's leg, when more modern people would never even notice. The more that needs to be covered up, and the more focus on every single collarbone or knee is what sexualizes these parts. I have no doubt that Taliban men find women's faces arousing,. That is what you are doing here.

All that being said, it's easy to write a blog post impulsively, and to insult people. I deliberately chose the last words of my post to be "seem like fetishists", rather than "are fetishists". I should not have attacked you personally, and I apologize for that. I am deeply disturbed by the way the Charedi community as a whole deals with this issue, but I should not have implied fetishism to you personally. You are obviously also greater than this one issue, as your defense of R Dov Lipman in July indicates.

I will update my post pointing people to this apology in the comments.

Shabbat Shalom.

R Dovid Feinstein - "oh, my poor nephew is being prevented from having kids!"

In response to the recent New York Post article by Gital Dodelson, Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, who I think is Avrohom Meir Weiss' uncle, wrote a letter disingenuously titled "Set Gital Free", when his point is to provide excuses for Weiss' disgusting withholding of the get, and to blame the situation on Dodelson herself.

But the point of this post is just to comment on one aspect of his letter that is only tangentially related to the main topic. He writes:

"Right now, there are 3 lives that are being ruined, or are at least on hold. Just look at Gital, the poor Agunah, whose personal life is in limbo at the prime time of her life, wasting away years. The same for Avrom Meir, as I watch his younger siblings, with their families growing past his."

(the third life he references is their child, addressed in the letter's next paragraph)

This reveals so much about the perspective of the Yeshivish community when it comes to life goals. His life is being ruined because he can't churn out children like his younger siblings. Because apparently,.that's the only point to life.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Avrohom Meir Weiss has no excuse

Someone named Yossi left a comment on my Gital Dodelson post from the other day with this link, containing a defense of her ex, saying that Weiss had agreed to binding arbitration in May and that she was the one who abandoned that arbitration.

The telling sentence is this:
"If Gital really wants a Get - it is clearly available - but only through good faith negotiations."
How is that not withholding a get, and using it as leverage? How is that not holding her hostage to get what he wants in the arbitration? In what world is it acceptable to withhold a get pending the resolution of arbitration? In what way does this make his actions any less appalling?

The fact that halacha has left a loophole which gives men power over women in divorce is horrible. In the 21st century, any man who utilizes that mysoginistic power, no matter the circumstances, no matter who behaved badly in the divorce, deserves all the public shaming that can be mustered against him.

Let him give the get, and then they can resolve the remaining differences in their divorce as equals.

Tzniyus Fetish

Apparently, Rabbi Yair Hoffman has too much time on his hands.

In an article in the 5 Towns Jewish Times, he calls attention to a serious problem, that of women dressed inappropriately when dropping off their sons at Yeshiva, because they are heading for the gym and are dressed for exercising.

Among other things, he writes:

"What further complicates the issue is that many women are entirely unaware of the problem. They do not know that it is the nature of a pencil skirt worn with leggings to rise above the knee."

The problem, actually, is that Rabbi Yair Hoffman spends enough time thinking about this so that he knows what a pencil skirt is (I don't) and is familiar with the details of leggings "a nylon-lycra blend" and that pencil skirts are apparently made of spandex. He also apparently thinks deeply about the necessity of "a skirt that entirely conceals the shape and form of the thigh"

When do we start telling the truth, that rabbis who are obsessed with women's clothing seem like fetishists?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Gital Dodelson, agunah

She would desperately like to be something else. But the "agunah" label is what has unfortunately defined her for the last 3 1/2 years while her ex has denied her a get.

She finally went public in the secular press. The result is this article in the New York Post.

Even well over a year before this article came out, Gital had publicized her case against her ex husband, Avrohom Meir Weiss, resulting in protests outside his home and condemnation of him and his prominent rabbinic family (he is a grandson of Rabbi Reuven Feinstein and a great grandson of Rav Moshe Feinstein), which has strongly supported him. So they put out this packet of information to defend themselves.

I looked through the information there and here's the thing. Maybe she's the guilty party here in the custody battle. Maybe he's right that he was condemned unjustly for going to the secular courts, when she put him in a situation where he had no choice. Maybe neither of them are blameless in this extremely ugly divorce.

But NONE of that justifies, in ANY way, the withholding of a get. Nowhere in the Weiss defense did I see a justification for that.

That she may not be blameless has absolutely nothing to do with the get. A get should NEVER be hostage to ANY part of divorce proceedings. To use it in that way is disgusting, and justifies any and all vilification of Avrohom Meir Weiss.

He should give her the get, then they can hash out the rest. That's what decent people do. The man gives the wife a get. Then they can negotiate the terms of the other details of the divorce.