Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Apologetics about the role of women in Judaism

In a Facebook discussion, someone brought up a 2012 post of Eliyahu Fink's entitled "Dear Chaya" and I was looking through the comments and I noticed a couple of mine that were worth reproducing here.

One commenter wrote:

"The statement of  'women are second class citizens' , is absolutely against a true Torah ideology!!  ... as Jews we believe that women and men each have the equal opportunity to fulfill our DIFFERENT potential, not better, but different and unique!"

My response was:

"...that's a modern apologetic that all of us have heard ad nauseum.. And every person who presents it acts as if it's some giant revelation that those of us critical of womens' roles in Orthodoxy must have never heard before. Yes, it's become the defensive party line, but that doesn't make it any less a manufactured apologetic... just because you are happy with your role in Orthodox Judaism doesn't mean that you speak for all women in Orthodox Judaism."

Later in the discussion another person wrote:

"I think the real issue is that everyone equates equality with sameness. You can be on the same 'level' as someone but be completely different, have different strengths, different weaknesses. Women are not allowed to testify because we are more compassionate and more likely to bend judgement in favor of compassion. That does not mean we are unequal, it means we are made differently. Today's society is so focused on everyone being the same, they forget that in reality people are different, and that's ok!"

My response to that comment:

"Sigh. That same apologetic again. Where have I heard the concept of separate but equal before? Hmmm. Oh, right, in the south under Jim Crow, black people had a different role to play from white people. To paraphrase your comment, that does not mean they were unequal, it means they were made differently. Today's society is so focused on everyone being the same, they forget that in reality people are different, and that's ok! So black people had a special role to play. Sitting in the back of the bus, not allowing them to drink from 'white' water fountains or enter 'white' restaurants was all part of respecting their higher plane."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Is Alon Shvut in Israel?

The New York Times printed a very nice obituary of Gil Marks, whose death is a great loss. I own and deeply value his wonderful "Olive Trees and Honey" cookbook.

The current brouhaha is over this line at the bottom of the article:

"Correction: December 11, 2014. An earlier version of this obituary misstated the location of Alon Shvut, where Mr. Marks lived. It is in the West Bank, not in Israel."

I agree, the unnecessary correction does come across as insensitive, and would have better been left alone. However...

1) They probably got in trouble with some readers. I doubt they would have changed it without complaints.

2) Alon Shvut is in Gush Etzion, which, technically, is not part of the state of Israel, however much it feels like it and has been integrated. Yes, it was settled by Jews well before the state was established. Yes, in almost every proposed peace deal, it would be part of Israel. But legally, at least for now. it's an "administered territory" of Israel, since it's over the green line, and unlike the eastern parts of Jerusalem, or the Golan, has not been officially annexed by Israel.

3) The Israellycool article engages in hyperbole, equating stating a current geographical reality (though admittedly one fraught with political implications) with accusing the deceased and his family of being "illegitimate occupiers". Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill.