Power in Numbers
In response to the women who are concerned with not showing women in magazines and newspapers (“A Modest (B’dieved) Proposal,” May 31): I, too, was not brought up “like this.” I never thought twice of women’s photographs in periodicals. And I grew up here in this very neighborhood. Back in the day, there were very few “right wing” schools. They were in the minority and not noticed by the HALB-HAFTR crowd.
But as life has it, things change. We have more “black hats,” more “sheytls,” and larger families in our area. And with this brought changes in attitude, and what is considered “standard” by the community. To be honest, the “picture thing” does not bother me—other things do. My kids think the prices along Central Ave. clothing stores are “normal”. Personally, I don’t think it’s modest to buy dresses for a 7-year-old that cost over $200. Another annoyance is people who are extending their houses to property lines. Maybe these are less a religion issue. But what can I do? People change. Attitudes change. The same people who are spending a fortune of money for matching a dress for their daughters are also building shuls, schools, and mikvaos in our community. The same people who are refusing to show women in pictures are our mashgichim and our shatnez checkers. They have made frumkite so convenient to live here. So while you and I have different pet peeves, sorry to say “black hat” is the new black (pun intended). In some ways, we benefit, but in some ways, we don’t. It is our job, as parents, to instill in our children what we feel is correct.
No place is going to be perfect. But there is power in numbers, so complaining is not really going to help.
I really respect your desire to speak up, but don’t expect big results.
Accomplishments Should Speak for Themselves
I appreciate the time and effort you put into this publication every week — thank you! I just want to comment on the article written by Mrs. Koffsky and Mrs. Rudolph from last week (“A Modest (B’dieved) Proposal,” May 31). The authors are concerned that women whose pictures are left out of ads and papers are being deprived of their honor and respect. They write in the article that “…. the ads on billboards, television, and the internet feed our children the message … that immodest beauty is the most valued asset a woman has; it is her path to honor and prestige.” This message is just as horrifying, they write, as what the Jewish media is telling by omitting the photos; that they deserve no honor or prestige at all.
That argument seems to say that the Jewish media is depriving women of their honor and the only way to restore their honor and prestige is by having their photos in newspapers? Then that is the same message the secular media is sending, albeit in a more modest way! Wouldn’t the authors agree a woman’s honor comes more from her accomplishments in life and less by her appearances in media, as would be the same for anyone for that matter?
Of all the women in the world who deserve to be in a newspaper I believe the most qualified candidate would be Ruth Lichtenstein, publisher and editor-in-chief of Hamodia. And I wouldn’t know what she looks like if I bumped into her in the street.
Dear Mr. Sittner,
Thank you for your response, and the opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding.
No, we do not believe that, as you said, “the only way to restore their honor and prestige is by having their photos in newspapers.” There are many avenues to honor and prestige, and of course, as you say, what is most important is our accomplishments.
However, featuring pictures has an immeasurable effect on readers. It would be impossible to outline all the ways this is true in a short letter, but we will merely reiterate that if there is value in showing pictures of men, then pictures of women have the same value; if including pictures has no value, then we can remove the pictures of men as well.
It’s not just about giving women honor, for their own sake. It’s also about showing ourselves and our children what our values are, and what we hold dear. That includes both men and women.
Ann Koffsky and Sarah Rudolph
Imagine a Satmar chasid from Williamsburg walks into a pizza shop for lunch in Teaneck, Cedarhurst, or West Hempstead and demands to the owner that they place a mechitzah down the middle of the store and start separating all the boys and girls sitting together enjoying their food. He’ll probably be kindly asked to leave or at the very least his demands will be laughed at. Sadly, your article “A Modest Proposal” is destined for the same response.
Any publisher has within their rights to print, not print, or blot out whatever they deem appropriate. You are entitled to not like it or agree with it. The same way a Zionist might find it difficult to read the editorials in The New York Times and is likely to skip those pages or boycott the Times altogether.
Your entitlement ends there. It is the epitome of arrogance to project your values and what you deem virtuous onto another culture you couldn’t possibly understand or appreciate. Just because they are frum and you are frum does not mean the cultures and values are the same. What’s important to the chasidish/yeshivish/chareidi communities are not what’s important to you and vice versa.
Your YU credentials, feminism, support for the IDF, and how many Rambams you can quote mean absolutely nothing to them. They don’t care for it nor are they seeking it out and yet from high atop your all-knowing throne you make demands of them?
Wherever you picked up the idea that you can wave the Torah and its halachahs around like it’s a document of equality did not do you any favors. It’s that type of misguided hubris and misplaced outrage that led you to think you can impose your values on a culture different than your own.
It is neither courageous nor brave to publish a letter and plug your agenda to like-minded readers. A wink and a nod from people who share your values does not advance your cause at all. You should be aware that your modern orthodox accolades and causes are worthless in places like Far Rockaway, Flatbush, Boro Park, Williamsburg, Lakewood, Monsey, or Monroe. Unless you’re actively searching for grievances and looking to be triggered, if you find yourself in any of these neighborhoods, simply don’t read their publications. I believe that somehow, they’ll get by without your approval.
Dear Mr. Horowitz,
You make an excellent point about the likely reaction to the hypothetical Satmar chasid in those communities, which is why we “demanded” nothing of the sort. Rather, what we have done is offer our perspective on a harmful practice that has begun to seep into our communities — not those of Satmar. We have also offered a suggestion, which is, from our perspective, a huge concession to those who support this practice.
We are, as you say, entitled to our perspectives — and we are also entitled to offer our suggestions. Any publisher is within their rights to print what we say or not, and we are gratified that the 5TJT has chosen to do so.
We will, however, make one request of you and others who share your perspective: As you share your views, which you are certainly as entitled as we to do, please avoid making sweeping assumptions about our characters, knowledge, or affiliations. Personal attacks do not help move the dialogue forward.
We will strive to grant you the same respect.
Ann Koffsky and Sarah Rudolph
To the Editor:
Mr. Horowitz gave an exact parallel to what’s going on in the frum world in the first scenario he gave. We’d object to someone Satmar going into the kosher pizza store with a wide clientele and forcing everyone to conform to Satmar standards, and that’s largely what’s going on here: the mores of a small section of the community are being thrust upon the rest of the community without anyone asking us.
In a few cases, with Chassidishe publications, his suggestion that we’re on “no women in pictures” turf, *might* apply (although Charedi publications even in the Chassidishe velt generally were including women’s photos until the 1990s), but when a Beis Yaakov who used to show us their staff and students on the invitation to the annual gala suddenly stops because of social (not halachic) pressure? Or a magazine which started off with women’s photos suddenly stops printing them (which recently happened in L.A., where women’s appearance in publications is the norm)? Or when billboards which used to have women able to advertise for their businesses are vandalized even though there are people in that community who welcome such ads? When people send ads and free papers to *our* homes, where women are accustomed to seeing our photos? Or when publications which are created specifically for women and marketed exclusively for women have no women’s photos in them?
The Jewish Observer – a Charedi publication – used to have women’s photos. Gedolei Yisroel permitted their wives to appear in publications about their family. What changed? Not the halachah.