Friday, March 28, 2008

Burka's Law

By now, the word of the arrest of the leader of the Burka women for child abuse of the most unspeakable and inexcrable sorts, is common knowledge. (If you're not in the know, see Sari Makover-Balikov's interview with her before the arrest; and the sordid details here, here, and here.) The responses one hears around (in shul, in the library, and the media) are a mix of schadenfreude and dismissiveness (as in 'They're crazy' or 'They're crazy בעלי תשובה').

Personally, after I heard the news, I felt more of the former than the latter. Indeed, the tendency among both Haredim and Dat'im to dismiss the Burka phenomenon and its denouement as the perversity of some crazy returnees is self-serving, irresponsible and malignant.

It is self-serving because it exculpates many in the Orthodox world who, while objecting to the Burkas (obviously the abuse is a pathology), have become increasingly obsessed with female modesty as the sole significant issue facing the Torah in contemporary society. (Men, evidently, need not be modest.) The solution to every social woe (Drugs, promiscuity, Gossip, Theft, and Talking in Shul) is always (as one therapist noted): 'Throw another smatte on the women.' In other words, the crazies simply read the signals that inundate the community and are constantly preached by rabbis, educators and others and took them to their logical (if absurd) conclusions.

It is irresponsible, by extension, because it means that the same obsessive behavior that is advocated by our modern day Torquemadas will not come under criticism.

It is irresponsible because it turns a blind eye to real, serious problems that gnaw away at the community.

It is malignant because it continues the self-congratulating posture, elitist attitude and foul discrimination that characterizes the attitudes of many 'Frum From Birth'ers to 'Ba'alei Teshivah.' The latter brag about the former. In the Haredi world, especially, however, they will not let them into their schools, play with their children or ( a fortiori) marry them.

Now, in light of the total break down of morality (sexual and otherwise) in Western Society, I understand why there is great concern for modesty as a means of saving the family as an institution and protecting our children from a myriad of מרעין בישין. Appropriate clothing is part of that struggle. It is not, however, the solution. It is only one small element thereof. [The same should be said of the Jim Crow buses, but I'll save that for another time.]

It is time that we take a closer look at the issues and the challenges. It is time we engaged them, rather than covering them up (תרתי משמע). If we don't, the Burkas will come back to haunt us.

8 comments:

frumhouse said...

Great post. I will be coming back to read more in the future. Thanks for the link.

Anonymous said...

The solution to every social woe (Drugs, promiscuity, Gossip, Theft, and Talking in Shul) is always (as one therapist noted): 'Throw another smatte on the women.'
===========================
I get the impression it's more - separate the men from the women.

KT
Joel Rich

robert said...

"Now, in light of the total break down of morality (sexual and otherwise) in Western Society, I understand why there is great concern for modesty as a means of saving the family as an institution and protecting our children from a myriad of מרעין בישין."

I believe that this attitude of "the total breakdown of morality" itself leads to the extreme attitude displayed by the chareidim. Then the syagim themselves cannot be breached, so more safeguards are enacted and legislated. this leads to an unending cycle of villfication of society, and more extreme safeguards, and safeguards for the safeguards.

I do not believe that the general society is as morally corrupt as is portrayed. It is a dangerous attitude for us to have, as is portrayed by the frumka phenomenon.

It is time for all to realize that a woman showing her knees or elbows or hair, (or even her shoulders) or wearing pants is not going to lead to the total breakdown of morality in society.

Leora said...

Good post. Sort of like treating the symptoms but ignoring the underlying ailment...I believe you are saying we need to look at the underlying ailment.

Kohelet said...

On the lighter side of this horrific story, see the video entitled Burka Babes made in honor of Purim BEFORE this story became known.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhob7kZcjYk

Anonymous said...

herschel schachter said publicly that bts and ffbs should not marry.
and it happens to make sense. i would not sacrifice a marriage on the altar of equality.
bts just have a different approach to frumkeit and the world. i could even see why a bt would prefer a bt to an ffb.

Ben Bayit said...

There's very little difference between this case and Marc Gafni. In a way they were both out to undermine rabbinical authority and were both femenists of sorts.

I don't buy into your arguments - one could just as easily suggest that those who would undermine rabbinical authority and hundreds of years of tradition and legal rulings will inevitably attract the crazies.....and sickos. Another reason to stay away from orgs such as Kolech......

Lady-Light said...

I posted about this strange phenomenon January 2008: http://lady-light.blogspot.com/2008/01/hijab-for-jewish-women.html
I had not heard until today (been out of blogging mode, due to Israel trip & Pesach cleaning)that the 'leader' had been arrested. We Jews have a problem with a chumrahs-of-the-week mentality, and I believe that attitude is causing many of these problems. We are losing the 'forest' for the 'trees,' and creating 'trees' that aren't really there at all.
p.s., I would be honored if you would blogroll me (and of course, vice versa). Please email me & let me know, thanks.