Sunday, August 10, 2014

Misleading statements in the name of Achdus

Jonathan Rosenblum wrote a column describing the efforts of Mrs. Sharon Issacson a member of the "Charedi" community in Ramat Bet Shemesh, to help out women whose husbands were called up to the army to fight in Gaza. The point of the article was to show how the Charedi community has stepped up to the plate and is showing achdus with the soldiers and the Israeli people.

There is only one problem. Mrs. Sharon Issacson is not your typical Israeli Charedi. In fact, it would be hard to call her Charedi at all given her background and life today. She was raised in a Modern Orthodox home in NY and attended a co-ed elementary school and YUs Stern College. Her husband is a graduate of MTA and YU and has a law degree from Columbia NYU. He is currently the Rosh Yeshiva of Mevaseret, a 1 year American Yeshiva for modern orthodox boys in Israel. Her 2 sons went to Maarava for High School. There is 1 even more startling fact that is missing, her son is currently serving in the Israeli Army in Nachal Haredi. 

Given all of the above is it not very misleading to simply call her "Charedi"?

It seems that every time the Charedi world tries to appeal to more moderate Americans they bring examples that fall into one of 2 categories:

1. Baalei teshuva
2. They grew up in modern homes

A few years ago, Aish Hatorah published an article Women at Work which claimed that Orthodox women can work at any job that they want.

Let's get something perfectly clear: Jewish women work. One of my neighbors is a nuclear physicist. I'm a zoo veterinarian.
And nowadays, like women all over the Western world, they work in every field. Some run their own businesses or are part of a larger corporation. Here in Israel one of my neighbors is a nuclear physicist. Another is a school principal. Several good friends are lawyers. One's a pediatrician. Two are successful artists. I'm a zoo veterinarian.
My point is, little is forbidden to us. We work in the fields we want. We have open choices. We can choose to work part-time or full-time.

As I pointed out then (See Misleading statements in the name of Kiruv) if Aish Hatorah was a Modern or Centrist Orthodox institution then these statements would be perfectly true and not misleading. However, Aish Hatorah is a Charedi institution and it's goal for it's students is that they join Israeli Charedi society. The fact is that if Elizabeth had been born to a Charedi family she would not have had a choice to be a veterinarian, a nuclear physicist or anything other then a school teacher. University study is strictly prohibited. In Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak even getting a high school diploma is prohibited (see this post No Bagrut for Beis Yaakov girls?).

I find it very offensive when Charedi institutions use examples of Baalei Teshiva or people who were brought up in a more Modern home, as Rosenblum does in this case, to try to make a point about the Israeli Charedi community. It is simply not true, the are not really in the same Charedi community. A "real" Israeli Charedi would never marry any of their children for example. Americans, either Baalei teshuva or those coming from a more modern home, have a very different world view and certainly do not represent Israeli Charedi society.


Natan Slifkin said...

It's even worse than that. When Rosenblum talks about Mrs. Isaacson enlisting her "charedi" friends, these are members of Beis Tefillah, and they all grew up in Zionist homes.

Joseph said...

I am fully Chareidi through and through and I agree with this post. Chareidi women cannot and should not be able to choose any profession and Chareidim generally do not and should not support Zionist endeavors.

And Chareidim who don't like the above shouldn't pretend this is not so. Rosenblum himself is a Baal Teshuva and his views are considerably to the left of mainstream Chareidim.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

I think something important is missing here.
The women involved may have started off outside "the true derech" but they are now, by virtue of how they dress, how much Yeshivish they speak, how black their husbands hats are, etc. within that community.
Rov Nosson Tzi Finkel, zt"l, was also born in a modern home and went to a modern high school as his recent obituaries reminded us. This didn't stop the Chareidi papers from claiming him as their own "Gadol".

bluke said...


No they aren't. They are still sending their sons to Yeshivas that teach secular studies and sending their sons to the army.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Sorry, I forgot to make my point after diverting in the last paragraph.
The point is that their dress, their Yeshivish, etc. define them as Chareidi, not their actions.
Another thing to consider is that they're doing this at all. Many BT's are extremely hostile to their former backgrounds. They do this to compensate for not being FFB, like "being more German than the Germans". That these women still connect to their former lives and see them as worth associating with is remarkable too.

Avi Greengart said...


That's nice, but they're still not representative of the larger community.

Sharon Isaacson said...

As the subject of this post and the ensuing comments, I'd like to set a few facts straight:

1. Yes, Beis Tefillah is comprised mostly of families who were originally MO/ YU and moved in to the chareidi world. And there are some baalei teshuva that attend as well. However, I can name quite a number of YFB (yeshivish from birth) people who attend Beis Tefillah as well, who are actually involved in my project.

2. Although a good number of my women volunteers are from Beis Tefillah and fit the above profile, I have many volunteers who are from outside of Beis Tefillah and who are YFB. Amongst these I have a significant number of volunteers from the Kiryah HaChareidit in BS, and others from other kehillot in RBS such as Pnei Shmuel, the GRA, etc. So Rabbi Slifkin's comment is just not factually correct. I would be happy to list these people off line if anyone is interested.

3. My husband did NOT get a law degree from Columbia. (He got it from NYU :)