Sunday, March 30, 2008

Misleading statements in the name of Kiruv

Aish Hatorah published an article Women at Work which claims 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.

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?). All the women that she brings as examples fall into one of 2 categories:

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

None of the women cited grew up in a Charedi home in Israel, because if they had they would not be where they are today.

In addition to the issue with secular education and university, there is an issue of tznius. In many parts of the Israeli Charedi world women are not allowed to drive a car because it is not tzanua. There are many seforim published in the last few years on tznius which prohibit women from working in any non-religious workplace. Therefore to state little is forbidden to us is misleading if not an outright lie according to Aish Hatorah's hashkafa.

I find it very offensive when Charedi kiruv institutions use examples of Baalei Teshiva or people who were brought up in a more Modern home. Using these people as examples of how well religious Jews can fit into society is very misleading when the institutions themselves don't believe in that hashkafa. According to Charedi hashkafa, Modern Orthodoxy is pasul and University study is prohibited, yet those are the examples they site when trying to be mekarev people. None of the faculty at Aish Hatorah in Yerushalayim send their daughters to university and their daughters do not have the ability to do what they want. They will be kollel wives who support their husbands by teaching or being a secretary, cashier etc. They have absolutely no choice to be Veterinarians, Nuclear Physicists, Lawyers, etc. To say otherwise is simply a lie.


Lion of Zion said...

oh man, this is a post i've wanted to write for a while. chabad does this all the time.

Commenter Abbi said...

I totally agree with you, but perhaps, (not sure why I'm being DLKZ, but whatever) it is a bit looser in the US. Not that many BY grads in the states are going to study nuclear physics, there are no complete bans on uni there like there are in israel.

Baruch said...

I think you miss the larger picture.

If I understand Aish's philosophy correctly, their goal for most of the girls who marry their boys is not kollel, but kiruv and/or supporting their husbands in American kiruv. That's something which differs Aish from Ohr David, Midrash Shmuel, Toras Moshe, Mir, Brisk, and other "mainstream" chareidi yeshivot.

Now, if it's any testimony at all, the rebbetzins I know who are married to these American kiruv types are mostly educated and in good job fields.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

This is why kiruv has become such a big industry in the Chareidi community. Having creating a system in which women are not allowed to get a real education, yet must support their husbands and children as well as be able to afford a nice sheitl, they have found themselves in a pickle.

So the easiest answer is imports. Consider Yonasan Rosenblum. An excellent writer, extremely well educated and a good debater but only because he grew up outside the Chareidi world and then entered into it. It's the same with these women. They and their skills have been imported from the secular world but had their grown up in the Bais Yaakov system the odds are that they'd never have achieved what they did.

max said...

Just curious... Are there any non-Charedi kiruv institutions with a track record of success, comparable to that of AishHaTorah (honestly, I did not fully realize till today that Aish is Charedi). The cynical part of me whispers, perhaps non-Charedim are not secured enough in their Judaism to reach out to their brethren who had strayed from Judaism. But that could not be true. I hope I will be proven wrong.

-suitepotato- said...

Solution: anyone who goes in for the kiruv routine who matches the baalei teshuva etc. mold and comes pre-educated with good prospects should raise their kids the same way. Stay on the periphery in permanent arm's length from the central core of silly chumrot. When anyone asks, point back to the kiruv statements and say innocently, "but look, even rabbi (so and so) said so. It must be so then, right?"