Somewhere along our recent Jewish timeline, women have vanished from our publications. Their names unmentioned in favor of “the wife of” a man with a name. Their pictures deleted no matter how modestly they are dressed. Married couples are honored in the community but only pictures of the husbands are printed. Women are being told that we should neither be seen nor heard. Being a woman is now something to be ashamed of.
But Orthodox Jewish publications used to print pictures of women, even ones dressed “immodestly” by today’s standards. So what gives? I don’t want to raise children in a world where there are no righteous women worthy of mention. I don’t want the girls in my community to read about “the wife of” someone rather than a woman with a name, as if her greatest accomplishment in life was to marry a man. Both girls and boys need visual representations of role models who are both women and men. It seems that the further along the world came in the fight for women’s rights, the further back the Jewish community jumped.
Is the simple idea of women’s rights so fear inducing that we must leap into a sexist rage and erase any evidence of a gender that makes up half of the population? Is the masculinity of our Jewish males so fragile that our simple request for a seat in a shul in which we might actually see and hear the Rabbi threatens the very core of their being?
It seems so. But no man will admit that. So instead, all of the women vanish under the veil of modesty. Who decided that pictures of 7 year old girls are immodest? If the picture of a young girl dressed modestly does something for you, the problem lies with you, not the young girl. They tell us that women are so precious and so special and that by publishing pictures of women, they would be sexualizing them and turning them into objects. But they’re wrong. NOT publishing pictures of women turns them into objects. Every Jewish women is sexualized if they’re never seen or heard from.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what prompted, what seems like, the entire female Jewish community to speak up about this issue now. “In Her Place” by Sruli Besser was recently published in Mishpacha and hit the nerves of women from every sect of Judaism who then came out of the woodworks and voiced their opinions loud and clear. Women who have been keeping their voices quiet because it wasn’t bad enough yet. They weren’t offended enough yet. But this was the last straw. Women who fought and tried to regain their dignity and place within Judaism were told that they are raging hysterical liberal feminists with an agenda and that they must not love Judaism enough. I, for one, am not a raging hysterical liberal feminist with an agenda. But I sure as hell am an Orthodox Jewish woman with an agenda – to be treated as your equal. Such a simple idea. Truly revolutionary.
But in order to complete this agenda, we need everyone on board. The men who should probably sit in the women’s section of a synagogue for a few days and feel our pain, the women who insist they’re not bothered and don’t see the problem with the erasure of other women all the while being unknowingly sexualized themselves, the companies still placing ads in magazines that do not picture women, etc.
This can’t and won’t happen on its own. So much damage has already been done that we need to reverse. Women and men have gathered and flooded the inboxes of Jewish publications detailing the dangers of the removal of women and begging for change. Whether you’re a man or a woman, if you care about this issue at all, reach out today by emailing Jewish publications, sharing this to spread awareness, finding the appropriate groups on Facebook, and most importantly – talking about it to every single person you know.
By: The Wife Of