My Way or the Highway

I think we have seen this movie before. But this time, it looks like perhaps the script MIGHT be changing.

Following a slogan of “No votes without representation,” Haredi women have launched a campaign that would appear to be a step towards major change. In an open letter to the Haredi rabbinic leadership a group of Haredi women write:

“This is the moment for historic justice, and it’s in your hands. We are convinced that female representation will succeed in bringing our concerns to the Knesset in a fair and just manner. There are many talented haredi women who would be happy to faithfully handle public needs.

“The time has come for us to receive the respect we deserve as primary bread-winners and as those who hold the world of Torah on our backs, in the form of appropriate female representation in the Haredi lists. We will respect any suitable female representative that you choose and we will feel that she is our emissary, the emissary of 50% of your voters.”

The request/demand/suggestion is very logical and very legitimate. They say that it is time that they had a voice at the table, via representation. After all, they are the ones seeing to it that there is bread on that very table.

No doubt it took a lot of courage in the Haredi community to pen such a letter and to then state that without women having a voice on the slate of United Torah Judaism, and without women’s names on the party’s list, they will boycott the elections.

Swiftly and without batting an eyelash, the reaction from a senior member of UTJ was quick in coming. Rather than “merely” tell the women to stand down, Rabbi Mordechai Blau went further and issued threats to ALL Haredi women. If they do not toe the party line and they do not vote UTJ, then there kids will be ousted from their schools, etc etc etc.

So, rather than listen to a legitimate approach and/or to enable the Haredi women to have their voices heard, one of the leaders of the UTJ threatens and coerces and bullies and intimidates these women. How absolutely antithetical to Torah and a true Torah life. Let’s assume for a moment that Rabbi Blau is virulently against this move. Let’s further assume he does not want to see any advancement of their “agenda.” He has many options available to him to publicly make it known that, in his opinion, these women are “mis-guided” or perhaps seeking to do what is antithetical to Torah. He can plaster pashkivilim all over Meah Shearim if he wants to do demand that these woman consult the wisest of sages of our days so that they can see the error of their ways.

But, no! That is not what he does. He resorts to mafioso tactics that are used by mafia dons and other wonderful fraternities of brotherly love. His tactics–his threats and scare tactics–are the actions that are antithetical to Torah and to דרכיה דרכי נועם (“all of His ways are indeed pleasant”). But that is not all…there has been no outcry from Gedolim saying that this is wrong. This is not what we, as G-d fearing Jews, do. We do not threaten, bully, manipulate or intimidate.

Yes, I know, many reading these lines are shaking their heads side to side and thinking that I am SO naive and that this is nothing new. Well, why must we always sit on the sidelines and allow such vitriol? In the days of Korach, the biggest mistake the general Jewish population did was to sit on the sidelines and not do anything.

Rather than allow this abuse (and it IS abuse, no matter how you slice it) to be promulgated, we should be giving a HUGE Yasher Koach to these 3,000+ women and give them all kinds of kudos and chizuk!

May these “pioneers,” these modern-day Nachshon ben Aminadav’s be rewarded for their actions and see their efforts bear fruit. May they be granted the strength to keep at it in the face of antagonism and threats.

About the Author
After living in Chicago for 50 years, the last 10 of which Zev Shandalov served as a shul Rav and teacher in local Orthodox schools, his family made Aliya to Maale Adumim in July 2009. Shandalov currently works as a teacher, mostly interacting with individual students.