Meira E. Schneider-Atik
marching to the beat of my own drummer

One Big Misconception

None of us likes to admit this, but abuse does happen in the Jewish community. There are members of Orthodox Jewish communities who are abusers. No, they don’t look or talk like abusers, but they do terrible things in many different forms.  

We know that it happens in our communities. And we don’t want it. We want to solve the problem. But when it comes to abuse, there’s a huge misconception that’s been around for a long time. I heard it many times before I got married and then many more times since then. It goes like this:

“Judaism is bad/Jewish law is bad/traditional marriage is bad/let’s toss it all aside.” 

Why is this a misconception? Because you cannot solve a problem by doing the very thing that caused it in the first place

Abuse is not condoned by Torah law. Ever. Our Torah demands that all human beings be treated with the dignity that comes with being created B’Tzelem Elokim. The abusers are the ones who toss Judaism and Torah law aside in favor of their own desires for power and control. And most of the time, if not all of the time, they take Halacha and twist and corrupt it so as to justify what they do and/or to keep victims or anyone else from calling it out.

Whether it’s by promoting and/or defending the practices of erasing and silencing women; by abusing family members verbally, psychologically, or physically; by refusing to give a Gett; by enabling a gett-refuser; or by committing sexual crimes, these are all abuses and NONE of them are condoned by Halacha. 

I’m sure there’s someone out there asking how I can compare not using photos of women in publications to abuse. My answer is that it’s not actually a comparison but a starting point. When women’s faces are erased from view, it takes away our humanity and allows others to see us as objects. That’s all it takes for abusers to think that what they do is somehow OK. 

Recently, there was a shiur in my shul and the rabbi giving it said that one of Hashem’s greatest gifts to us is the ability to use our Bechirah Chofshit (free choice) to do the right thing. The abusers are the ones who are using their Bechirah Chofshit to toss aside Halacha and what Hashem wants in favor of what they want. And we need to call that out. 

Which brings me to my next point. While the abusers are definitely guilty, the rest of us are NOT off the hook. We have a lot of work to do both as individuals and as a community.  

Are we taking whatever strong stand we can against these abuses? Are we still paying money to read publications that erase women from view? Or are we cancelling our subscriptions and telling them why? Are we providing safe spaces within our communities for victims to speak up? Are we validating them? Or are we equivocating and saying things like “we need to be careful about Shmirat HaLashon”? Are we reaching out to divorcees and treating them like members of our community? Or are we allowing them to be marginalized? Are we treating known gett-refusers as the bad guys that they are and shunning them? Or are we allowing them to go about their business as usual? And do we justify this by saying that we’re mediating?

The problems of abuse (of all kinds) are started by people who toss aside what Hashem wants in favor of what they want. We will not solve these problems by doing the same. Instead, we need to call out the abuses and refocus on what Hashem wants. This is how we brought Geulah throughout our history and it’s how we can bring Geulah now.

About the Author
Meira E. Schneider-Atik is a wardrobe stylist, personal shopper, and writer/blogger. Her goal is to help women feel good about themselves and to dispel the myths about tzniut and dressing well. Her heart is in Eretz Yisrael, but for now, she and her family live in Queens, NY.
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