As long as I can remember, I’ve tasted my father’s culinary experiments: blown up pizzas, fish falafel balls, tahini combinations, and endless savory meatballs. For as long as I can remember, my father has become bored of idle Shabbos table chatter in the dining room, and he has deserted it to clean the dishes in the kitchen. For as long as I can remember, my mother has been a CEO of a security firm. For as long as I can remember, my mother has spoken to government employees, signed prestigious contracts, and has represented her company in court. For as long as I can remember, new acquaintances in the Five Towns ignorantly asked, “So how is it working for your husband,” and my mother has smiled grimly.
The boy in the YU beit midrash told me today that, “for as long,” as an irrelevant amount of time, women weren’t allowed into a beit midrash. No, excuse me. He said girls. I, a 20-year-old “girl,” had violated Yeshiva University policy and entered the ultimate man-cave: the Glueck Beit Midrash. He proceeded to instruct me to leave the space because I distracted the men with my presence. Men, who were fine studying secular subjects alongside “girls” in the library housed in that very same building. Men who continued swaying over the Gemaras unbothered by the debacle. Men who only consider me a sexual deviant when G-d is involved. They alone claim ownership to the pursuit of His sanctuary.
The Rambam became a doctor because he did not believe in financial compensation for Divine work. Yeshiva University not only monetizes on Divinity, it discriminates in its name. When I told the young boy who instructed me to leave, “Aren’t Batei Midrash houses of Hashem and wouldn’t Hillel, a man who nearly froze to death on a skylight of a Beit midrash, completely disagree with Torah inequality.” He told “Bataei Midrash are for men, and if they so desire, they can include women. My voice began to rise, “Do you realize how problematic you are being? If this was an all-white Beit Midrash and a Black man wandered in only to be told he can go to a mixed one, wouldn’t that be racist? You can’t typify people based on race and gender? That’s incredibly problematic. I do not belong to a “class of girls.” In unusual fashion, I became aware of my high volume, and I lowered my voice in respect of those learning around me and instructed him to do as well. I no longer felt as if the books around me were my haven; they glowered under the inequality of the 19th century.
My mother is a CEO and my father is her president. Shortly after seminary, my mother came home from work and she and I proceeded to eat supper. “Aren’t you going to thank me for the food?” my father muttered disgruntled. “Aren’t you going to thank me for a hard day at work?” my mother replied. I chuckled. It was a classic gender role reversal. It was a classic Daphna moment. I am forever grateful to these moments of class. Men and women do not subscribe to the gender roles society prescribes. My father can cook, but he also can compost and work creatively on a new business venture. My mother can boss around employees, but she also can dance ballet and garden.
In recognizing the stupidity of sexism and gender typification, Title IX withholds federal funding from any sexist academic institution receiving it. If Yeshiva University continues to only sexualize woman, they should not be eligible for government support. If the next generation of Modern Orthodox men do not see women as partners in the study of their most precious pursuit, how can they ever acknowledge them as equal?
Thankfully, we do not live in a time where people are separated based on the color of their skin. There can be no “all-white” beit midrash. As the Supreme Court ruled, “separate but equal is inherently unequal.” People cannot be typified based on the ridiculous prejudice of skin-color. Women should not be subjugated based on the biological reality of their sex. All people are equal. All people are divine. All people deserve to know G-d. All people should have the opportunity.