I’m very proud to say that I’m an NCSY alumna.
Most people who met me as an adult would not believe this, but when I was growing up, I was painfully shy and awkward and I was like that until well into my teens. It was very hard for me to meet people and make friends. NCSY gave me a haven of sorts. I was born and raised Orthodox, but as the leaders would say, Orthodox kids need kiruv too; they just need a different kind of kiruv. Well, I got that special kiruv and it worked. I even got my first boyfriend in NCSY and several years later, I got my last boyfriend in NCSY (he’s now my husband).
Recently, NCSY advertised their Community Shabbat. The ad was poorly done and while it showed photos of the women who were speaking, it put them in a “segregated” position on the ad. When it appeared on social media, it got quite a bit of anger ranging from sarcasm to threats of no more donations. I was one of many who asked for some moderation — yes, NCSY needs to know about this, but we need not vilify them. A number of people did contact NCSY to bring this to their attention and to their credit, they rose to the occasion and put together an ad that was much more appealing overall and NOT demeaning to the women.
One point that I made was that I myself had not paid any attention to the erasure of women until others started talking and writing about it. I figured that NCSY may have simply not been paying attention. The leaders are only human and they make mistakes, but they do not demean women. In fact, many of their finest leaders have been women. And when the issue was brought up, they did the right thing.
But this points out a big problem with the erasure and demeaning of women. Too many people just don’t notice. Either they’re like me and it just didn’t show up on their radar or it did show up but they figured that it’s a Charedi thing and doesn’t apply outside of that world. The erasure and demeaning of women has been insidious. It started small and now it’s reached the point that even NCSY could make a mistake like this.
Well, we just got a wake-up call. Erasure and demeaning of women does show up in our world. It’s not just a chumra that doesn’t affect us- it affects all of us. As my friend Ann Koffsky said, “It’s MY community too.”
There are those who say that we shouldn’t be attacking a community just because they think differently. First, like my friend and I say, it’s OUR community too. Second, there’s a big difference between raising awareness vs. attacking others. Groups like Chochmat Nashim and Frum Women Have Faces know very well that attacking doesn’t work and that it’s about raising awareness. We raised NCSY’s awareness and they rose to the occasion.
The simple fact is that we need to raise awareness. We need to pay attention and do what we can to make sure that our faces are seen and our voices are heard.