Wednesday, 15 May 2013


there is a boys' school here, in ramat beit shemesh, which i shall not name. we'll call it school X. It's led by a rabbi - naturally - he is the menahel and general Leader. we'll not name him either, let's call him rabbi Y. I can think of many other names i'd like to call him, but we'll stick to Y.

I heard something else about this man - sorry, rabbi - tonight, which made me feel sick. Oh no it's not what you're thinking, just some light objectification of women and elevation of chumra to a place where it does not belong. small beer.

there's this family we know who applied to school X for their son. they had a great interview with rabbi Y, everything was fine, the boys interviewed well, they interviewed well, it was all groovy - until they were turned down for the school. they had no idea why. they pressed and pressed rabbi Y until finally they were told...the wife's skirt was too short. it covered her knees, yes, but it was just a little too short.

there was no woman interviewing them. only rabbi Y. so you know what that means? oh yes, he must have looked at her legs, and looked at them again, had a pretty decent long glance to ascertain that yep, those legs were too visible. Or, in my re-interpretation, i imagine that he felt those legs made him feel uncomfortable. maybe her legs were rather more attractive than some other legs that walk into his office for an interview. in that kind of situation, there are two conclusions: either there is something wrong with her tzniut, or there is something missing in my concentration on Hashem. we know which he chose.

we interviewed at school X for our child, also. we did not get in. we were asked about whether i would cover my legs - he is very liberal, is rabbi Y, a long skirt and closed shoes are just as acceptable as a short (not toooo short) skirt and tights. I replied that i do not view it as a halacha, but that living in a society where it is the norm, i am willing to follow those societal norms. it was not good enough. we did not get a place.

at our interview, rabbi Y himself told us a story to emphasise their dedication to their values, that they do not just take in people who pay lip service to the takanos and then ignore them. he told of this woman - woman Z, how about that - whose son was given a place in the school, but during the summer vacation, before he took up his place, she was seen without socks on. upon being confronted about this, she apologised and said that she had just run out of her house for a moment to get something quickly, and she really always covered her legs (and feet) - but to no avail, she was told that school X just perhaps is not the right shidduch for her and she should look somewhere else for her son.

i heard from a friend who has a friend who also interviewed for this school. my friend's friend told her that rabbi Y at school X had told her that he was not sure if she was right for the school, so they would not give her son a place, but they would watch her and her family, for a year, to see if they were appropriate for it, and then they might give him a place. or not.

at our interview, not once was my husband asked how often he learnt. nor was i asked how often i learnt. or if i make challah with a bracha ever, or how much tzedaka we give and which causes we prioritise, or to explain rashi on bava kama, or if we are ethical in our business dealings and always pay our cleaners on time, or if my husband ever wears a coloured shirt or a t-shirt or jeans. the very idea of such questions sounds laughable, doesn;t it? it should be as laughable as asking a woman if she always covers her legs and feet.

all this is what makes me sick. there is this man, rabbi Y, who looks hard enough at women to be able to tell that their skirts cover the knee but not quite enough, who looks at women's legs to see if they are wearing tights. he tells us that he believes in ahavat yisrael, that he can't stand it when people make insulting jokes about rav kook zt"l or rav soloveitchik zt"l, but he considers that families with kids in school A are just 'not a good shidduch' with his students in his school. this man is the 'respected and chashuvah' leader of a shul, leader of a school, he speaks oh-so-passionately about torah and mitzvos, and yet he takes a chumra - which he knows is a chumra - and elevates it to a place somewhere beyond being kovea ittim batorah.

the objectification of women takes my breath away. the hypocrisy of claiming a deep commitment to ahavat yisrael, while gently drawing a distinction between all those families in gush etzion who are committed to learning torah but the women don;t cover their legs ("it's a great mehalech but it's not our way", he told us that in our interview also).

and what else makes me sick is the reason why i have said school X and rabbi Y all the way through. i've anonymised this because my husband asked me too, because school X has a reputation for great chinuch, and we might want to send one of our boys there one time (though i wonder if a school built on chitzoniyus and superficiality can have great chinuch, all the way down, but it does seem to). it makes me sick to feel that i am not confronting rabbi Y and speaking my mind (and those of you who know me well know i would) because i am scared that my children will suffer. i am infuriated that i have been muzzled and cuffed by the power rabbi Y possesses.

all i can repeat to myself is 'olam hafuch hu olam hafuch hu'. rabbi Y is only chashuvah because we live in a olam hafuch, where that which is superficial is rewarded. one day i imagine rabbi Y will be called to account for his actions. and he will say 'but i meant well, i did it all l'shem shamayim'. it reminds me of where chazal tell us that in the time to come esav/edom will say to Hashem 'look at the torah i supported! look at all the ways i have served You!' and Hashem will say 'no, you did it all for your own purposes'. you can say that i am being too harsh, but this is my rant and i'll be as harsh as i like.

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