By Eliana Katz
Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece. It is intended to spark discussion and debate. It is not the opinion of Beit T’Shuvah but a sole individual from within, who subscribes both to Orthodox Judaism and Rabbi Mark Borovitz’s obvious though ground-breaking notion of being ‘Just Jewish.’
Many of you probably know that 40,000 Hassidic Men gathered a few days ago at Citi Field in NYC to discuss the dangers of the Internet in the home of Hassidic Jews. Women were not welcome in the gathering. This gathering has garnered much backlash, on multiple levels, from a variety of people, including incensed Jews. Hassidic Jews may mutter in Yiddish with wagging, cautionary fingers of the dangers of Internet addiction, but it seems the Internet is roaring with disapproval in response.
I came across quite a few riled responses. Here are some:
But then, via my college roommate I came across this article- a response from an educated and even humorous Hassidic woman on all the backlash. What Women’s Media Needs to Know About Hassidic Women
Needless to say, she, and many other Facebook friends had quite a few. All of which were coming down very strongly on Chaya.
Perhaps it’s my lifelong Orthodox Jewry or maybe my perpetual love for the underdog, but I felt the need to respond- something I rarely do on Facebook! I felt myself conflicted with the same arguments as my peers, but at the same time, encouraged by her words.
Here are my thoughts- I’d LOVE to hear yours! [copied straight off my Facebook post- so pardon any typos!]
“Oh my goodness, where to begin. I had so much to say and after reading article after article, comment after comment, alas i am deflated. On the one hand, as your resident ‘nonfeminist who respects feminism’ friend, I felt compelled to defend Chaya. However misguided, she paints an articulate, humorous, compelling visual of her hassidic joy. As a relatively observant orthodox jew, who is, by feminist terms ‘oppressed’ in a lot of the same ways chaya speaks of, i actually agree with chaya in that i find my life and many of it’s rules rewarding. and i dont think that makes me ignorant or small minded. i live by choices, and i choose my orthodoxy each day, in whatever form it takes, and it fulfills me. Perhaps, as Deborah feldman points out, that is a luxury. I was not brought up to be *completely* ostracized for my less religious choices, or at least there’s little that I have chosen that I cannot win the support of my family with an articulate conversation. And, in another support to Chaya’s argument, this is her turn to tell her story. We’ve heard all the stories of rape, molestation, domestic abuse, lack of education, etc. But we cry out in anguish if someone expresses that she might just be happy. We only know what we hear, or at best, what we inspect. But we are not hassidic jews. Or at least, I am not. And i don’t claim to know the universally experienced emotion (happiness or sadness) of an entire sect of people. (Ironically, nor should she, but i’ll get to that point). On the flipside, i do agree that Chaya is speaking in a vacuum. Though i don’t live in the hassidic world, as I just argued, I think it’s a pretty plain fact that most hassidic women are not college graduates who blog. I also felt she unveiled a bit of her small mindedness by claiming that being described as ‘ants marching into a building’ or whatever was tantamount to the jew-as-insect metaphor of WWII. It’s a fucking descriptive. It’s painting a visual. It’s not an anti-semitic slur. Those kinds of accusations, well, breed…anti-semitism. I guess all in all I am fond of her for taking a stab at defending her happiness and her choices, though I do find her ‘skinny-jeaned coke-snorting’ diatribe to be heavily misguided. I will say that I am happy to see a right wing orthodox jewish woman who is bold and articulate enough to make an argument for herself on the internet, though perhaps unaware of the backlash it would garner. Frankly, the compelling stories are always about rape and discrimination. As my husband (Yes- I chose marriage) jokes about me, I tend to prefer the movies with ‘transgender amputee meth-heads who are bipolar’ over the rom-coms. But I think it’s ok to read about something as boring as happiness and not have such a guttural, revolted reaction.”