Monday, April 14, 2008

'Lying' for Kiruv

A couple of weeks ago, Marty Bluke posted what I thought was an astute observation about how certain Kiruv organizations work. I believe that what they do is dishonest and in the end can be counter-productive. It is one of those circumstances where one can technically actually tell the truth and yet mislead at the same time. I don’t often do this but Marty’s post is so on the money, it bears repeating in its entirety I could not have said it better myself.

Aish Hatorah published an article Women at Work which claims that Orthodox women can work at any job that they want.

Let's get something perfectly clear: Jewish women work. One of my neighbors is a nuclear physicist. I'm a zoo veterinarian...

And nowadays, like women all over the Western world, they work in every field. Some run their own businesses or are part of a larger corporation. Here in Israel one of my neighbors is a nuclear physicist. Another is a school principal. Several good friends are lawyers. One's a pediatrician. Two are successful artists. I'm a zoo veterinarian...

My point is, little is forbidden to us. We work in the fields we want. We have open choices. We can choose to work part-time or full-time.

If Aish Hatorah was a Modern or Centrist Orthodox institution then these statements would be perfectly true and not misleading. However, Aish Hatorah is a Charedi institution and its goal for its students is that they join Israeli Charedi society. The fact is that if Elizabeth had been born to a Charedi family she would not have had a choice to be a veterinarian, a nuclear physicist or anything other then a school teacher.

University study is strictly prohibited. In Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak even getting a high school diploma is prohibited (see this post No Bagrut for Beis Yaakov girls?). All the women that she brings as examples fall into one of 2 categories:

1. Baalei teshuva

2. They grew up in modern homes

None of the women cited grew up in a Charedi home in Israel, because if they had they would not be where they are today.In addition to the issue with secular education and university, there is an issue of tznius. In many parts of the Israeli Charedi world women are not allowed to drive a car because it is not tzanua. There are many seforim published in the last few years on tznius which prohibit women from working in any non-religious workplace. Therefore to state little is forbidden to us is misleading if not an outright lie according to Aish Hatorah's hashkafa.

I find it very offensive when Charedi kiruv institutions use examples of Baalei Teshiva or people who were brought up in a more Modern home. Using these people as examples of how well religious Jews can fit into society is very misleading when the institutions themselves don't believe in that hashkafa. According to Charedi hashkafa, Modern Orthodoxy is pasul and University study is prohibited, yet those are the examples they site when trying to be mekarev people.

None of the faculty at Aish Hatorah in Yerushalayim send their daughters to university and their daughters do not have the ability to do what they want. They will be kollel wives who support their husbands by teaching or being a secretary, cashier etc. They have absolutely no choice to be Veterinarians, Nuclear Physicists, Lawyers, etc. To say otherwise is simply a lie.