Sunday, June 07, 2009

Mehadrin Buses – Frumkeit at its Worst

After watching this video news clip all I could think of is how happy I am that I don't live in a city like Bnei Brak! Mehadrin buses seem to be increasing and become the standard in Charedi enclaves. From VIN:

The committee, headed by Transportation Ministry deputy director general Alex Langer, received 6,300 written comments from the public asking for the operation of such special lines around the country. Such bus lines would have separate seating for men and women.

But there is dissent:

Some 1,300 wrote in objecting to the lines, including about 100 from the ultra-Orthodox community.

I guess not all Charedim buy into this new Chumra. I’m happy there is finally a backlash.

Why does the most radical element of Chasidim have the right to insist that it is their standard must be everyone's standard? Why must the dignity of a Jewish woman who prefers to sit with her husband get short shrift?

This is a symptom of a much greater issue. It is about a Chasidic standards taking over all of Orthodoxy – mostly in Israel but incrementally in the US too. I know that there are people who will defend Mehadrin buses. But I am so tired of this extreme push to the right and their defenders.

I am aware that many non Chasidic Charedim are not opposed to the idea of segregated buses and in fact may appreciate it. But the result is that secular, modern Orthodox and now even some brave Charedim have declared that do not want to live like this. And yet they are increasingly being forced to - by circumstances beyond their control.

There are Teshuvos of Rav Moshe Feinstein that permit traveling on crowded mixed buses. I know the argument that considers this Teshuva a B'Dieved. And that the better choice is to choose a segregated bus. But how far do we go with this? How many people must be inconvenienced to accommodate the latest Chumra imposed by extremist Chasidim? Why should husbands and wives be forced to sit separately?

Is no end to taking on every Chumra in the search for finding the most Tznius way to travel? At what point does human dignity play a part? Yes, many women may actually prefer this mode of travel. But what about those who don’t? How many women actually prefer sitting in the back of a bus? How far must one go out of mainstream living before we realize that we are descending into a world of Chumros that our parents never knew?

Is this how Jews want to live their lives? Is this how Jews - SHOULD - live their lives? I do not believe that. I do not believe that God wants women to sit in the back of a bus while men sit comfortably in the front.

Why not have the men sit in the back?!

Yes I know that men would have to see the tops of the back of women's head coverings if they sat in the back... or actually see them get on the bus, walk over to their seats, and actually sit down! You know what? Too bad!

The fact that they feel that this is the most Tznius way of doing it just doesn't make up for the inconvenience and indignity it causes others. And it really smacks of male chauvinism - deny it though these Chasidim will. Especially when women get beaten if they dare to sit in the front of an empty bus! I know, I know. These are exceptions. But this never happened at all ten years ago before Mehadrin buses came into existence.

If this makes me less religious than the Chasidim of Meah Shearim and Bnei Brak, then I wear that badge proudly! There is apparently at least one Charedi Rav in Bnei Brak that agrees with me:

This week a relatively unknown yeshiva head from Bnei Brak, Rabbi Yosef Haim Nakash, raised a storm when he published a signed article on the well-known ultra-Orthodox Internet site Bechadrei Chadarim.

Nakash came out strongly against those not only demanding separation of the sexes on buses but even on the street.

"When did such a prohibition emerge that a married couple is not allowed to sit next to each other," he asked. "The public is not willing! At least a large part [of the public] is interested in being with their family, as has been customary for generations... At this rate, in a few years, or even months, we will not be able to leave the house together," wrote Nakash.

Good for him. I just feel bad for all the flak is is probably getting. Finally. Someone to stand up and tell the emperor he has lost his marbles!