Wednesday, January 31, 2018

When One Outrage Leads to Another

Small pixelated face in a Holocaust picture as it appeared in Mishpacha (The JC)
An article dealing with the Holocaust in last week’s Mishpacha Magazine has generated quite a sense of outrage. Not about the story told in that article. But by the fact that they pixelated the face of a woman in a Holocaust era picture. So angry was Shoshana Keats-Jaskoll  (a woman that has never been reticent about expressing her views in writing) that it was the first time she couldn’t even type!  

I am sympathetic to the outrage. But I have long ago come to expect things like this from publications that cater to those on their extreme right while ignoring the sensitivities of those to their left.  Their right wing sensitivity is based on the concerns of readers from that segment who believe that any picture of a woman, no matter how modestly dressed is unacceptable.

I have been an outspoken critic of this practice for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is that it is insulting to women and it creates an image that Orthodoxy is a world without women. Which also distorts the image of family life for children. As did an illustration of a Kiddush on Shabbos at a table without a wife/mother or sisters. As though women do exist in that world. Hard to know what kind of impact that makes on young children.

I realize that those who support this practice will vehemently disagree with me and say that none of their women feel disrespected. Nor do they feel that not publishing pictures of women distorts a woman’s role as a wife, mother, and homemaker.

My view has consistently been that they are entitled to their views and practices among themselves. But I object strongly when their views are honored by people that do not necessarily feel that way. Which is the case even among most mainstream Charedim. They have never refrained from publishing pictures of modestly dressed women. And still do as demonstrated on the present day website of Agudath Israel.

Furthermore that mentality has now spread to areas outside the world of Charedi Magazine publishers. In a world where the Chumra chase is rampant, it is only natural that even moderate Charedim that never had an issue with this – now do. Which may well be why the above-mentioned children’s book has followed suit.

That is what has been the most upsetting. Until now. But pixelating the face of a modestly dressed woman rescuer of children that survived the Holocaust is a new low. In the communities that actually believe that any picture of a woman under any circumstance is immodest, I can understand why they would do something like this. For them it is a ‘Lo Plug’. They just have a blanket policy which is never altered for any reason. But when people that do not believe in this stricture and do solely for purposes of respecting the sensitivities of the extreme right - it ought to be protested

That is why the vast majority of the rest of Orthodoxy is incensed by this kind of ridiculous censorship. How in heaven’s name can anyone see anything immodest about the face of a woman that can barely be seen at all in the particular picture in question?! Especially in magazines that do so only to cater to their extreme right? Do they not have any decency left? Must they go to that extreme even in this circumstance… distorting a picture from the Holocaust?!

The answer to that question can be found in a Facebook post by Sruli Besser, one of Mishpacha’s editors. He apologized for that image blaming it on an oversight. That picture was originally in the Hebrew edition of Mishpacha and neither he nor his graphic arts department (which is responsible for placing those pictures in the magazine) noticed it. The Hebrew version has different standards, he said. (The question still remains for the Hebrew version. Unless it is actually published by the above-mentioned extreme segment of the Charedi world.)

I understand what happened and I accept his apology. What I cannot understand is the way he was attacked by some of the comments on Shoshana’s Facebook post - hardly being defended by anyone.This is unfair in the extreme.

Unfortunately this is not so atypical of in the world of social networking. And I cannot protest it enough. It is not cyber bullying in all its glory! But is mean spirited which makes it troubling.

That his explanation and apology may not be good enough for some surely should not generate the kind of response that some have resorted to in reaction to it. I am almost as outraged by this as I am by the subject that generated it. There is no excuse for it.

What kind of human being does that?  And why isn’t it protested more by others commenting on the subject. As I said, I understand the anger being expressed. But where is the sense of judging a fellow Jew favorably? Why must an individual that would never purposely do what everyone is so upset about; a person that genuinely feels bad for what happened, and apologized for it – why is he allowed to be vilified without much of an effort by anyone to defend him?

I can only conclude that there is so much prejudice by the left against - even moderate Charedim that they will not be cut any slack. Whenever there is an opportunity to bash someone from the right, judging them favorably goes out the window. I am saddened by this. If there is ever be any chance at Achdus among religious Jews cooler heads need to prevail.

Updated - 2/1/18