Monday, August 02, 2021

Julia Haart, Ben and Jerry's, Beatie Deutsch, and Adidas

Marathon mom, Beatie Deutsch (TOI)
Just when you think the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, along comes Adidas to save the day.

Well, maybe I exaggerated a little about the hand-basket thing. The boycott by Ben and Jerry’s against doing business with - or selling its products to Israel (specifically in West Bank towns including well established ones like Maale Adumim) is not exactly the end of the world. But neither is it reassuring that the new directors of a  major US company have decided to characterize Israel as the enemy of social justice.  (With its founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield cheering them on.)  

That little bit of disappointing news is not the only thing that is hand-basketish. The bashing of Orthodox Judaism sank to a new low when Julia Haart, a formerly Orthodox Jewish woman decided to publicize her chucking of observant Judaism. Doing so with a flourish via a reality series about her new life. A life  ‘freeing’ her from the  chains of the ‘Fundamentalist’ Judaism to which she belonged.  

This series is merely the latest in a series of similar entertainment material depicting Orthodox Judaism as an oppressive lifestyle. Especially for women.

Fortunately in the latter case there has been a lot of pushback in a variety of articles and platforms that have presented a far more accurate picture of what an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle is really like for the vast majority of Orthodox Jews. It is in fact beloved by most Orthodox Jews who experience it as spiritually and mentally uplifting. Nor does it prevent anyone from participating in the general culture that does not contradict Halacha. Including the majority of Charedim that are moderate.

The fallacy projected by the entertainment media is that Orthodox Judaism is instead monolithically extreme and isolationist.  Which may be  true about some segments of Orthodoxy. But by far not all segments. Upon closer examination they would find that obvious truth. Some participate more than others but all do - to one extent or another. The reasons for participation may differ, but only the most extreme reject all of modernity and refuse to participate in any way. And yet that is how the entrainment industry portrays us all. 

As I have recently said- the antidote to that is to lobby that industry to include Orthodox Jewish characters in their films and TV series that are mainstream; participate in the culture; and are not quirky. And not to always portray all Orthodox Jews as they exist in the most extreme segments. 

Which brings me back to Adidas, one of the major players in sports gear. They are to sports what Ben and Jerry’s is to ice cream. Adidas did something amazing and completely unexpected - killing 2 birds with one stone. They have chosen a Charedi woman from Israel to be the face of their new ad campaign. You read that correctly. But I will repeat: A Charedi woman has been chosen to be the face of their new ad campaign. (Luckily Adidas has no problem with publishing pictures of woman. And perhaps ore importantly neither does Beatie Deutsch, the Charedi woman whose image they will feature in those ads. 

Why Beatie Deutch? Here is what the Times of Israel says about her: 

In 2016, Beatie Deutsch placed sixth in the Jerusalem half marathon. Watching Deutsch, an Israeli born in the United States, you would have never guessed that she had taken up running only four months earlier. The following year she ran the Tel Aviv Marathon while seven months pregnant with her fifth child.

Even while running, the Haredi Orthodox Deutsch dresses modestly, following Jewish laws. She wears a headscarf, elbow-length shirt and a knee-length skirt covering her leggings — unlikely attire for a star athlete.

Just a few short years after her first race, Deutsch placed first in the 2018 Jerusalem Marathon. In 2019, she won Israel’s National Championships Marathon in Tiberias, and she quickly became the Israeli national champion in the marathon and half marathon. Most notably, she qualified for the 2020 Olympics by ranking among the top 80 women runners in the world.

So much for stereotyping Orthodoxy as isolationist.  While it is true that most Orthodox Jews are not Olympic caliber athletes, the point here is that being an Orthodox or even a Charedi woman - is not an impediment to becoming one. For the record I know another Charedi woman like  that– whose husband is an Agudah official and whose father is a prominent Charedi Rav. She knows Beatie and has participated with her in that in running competitions. 

The other ‘bird’ Adidias killed is Ben and Jerry’s boycott momentum.  If Ben and Jerry’s were hoping that other major companies would join them, the opposite seems to have happened so far. Instead of treating Israel as a pariah, Adidas is using an Israeli woman to promote their product. Glad to see it. Which goes to show you that you never know. Just when you think things are only going in the wrong direction for us as a people, God shows us that He has other plans. At least for now.