Last week, on our page 3, which is meant to be a light-hearted look at the extremes of the week’s news, seems to have struck many people as being nothing of the kind.
We understand that the position of women is the third rail of Jewish life, at least in the Orthodox world. (The liberal Jewish world is egalitarian.) Partnership minyanim, women’s tefillah groups, women and Talmud study, maharats – each one of those developments elicits controversy. The debate between different interpretations of halacha rages on. Normally we go near it only with extreme care, but last week that seems not to have been the case.
We admit to some surprise. The issue was the far-right Jewish world’s increasing tendency not to allow women’s images to be shown, even in situations where women must be present. One of the illustrations we showed was of a charedi groom alone under a chuppah, not waiting for his bride but seemingly in the middle of the wedding ceremony without her.
We have gotten letters telling us that such illustrations convey only stringent modesty – this might not be a level of observance we all can attain, but it is one toward which we all should aspire.
This is both new and surprising.
We did not think that anyone would see these photos as anything other than either funny or disturbing.
We know that no matter what this community in general thinks about women, it does not shy from allowing them in pictures. Yeshivot send us pictures of girls playing sports, acting on stage, working on science projects, competing for prizes, winning awards. Colleges, including YU, send us photos of young women in Israel, working with young children, walking in parades, working in laboratories. Synagogues send us pictures of married couples as they honor them.
We do not get the sense that we are sent these photos as a concession to weakness. Instead, it is clear to us that our community standards not only allow but actively expect women to be seen.
We also think that the people who are upset with us have pictures of their own parents’ and grandparents’ weddings, showing the bride as well as the groom.
We are sorry if our tone upset some of our readers.
And they are right. Erasing women is no joke.