Can ‘orthodox Jew’ ever go together with ‘feminist’?
That’s what I find myself wondering more and more at the moment. Yesterday, a news story came to my attention that a bunch of Reform feminists, plus one apparently ‘modern orthodox’ feminist have decided to sue Ikea.
What was the furniture store’s terrible crime? In 2016, Ikea Israel made the mistake of trying to reach out to the chareidi community by printing a catalogue specially for them, that didn’t include any pictures of women in it.
Instead of applauding Ikea’s attempted sensitivity for the orthodox world, instead of adopting the maxim of live and let live, instead of letting the orthodox world decide for itself what sorts of pictures it wants to see in the publications that it brings into its home, a group called the “Israel Religious Action Center”, decided to sue Ikea Israel, instead.
WHO RUNS THE ‘ISRAEL RELIGIOUS ACTION CENTER?’
A quick look at the IRAC website tells you that IRAC’s Executive Director is Anat Hoffman, who you may well recognise as the ‘founder and director’ of the infamous Women of the Wall. IRAC describes itself as “the legal and advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel.”
IRAC has certainly been busy the last few years. Here’s some highlights from its website, where we’re told that:
IRAC plays a lead role in battling attempts by religious extremists to limit the participation and visibility of women in the public sphere in Israel, reversing the phenomena of gender segregation and exclusion and achieving remarkable success.
(Again, please remember that these people are the notorious Women of the Wall.)
Here’s some of what they’ve been up to, before the got around to suing Ikea:
1) In June 2017, they sued El Al to stop women or men asking to switch seats, if they didn’t want to sit next to someone of the opposite gender.
2) In 2015, the sued Bet Shemesh to force orthodox neighborhoods to remove signs asking women to dress modestly in their neighborhoods.
3) In 2014, they chummed up with Kolech, which describes itself as a ‘Religious Women’s Forum’ to sue the chareidi radio station Kol BeRama.
4) Now, they’re in the process of trying to sue the IDF to stop having ‘men only’ bases: “We are currently collecting testimonies of women soldiers who were harmed by women-free areas in the army.”
5) They’re also trying to prevent higher educational facilities where men and women can study without rubbing shoulders with the opposite gender.
Ah, peace n’love.
IRAC is being at least partially funded by the New Israel Fund. We’ll hear more about them in a moment.
Anyway, back to Ikea.
According to Haaretz, the suit filed by the complainants said:
“The total exclusion of women and girls from the catalog sends a serious and difficult message that women have no value and there is something wrong with their presence, even in the family-home space depicted in the catalog.
“This discrimination and exclusion has severely insulted, angered and traumatized those who received the catalog.”
Does anyone in the world really think this is true? Do they really expect us to believe that some woman, somewhere in Beitar Illit, developed PTSD from getting an Ikea catalogue that only has pictures of men in it? And if it’s true, (look! There’s a flying pig!) – why is the lawsuit being brought by a Reform pressure group run by the Women of the Wall? And what the heck is that one, token ‘modern orthodox’ woman doing there?
But more and more, I’m noticing that the women who self-describe as ‘orthodox feminists’ seem to have decidedly un-orthodox leanings.
There seems to be an awful lot of overlap between how these ‘orthodox feminists’ see the world, and how anti-God, anti-Torah, anti-rabbinic Judaism people and organisations see the world.
And the alarm bells are starting to ring pretty loudly, about where these ‘ortho-fem’ people are really coming from, who is actually funding them, and where they are trying to push us all too.
I’m not saying that all of them are anti-Torah, or anti-God, or anti-rabbis, or anti-chareidi, chas v’shalom. I’m sure there are many strong orthodox women out there who really do believe that the Torah is the living word of God, and thus inviolable.
But at the same time, I keep hearing the same sort of ugly prejudice that you get from people who are avowedly ‘anti’ orthodox Judaism from these ‘ortho-fems’, including hate-filled rants against men, rabbis and chareidi Jews.
And for all that this ‘feminism’ is dressed up in pious language and lofty aspirations, hate-filled rants are always rooted in a whole bunch of bad middot, and emotional and mental dysfunction.
Let me tell you a story that happened to me thirteen years ago, so you can see why the alarm bells are starting to ring so loud about what’s really going on with so many of these ‘orthodox feminists’.
When I lived in Modiin 13 years ago, I wore jeans and didn’t cover my hair, but I still kept Shabbat and paid 10% to tzedaka and believed very strongly in God. At that time, I participated in a women’s shiur where each woman was given the chance to teach Torah according to her own views and derech.
All the women in that shiur self-described as ‘modern orthodox’, whatever that actually meant. Some covered their hair, some (like me) didn’t. Some only wore skirts, some (like me) didn’t. The shiur was unofficially led by a woman who described herself as an ‘orthodox feminist’, and who had a whole bunch of degrees in the pointless subject of ‘gender studies’.
I liked some of those shiurim a lot. Others made me cringe, like when one woman started going on about the ‘militant nature of the Torah’, and how she ‘couldn’t believe we have a book that actually tells us to go out and kill people’.
But even when I totally disagreed with what was being said, I never tried to shut the other person down.
As time went on, the ‘ortho-fem’ woman started giving over more and more subversive shiurim that I was finding increasingly disturbing and ‘anti’ God, and ‘anti’ orthodox Judaism, and it goes without saying, ‘anti’ men and definitely ‘anti’ rabbis.
And this was back when I was still wearing my jeans and not covering my hair, so no-one can accuse me of just parroting chareidi values. (As if…)
One day, it was my turn to give a shiur, so I decided to do something on emuna, as I was just then learning about the whole idea of making God a central part of my Jewish life. I started the class off by playing a one minute snippet of a CD by Rav Brody, something along the lines of:
You know why you’ve got all these problems? It’s because you think that YOU are the boss (instead of recognizing that God is running the world).
Perhaps predictably, the ortho-feminist went ballistic, and prevented me giving over the rest of my shiur, which deteriorated very swiftly into a shouting match.
That experience went a very long way to me deciding I had to get the heck out of Modiin.
Tolerance, tolerance, that’s what they preach. Intolerant, intolerant, that’s how they act.
So we moved away, and I didn’t hear anything more of this ‘ortho-feminist’ until three years later when I discovered she’d re-invented herself as a type of ‘ortho-fem’ marriage counsellor, ‘empowering women’ – or to describe it more accurately, an ortho-fem advocate for divorce, who went round wrecking a bunch of people’s relationships and religious observance.
At that stage, I think she was still officially ‘orthodox’, and so she founded websites devoted to ‘ortho-fem’ principles, and stood on soapboxes shouting loudly about discrimination against women in chareidi society, and even wrote books colorfully depicting the ‘war’ that was apparently happening against women in Israel.
Again, still wearing her ‘orthodox’ badge, so that people in the orthodox world would take her seriously.
Because if someone from say, Meretz, was spouting all that stuff, we’d all know it was politicized baloney.
So yesterday, after I read that article about the ‘modern orthodox’ woman who is suing Ikea, I got the urge to look up the ‘ortho-feminist’ to see what’s become of her, because it sounded like her kind of stunt.
Lo and behold, I learned that she’s now studying to become a reform ‘rabbi’ (yes, I’m using offensive WHATEVER quote marks) and a few months ago, she also joined the staff of the New Israel Fund.
In case you didn’t know, the New Israel Fund is openly committed to dismantling orthodox Judaism in the State of Israel. They state as much on their website, on the page with the Orwellian title of ‘Promoting Pluralism and Tolerance.’
So she’s definitely NOT orthodox any more (like she ever really was….) but she’s definitely STILL a feminist.
Nothing in this world is ‘pareve’ or neutral. It’s either leading us closer to Hashem, or it’s taking us further away. 13 years ago, the reform-rabbi wannabe who now has a day job at an organization that was formed to try to destroy orthodox Judaism in Israel was also griping and grumping about there not being any pictures of women in orthodox publications.
And now look at her.
All this stuff is the thin edge of the wedge.
God gave us a Torah, God gave us rules to follow. God knows exactly what He’s doing.
Is the chareidi world behaving properly and appropriately all the time? Absolutely not. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely.
But it’s not for Reform-minded feminists or the Meretz-loving New Israel Fund to decide how those changes should happen, or what those improvements should be. It’s up to our God-fearing Sages and our Torah-observant rabbis to make those decisions in accordance with halacha, the same way it’s been working since the Torah was handed down to Moshe over 3,000 years ago.
And so, we come back full circle, and I have to ask:
Can ‘orthodox Jew’ and ‘feminist’ ever really go together?
Because from where I’m standing, it’s increasingly looking like a resounding ‘no’.
Following on from Ann Koffsky invitation to look at the frumwomenhavefaces.com website, in the comments section, I went to take a look.
These are my thoughts:
- The stated quotes from Rabbis don’t appear to have any actual Torah sources to back them up. I would like to see the Torah sources / commentaries that these opinions are based on.
- The FWHF website recommends that visitors: “Share these press guidelines from Chochmat Nashim with the Jewish media.”
- When I clicked over to see who is behind the Chochmat Nashim website, I found this statement:
We partner with leading organizations that share our goals and values, such as ITIM, Kolech, The Center for Women’s Justice, Mavoi Satum, Yad La’isha and the International Young Israel Movement, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA), as well as members of Knesset, social activists, community rabbis and religious leaders.
And again, the alarm bells started ringing very loudly. Apart from the International Young Israel Movement, all the other organisations are linked to and / or receiving money from the Reform movement, and / or the New Israel Fund.
Here’s some examples:
ITIM – Has a bunch of ‘Jewish Federation’ sponsors plus donors who like to emphasize promoting ‘Jewish pluralism’ and ‘tikkun olam’ in Israel – key Reform phrases.
Kolech – Got more than $50k from the New Israel Fund last year
The Center for Women’s Justice – Got $26,750 from the New Israel Fund last year
Mavoi Satum – Got $49,000 from the New Israel Fund last year
Yad L’Isha – Got $34,000 from the New Israel Fund last year.
It’s suspiciously hard to find any transparent funding information for the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, but when I went over to their UK website, I discovered that one of their past Executive Directors is none other than my very own ‘ortho-fem’ from Modiin, – who is now working for the New Israel Fund and studying to be a reform ‘rabbi’.
So now, tell me why I should be taking ‘Chochmat Nashim’s’ claim to be an ‘orthodox’ website for women seriously, when they are ‘partnered’ with a whole bunch of organisations that are being directly funded by the New Israel Fund and Reform?
The more I’m looking into this topic, the more it stinks to high heaven.
The ‘ortho fem’ movement is being funded and organised by people who openly state they want to take down orthodox Judaism.
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