Last month, over 25 members of the Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls’ MACS (Modesty Awareness Committee by Students) gathered to preview videos, articles, and photographs of images to prompt questions students ask about modesty.

The result of that session, “I Saw, I Wondered, I Asked,” was presented to SKA’s four grades on Wednesday and Thursday, January 5 and 6. Two grades each day joined in the auditorium to hear from panelists made up of faculty members, alumnae, and current students, who shared their personal experiences and thoughts about modesty, answering the questions prepared by the committee. The SKA students had the opportunity to hear from familiar women and girls from various backgrounds and at different stages in their lives who related in individual ways to the idea of tz’nius and how one expresses this. One of the most popular questions posed to the panel, among others – “Did you always dress the way you do now?” – provoked much discussion about standards of tz’nius and how the outside influences the inside. Most of the panel agreed: The way you dress influences the way you act.

In addition to the questions posed by the MACS committee, videos on beauty and modesty were shown, and there was much reflection on defining inner beauty and how it’s recognized.

More than one panelist commented how learning the halachos of tz’nius gave her a more personal connection to the mitzvah and made her appreciate why she dresses with dignity.

It was the analysis of the Barbie doll, however, that drew the most observations from the girls! In a handout of “Barbie Up Close,” which analyzed the doll’s measurements, Barbie’s proportions were deemed completely unrealistic and if true to scale, she wouldn’t survive in real life. The doll has been blamed for distorting society’s view of what is normal, and several panelists felt it caused a struggle with perfection in their adolescent years. “We can’t change society,” one panelist said, “but we can focus on the positive. Part of being modest is being confident in our own skin.”

Thanks go to Mrs. Elisheva Kaminetsky, SKA Principal, Judaic Studies, Ms. Sara Bienenstock, SKA Beit Midrash Fellow, 10th Grader Miri Aronovitz (who emceed this dynamic program), Mrs. Yafa Storch, Assistant Director of Student Programs, Mrs. Jorge Mallin, Digital Media Coordinator, our esteemed panelists, and the members of the MACS committee for working so hard to make this event a success. A part of SKA’s new initiative LEV (Living Enhanced by Values), which encompasses several inspirational student-initiated programs in the school, the MACS program has been a valuable contribution in supporting the spiritual growth of SKA students over the years.