Let’s Call a Spade a Spade
I’ve read with great interest the various op-eds in response to Meira Atik’s initial article concerning the practice of some Jewish newspapers to actively refrain from publishing pictures of women. I’m grateful that the Queens Jewish Link doesn’t subscribe to this misguided practice, and I applaud Ms. Atik and her supporters for speaking out on this important issue.
I don’t for a minute accept the premise that this practice is a geder intended to protect our children from pritzus or a lo-plug intended to help hapless editors who are deemed incapable of distinguishing an appropriate picture of a woman from an inappropriate picture. I also find it distasteful that some of Ms. Atik’s detractors would suggest that this is a “non-issue” so long as other papers and magazines exist that feature pictures of women and men in the same issue. I’m not especially liberal, but this type of response smacks of “Plessy versus Ferguson.”
So let’s call a spade a spade. The practice of editing out pictures of women from Jewish newspapers is simply another example of the rightward shift in some corners of our community. For those interested in reading a scholarly book that addresses this issue, I highly recommend Marc B. Shapiro’s book, Changing the Immutable. It’s quite an eye-opener.
As concerns the practice of editing out pictures of women from Jewish newspapers, the rightward shift is misguided for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is that it denies our daughters (and everyone else) the opportunity to benefit from seeing living examples of Torah-dedicated women who comport themselves modestly. What a refreshing alternative this is to the images of half-dressed women polluting every other form of advertising competing for our attention.
Of course, Mr. Randleman (QJL, July 11 issue) is quite right when he suggests we don’t need to see pictures of the Imahos to know that they were tzidkaniyos. Then again, we don’t need to see pictures of the Avos to know that they were tzadikim either.
Communal Cholim List
A great yasher koach to the person or persons who started this idea. I was very moved by it. This column not only gives voice to the thousands of fellow Jews of the cholim, but it also brings hope and joy to the unfortunate individuals who suffer, thinking no one cares or prays for them.
Remind your readers, please, that the chachamim tell us that he who prays for another will be answered first.
Keep up the good work!
Martin Goldman, Esq.
Be a Mentch!
I find it ironic that the two letters to which I’m responding were published in time for Parshas Chukas. That’s the parshah that teaches us about the p’tirah of Miriam and the consequences of not honoring and respecting our women. I also find it ironic that we also read the fourth chapter of Pirkei Avos, which has two verses that are directly relevant here.
Many years ago, a very wise rabbi told me that his s’michah teacher taught him about the six parts of Shulchan Aruch. Aside from the main four - Orach Chayim, Even HaEzer, Yoreh Dei’ah, and Choshen Mishpat – there are two more, called seichel and derech eretz. According to this teacher, if you don’t have the latter two, the first four won’t mean much. The point is that no amount of Torah scholarship makes up for not being a mentch. The German word means “human being” but Yiddish gave it a more positive meaning: “an honorable and respectable person.”
No one is born a mentch, but anyone can learn how to be one with the right examples. The term is actually gender-neutral, but this message is for the men, so I’m focusing there. Baruch Hashem, I have a lot of wonderful examples of male mentchen in my life, including my husband, my father, my father-in-law, my male relatives, and a lot of friends. I’ve also watched a lot of boys grow into mentchlichkeit and I’m proud of them, too. This is why I have no patience for male-bashing.
To Rabbi Oren Kagan: If taking a stand against a policy that corrupts tz’nius, demeans women and men, harms parnasah, deprives us of needed role models, and is m’chalel Hashem makes me a “modern crusader for women’s interests,” then good! The question here is why aren’t you a crusader along with me? If you’re a Torah scholar and a mentch, then you would naturally find this policy wrong and offensive. Also, if reading Rabbi Schonfeld’s response to my article carefully, responding to his points, and disagreeing with his request to silence the issue make me disrespectful, then so is every intelligent writer and responder who has ever dared to disagree with someone.
To Doniel Randleman: In the first point you made, all you did was restate my point – that even a woman’s face is too un-tz’nius to be seen by men who can’t control themselves. The only difference was that you used euphemisms and fancier language. It’s the equivalent of saying “I don’t have a cold; I have acute nasopharyngitis.” Same thing, fancier language. But when you strip it down, you get the same point that I made. Human beings – men and women – are not to be made into objects. When you take away the face, you lose the personhood and personality, and the person becomes an object, no matter what kind of euphemisms or fancy language you use to try to make it sound better.
In terms of men wanting to control their thoughts, all you succeeded in doing here is further male-bashing by stating that men can’t control themselves and are therefore incapable of behaving like mentchen. A true mentch understands the verse of “Eizehu gibor? Ha’koveish es yitzro” and he knows that it’s not my responsibility to be koveish his yeitzer. If he wants to control his thoughts, he can get therapy and work on himself; but avoiding women’s faces will only make his thoughts (and the resultant anxieties) worse. As for slipping up, there are healthy ways to avoid slip-ups, but erasing women altogether is not one of them.
You say that images aren’t necessary for advertising. Why don’t we have the men pull their images from their ads along with the women? Most people would take that question as sarcasm, because the answer is obvious: Pictures have an impact. The saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” is not just a cliché. That’s why the publications and entities do use photos of men. It’s why the editors here have asked me for pictures to go with my articles; they told me that photos would give my articles more impact. In addition, we do see women in advertising, but it’s all in the unhealthy and un-tz’nius images from the secular world. The only way to counteract that is to provide healthy tz’nuah images of real female role models.
You say that we don’t need photos of our nashim tzidkaniyos because we don’t have photos of the Imahos and others. We also don’t have photos of the Avos and others. (Side note: One of the men in my shul asked me how my photos of the Avos look. I told him that they look sad because they can’t see their wives.) But we do have photos of the great tzadikim of modern times and we have photos of nashim tzidkaniyos of modern times. Why use one and not the other? Again, photos have an impact. We need our male and our female role models, and we need both images.
As for the issue of chilul Hashem, of course we don’t water down halachah or m’sorah for the sake of what others will think. But this policy (as I wrote in my letter and articles) is not based in halachah or in the m’sorah and therefore cannot be defended that way. Our Torah does not allow women to be objectified and disrespected, and there’s no good reason to have a policy that actually does that.
“Forget about #MeToo”?! No mentch would ever say that, especially to someone who was harassed or assaulted. That said, how can we teach our boys to respect others and control themselves when this policy is telling them that they can’t control themselves? How can we teach our girls to respect themselves when this policy is telling them that they’re nothing but objects? When we take away the face, we take away the personality and the person becomes an object. An object does not need our respect, but human beings definitely do. And we all need to remember is that our personal space and the personal space of others deserve our respect. Is this policy doing a better job teaching self-respect and body autonomy? That’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one. Again, if men want to protect themselves from impure thoughts, they should be taking that responsibility; and, again, it’s not my job to be koveish his yeitzer.
Finally, a true mentch also understands the verse of “Eizehu m’chubad? Ha’m’chabeid es ha’briyos.” He knows that he has to respect men and women, including female role models, and that doll faces, pixilated/blurred faces, and absent images do not allow him to see women as real people and role models.
I urge all Jews, male and female mentchen, to understand how harmful this policy is and to not allow this issue to be silenced. We women do not deserve to be erased or silenced.
Meira E. Schneider-Atik
In Memory of My Dear Aunt Ann Nussbaum on Her First Yahrzeit – 13 Tamuz
My Aunt Ann Nussbaum a”h was truly a visionary woman! Born and raised in the Lower East Side, she married and began a family. When her children were young, she decided to move to Hillcrest. At the time she moved, there were no sidewalks in the area. You had to wear rubber boots to get around.
She saw that there was a need to build a shul and a mikvah where there was none. She gathered a few of her friends and together she filled the area with frum families. That shul is today known as the Young Israel of Hillcrest.
She became a real estate broker and eventually opened her own office on Union Turnpike and 188th Street in Queens. At the time, she had the only shomer Shabbos office. People warned her that she would lose a lot of business because her office was closed on Saturdays. She refused to compromise on her beliefs. She also charged couples very little for her services. She felt it was more important for the area to grow and blossom, which it did.
When I went to pay a shiv’ah call to the family, people could not stop talking about her. They spoke of her kindness, sincerity, and devotion to young couples trying to find the perfect house.
When she davened, it appeared as if she had a special connection to Hashem. She was so proud of her shul and loved attending. She was always the first woman in the ladies’ section on Shabbos.
My aunt would tell me, “I have wide shoulders” and that I could talk to her about any topic.
She was truly an eishes chayil in every way and a role model to all!
May she be a meilitz yosher for all of us! Her neshamah should have an aliyah!
Drip, Drip, Drip
Drip, drip, drip – watch your tax dollars go down the drain. Have you also seen all the “Don’t Let Tax, Water, or Repair Charges Come Between You and Your Property” full page ads in many daily and weekly neighborhood newspapers? It deals with New Yorkers who owe real estate tax, water, sewer, emergency repair, or other property-related charges (“The City of New York may sell a lien on your property” advertisement). Is this the best way that the NYC Departments of Finance and Environmental Protection, along with Housing Preservation and Development, can spend taxpayers’ dollars?
Why can’t all three agencies compare their respective lists of people who owe money with those filing city and state tax returns? Surely the technology exists to place a lien on any tax refunds? You could also extend citizens the courtesy of a telephone call, letter, or email informing them of their overdue obligations.
What’s next? Will the City send out Marshals going door to door serving subpoenas?
When will either NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer or NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who are both 2021 Mayoral-wanna-bes, put an end to this waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayers’ dollars?