Sunday, January 22, 2012

As Modern Orthodoxy is led astray...

Every Synagogue in Israel is inundated every weekend with over a dozen flavors of "parsha sheets" that addresses almost every possible segment of Israel's multifaceted Jewish community.

One of the "mainstream" publications is the veteran "B'Ahava uv'Emnua" (With Love and with Faith), published by the Machon Meir Yeshiva.
Machon Meir for over the last 35 years has been a place for all of Am Yisrael to come and learn more about their Jewish roots. It is a place to get a deeper understanding of what it means to be part of the Nation of Israel and the importance of living in the Land of Israel. Machon Meir
What made this Shabbat's edition so unique, is that this mainstream publication has adopted an ugly custom which was rather shocking for this center of the road, family parsha sheet.

The publication's front page displays an ad -- a memorial for the Fogel Family who were brutally slaughtered by Palestinian terrorists.

What makes the ad so shocking is that the face of Ruth Fogel is blurred out..."for reasons of modesty"

R' Haim Navon of Modi'in even refused to allow this edition of the parsha sheet into his community shul.

What I found even more incredulous was the R' Shlomo Aviner says that blurring the photo of Tamar Fogel is the right thing to do! (Original Link)
כבוד הנרצחת
כ"ו טבת ה'תשע"ב
הרב שלמה אבינר

Shalom, Respected Rabbi. Should the face of Ruthy Fogel be blurred in a memorial ad in the "Behava uvEmuna" newspaper?

Answer: Of course! It is to her honor. Just because she died doesn't mean we shouldn't respect her. If she would have been asked when she was live, then this is what she would have wanted. Just because a person is dead doesn't mean the photo should be "hefker"...

The Dati Leumi / National Religious movement in Israel has long been affiliated with "Modern Orthodox" -- even if the National-Religious tent envelopes a wider swath of Judaism that Modern Orthodox does (on both edges).

My friend Treppenwitz wrote today in a blog post, Sliding into darkness, not striving for enlightenment:
As I've previously noted here, Israel is as egalitarian and progressive a society as exists anywhere on earth, and the whole exclusion of women thing is a completely fabricated non-issue designed to vilify the religious community. In any place where women are being physically excluded in Israel, it is a criminal matter and can/should be dealt with under the perfectly ample body of existing Israeli law.

I use the modifier 'physically' above because there are others way that women can be excluded from our day to day lives.

I have recently begun to notice that the creeping (and in my opinion, insidious) trend by certain extreme segments of Orthodox Jewish society to eschew pictures of women in advertising (and even news stories) has led to the practice of cropping and photoshopping women out of photos in just about every form of media that serves those communities.
I fear that Orthodoxy is being led astray. Decades ago, devout, pious, and very religious women were not blurred out of pictures. Women were photographed at weddings and those photos appeared in wedding albums. Chareidi Orthodoxy has gone down the route of hyper-tzniut. It's distressing to see that Modern Orthodoxy is being led astray as well.

By blurring the face of Ruth Fogel, the Machon Meir ""B'Ahava uv'Emnua" publication shows it has no love and no faith.

How can we possibly strive for an integrated Israeli society, if a tactful photo of a murdered woman, a mother sitting with her husband and children is considered too immodest for a parsha sheet?

Update 4:45 PM: Machon Meir has issued an apology on their website:

מכון מאיר מביע בזאת את התנצלותו הכנה על פרסום בלתי ראוי של תמונתה של רותי פוגל הי"ד.

המכון מתנצל בפני משפחות בן ישי , פוגל ובפני הקוראים שנפגעו מן הפרסום.

הרב דב ביגון - ראש המכון
צבי ארזי - מנכ"ל
מערכת עלון "באהבה ובאמונה"

Machon Meir hereby apologies for the improper publication of a photo of Ruthy Fogel, HY'D.
The Machon has apologized to the Ben-Yishai and Fogel families, and the readers who were hurt by the publication.

Rav Dov Begun - Head of the Machon
Tzvi Arazi -- General Manager of "BAhava uvEmuna"
Why did they apologize, if R' Aviner said this was totally appropriate and the right thing to do?

Food for thought.

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MiriamS said...

But the father and boys have no say about gratuitous photos of themselves?

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for over a year now and I have to say that this story frightens me. It shows Jews as being, or perhaps becoming, just as stupid as muslims when it comes to their treatment of women.

What's next? They shouldn't drive or operate technology?

Is it my imagination or doesn't it seem that since the "rise" of Islam in the past three decades, the entire middle eastern religions are all going medieval?

Anonymous said...

I am surprised they kept the picture of Hadas HY"D intact. You never know - at this rate even 3 month olds will soon be banned.

Anonymous said...

All their faces should be blurred, or none of them.

I'm so glad I'm able to be a Torah observant Jew and keep far away from these crazies up here in the North of Israel.

Yonatan said...

Thank you Rabbi Navon of Modiin! I told you there are good things that come out of Modiin also ;)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Yonatan: You know I don't have anything personal against Modiin -- with lots of friends (and relatives there :)

Seriously, Kol HaKavod to R' Navon!

neshama said...

i think this and all the other issues driving the kanaim crazy is political coercion and not a modesty issue. After all, the ones that need to be more modest are the immodest, esp in the summer months, not the majority of religious. They're going about this backwards.

I also see this as a perversion of the commandment from Hashem to be fruitful and multiply. Men need to see women, as sisters, mothers, grandmothers and wives, albeit dressed respectfullly. The 15th of AV was instituted to allow this creative urge to function in selecting a female mate.

Varda Meyers Epstein (Judean Rose) said...

1) You ask why the apology if Rav Aviner said the blurring was entirely appropriate. The apology was for causing unintentional offense. One can do something totally appropriate at which someone may take umbrage. One can apologize for causing umbrage without apologizing for the action. There is no contradiction.

2) The purpose of showing the photos in the first place is to put faces to the names of the martyred. It is an attempt to help us imagine the Fogels as real people who had real lives: a father who blessed his children on Shabbes and a mother who labored to bring Jewish children into the world and nurture them. Our imaginations are meant to be indulged when we see these photos. The blurring is done to prevent objectifying Ruth Fogel (HY"D) as a sexual object during this imagination exercise. It is out of respect for HER.

The fact is that men think about sex often while women think about it less often. This is documented. Ruth Fogel was a holy woman who deserves to be thought of only in a holy way.

Even if you don't agree with this assessment, there is no aspect of disrespecting or erasing women. Quite the opposite, the blurring is done to protect them whether or not the world thinks they need protecting. The intention is a good one, whether or not you agree with that intention.

Al said...

Varda: It's a rather sad statement on humanity that a person is unable to look at a photo of a family without lewd objectifications running through a person's imagination.

If we need to protect women from such thoughts, maybe women shouldn't leave their homes at all.

Heck, why not keep the men locked up so women can roam the streets freely without fear of objectification.

The Torah is complete with words and descriptions of women -- holy women. Why would the Torah have bothered writing that the matriarchs were beautiful, if that would lead men to have terrible thoughts?

I believe that the intended apology was meant to apologize for the action of blurring Ruth Fogel -- not for causing "unintended offense". If that were the case, everyone would still remain offended...including the Fogel family.

treppenwitz said...

Varda... There is a widely held presumption that when a woman weighs in on issues related to women, that a man must accept her views as more insightful and correct than his own.

Thank you for helping dispell that myth.

Zahava said...

This feels all the more obscene as it serves to further erase a life already cut tragically short.

I really don't understand how anyone could interpret this as being respectful to the memory of Ruth Fogel (z"l). No, I did not have the privilege of knowing her. But in non-blurred copies of the photo, it is clear that she was dressed modestly -- ostensibly, she left her home dressed similarly. If showing a woman in a photographic image dressed as she would leave her home and enter the public domain runs the risk of "objectifying" her, well.... IMHO we are all in deep, deep, doo-doo.....

Baila said...

I'd like to think that the reason they apologized was because they heard good, moral, religious REASONABLE people, like you, Trep and dozens, hopefully hundreds of others call them on this. We can't be silent and let our Judaism be hijacked. I'm glad there are people like Rav Navon around to curb the madness.

And how do all these people know what Ruth Fogel A"H would have wanted? I find it ironic that last year we were talking about censoring pictures of those brutal murders and now here we are censoring pictures of her living, smiling existence.

Shlomo said...

Varda - if what you say is true, then why isn't your face blurred in your picture?

Anonymous said...

1. Rav Aviner is not the posek for Machon Meir

2. The Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Dov Bigon made a public apology in the Beit Midrash of Machon Meir:

3. The Head of the Israeli Dept at the Machon, Rav Sherki made numerous criticisms of the bluring in his shiur last night on Moreh Nevuchim

You could have addressed either Rabbi for clarification rather than join the general 'aleihum' of the Israeli Press

Anonymous said...

I usually agree with you, but this one time I dont. If this was a poster to be hung on walls, I would say her face should not be blurred. However, as this is being placed in shuls, where people daven, it is correct that the face is blurred.

Commenter Abbi said...

Varda, any man who would read a shabbat alon in shul that showed a picture of Ruth Fogel a"sh and have even the slightest sexual thought upon seeing her face is truly sexually depraved and needs serious psychological help immediately.

You insult every Jewish man by suggesting that erasing a frum woman's face is somehow protecting men and respecting women.

Commenter Abbi said...

Additionally, I find it quite ironic that of all the commentors here, you're the only showing a clear picture of your face! If you had any respect for the men here, you'd pull that down immediately!

Anonymous said...

It's with GUY and RICK.
And I can tell you something.
These pricks don't play around.
What do you think when you call it GLEST in DOERINGS?
And they got ACE to hide their crimes.
And that's pure mobsters with ZETAS 99.
And like we did say, we want all the poilticians executed for their corruptions and these two put away for life.
And if the QUEEN is involved, which it's looking like she is, in all her GESSIS, she , too, should have it used on her own "monarchy."
And that includes the PRENSE and DARK KNIGHTS with
Not only that, BAULVIA and this is with students we have all come to know like HETU- WATT- CLEMENT- ROOT.
They are turning against the SQUALL!
And they are going to bring down all these TORSHAZ and MUTTRAZE.
They had just all better HURE.
Everybody looking for OCIZES.

Madrassa Moe said...

Sad, so sad...

If only she had worn a burka, there would have been no need to photoshop her face. And the poor fellow who did the blurring had to have seen her face before doing so...the urges he had must have been uncontrollable.

My Dati brothers, please realize that your Chardal compatriots are basically Chareidim with guns. If you outsource the education of your children to these Taliban in the making you will soon enough find your daughters' on the back of the bus, off the streets and behind burkas.

Madrassa Moe said...

One other thing - I am amazed by R. Aviner's clairvoyance in knowing exactly what the deceased Mrs. Fogel would or would not have wanted. Almost like when Chareidi publishers reprint seforim without R. Kook's original haskama, knowing (with the same clairvoyance R. Aviner is graced with) that the deceased author would no longer want R. Kook's haskama.

Also, as the once-proud owner of R. Aviner's photobook on R. Tzvi Yehudah, I am offended that he didn't blur out the faces of R. Tzvi Yehudah's mother and Shulamit Aloni (yes, both appear in the book). R. Aviner opened the door for me and others to have uncontrollable urges that only my reading of the Machon Meir parsha sheet could quell.

Varda Meyers Epstein (Judean Rose) said...

1) I don't blur my face because I don't subscribe to the idea of blurring women's faces. At the same time, I fail to see why the practice is OFFENSIVE.

2) Abbi, you wrote:

Abbi, those same men sit separate from women in shul. Not only separate, but in most cases, situated so that they cannot see the women. The women are behind or above them in many cases (and not the other way around). Why doesn't THAT practice offend you?

The purpose is the same.

Varda Meyers Epstein (Judean Rose) said...

My previous response left out Abbi's quote which was: "Varda, any man who would read a shabbat alon in shul that showed a picture of Ruth Fogel a"sh and have even the slightest sexual thought upon seeing her face is truly sexually depraved and needs serious psychological help immediately. "

Those same men in that same shul, place the women so they can't see them during davening. Same principle. Same EXACT principle.

Seth (Avi) Kadish · אבי קדיש said...

Hi Jameel,

To my mind this post is too little, too late. And perhaps a bit naive too...

"Mainstream" Religious Zionism has been giving its full moral and financial support to the Garinim Torani'im in dozens of cities around Israel for two decades. The Garinim Torani'im are seen and advertised as the great pride of religious Zionism, even by the mainstream.

And yet many or most of the highly praised and well-supported Garinim subscribe to the ideology of Rav Aviner (at least regarding women's issues) and Machon Meir, and use the support they are given by the RZ "mainstream" to push those ideologies in dozens of cities and neighborhoods, often to the detriment of "normal" religious local residents.

Religious Zionism puts its money where its mouth is when it reaches out to the Israeli public and builds communities around the country. And that is with the extremists!

They apologize for the blurring of a woman's face because it is bad PR, and perhaps because some rabbanim still feel it's going a bit too far, but the bottom line is that they all agree with Rav Aviner regarding the basic roots of the approach towards women in Judaism. It all ultimately derives from various teachings of Rav Zvi Yehudah Kook zt"l and to a lesser degree from his father zt"l.

At the very same time, organizations that promote alternative views (like Modern Orthodoxy) are vilified by the "mainstream." They aren't "Torani" enough.

Al said...

Varda: You cant compare the parsha sheets to a mechitza.

All the rabbaonim have clearly stated that you AREN'T allowed to read parsha sheets in shul!

Therefore, there is no worry that a person will get impure thoughts from looking at a picture in a shul, because he won't be reading it in shul.

Jack said...

The fact is that men think about sex often while women think about it less often.

There are more than a few studies that question the veracity of your sweeping generalization.

It is offensive and demeaning to all people. It suggests that men cannot control our urges or our thoughts.

Should we blur pictures of a steak because we might have eaten a dairy meal ten minutes before we saw the picture.

It is ridiculous, divisive and harmful.

Lurker said...

Jack: Should we blur pictures of a steak because we might have eaten a dairy meal ten minutes before we saw the picture.

Be quiet, you're giving them ideas!

Nachum said...

Let's count our blessings: Charedim *do* blur the pictures of babies as well.

"Same principle. Same EXACT principle."

Um, no. One is a live person, one is a picture. They couldn't be more different.

Madrassa Moe said...


Would you kindly have your photo blurred out? My urges are just uncontrollable.

Thank you.

Madrassa Moe said...

Hi Seth (Avi) Kadish,

I agree with your points 100%, but rather than throw in the towel we need to ask why is that Modern Orthodoxy (not just in Israel, but in the US as well) has failed to create an active, viable community of like-minded individuals that can perpetuate itself? I myself can posit several answers, but I think it is high time for the leadership of Modern Orthodoxy to stop worrying about whether the Chareidim and their Chardal wannabees are villifying them or not, and start working together like people with a sense of mission and a vision for the future. Instead, MO has multiple tiny splinter groups, all long on the scholarly rhetoric but far short on the tachlis.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Anonymous 10:18 PM

In R' Bigun's apology, he says this was a "human error". How does someone accidentally photoshop a woman's face from a picture? He repeats over and over that they didn't mean to offend anyone. How come he never once says simply, "it was wrong to photoshop a woman's face from the ad"?

2. The clarification on the machon website is clear for all to see. They apologize for offending people, yet they do not apologize for the action (nor condemn it).

3. What exactly did Rav Sherki say in his shiur? I'm curious what he had to say.

4. While R' Aviner isn't the posek of Machon Meir, he is one of their most prominently featured Rabbis in the Machon's parsha sheets.

Seth (Avi) Kadish · אבי קדיש said...

To "Madrassa Moe", please see here:

And feel free to contact me. I cannot think of any community programs in Israel that are long on scholarly rhetoric.

eritaS said...

Its pretty clear to me that stand behind their apology that "they are sorry they did it & it was a human error" - they 'forgot' to mention in their apology that in hindsight they should have cut her out completely. You should know by now that women dont really exist at all and they are all a figment of your imagination.

Lurker said...

Jameel: In R' Bigun's apology, he says this was a "human error". How does someone accidentally photoshop a woman's face from a picture?

By "human error", I believe he means an error in judgement.

Jameel: 2. The clarification on the machon website is clear for all to see. They apologize for offending people, yet they do not apologize for the action (nor condemn it).

Sorry, but it doesn't appear that way to me. The statement says:

"מכון מאיר מביע בזאת את התנצלותו הכנה על פרסום בלתי ראוי של תמונתה של רותי פוגל הי"ד."

They describe the publication of the blurred photo as "בלתי ראוי" -- improper. This means that the very act of publishing it was wrong. And they explicitly apologize for this -- not only for the fact that people were offended.

Madrassa Moe said...

Dear Seth (Avi) Kadish,

I looked at your website (I will revisit it again in order to more carefully read what you've posted). I am pleased to see that someone is on my wavelength here. But the question for me still stands - there are small MO fiefdoms like Tzohar, Itim and (in the US) Chovevei Torah, in addition to individuals like yourself, that all seem to work independently of each other and without a larger vision to create vibrant, self perpetuating communities of Dati/Centrist/"Modern"/Open (sheesh, let us start by settling on a term!) observant Jews.

Lurker said...

Just saw this update on Treppenwitz.

He contacted MM directly, and simply asked them for a clarification of what their actual position is. (Yasher koach to him for taking the time to do this.)

Their answer is pretty depressing, and confirms what Jameel said.

I had given MM the benefit of the doubt (as you can see from my previous comment), but I see now that I was wrong, and I stand corrected.


Rehov slonim 11 said...

All these dafim should be banned in shule...instead of listening to the repetion of the תפילה 80% are reading these which is absolutly forbidden...

Neshama said...

I believe we are in the era of the withdrawal of true siyata d'shmaya from most if not all the known gedolim ..... Only to prepare us for the recognition of Moshiach when he finally arrives.

Yishai said...

The problem began with the advent of Reform: some responded by adopting more stringent positions, and this tendency perpetuated itself to this very day. This results in absurdities to the extent that is causes many non-Orthodox to feel very self-assured that Orthodox Judaism is somehow an illegitimate abberation. Which is very odd because even a cursory reading of Tanakh makes it obvious that only a Judaism that believes that the mitzvot are actually required (that is, Orthodox Judaism) is valid. Yet there is no halachic principles saying things should become more strict with time. In fact there is a mitzvah not to add to the Torah. It says make a fence around the Torah (Pirkei Avot), but not fences around fences around fences.

Anyway, Rebbe Nachman, 200 years ago, foresaw the explosion of Reform: "I'll tell you a secret. A great atheism is coming into the world as a test from on high." He foresaw that this would come about, but there is no indication he saw this as a need for greater stringencies. On the contrary he mocked stringencies and spoke very strong against them. This wonderful quote (from Rebbe Nachman in Sichos HaRan) should be required reading for all Orthodox Jews.

"Don't follow excessive stringencies in your practice of the Torah. "God does not rule over His creatures with tyranny" ( Avodah Zarah 3a) - "The Torah was not given to ministering angels" ( Berachot 25b) .

Our rabbis have taught that it is proper for each person to choose for himself one mitzvah to observe with particular care in all its fine details ( Shabbat 118b ). Yet even with your chosen mitzvah, you should not be excessively strict to the point of folly. Don't let it make you depressed. Simply try to keep the mitzvah carefully in all its finer points, but without excessive punctiliousness.

As for the other mitzvot, simply follow the essential laws without adding extra stringencies. If only we could keep all the mitzvot of the Torah according to the simple interpretation of the law without seeking to go beyond it!

There is no need to look for extra stringencies: this is foolish and confusing. The essence of serving God is simplicity and sincerity. Pray much, study much Torah and carry out many good deeds without seeking out or inventing unnecessary restrictions. Simply follow the path of our forefathers. "The Torah was not given to ministering angels."

There is nothing that you absolutely must do or else. If you can, you can. But if you cannot: "God exempts a person under duress" ( Bava Kama 28b)" .

Sichot Haran #235

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