I’m still trying to understand how a Jewish woman can call her Palestinian neighbor a whore (sharmouta) (this now famous episode documented by B’Tselem, Israel’s principal source for information about human rights):
It’s a bit confusing, since she was in full possession of her faculties, was not provoked in any way, and acted under the watchful eyes of military authorities.
So I did a bit of scouting on Orthodox Jewish views about women, and stumbled across a videotaped Yahrzeit (funeral) address by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, on virtues of the Jewish woman (have a look here). The hall was full, even overflowing …. with men and boys. But not a woman in the crowd. I’m confused, since the rabbi’s address appears to honor an illustrious female member of the community.
No reason to be confused by concerns about gender equality or the absence of women from the funeral. No reason to be concerned, or as the rabbi says, “confused by Exile”, unable to distinguish darkness and light. No reason to be concerned about such trifling matters, when the women were busy at home fulfilling the three most fundamental mitzvot (obligations) of Jewish family life: lighting ritual candles, keeping the kitchen kosher, and maintaining family purity by producing future generations. And wearing skirts.
As far as this Reform Jewish woman is concerned, Jewish fundamentalists – male and female – are certainly entitled to live as they please. Judaism is, in my opinion, a pretty big space, one that can be filled by a very wide variety of theologies, philosophies, and approaches to practice. My concern is the way in which the ultra-Orthodox have come to define Judaism publicly, and how they treat (or rather mistreat) their non-fundamentalist neighbors, Jewish or not; Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox are notorious equal-opportunity aggressors, abusing non-Orthodox Jewish women on Jerusalem’s buses (watch here) and stoning Modern Orthodox drivers that pass by after sundown on Friday (NPR report here, and another here), as well as routinely terrorizing non-Jews in the occupied West Bank (B’Tselem report here). Even more problematic is how Jewish fundamentalism has infiltrated non-Orthodox philosophy and values, driving most current approaches to Zionism (the Magnes Zionist is a refreshing exception) and impeding reaching a just peace in Israel (such as described here regarding Gaza, or here regarding ultra-Orthodox militias preparing to fight Israeli military efforts to remove settlements).
So wIth all due respect to the rabbi, I maintain that I’m not confused. I know the difference between light and darkness, and right and wrong, and justice and injustice. Even if I do wear pants.