Thursday, October 17, 2019

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I am writing about the recent article depicting the perceived social injustice of omitting women from newspaper ads or dinner journal announcements, in “A Modest (B’Dieved) Proposal: Take the Men Out, Too.” (May 30, 2019)

I have another modest proposal.

What if, instead of viewing the omission of women from newspaper ads and articles as something hurtful and devaluing, we actually just took a step back and tried to see it in a different light? As, perhaps, a belief that is important to some of our brothers, even though it may not resonate with us? And what if we just left it there, and respected that boundary, instead of trying to push the agenda of, “Our beliefs are more correct than yours?”

This is not a new concept. Certain strict sects of Judaism have more severe boundaries of modesty; a higher mechitza or even a separate room for women to pray. A dress code that can feel oppressive to some who are not used to those stringencies. Separate seating at smachot. They feel extreme to those of us who view the laws of Judaism in a more relaxed way, but I feel that in no way does this give us the right to disrespect their values, even though they may differ with ours.

If one of these women came to your simcha and asked to be placed at a table without men because that was her comfort level, would you force her to sit with men because otherwise she may not have an equal value in the eyes of your children? Why can’t we respect the comfort level of our brethren, instead of launching into a campaign to criticize how they serve God?

The modest proposal should be that we should embrace all of Klal Yisrael for whatever their beliefs are, so long as they are not damaging to us. We can’t force others to change, but we can try to change the way we perceive them and their actions. We can tell our kids the message that some people view modesty in different ways, just as one might explain why some Jewish women wear shorts and some wear long skirts, why some women cover their hair with a tichel, and some wear it long and proud. Making a big deal over details is divisive and further pushes people away, creating holes in our unity as a nation.

Let’s be respectful and understanding of the Judaism of all of our brothers. And sisters, too. (I added that in so you wouldn’t think I also omit women.)

Sarah Abenaim