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  1. Lesley2
    Lesley2 March 6, 2007 at 2:51 am |

    Wow, what’s next? Tattooing women, herding them into ghettos and shipping them off to campz?

    If the neocons ever do colonize Mars, may the planetary lot of fundamentalists migrate there where they can live out their loony ideologies unhappily ever.

    If they want a female-free bus, let them get their own fleet and drive themselves around. Assholes.

  2. Rachel
    Rachel March 6, 2007 at 3:33 am |

    Wow…being Jewish, I find this sick. This is part of the reason why I am an atheist, I just can’t stand these religious nutjobs that come with every religion. I will never understand what is so inherently offensive about being female to these types of men. ugh. Israel needs to step up here.

  3. Interrobang
    Interrobang March 6, 2007 at 6:42 am |

    A friend of mine from Tel Aviv says that the Haredi have pretty much taken over Jerusalem; he says he doesn’t like to go there because there’s always someone urging him to “put tefillin” and so on. He actually had a Haredi religion salesman come to his door a couple weeks ago. Most Israelis of my acquaintance are pretty fed up with them.

    The other completely disturbing aspect of the phenomenon is basically what you might call an uptick in Jewish Quiverfulls. They have a formidable amount of political power, and they get it all by completely subsuming the female identity into childbearing.

  4. whichy
    whichy March 6, 2007 at 7:48 am |

    A nitpicky note for accuracy – one isn’t “Reformed” they are “Reform”.

    Its not that the the practice of judaism was reformed to an exact set practices that were different than the orthodox. The idea is that ones personal interpretation of the laws and the practices evolve to suit the needs their needs and the needs of their community. It is always reforming.

  5. Hawise
    Hawise March 6, 2007 at 8:11 am |

    I was raised in a neighbourhood with a large group of Hasidim. As a protestant family with many girls we were highly sought as a source of baby sitters. The Hasidim would not hire the Reform Jewish girls for fear of religious contagion but we were clearly not Jewish and were considered safer for childcare as we didn’t speak the language. Since most of the Hasid girls of our own age were married, we had a constant income source.
    The community may not have had much power in the larger political picture, they had a lot of power in the local. Hasidim and other fundamentalist religions congregate together and can have a major impact on local politics and the choosing of candidates.

  6. A Pang
    A Pang March 6, 2007 at 8:11 am |

    Times like these I’m a little ashamed of my religion.

    I remember reading about Miriam Shears, the woman who was assaulted on the bus, a few months ago, and it’s such a relief to read that more women are fighting back. But you’ve got to wonder how successful Ragen’s campaign will be when the ultra-Orthodox have so much influence. The news of Haredi women being forbidden post-secondary education is particularly horrifying. Will they be forced to reverse that decision when it actually starts to have effects?

    But I’m skeptical about the same kind of thing happening in the States — religion and public life are maybe inseparable in practice, but they aren’t integrated in the way they are in Israel, thanks to the constitution.

    Wow, what’s next? Tattooing women, herding them into ghettos and shipping them off to campz?

    Er…no. Just no.

  7. wolfa
    wolfa March 6, 2007 at 8:14 am |

    There are other problems. If you walk into the wrong religious neighbourhood (either accidentally or on purpose, both have happened) wearing “revealing” clothes, they will throw stones at you. And there are the rules about the Western Wall, and various tombs, and the segregation there, etc. All of these I heard from a rabbi who was shocked (and the exact details I have forgotten); I refuse to go to Israel until the major religious areas are open to men and women equally.

    This is specifically problematic because they do not recognise any type of Judaism but Orthodox Judaism (these stories are about the ultra-Orthodox); my ex-roommate refused to believe that people who were, say, Reform, didn’t feel they were just less Jewish than Orthodox Jews.

  8. BubbasNightmare
    BubbasNightmare March 6, 2007 at 9:14 am |

    …and of course if you compared the behavior of the ultra-orthodox to the behavior of fundamental Islam out loud, they’d dismiss you as a terrorist.

    As to the women’s educational restrictions in the ultra-orthodox society, I’m somehow reminded of Syme in 1984:

    “Beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”
    (holds his fingers 1″ apart)
    “The 8th edition of the Newspeak Dictionary is this thick.”
    (holds his fingers 1/2″ apart)
    “The 9th edition will be this thick.”

    I often weep for my gender, but occasionally I weep for my religion too.

  9. bean
    bean March 6, 2007 at 9:36 am |

    I was in Israel recently and – though I am Jewish and feel strongly tied to my religion – refused to go to the Wall for the reasons wolfa and A Pang point out. Things are particularly bad in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, which is filled pretty much with tourists and religious extremists; there are other parts of Jerusalem and of Israel that are much better. Many Israelis are secular Jews (Reform Jews) who believe in equality. But Israel’s politics are complicated and the Haredi hold a lot of sway (this is why El-Al doesn’t fly on the Jewish Sabbath – the Haredi threw a fit when they considered it). In Israel, there is a separate religious court for family law. Just imagine how that plays out in the religious community.

    Bottom line, religious extremism is dangerous in many of its forms and in any religion. And women’s bodies will often be the first (or most public) battleground.

  10. DAS
    DAS March 6, 2007 at 9:37 am |

    I refuse to go to Israel until the major religious areas are open to men and women equally. – wolfa

    As much as in general I think divestment campaigns aimed against Israel are wrong-headed and arise from double standards, there is one divestment campaign I would sign onto — if we liberal (Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Modern Orthodox — note the big gap in Judaism is actually between the Modern and the Haredi Orthodox as you may note by Ragen’s being Orthodox herself, but not Orthodox enough, so to speak) Jews were to boycott even going to Israel and spending our tourist money there, etc., until they place liberal Judaism on equal footing.

    Also, Israel is a case study as to why it’s bad for religion to not have a wall between Church and State: because the ultra-Orthodox exclude liberal Judaism, the vast majority of Jews who are not comfortable as ultra-Orthodox, when in Israel end up being driven away from Judaism. So much for a Jewish State, eh? It drives Jews away from Judaism!

    FWIW, the ultra-Orthodox, like most groups seeking to retain/go back to “the way things always have been” are actually the furthest from the way things have always been in Judaism. But I guess if I go further, I’d be drifting way OT? …

  11. DAS
    DAS March 6, 2007 at 9:40 am |

    secular Jews (Reform Jews) who believe in equality – bean

    Speaking as someone who grew up Reform, Reform Jews are not secular Jews (except in the sense that all non-Haredi Jews are secular): the Reform Jewish orientation toward Judaism is as based on religion as the Conservative, Orthodox, etc. is. While Reform Jews do not hold Halacha to be binding, to say that the Reform Jewish orientation toward Judaism is one of mere culture (i.e. Reform Jews = Secular Jews) is rather an anti-Reform talking point, is it not?

  12. wolfa
    wolfa March 6, 2007 at 9:56 am |

    Most Jews in Israel are secular Orthodox Jews. I am a secular Reform or Reconstructionist Jew. (I am using the general sense of secular as “don’t particularly follow Jewish law in day-to-day life”.) The rabbi is not secular, but he is Reform.

    (I assume it’s impossible to be secular Haredi, unless there are quirks that I do not know about.)

    The big gap in Israel is between Orthodox and Haredi, because there are very few communities of Reform, etc.

    Also, Zuzu, they don’t think that Reform Jews aren’t Jews, they just think they’re bad (and/or non-practicing) Jews.

  13. DAS
    DAS March 6, 2007 at 10:41 am |

    Most Jews in Israel are secular Orthodox Jews. – wolfa

    That’s an interesting and insightful way to put it. C.f. Philip Roth’s semi-autobiographical novels: time was, when you went to Newark, etc., most Jews around were essentially, as you put it, secular Orthodox Jews. Nowadays most Jews who don’t follow Jewish law so strictly don’t attend Orthodox shuls and most Jews who do attend Orthodox shuls, follow Jewish law. But even in this country, it weren’t always so …

  14. DAS
    DAS March 6, 2007 at 11:07 am |

    I assume it’s impossible to be secular Haredi, unless there are quirks that I do not know about. – wolfa

    One could argue that since Haredi Jews live in a world were the distinction between secular and religious is so blurred (because there is no outside, non-religious world in which they even partly live) — because for Haredi the default way of living is to be religiously Jewish, it is impossible to know whether a Haredi Jew is secular or not as a secular person living in that world would also follow Jewish law as that is simply the law one follows (just as we in America follow American law).

    One could argue that in being so insular (it’s actually a sin to cut onesself off from the larger community in Judaism) and being in an environment where the normative behavior of everyone, even those who simply behave the way they do not out of religious commitment but out of mere conformity and who would be secular in a secular environment (i.e. these would be the “secular Haredi Jews”), the Haredi have abandoned the notion of Jews as being a unique and chosen people in creating a world in which Judaism is “normal” in the same way as the Zionists have — so I guess even as Haredi Jews think Zionism is not right (for more or less the same reasons I have a problem with Zionism — although my language is more secular about it than theres), they themselves are open to the same critique from a (liberal) Jewish point of view. So maybe the association between Haredi and hardline Zionists is more natural than we’d otherwise think? (just as certain aspects of fundie Christianity make their association with the secular right more natural than one would otherwise think given the tenets of Christianity?).

    Oddly, the Haredi identifying the problem (with Zionism) right but being part of the problem as it were rather than the solution is very much akin to the views some neo-cons have of the Mideast and the lack of democracy there …

    Lots of patterns here, eh? There really is nothing new under the sun …

  15. Hawise
    Hawise March 6, 2007 at 11:16 am |

    Lots of patterns here, eh? There really is nothing new under the sun …

    Titles, it is all in the titles that we give things, each compartmentalization more destructive/instructive than the last.

  16. One Jewish Dyke
    One Jewish Dyke March 6, 2007 at 11:29 am |

    Israel doesn’t even have secular marriage. If you don’t qualify for an Orthodox Jewish marriage, you have to go to another country to get married. Israel recognizes foreign marriages, including same-sex marriages from the countries where it is legal, but lots of Israelis simply do not get married because doing so would require a trip abroad.

    Those who do not qualify for an Orthodox marriage: interfaith couples, divorced women without a get (annulment that must be given by the man — if he refuses, a woman is in marriage limbo forever), a divorcee (even with a get to a member of the priest class, children born out of wedlock (except to other children born out of wedlock). The last is my personal favorite. People born to unmarried parents can’t marry, and since our laws here are so restrictive, we’re going to create lots more people excluded from legal marriage! On the plus side, since there are so many people who cannot marry and instead live together and raise children in alegal partnerships, there are lots of choices of other children of unmarried parents when those children reach adulthood.

  17. Mikey S
    Mikey S March 6, 2007 at 11:34 am |

    All fundamentalist groups seem to think that they’re Special Snowflakes

    Isn’t that really a necessary condition for being a fundamentalist?

  18. David
    David March 6, 2007 at 11:42 am |

    The last is my personal favorite. People born to unmarried parents can’t marry

    That’s simply not true. I think you’re confusing children born out of wedlock with mamzerim, which is another thing entirely.

  19. Frequent Commenter, Anonymous for Now
    Frequent Commenter, Anonymous for Now March 6, 2007 at 11:43 am |

    The amount of political deference given the ultra-Orthodox in Israel is depressing. When I was in the country (in 1999, a little before the beginning of the Second Intifada), I worked on an archaeological dig, and during the dig, we turned up human remains.

    It was a pretty interesting find. The burials were obviously non-Jewish (they were buried facing Rome, in a manner consistent with Crusaders), but nevertheless, the lead on the dig opted to conceal their discovery–they were quickly removed from the site and stored, and not included in the write-up of the dig. Reason being, the government department that oversaw the dig’s permits and such was dominated by the ultra-Orthodox, who made it a practice of shutting down digs where human remains were discovered, so that the remains could be re-interred and undisturbed, on the off chance that they were Jewish.

  20. Eurosabra
    Eurosabra March 6, 2007 at 11:51 am |

    I think One Jewish Dyke needs to look at the wikipedia entry for “Mamzer”, halacha of mamzerut is actually pretty restricted and is not as all-encompassing as a child “born out of wedlock”, else the State of Israel’s rabbinical authorities would be creating legions of mamzerim among secular Israeli Jews. (That is not to say that I am in favor of a state creating a class of maritally-disadvantaged people according to its institution of religious family law as the law of the land.)

  21. saltyfemme
    saltyfemme March 6, 2007 at 11:53 am |

    There are many groups that fall under the rubric of “Haredi,” so we should be specific about what we’re referring to. Neturei Karta are the big anti-Zionist Haredim; there are any number of non-Zionist Haredi groups that have a tenuous relationship with the Israeli government.

    Das wrote:

    even as Haredi Jews think Zionism is not right (for more or less the same reasons I have a problem with Zionism — although my language is more secular about it than theres)

    If your problems with Zionism are more secular, than they are probably pretty different than the issues that many of the Haredi groups have with it (although I’m very curious to hear how they are similar). Theirs is a pretty cut-and-dried reason: the messiah hasn’t arrived yet. Until that day comes, we are attempting to “play God” by establishing a modern Jewish state on that piece of land. Furthermore, many of the Orthodox founders of the state of Israel thought that if we were establishing a Jewish state, it needs to be a state run entirely under Halacha (Jewish law) – anything less would be disrespectful to God, Halacha, and Jewish tradition. Most of the Haredim who live in Israel consider it “Eretz Yisrael” as opposed to “Medinat Yisrael” (the Biblical land of Israel as oppposed to the modern state of Israel).

    the major issue here, in my opinion, is that many of these Haredi groups can’t decide what their relationship should be with the Israeli government (and a related problem: the Israeli government can’t figure out its own relationship to Halacha). The logic seem to be: we don’t like the idea of the Jewish state, but as long as it exists, Halacha has to be promoted wherever possible and we will use our political clout to make sure that happens. The buses in question are run by Egged, a state-run bus company. Legally they should not be permitted to have this kind of de-facto segregation, except that the Haredi community has major pull in the government.

  22. emjaybee
    emjaybee March 6, 2007 at 12:03 pm |

    I lived in a Brooklyn Hasidic neighborhood, and it was mostly ok, but being studiously ignored by your neighbors does get old. The funniest bit was the attitude towards pets; the kids next door were fascinated that we had an indoor cat. Also, when we had a birdfeeder at our back window, they were curious as to why we fed the birds. “Do you EAT them?” they asked fearfully. Um, no, we don’t have a taste for roasted cardinals, kid. Pork, sure, but songbirds, no.

    It was hard to see all the young women walking, playing in their long skirts, watching their brothers and sisters, and knowing that their chances of escaping marriage and 10 kids at an early age were small, despite the whole world being a train ride away. Taking that train would mean being cut off from their whole family.

  23. Betsy
    Betsy March 6, 2007 at 12:08 pm |

    Also, Zuzu, they don’t think that Reform Jews aren’t Jews, they just think they’re bad (and/or non-practicing) Jews.

    Sort of, I guess, like those commenters who pop up here and at Pandagon to tell the liberal Catholics that they’re not “really” Catholics because they’re pro-choice.

    Similar in some ways, but with a fundamentally different meaning – Many believe that Judaism is as much about your bloodline as your beliefs (the whole “chosen people” thing, which icks me out, despite my ostensibly being one of them). So it is different from Catholics who say you’re not “really” Catholic if you don’t believe what they say. The ultra-Orthodox believe that, if you are descended from Jews via your mother, you really are a Jew no matter what, you’re just a crappy one if you don’t follow their practices. If you converted to Judaism, on the other hand, you’re not “really” a Jew unless you converted according to their Special Snowflake critera.

    Does this make any sense? I’m not trying to nickpick terribly, but it is one of the things that differentiates Christian orthodoxy from Jewish orthodoxy. No less repellent; just different.

  24. DAS
    DAS March 6, 2007 at 12:11 pm |

    Theirs is a pretty cut-and-dried reason: the messiah hasn’t arrived yet. Until that day comes, we are attempting to “play God” by establishing a modern Jewish state on that piece of land. Furthermore, many of the Orthodox founders of the state of Israel thought that if we were establishing a Jewish state, it needs to be a state run entirely under Halacha (Jewish law) – anything less would be disrespectful to God, Halacha, and Jewish tradition. – saltyfemme

    In practical terms, because the Messiah hasn’t arived yet, Israel doesn’t have the quality sort of leadership that it needs in order to navigate a world in which there are double standards bound to be applied to a “Jewish State” — i.e. to survive those double standards without either getting too cowed by them or, on the other hand, avoiding even doing the right thing because your critics might be motivated by anti-Semitism.

    And indeed, there are issues with Israel not following Jewish law, although the Haredi (outside of the virulently anti-Zionist Satmar community and Neturai Karta — would Peretz and company call them anti-Semites?) are strangely silent about these issues, in terms of Israel’s military policies. E.g. in the last Lebanon war, Israel flagrantly violated Jewish law by bombing the roads before civilians could leave towns that would be under attack. And many Zionists frankly feel, bizarrely, that the so-called Jewish State shouldn’t have to follow Jewish law in these issues?

    One could argue that any state would have to violate the relevent Jewish laws — but that is why a Jewish State must wait until the Messiah comes!

    Incidently, in the “Prayer for the State of Israel” adopted by many Jews, there is a line in the opening I cannot brind myself to say (the rest, about praying for Israel to establish peace with its neighbors, etc., I can say just fine): it refers to Israel as the “dawn of our redemption”. To me this is bizarre: how is Israel helping our redemption? Isn’t it giving anti-Semites fodder for them to say “see we told you the Jews were like this”?

    I agree with you as to what’s happening re: the non-anti-Zionist Haredi and the Israeli government …

  25. lindsay
    lindsay March 6, 2007 at 12:20 pm |

    Just one more reason to love my chosen non-religion of atheism. These women should pick one secret night to grab a gun, grab their children, and high tail it out of the country and if anyone try to stop them they’ve got their guns to dole out some justice. Some of these women need to just shoot the dick off some of these bastards, just shoot it right off and throw it in these men’s faces. I’m sorry, I’m feeling very violent today. Whenever I read stories like this, stories that won’t affect me directly still manage to make me feel so helpless, like I can’t do anything substantial to help these women. I don’t know what I would do in such a society, I honestly think I’d resort to killing myself. Give me justice or give me death. Religion is so perverse. This is what happens when it ceases to be something private and becomes something ridiculously public.

  26. bmc90
    bmc90 March 6, 2007 at 12:25 pm |

    Does anyone out there consider themselves part of a religion that empowers women on all levels? I can’t relate since I don’t believe in anyone’s sky fairy.

  27. wolfa
    wolfa March 6, 2007 at 12:29 pm |

    My sisters were converted at the Orthodox synagogue — where we’re not members — just so that they would be “real” Jews should they end up being religious and avoid having to convert again. (They’re adopted; I’m not.)

    Actually, the Rabbinate does keep records of mamzerim, though they try as hard as possible to prove that no one is really one. (This causes problems if you, eg, want to sue for paternity.) Incidentally, mamzers *can* marry converts, but not born Jews. Children of mamzers are themselves mamzers, for 7 or 9 or something generations.

    The Hasids here live in the middle of the city, surrounded by trendy neighbourhoods (and students). I don’t believe many people leave the community; they somehow stay insulated despite sharing the same blocks and bakeries (there’s one I particularly like) as everyone else. I find them incredibly annoying, though it’s fun to see the paises fly out as they bike. I think this might be interesting as large groups of French and Argentinian Jews start to move here.

  28. wolfa
    wolfa March 6, 2007 at 12:32 pm |

    Also, a lot of the Hasids here have very elaborate bird feeders. Not a clue why, but they’re pretty.

    And it’s debatable (and debated) about whether you can really be Jewish and an atheist. Since I claim both labels, I’d say you can be both. (Some rabbis — who, you know, study the theology and all — agree.)

  29. saltyfemme
    saltyfemme March 6, 2007 at 12:35 pm |

    It was hard to see all the young women walking, playing in their long skirts, watching their brothers and sisters, and knowing that their chances of escaping marriage and 10 kids at an early age were small, despite the whole world being a train ride away. Taking that train would mean being cut off from their whole family.

    Not all Haredim are oppressed by their cultural norms. Not all the women want (or should want!) to “escape marriage.” The train ride also leads to a life void of Torah, among other things. They see their lifestyle as fulfilling a commandment that they are more than happy to fulfill. It’s not all perfect, and granted some (men and women) do choose to leave this lifestyle. But it should not be painted in such black-and-white terms, we should not be applying our own notions of feminism into an entirely different cultural context.

    In context, Haredi women have a tremendous amount of power. Within their families, many are the sole breadwinners and make most decisions concerning their children. Everything in context.

  30. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne March 6, 2007 at 12:45 pm |

    I find them incredibly annoying, though it’s fun to see the paises fly out as they bike.

    We have Hasid rollerbladers out here in Los Angeles, especially the kids.

  31. A Pang
    A Pang March 6, 2007 at 12:47 pm |

    bmc90: Of course there exist a lot of forward-thinking denominations in which women are equal with men. (A Reconstructionist Jew, for example, could probably say her religion empowers women.)

    If you mean “Does any religion not have factions of fundamentalist extremists who treat women like evil tempting incubator-slaves who need to shut up and get back in the kitchen?” — well, no. In that case you could say that no religion empowers women on all levels. But in a patriarchy, what institution does?

    End threadjack.

  32. Josh
    Josh March 6, 2007 at 12:55 pm |

    In context, Haredi women have a tremendous amount of power.

    In context, the Pussycat Dolls have a tremendous amount of power.

  33. Aaron Denney
    Aaron Denney March 6, 2007 at 1:05 pm |

    “Does any religion not have factions of fundamentalist extremists who treat women like evil tempting incubator-slaves who need to shut up and get back in the kitchen?”

    I would find it hard to imagine a sect of Dianic Wiccans with fundamentalist extremists like that.

  34. Carrie S.
    Carrie S. March 6, 2007 at 1:36 pm |

    I would find it hard to imagine a sect of Dianic Wiccans with fundamentalist extremists like that.

    That’s because “Dianic” is a subdivision of “Wicca” in the same way that “Mormon”, “Catholic” or “Lutheran” are subdivisions of “Christianity”. So no, Dianics can’t really have “fundamentalist extremists who treat women like evil tempting incubator-slaves who need to shut up and get back in the kitchen”. But Wicca as a whole can and does, usually in the form of “But women are so holy, we can’t let them sully themselves doing any thinking!”

  35. Noam
    Noam March 6, 2007 at 1:38 pm |

    The problem we all encounter with these philosophies is that Haredim, by definition, are Conservatives in the traditional sense (rather than the voting Republican sense) of not adapting many of the changes of the modern world – one of which is the advancement of women. If it makes you feel better, they still dress the same way they did in the 1800′s, in Eastern Europe, and the males also individually have little power within the community in the context of the Rabbi.

    They’re also separate from Hassidim. I’m not sure if there are ‘Haredi Hassids’, but to my understanding (and admittedly it should be better considering my upbringing), Haredi is a matter of degree (alternate word for ultra orthodox) as opposed to orthodox, modern orthodox, conservative, reform, conservadox, etc. whereas Hassid is a matter of type of practice, spiritualism, etc.

    (run-on sentence warning): I don’t like to find myself defending these people, because I find their general conduct deplorable within both normal human interactions and with a context towards Jewish history, where progressive causes have usually been things that kept Jews alive, but I’m going to just note that a lot of the things you’ll read about their community is born not out of a deep-seated animosity towards women or belief that they are inferior creatures, but out of a belief that men and women have very different spiritual roles in the world, and out of their particular belief that imperfections within human nature demand the segregation of women and men in ‘intimate’ or potentially intimate settings. I don’t think it would particularly bother most of the men on those buses if it was men in the back and women in the front, for example. It might bother some, but I think the point for most is being separate from them, not being superior to them because of their place in the front. Some buses I’ve been on in Israel have a separation running through the middle of the bus, for example.

    That said, the conduct has no place in a public setting where there are people who don’t consent to it. I’m fairly certain that the new Chief Justice of the Israeli High Court, Dorit Bainish, will allow that famously progressive institution to condone the behavior – and so I think this particular matter of concern will be resolved in short order.

    As for religious/secular relations in Israel, they are very hostile to one another, and my personal belief is that they’re both wrong. I’d place more blame on the religious, but the secular are not completely innocent bystanders of some religious aggression in Israel – which, as you will recall, was formed to be a Jewish country with a democratic nature, not a pluralistic democracy.

  36. Ipomoea
    Ipomoea March 6, 2007 at 1:47 pm |

    I was raised Unitarian Universalist, I would consider them to be a pretty liberal religion. What would be a faction of fundamentalist extremist UUs? Would they forcibly hold you down to drink coffee and talk about a committee? Make you register to vote? Demand that you agitate for gay marriage?

  37. NeilC
    NeilC March 6, 2007 at 2:45 pm |

    As a Jew, I feel embarrassed by this. It’s why I consider my religion more a cultural thing, though I believe in G-d. It’s why any fundamentalist, Jewish, Christian, Moslem, are all the same to me: insane.

  38. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne March 6, 2007 at 2:48 pm |

    Somebody on Pandagon just used this story to illustrate Why All Jews Are Bad.

    Talk about missing the point …

  39. DAS
    DAS March 6, 2007 at 2:52 pm |

    I’m not sure if there are ‘Haredi Hassids’, but to my understanding (and admittedly it should be better considering my upbringing), Haredi is a matter of degree (alternate word for ultra orthodox) as opposed to orthodox, modern orthodox, conservative, reform, conservadox, etc. whereas Hassid is a matter of type of practice, spiritualism, etc. – Noam

    That’s my understanding too. Except nowadays most Chassidim are Haredim (although a few, especially within Chabad, are not) and many Haredim have absorbed Chassidic mores (probably justified as “that’s how we always did things” albeit probably at much to the shock of their ancestors who may have been anti-Chassidic), so the boundaries do get blurred. But most of the “Haredi” Jews that one would encounter in NYC (certain suburbs are a different story) are often (e.g. the ones with the shtreimels, etc) are Chassidic.

  40. sophonisba
    sophonisba March 6, 2007 at 2:55 pm |

    not out of a deep-seated animosity towards women or belief that they are inferior creatures, but out of a belief that men and women have very different spiritual roles in the world

    With respect, this is a distinction without a difference.

    When the subject is men and women and religion, women’s ‘difference’ is always and without exception code for ‘inferiority.’ I dare say there are a great number of highly idealistic religious women who do not wish this to be true and see no reason why it should have to be true, and I sympathize, but nevertheless, the way the world is run, in concrete practical terms, it is true.

  41. sophonisba
    sophonisba March 6, 2007 at 2:59 pm |

    there are a great number of highly idealistic religious women who do not wish this to be true and see no reason why it should have to be true, and I sympathize

    and not only sympathize but also, I should add, agree. There is no reason it should have to be the case that because men and women are theoretically spiritually different — even though this is not true — that women should be subordinate to male religious authority rather than the reverse. And yet it is the case.

  42. DAS
    DAS March 6, 2007 at 3:06 pm |

    “But women are so holy, we can’t let them sully themselves doing any thinking!” – Carrie S.

    This is exactly the mindset of some of the fundie Jews (or at least it used to be — fundie Judaism is different than it was a few generations ago — before, if you’ll pardon my stereotyping, it used to be very much a nebbishy sort of movement … nowadays it’s very much about machismo) or at least their excuse.

    Sometimes it seems, ironically given the history of the Jewish religion, that today’s pagans and Jews have so much in common ;)

    *

    he says he doesn’t like to go there because there’s always someone urging him to “put tefillin” and so on. – Interrobang

    And while, of course, the fundie Jews are only interested in prostletyzing Jews (and people who didn’t convert to Judaism in the Snowflake way — they’ll want to Snowflake — I love that usage ;) — convert you), they do get confused as to who is Jewish. One of my flatmates (of Indian birth and origins) has been harrassed by them. When they were pushing everyone to wave the lulav last Sukkos, they skipped over my gf (who, shall we say, doesn’t look Jewish) — she had to push a bit to get them to let her perform the Mitzvah that she wanted a chance to perform (which chance they were providing everyone else)!

  43. NeilC
    NeilC March 6, 2007 at 3:17 pm |

    Reminds me of my days in college when I walked past a Mitzvah Mobile and actually allowed myself to go in and put on tfillin, etc. But since then, I try to avoid hasidim as much as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I have my beliefs, I don’t want to hear about anyone else’s.

  44. lou
    lou March 6, 2007 at 3:35 pm |

    This is a fascinating discussion. Fundamentalists of all religious stripes always make me wonder why they hate women so much. My only knowledge of this sect comes from a friend whose sister converted, married an ultra orthodox hasidic man and has bore him, to date, something like 10 or 12 kids. They’re dirt poor, she has to work so that he can “study” the Torah (I’m pointing out her working is a little different from the Christian version of fundamentalism, which prohibits women from working outside the home) so the older girls get the child-raising duties. My friend couldn’t even stay over at their house when her sister was in the hospital because of the tight strictures. And they also refused to teach the kids how to read and write in English — only Hebrew.

  45. Noam
    Noam March 6, 2007 at 3:39 pm |

    With respect, this is a distinction without a difference.

    When the subject is men and women and religion, women’s ‘difference’ is always and without exception code for ‘inferiority.’ I dare say there are a great number of highly idealistic religious women who do not wish this to be true and see no reason why it should have to be true, and I sympathize, but nevertheless, the way the world is run, in concrete practical terms, it is true.

    I disagree with your interpretation. I am just going off some bullet points I remember from my own education of the subject, but:

    As a departure point, men and women were thought to be equally created in the image of God. The ten commandments are repeated twice in the Bible. In the second one (I think Leviticus), some things are reversed and some words changed in order to establish some points. An example includes a commandment about the Sabbath (one says Keep it, the other says Remember/Commemorate it); another difference is with respect to the commandment demanding respect for parents. In one version, it’s father first. In the other, it’s mother first. All major commentators agree that it’s to emphasize that both parents are equal partners in the eyes of God in the act of creation).

    It also goes to the point that Jews believe that men and women have different skills. Women are thought to have more introspection and intelligence than men. Women are thought not to fall so easily for sin as man (I believe women did not participate in the golden calf in the Bible).

    These thoughts are not just theories. They also apply to the rights afforded to women in the society. I’ll preface it by saying that I realize that many religious ‘rights’ are not enjoyed by women in orthodox judaism, like active leading/participation in prayer services, being counted for a Minyan, and having obligations like prayer three times a day.

    However:

    - Sex is regarded a woman’s right in a marriage according to Jewish law, and a husband must respect his wife, cannot degrade her or beat her in any way. In fact, he must always consider ‘peace of the home’ in acting and do what is necessary to preserve it (she has to as well).
    -Women are always afforded the presumption of truth when accusing a man of rape.
    -Women are allowed to own property and operate businesses under Jewish law.

    There’s a lot more, but I forget. The laws and obligations for men and women are definitely different, but I strongly contest that women are inherently degraded in Judaism because they have a separate set of obligations, responsibilities and rights.

    Of course this conflicts with the western liberal idea that people should be completely free to choose their responsibilities and rights, but don’t confuse the fact that the idea is foreign to you with inherent inequality.

  46. Deborah
    Deborah March 6, 2007 at 3:42 pm |

    But I’m skeptical about the same kind of thing happening in the States — religion and public life are maybe inseparable in practice, but they aren’t integrated in the way they are in Israel, thanks to the constitution.

    Look up Monroe, New York and get back to me on that.

  47. Deborah
    Deborah March 6, 2007 at 3:46 pm |

    But Wicca as a whole can and does, usually in the form of “But women are so holy, we can’t let them sully themselves doing any thinking!”

    That is not only offensive but utterly and completely false. I know of no Wiccans, anywhere, that treat women in the way you describe. Wiccans can be roughly divided three ways: Those who venerate women and therefore give them all or the majority of religious and leadership power, and those who venerate women and therefore give them strictly equal amounts of religious and leadership power, and those who venerate women and therefore ignore gender entirelly in the distribution of religious or leadership power.

    I defy you to come up with a single source for your statement that women are oppressed or prevented from thinking in Wicca.

    Deborah Lipp
    Wiccan Priestess for twenty-five years

  48. arora
    arora March 6, 2007 at 4:17 pm |

    “Whenever I read stories like this, stories that won’t affect me directly still manage to make me feel so helpless, like I can’t do anything substantial to help these women. I don’t know what I would do in such a society, I honestly think I’d resort to killing myself.”

    I am one of these women.

    Thankfully, there are organizations to help those of us who choose to leave our communities. Nevertheless, it can be incredibly difficult and painful.

    In Israel, an organization called Hillel:
    http://www.hillel.org.il/_ArticlesLang/Article.asp?CategoryID=41&ArticleID=26

    In NYC, an organization called Footsteps:
    http://www.footstepsorg.org/

    There is a burgeoning ‘ex-orthodox’ community in NYC that provides social support, and the ‘skeptic/rebel’ blogs have been a haven for many of us.

    There is a book entitled ‘Unchosen’ that documents the journeys of some of my fellow ‘rebels’:
    http://www.amazon.com/Unchosen-Hidden-Lives-Hasidic-Rebels/dp/0807036277/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-4646895-0927269?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1173215686&sr=8-1

  49. DAS
    DAS March 6, 2007 at 4:18 pm |

    The laws and obligations for men and women are definitely different, but I strongly contest that women are inherently degraded in Judaism because they have a separate set of obligations, responsibilities and rights. – Noam

    Here’s the problem: because women are considered to have a primary obligation toward raising the kidz (and, due to social conditions in Eastern Europe, oftentimes they were the ones bringing home the — if you’ll pardon the invocation of traif in this saying — bacon), they are exempted from time dependent positive mitzvos. Which, in (traditional) Judaism, means that they don’t really get to perform those mitzvos. Since, in Judaism, you’re worth is considered based not on who you are nor whatever but your fulfilling of even a few obligations (in general a good mindset, IMHO — but it does leave the door open to the “frum olympics” mindset of some of the Orthodox), since women have fewer obligations to fulfill (even if the reasons they are exempted pay lip service to women being “superior” — i.e. the ol’ pedistal (sp?): what’s the old witicism — “women have an exalted place in traditional Orthodoxy, usually the second balcony”) they are de facto degraded since they don’t have as many opportunities to score Mitzvah points as the men … so there ends up being an inherent inequality.

    Also, as I mentioned above, while Judaism traditionally was not particularly machismo, traditional Orthodoxy has become very much a bastion of machismo (in reaction, e.g., to feelings of Jewish powerlessness) for the same reasons as Zionism was often associated with machismo — yet again, traditional Orthodoxyand Zionism, with their national/cultural idea of Judaism really are quite similar when you think about it, nu?

  50. DAS
    DAS March 6, 2007 at 4:24 pm |

    And they also refused to teach the kids how to read and write in English — only Hebrew. – lou

    Are you sure it was (only) Hebrew? It used to be, at least, that as the Holy Toungue, Hebrew was not used as a language of common discourse (which is yet another objection I share with the Haredi to Israel: Hebrew should be a language the knowledge of which indicates a — personal or familial — commitment to Judaism, not which merely indicates you having been born in Israel, for example … the language of the people of Israel is anyway Aramaic … so why “debase” the language of the religion of Israel by secularizing it?) among the traditionally Orthodox.

    If they were Ashkenazim, they probably also learned Yiddish, which is written in Hebrew letters but is essentially a variant of German with a few Slavic, Hebraic and Latinate words thrown in. It’s a beautiful language actually: I wished I spoke it (as soon as my undergrad research advisor, z”l, found out I was Jewish, he started speaking at me in Yiddish — by the end of my undergraduate education I got to the point where I could kinda understand him …).

  51. Janis
    Janis March 6, 2007 at 4:26 pm |

    Deborah — sorry, but I’ve seen it, and I’ve been Pagan and Wiccan in my time. There is a strong sub-core of gender-obsessed Wiccans who actively promote the most right-wing cheapass images of men and women, period. Wiccan is not monolithic, and your insinuation that your twenty-five years of experience means that you get to define every single instance of it is patently ridiculous.

    There are a LOT of factions and different groups out there, and the worship of the uterus that has subsumed a lot of these groups has led to a clear and blatant valuation of that organ as the only one in a woman’s body that matters for anything. Brain? What is brain?

    The common image of the Goddess and God among these types is of a Hawt Chik in a see-through veil doing shimmy-dances and a big hairy ultra-macho biker dude. If you have never seen those images to the point of regarding them as practically cliches, I have to question what you’ve been doing in Wicca for lo these past twenty five years.

    That image, that mindset, is absolutely and most definitely a strong subcurrent in an awful lot of neo-Pagan communities. And if you cah somehow explain to me how dividing up the female lifespan by reproductive status isn’t sexist (maiden/mother/crone), I’d like to hear it.

  52. DAS
    DAS March 6, 2007 at 4:38 pm |

    BTW … the “asshole” tag really summarizes what may be going on in general here: good catch Zuzu! I just noticed it, actually.

    There is an undercurrent in reactionary Jewish movements, from right-wing Orthodoxy, to revisionist Zionism to (the Jewish corners of) neo-conservatism of “no more Mr. Nice Guy”. The mind-set is “they are going to hate us, no matter what we do, so why should we be nice? — let’s in fact be assholes if they are going to hate us anyway”. And they then treat everyone — even their own, in an assaholic manner …

    The problem is that we are finally at a juncture when maybe “they” won’t hate us anymore except for all those assholes giving “them” a reason to hate us … if you’ll pardon my victim blaming here (and if you don’t see how what I just did is victim blaming, then you have some double standards of your own of the sort that get reactionary Jews all hot and bothered — don’t worry, though — you’re doing them a favor: they like getting worked up ;) … that’s a key point of reactionarism, nu?).

  53. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne March 6, 2007 at 4:55 pm |

    Of course this conflicts with the western liberal idea that people should be completely free to choose their responsibilities and rights, but don’t confuse the fact that the idea is foreign to you with inherent inequality.

    So if the women aren’t considered to be inherently unequal, why don’t they get to sit at the front of the bus while the men sit at the back? After all, they’re more likely to be on the bus with small children or groceries, or to be pregnant, so it would make more sense for the women to sit at the front than it does for the men.

  54. Noam
    Noam March 6, 2007 at 5:47 pm |

    DAS:

    In response to the ‘mitzva points’ argument, I’d say traditional Judaism believes the scoring system is entirely different. I can even flip it quite easily. You can argue that you start off at 100% and lose points for failing to fulfill certain obligations; less obligations means less opportunity for failure. Either way, I don’t really think it’s built in for that reason, and failing a one-on-one with God, if you believe in such an entity, I don’t think you can really ascertain how the scoring works. (And even though some Rabbis have claimed understanding of the scoring system, as far as I can tell nobody that Judaism actually believes is divinely inspired has uttered or implied such a thing).

    Mnemosyne:

    I don’t know who thought up of this particular arrangement. There are no shortage of bastards who think they’re superior to women high up in the ultra-orthodox hierarchy. However, I was speaking to the concept and to the majority of the people who find it to be an important thing to have the separation in the first place.

    If it was women in the front and men in the back, a division down the middle, or completely separate buses, would there be a similar problem? I cannot imagine that they could save much public face if confronted with an argument that separation should just be flipped, or alternate weeks if front/back is the only way to do it. I also imagine the problem most of the people in this particular discussion are having is the concept of separation on buses and what it meant in the United States, as opposed to what I am proposing it means in this context.

    I have no problem with people raising the issue and making sure they’re called on it when it’s practiced in an ugly way, as it often is. I’ve actually heard of much worse things being done to women by people within these communities, and I hope that my playing devil’s advocate is not confused with condoning a good bunch of these folks who cannot be described as anything short of cavemen.

    However, I think it’s equally important to recognize that the theory here is not “you suck, women” but rather “separation is important for reasons that are not the degradation of women.”

  55. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne March 6, 2007 at 5:57 pm |

    I also imagine the problem most of the people in this particular discussion are having is the concept of separation on buses and what it meant in the United States, as opposed to what I am proposing it means in this context.

    Here’s the problem: in this particular context, I think it means exactly what it meant here in the United States, right down to the privileged person confronting the less-privileged person and demanding that she move.

    You can argue that, in the abstract, there are sound reasons for the separation of the genders in light of these religious beliefs, but in practice, they always lead to situations where the men feel they should be allowed to boss the women around, even (or especially) women who are strangers to them. That’s why we in the United States rejected the concept of “separate but equal” — it doesn’t work.

  56. oudemia
    oudemia March 6, 2007 at 6:13 pm |

    You know, we have these buses here in NYC. My best friend from high school — now ultra-orthodox — rides one to work everyday. They basically run from Monsey (ultra-orthodox suburb) to 47th St. There’s a curtain separating the men from the women, but as I understand it, the curtain runs straight up the middle.

    Of course the salient point is that these buses are an entirely private enterprise running between a place where nearly everyone who lives there is orthodox to a place where nearly everyone who works there is orthodox.

    For the record, though, men still feel the need to instruct women on how to behave. My friend was screamed at and lectured by a man wholly unknown to her for speaking through a break in the curtain to her husband on the other side. He told her she was shockingly lacking in modesty. Her husband didn’t defend her and she was pretty bummed.

  57. Alix
    Alix March 6, 2007 at 6:16 pm |

    Deborah – I’ve seen very antifeminist Wiccans too. It is, in fact, the primary reason I went solitary instead of joining a coven – for too many Wiccans I met, their veneration of the Goddess was all theoretical, and usually all couched in “hot chick”, uterus worshipping imagery, as Janis states so well.

    Frankly, I’ve yet to meet a Wiccan in my area who doesn’t have serious problems with me being asexual, and they express directly in religious terms – to them, if I’m not sexual/fertile/whatever, I’m not “honoring the Goddess” and can’t be Wiccan.

    When more Wiccans are less sex-obsessed, and less focused on women’s wombs, then we’ll talk.

    And, for the record, I consider myself strongly influenced by Wicca, though I cannot in good faith call myself Wiccan.

  58. PhoenixRising
    PhoenixRising March 6, 2007 at 7:43 pm |

    Ipomoea-

    Radical UUs burn a question mark on your lawn.

    Step right up, everyone, I’ve got hundreds more UU jokes, and they’re all that bad.

    Though stories like this make me so grateful that my parents raised us without religion, in a Unitarian church (bad-a-bing!), they also remind me of my mom’s explanation of the Amish we lived among. She explained that the Amish lived like they did because they thought God wanted them to work hard on farms, and that she could tell us, from her experience growing up on a farm, that it did require a lot of hard work.

  59. Tricia(freya)
    Tricia(freya) March 6, 2007 at 8:11 pm |

    It’s pretty varied the “kinds” of Wiccan/pagan trends you see in different parts of the country. And different trads. As odd as it may sound, you don’t tend to get the “anti-female sex-ay chick” crowd in the South — mostly because we escaped the Baptists to get away from that shit. :-)

    Does happen on occasion, and I’d run like hell from that myself. My guess is that Deborah is west coast (possibly Bay area) because the feminist trend is pretty well engrained there.

    Most of the anti-feminists I’ve heard about had too many Thelemic (and that “too holy” stuff definitely sounds Thelemic) or Frost influences. The Frost’s unfortunately lean toward homophobia as well.

    As far as the maiden/mother/crone (son/warrior/sage is the male version) thing, it’s metaphoric in my tradition and has nothing to do with a woman’s reproductive status. No one is forced to choose a role. I’m 40, bi, and child-free — the goddess and god don’t seem to mind which aspect I work with whether it is warrior, mother, maiden…

    We do place community/coven service requirements on those who serve as Elders, which again have nothing to do with age or physical status. I have a few “Elders” who are younger than I am.

    In the interest of full disclosure, the trad I belong to is matriarchal and our rules say that a coven can be run by a priestess alone, but not a priest without a priestess.

  60. Erika
    Erika March 6, 2007 at 8:36 pm |

    It’s been my experience that, while Orthodox Jews don’t proselytize to gentiles, they do proselytize to other Jews (trying to convince them that Orthodox belief is the best or only way to practice Judaism).

  61. Tricia(freya)
    Tricia(freya) March 6, 2007 at 8:45 pm |

    p.s. Alix: That is just plain rude, although I have heard of crap like that. If you feel like taking them on — not that you’re obligated to by any means — you might want to watch their heads explode when you point out to them the many asexual and celibate-by-choice deities. Artemis and Athena are two who immediately come to mind, but almost every pantheon from every part of the world has at least one or two. Sex and gender roles may play a large part in Wiccan/pagan metaphors, but they shouldn’t and don’t have to be limiting.

  62. Alon Levy
    Alon Levy March 6, 2007 at 8:46 pm |

    Noam, the “Judaism actually considers women superior to men” line just doesn’t hold water. If having fewer obligations means you’re treated better, then why do goys have fewer obligations than Jews? Given that the Bible specifically speaks to men – “You (masc. sing.) will not covet your friend’s wife” – and that women are considered first to be their fathers’ property and then their husbands’, arguing that Judaism is anything but patriarchal is disingenuous.

    One Jewish Dyke, it’s not true that Jewish law doesn’t permit children born out of wedlock to marry. The definition of “Bastard” extends only to people born to a married woman by another man.

    - Sex is regarded a woman’s right in a marriage according to Jewish law, and a husband must respect his wife, cannot degrade her or beat her in any way. In fact, he must always consider ‘peace of the home’ in acting and do what is necessary to preserve it (she has to as well).
    - Women are always afforded the presumption of truth when accusing a man of rape.
    - Women are allowed to own property and operate businesses under Jewish law.

    That’s like saying Hitler wasn’t a mass murderer because he never engaged in Stalinesque mass starvation. The presumption of truth when accusing men of rape is fairly standard when the woman is not married; Hammurabi’s code affords them that, even as it declares rape of a married women mere adultery. Peace of home appears elsewhere in different guises, but in practice the burden always falls on the woman, who is considered owned by her husband. That he isn’t allowed to beat her doesn’t matter; he’s not allowed to beat his children, either, and is only allowed to beat his slaves to some extent.

  63. Deborah
    Deborah March 6, 2007 at 8:49 pm |

    Wiccan is not monolithic, and your insinuation that your twenty-five years of experience means that you get to define every single instance of it is patently ridiculous.

    You are not Carrie S., who used phrasing indicating that she thinks Wicca is monolithic—she referred to “Wicca as a whole.”

    I fully support the understanding that Wicca is diverse, and since there is no monolithic structure, there can be individual groups that are widely divergent from common Wiccan theology. I would contend, though, that there is a recognizable core of Wiccan theology and praxis, and that anti-feminism and keeping women away from the brain stuff is sharply in opposition to that core.

    What I’ve been doing for the past twenty-five years has been (among other things) travelling to Pagan gatherings all over the world, talking to and learning from a wide variety of Wiccans, Druids, Asatrur, and other Pagans, writing four books on Wiccan/Pagan topics, teaching Wicca, running a Pagan blog, being active on Pagan and Wiccan message boards, and all that sort of shit. I don’t like every sort of Pagan or Paganism that I see, but I think I’m pretty conversant with my community.

    And if you cah somehow explain to me how dividing up the female lifespan by reproductive status isn’t sexist (maiden/mother/crone), I’d like to hear it.

    I didn’t say there wasn’t anything within Paganism that isn’t sexist, or couldn’t be framed in a sexist way (I could frame maiden/mother/crone in a non-sexist way, but that’s not the point). I was specifically arguing with Carrie S.’s statement that Wiccan women are not allowed “sully themselves with thinking” and “need to get back in the kitchen”. That’s patently false. I’ve never seen it. If I saw it I’d denounce it as not Wiccan in the same was I’d denounce Jesus worship as not Jewish.

  64. Vanessa
    Vanessa March 6, 2007 at 9:37 pm |

    I’m finding this discussion about the role of women in fundamentalist Judaism interesting in light of my upbringing with my conservative (but not fundamentalist, you should hear him bitch about Wahhabis) Muslim father. The view of women in Islam I think kind of falls in the same category.

    I think my opinion kind of combines those of Noam (playing devil’s advocate) and Mnemosyne. While I think its important to note that many women live happy lives with rules of this nature (I’ve heard many a Muslima bristle about how many non-Muslim women tell them, in concerned tones, that they didn’t have to listen to their husbands when they told them to dress like that if they didn’t want to, never considering that maybe she wanted to put the damn hijab on her self,) *in practice* they pretty much always result in oppression. As stated above, Separate But Equal, like Communism, doesn’t really work in real life.

    I think, at least in Islam (I don’t really know enough about Judiasm to say) is that fundamentalists follow the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. If a code of laws is written in the middle ages then “the letter” of it will probably be downright draconian. But the “spirit” of Islam, at least the way it seemed to me, was to elevate the status of women. (Mohammed’s first -and only, until she died- wife was a business woman, the number of permitted wives was limited, female infanticide was forbidden, etc).

    It just kind of seemed like something similar is going on here. Also, as zuzu said, the big problem here is that these aren’t private buses but public ones that *other* people need to use, too.

  65. Vanessa
    Vanessa March 6, 2007 at 10:30 pm |

    Doh. Let’s pretend that reads “the *problem* is that fundamentalists read the letter of the law…” Me no preview good.

    Also, I’ll add that Wicca as I have experienced it (during a period after moving out of my father’s house, before I came into my full atheism) also had a sexist undercurrent as described by other commenters.

    I’ve also experienced similar attitudes from the La Leche League (or as they are now known in my house, the Milk Nazis) and “hippies” in general. It seems like there can be such a thing as a “fundamentalist liberal” sometimes, too.

  66. nona
    nona March 7, 2007 at 12:09 am |

    I’m sorry, but I absolutely *have* to bring you all a message of aggresive tolerance and militant agnosticism from Unitarian Jihad.

  67. tzs
    tzs March 7, 2007 at 1:34 am |

    One of my friends had the following gripe about the interpretation of the Koran:
    “Remarkably enlightened and tolerant at the time it was written. Unfortunately it stayed frozen where it was while the rest of the world marched on.”

    What kept the Christian church from an equivalent codification seems to have been a) lots of Biblical stories which could either only be interpreted as history or in a very nebulous metaphorical way, b) lots of stuff had already been shoved under the rug by the Roman emperors of a certain period (Constantine et al), who weren’t having anything about possible rule by kings, and c) you can draw anything you want as conclusions from the New Testament (e.g. witness most of Western history.)

    Then we had the Reformation and the Counter-reformation, and well, here we are. (Once Martin Luther got rid of the idea of a necessary iintermediatary between the Christian and his God, what did he think was going to happen to the Church? Brilliant man, but pig-headed.)

  68. Ragnell
    Ragnell March 7, 2007 at 5:17 am |

    Deborah — I hate to pile up on you, but its there. The emphasis on projective energy as masculine and receptive energy as feminine mixes very badly with prevailing social attitudes about women in some people.

    I will say that women have a better shot in the pagan community than in the more dominant/established religions, but to say that everyone in Wicca fits in those three types you described is incorrect, because I’ve met the fourth, who feels that feminine energy is one way, and masculine is another so women are only suited to one sort of activity while men are suited to the others, despite the stories of Athena, Artemis, Skadi, Baldur, Dionysus, Osirus and Isis which show flexibility and role-reversal.

  69. Unexpected consequences « LornaJay

    [...] eminism had fought and won all the major battles in the 60’s. I’ve bumped into a blog posting which is making me think a lot – and I would [...]

  70. DAS
    DAS March 7, 2007 at 10:00 am |

    Noam, the “Judaism actually considers women superior to men” line just doesn’t hold water. If having fewer obligations means you’re treated better, then why do goys have fewer obligations than Jews? – Alon Levy

    I dunno. This just convinces me that Noam actually is right: given how Jews (vs. Gentiles) were treated historically, maybe that the Goyim have fewer obligations means God does like ‘em better? ;)

    As Tevyah put it: “I know we’re Your chosen people, God, but couldn’t You chose somebody else for a change?”

  71. DAS
    DAS March 7, 2007 at 10:05 am |

    the La Leche League (or as they are now known in my house, the Milk Nazis) – Vanessa

    The La Leche League? Redundancy intended? Oy, am I being a grammar Nazi?

    Anyway, I second you on La Leche League (at least how they used to be — I dunno what they are like now). My mom is about as pro-breast feading as they come, so, of course, she went to La Leche League for information on breast feeding, considering she was having problems with the procedure. They acted as if she was evil incarnate because she was giving me something other than breast milk.

    Well, anyway, it turned out the reason she wasn’t producing enough milk was that I wasn’t really suckling, because I’m allergic to milk (and hence breast milk would’ve made me sick — as the formula was making me — anyway). But their intolerance really made an impression on my mom, who’s otherwise almost where they are (she was hinting to me that I should hint to my gf that she should take pills or what have you so that she’d be able to breast-feed her adopted daughter).

  72. W. Kiernan
    W. Kiernan March 7, 2007 at 11:06 am |

    saltyfemme: Not all Haredim are oppressed by their cultural norms. Not all the women want (or should want!) to “escape marriage.” The train ride also leads to a life void of Torah, among other things…

    Just curious. Can’t these hypothetical escapees get Torah back into their lives by simply attending Reform synagogues? Or are you saying that Reform synagogues don’t really practice True Judaism at all?

    I suppose David Koresh would have said that your typical local Methodist church, with not a single .50 cal machine gun on the premises, isn’t really True Christianity.

  73. Ursula L
    Ursula L March 7, 2007 at 11:16 am |

    It also goes to the point that Jews believe that men and women have different skills. Women are thought to have more introspection and intelligence than men. Women are thought not to fall so easily for sin as man (I believe women did not participate in the golden calf in the Bible).

    If women were really considered more intelligent and less likely to sin than men, wouldn’t you get men out of the rabbi business, and look only to women for spiritual guidance?

    If this was really believed, you wouldn’t see the less intelligent and more likely to fall for sin half of the population having religious or moral leadership.

  74. wolfa
    wolfa March 7, 2007 at 11:30 am |

    W Kierman, if you’re brought up Orthodox, you believe that Reform Judaism isn’t real Judaism (the people are real Jews, as long as they didn’t convert with a Reform rabbi). (The converse isn’t quite true: if you’re brought up Reform, you think that Orthodox is real, but badly mistaken.)

    DAS, I disagree with you on the use of Hebrew. If it were strictly limited to liturgical use, it would have died out (or rather, not have been brought back successfully). I do not think it is a good thing for either the language or the people who speak that language to try to restrict its use.

    Mnem, for some reason, rollerblades were only a fad here; everyone bikes. Maybe it’s too hilly and potholey. I don’t know, everytime I went on rollerblades I hurt myself, even on flat land. I gave up after I had to have surgery because of those stupid things.

  75. saltyfemme
    saltyfemme March 7, 2007 at 12:20 pm |

    Just curious. Can’t these hypothetical escapees get Torah back into their lives by simply attending Reform synagogues? Or are you saying that Reform synagogues don’t really practice True Judaism at all?

    I suppose David Koresh would have said that your typical local Methodist church, with not a single .50 cal machine gun on the premises, isn’t really True Christianity.

    Sure they can, but for them, that isn’t Torah. It may be Torah to me and all my progressive friends, who move in and interact with the secular world and are also committed Jews, but that isn’t true for everyone. I wasn’t making any judgments on Reform synagogues.

  76. Property of a Lady » Anti-feminist Wicca?

    [...] ce of Wicca as anti-feminist and I think that’s worth addressing. First, some people contend that Wicca denies leadership positions to women: But [...]

  77. Deborah
    Deborah March 7, 2007 at 12:53 pm |

    I don’t want to derail a discussion about Judaism and women’s oppression and turn it into a discussion about Wicca.

    If you’re interested, I’ve posted a big ol’ blog on this discussion on my site and I invite anyone who wants to to continue the conversation there.

  78. Noam
    Noam March 7, 2007 at 1:28 pm |

    A few notes:

    I didn’t say Judaism viewed women as superior to men, but rather equals, so I can’t answer any argument premised on that assertion.

    As for the fact that these are public buses, I’ll go back to a point I was making earlier about the nature of the State of Israel. There is no separation of church and state issue in Israel, but rather a question of how intertwined the two should be. The moment Israel stops favoring an establishment of religion (Judaism), the justification for its establishment and its reason for continuing to exist are lost.

    New York and New Jersey are much kinder places to the Jews than the Middle East, and if it’s just about finding a neutral place where everybody is free to practice whatever they want, the U.S. is probably a much better choice.

    However, that’s not what it’s about. Israel is not a pure democracy in the American sense, and was never intended to be one. The intent was to form a Jewish country that was tolerant to all but with a clear bias towards preserving the practice of Judaism, in whatever form that practice may arise.

    The fact that there are public buses that cater to those who practice this type of Judaism is not prima facie evidence that something wrong is going on here. The evidence is in the actual behavior that goes on during the bus trips. The entire abusive structure eluded to in the comment that correctly distinguished between letter and spirit is the issue, and that’s the reason the State should threaten to withhold these types of services unless the ‘tolerant’ part of “tolerant and open jewish country” is not more strictly enforced on these buses.

    As a note of personal disclosure, I think Israel goes way too far in catering to the ultra religious in many aspects of living arrangements, army service exemptions, public funding, etc. However, I think that’s born out of a political struggle that they won against people who wanted some complete separation of church and state, which is wrong in the completely incorrect direction. I’m never a fan of extremes, but I have to side with the extreme that preserves the country over the extreme that eradicates its reason d’etre.

    The Monsey buses here are proper, because this country is not formed to be a religious country of any kind and we have a neat little Constitution that pretty clearly lays out what we think about using public funds for religiously inspired enterprises. However, that’s not a workable standard to impose on a Jewish country.

  79. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne March 7, 2007 at 1:33 pm |

    Going to Vanessa’s point about Muslim dress, one of the nice things about Los Angeles is that you get to see at least one person from every country in the world walking down the street at some point.

    I used to work in Westwood, which is a major Persian enclave, and I saw everything there from the full-on chador (usually elderly women, with uncovered faces) to the teenage girl I saw at the mall who I didn’t realize at first was following Muslim dress, because she had adapted it so well to current teen fashion. She was wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt layered over a long-sleeved one with cargo pants and a coordinating headscarf. If not for the head covering (and the neighborhood), I never would have guessed she was Muslim.

  80. DAS
    DAS March 7, 2007 at 3:50 pm |

    with a clear bias towards preserving the practice of Judaism, in whatever form that practice may arise. – Noam

    But, if in fact, Israel’s catering to the ultra-Orthodox is driving people away from the practice of Judaism, what good is that then?

    As to “New York and New Jersey are much kinder places to the Jews than the Middle East”, any true Zionist would tell you that no matter how kind New York and New Jersey seem to Jews, in the Goluth, there is always the risk that the Goyim will turn against us. How this is any different than the siege mentality from which some in Israel understandably suffer, I don’t know … what does that say about the futility of the Zionist project, I don’t know …

  81. Janis
    Janis March 7, 2007 at 6:52 pm |

    That’s patently false. I’ve never seen it.

    Deborah, do you even realize that these two statements are not equivalent?

    I have seen it. Period. Full stop.

  82. Janis
    Janis March 7, 2007 at 6:56 pm |

    As far as the maiden/mother/crone (son/warrior/sage is the
    male version) thing, it’s metaphoric in my tradition and has
    nothing to do with a woman’s reproductive status.

    then why the hell have a separate triad for women and men in the first damned place?! This is not rocket science. I am NOT a reproductive being. I do not want to have babies. I feel much more like a warrior than a damned mother, and I’m not going to apologize for that or say, “Oh but I’m sure that blah blah blah … ”

    Why have two different ones? And the old saw about how I can feel perfectly free to identify with either one just doesn’t hold water. Why the hell is that division even there — when the hell do I see a model for my own fripping behavior in Paganism that doesn’t pretend I have a different body?

    Nothing to do with a woman’s reproductive status my backside. That’s like having a white god as the good guy and a black one as the bad guy and then saying that it has nothing to do with skin color. BS. It has everything to do with reproductive status, or else why would the metaphor even be used.

  83. Janis
    Janis March 7, 2007 at 7:03 pm |

    Here’s something for you to ponder, and then I’ll leave: if maiden/mother/crone has nothing to do with reproduction, then why is it used? I’ve had these conversations before. They generally go as follows:

    “It’s just a metaphor! It doesn’t mean anything!”

    “Then why do you use that exact image?”

    “Because the uterus is the fundamental organ of the female body, it symbolizes everything about Woman, it is the universal symbol of — blah blah, followed by a 50-page long screed that configures the pussy as the only female organ that matters for anything.”

    “So you think the uterus is the most important female organ, worthy of 50 pages of description, so central to the definition of womanhood that it is used as the central iconic image?”

    “I NEVER SAID THAT!” Despite the fact that they just took 50 pages up saying … precisely that.

    This nonsense about how it’s just an image and doesn’t mean anything is crap. If that’s the case, then I can say the exact same thing to every liberal I’ve ever met who protests against portrayals of black people, gay people, transgender folks, and others in television. The next time I see a TV show or movie that paints Witches as devil-worshipping spawn of Satan, I can say, “It’s just a metaphor! Why are you getting so worked up? They didn’t mean anything by it! It’s just a metaphor.”

    Some “just.”

  84. Alix
    Alix March 8, 2007 at 1:30 am |

    Tricia:

    you might want to watch their heads explode when you point out to them the many asexual and celibate-by-choice deities.

    Yeah, mythology/religion’s what I study, and I have an especial love of asexual and non-sexual deities (nonsexual as in we don’t know what the hell they were/are). Not that anyone listens to me. :P

    And I think I like your tradition’s idea.

  85. Alix
    Alix March 8, 2007 at 1:34 am |

    Ragnell – Frankly, my favorite genderbending deity was always Loki.

    Janis – Spot on.

    Sorry for the thread-jacking. (Alix sheepishly goes back to lurking.)

  86. Dan
    Dan March 8, 2007 at 3:26 am |

    The Hasidic and Reform movements are actually roughly contemoraneous theological movements in opposite directions in response to European anti-Semitism.

    The Reform Jews attempted to discard the symbols of “otherness” and minimize the differences between themselves and their neighbors. To this end, they traditionally eschew beards, sidelocks as well as Jewish headwear and prayer shawls, and their places of worship are more likely to resemble churches. Additionally, they call their places of worship “temples” instead of synagogues which is a very political difference; Orthodox and Conservative Jews believe that the Temple must be built on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, in the time of the Messiah. The Reform movement abandoned the messianic theology and the idea of a Jewish national identity to make a better political claim in their homelands where they had historically been disenfranchised.

    Hasidism is more about insularity and self sufficiency and withdrawing from a hostile mainstream society. Their fundamental theology, like their beards and wool suits, is a shield they use to separate themselves from an outside world they viewed as hostile. This is why they live in tight enclaves and rarely move outside of them.

    The Haredi are not necessarily Hasidim, but they share an ultra-orthodox theology and a belief that the Torah Law is the perfect Law of God and must be followed to the extent possible. This is an extremely detailed set of religious stipulations, which has been elaborated on by centuries of learned rabbinical commentators. This isn’t a faith obsessed with homosexuality or abortion or whatever else Christian fundamentalists fixate on. This is a very detailed and regimented set of rules that governs everyday life to a very severe degree. Instead of ten commandments, they have over 600. Their God is concerned not only with what you fuck, but with what you eat and how you slaughter animals, how you wipe your ass, and the ritual you perform when you wash your hands afterwards.

    These people keep separate sets of dishes for meat and for those containing milk. They will not wash these dishes in the same sink. There are specific religious standard undergarments for men. There are detailed and extensive daily prayer rituals.

    The degree to which they follow 5000 year old rules necessarily separates them from ordinary lifestyles, which is, based on the historical political context, part of the reason for participating in the religious movement, and one of those rituals governs association between unrelated men and women, which must be very limited. Men and women sit separately during prayer at all

    Orthodox synagogues, and Orthodox synagogues do not permit women to become rabbis or read from the Torah scrolls. The ultra-orthodox, like the Hasidim and the Haredi forbid unrelated men and women from touching each other. That’s why they have the separate bus seating.

    Generally, institutions that wish to serve orthodox Jews have to conform to the special needs of their religious observance, whether that means offering a kosher kitchen or offering a sex-segregated bus. If there were not such a bus, the ultra-orthodox would not be able to use the public transportation.

    I hardly think it’s ’1984′ or the Taliban to accommodate the religious observance of Jews in a Jewish state.

  87. catfanatic
    catfanatic March 8, 2007 at 4:19 pm |

    From what I’ve read there are many Haredi and Hasidic Jews who have a problem with this bus incident and find it very disturbing.
    That there could exist even ONE Haredi or Hasidic who doesn’t condemn this assault wholeheartedly is just a sad indicator of how woman hatred can be dismissed or minimized as if it’s unimportant.
    What’s really sad is that these kind of actions only come back to the person measure for measure.

  88. Deborah
    Deborah March 8, 2007 at 5:29 pm |

    Janis, I know that Maiden/Mother/Crone is taught as the be-all end-all of Goddesses in a lot of places, and that’s oppressive. And incorrect. It’s definitely one form that goddesses take. Not the only one. I make a real effort to teach a plurality of deity forms, and to shake people out of the MMC lockdown.

    So, okay, you’ve got Hera, who annually had three festivals, one where she grew her hymen back and renewed her virginity, one where she married Zeus, one where she left Zeus and went off to live alone as a crone.

    But you’ve also got lots of other goddesses who do nothing of the kind. Including triple goddesses. The Morrigan, for example, who has three aspects, all warriors.

    But we are all reproductive beings, because we are all the product of reproduction. We were born. And we survive by reproduction; eating animals that were born or hatched, plants that sprouted. Life and death, these are core spiritual experiences.

    I’m going to continue to assert that if people are practicing something they call “Wicca” that prevents women from leading, they are using the wrong name. If they are going to the lumber yard and buying wood and building houses with that wood and calling them “stone houses” I am going to assert they are using the wrong name. There is such a thing as “Wicca” that has boundaries of what it is, and is not, and just because assholes misappropriate the name doesn’t mean I haven’t the right to say they’re fucking wrong.

    And really, I can stand on my expertise and my reputation, but I don’t have to. I can stand comfortably with my brain and personal experience and basic knowledge and it comes to the same thing. Maybe that means I’m saying I’m smarter than some sexist assholes who call themselves “Wiccan” and therefore I’m elitist, but I’d way rather be elitist than put up with sexist assholes.

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