Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Building Tolerance – Even For Haredim


(This article appears in today's edition of The Jerusalem Post)


America! In Israel, that’s often more than just the name of a place. I once saw a commercial which featured it as an adjective, describing a product that was of superior quality. “What can I tell you?” asked the person in the ad, “It’s America!” And it’s getting to be difficult to find a store with a real Hebrew name; they all have English names now, either written in English or in Hebrew transliteration.

This is somewhat of a tragedy. Israel has so much to be proud of. We didn’t make it back to our ancestral homeland and revive an ancient culture just to toss it out in favor of a different and much younger one!

But there are some aspects of America that Israel would do well to emulate. And I’m not talking about the usual new immigrant gripes about poor customer service. Instead, I’m referring to how the ultra-secular in Israel sometimes act in ways that would be considered entirely out-of-bounds in America.

A relative of mine, not especially religious, moved from Israel to the US for a while. On her first day, she was very surprised to see so many religious Jewish women on the bus – and she wasn’t even in New York. She was even more surprised when she discovered that these women were not, in fact, religious, or even Jewish. Rather, it is customary in America for women to dress in a respectable manner for work. When my relative moved back to Israel, she found it jarring to see women turning up for work wearing attire that would be more appropriate for the beach, and men wearing T-shirts with obscene messages.

This is not the only manifestation of ultra-secularism. The New York Times recently ran an article, titled “Israelis Facing a Seismic Rift Over Role of Women,” about the disturbing attitudes to women of many in the haredi world. But there was no mention of an opposing phenomenon: the protest against the Technion offering separate use of a gym, for men alone, after normal hours. The ferocious protest against this “unacceptable segregation” resulted in the gym ceasing to provide this option.

This would be incomprehensible to Americans. After all, every country in the world, including America, has gyms that offer hours for one gender only. It’s not as though the gym at the Technion was imposing on women, or excluding them in any way; it was a matter of giving an after-hours option which was equally offered to women.

Yet while the opposition to the separate hours at the gym was absurd, when one looks at the arguments of the protesters, a distinct theme emerges. It wasn’t the separate hours at the gym per se that offended them. Rather, it was the fear that this was simply one step towards the more extreme exclusion of women that has recently been spreading from the haredi community.

Such fears are perhaps understandable, given the Health Ministry’s haredi-based refusal to allow Dr. Channa Maayan to appear on stage to accept a prize at an awards ceremony. But allowing such fears to prevent a perfectly reasonable request, such as men-only gym sessions after hours, is not only wrong but counter-productive. It simply reinforces the haredi belief – which is not without basis – that there is a rabid, nation-wide anti-religious campaign against them, and that they thus need to circle the wagons and resist any accommodation to the rest of Israeli society.

Haredi society has achieved astounding accomplishments in building up a society of commitment to Torah study and religious observance. But it is now undergoing a period of unprecedented internal and external turmoil. Internally, economic hardship is leading many to reject the kollel-only approach, and the Internet is opening forms of expression that were previously unknown to that world. Externally, there are new stresses with the rest of Israeli society as haredi society grows ever larger; military exemptions become a more serious national matter and growth into new cities (such as Beit Shemesh) causes friction.

More than ever, there is an opportunity, and a need, to integrate haredi society into Israel. But there are forces in haredi society that are strongly opposed to such integration, and many haredim maintain a healthy dose of suspicion vis-a-vis the non-haredi world. Thus, such integration can only work if it is done with tact, sensitivity, and foresight.

This requires that a certain degree of concessions be made to haredi values, however much one might disagree with them. After all, the much-vaunted value of tolerance also requires tolerance of intolerant people, at least insofar as it does not damage the rest of society.

Consider the issue of getting haredim to join the IDF. Deep down, many haredim probably don’t really believe that the country’s security requires having as many people as possible join the tens of thousands already in yeshivot and kollels. After all, this can only be theologically justified with the most tenuous of rabbinic arguments. Furthermore, if haredim really did believe this, then they wouldn’t have taken their 2006 summer break while the country was fighting the Second Lebanon War.

Instead, the haredi refusal to serve in the army is primarily due to their trying to protect a certain religious lifestyle, which is very difficult to do in the army. So at a time when steps are being taken to bring haredim into the IDF, it is essential to help them with this enormous adjustment and show sensitivity to their concerns.

Is it really so very important that religious soldiers attend ceremonies with women singing? To be sure, from a non-haredi point of view, it’s ridiculous for the soldiers to object to it. But it is an issue of great importance to them, and it wouldn’t terribly hurt the army to accommodate it. In the long run, the army would be better off by showing a willingness to be tolerant of haredim, rather than alienating them.

Or consider the Tal Law, which was just renewed. True, it has not been as successful as was hoped, and it probably needs adjustment. But those demanding nothing less than forced full conscription for all haredim lack good judgment, even from the perspective of their own values. Yes, ideally speaking, all sectors would serve the country equally. But it’s just not going to happen, at least in the short term, without civil war. Meanwhile, the idea behind the Tal law is to give haredim more options than simply kollel or full military duty, which inevitably results in them all choosing the former.

At this stage, the challenge for Israel is to begin to enable haredim to willingly enter the army and professional workforce. People should be trying to make this happen more easily and smoothly, rather than making it difficult. We need to show more tolerance of religious minorities – just like in America.

58 comments:

  1. Another fine article!

    "Is it really so very important that religious soldiers attend ceremonies with women singing?"

    I wonder if there could be a compromise, such as the ceremonies having a majority of male singers in the choir and no female solos. I wonder if there's any halachah about that.

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  2. In the US, if a man refuses to sign up for the draft, he can not draw tax supported student aid, get a government job, get federal job training, or get US citizenship. [http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/defenseandsecurity/a/draftreg.htm]
    Certainly, we're not foolish enough to give tax supported benefits to men who refuse to help us when a draft is necessary.

    In Israel, people are called to not only serve years in the army but to also be available for the reserves and the time and danger that requires. This is a tremendous investment for an Israeli. Yet, somehow, because a man or woman is "religious", they are exempt?

    Pardon me for not feeling sympathy for a person who forces others to sacrifice or endanger his life and take significant time from his job and family while he insists he can't be bothered because he might hear some lady sing.

    We ARE talking about the armed forces....a place where people are required to kill and be killed. Where the individual must be broken and humiliated and retrained to serve as part of a unit in the worst of circumstances.

    Very few people want their kids to have to be in the army. What level of tact, and sensitivity are these people given? None.

    If Israel wants charedim in the military, just require them to show up at the base like anyone else.

    When the charedim show up in units and prove themselves to be good fighters, the culture will become more accomodating. That is the way of the world.

    Gary Goldwater

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  3. I have never heard of a gym in America offering single-sex only after hours entrance, just as there aren't (anymore) restaurants that serve whites only from the hours of 12PM-3PM, or housing developments that exclude Jews from renting. Why? Because these are violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, the Civil Rights Act, and decades of legal precedent.

    The arguments that you're making in this article are similar to the ones I heard in California during the Prop 8 gay marriage debate: "gay people are infringing on my rights as a straight person who doesn't accept gay marriage."

    This is absurd. There is no fundamental right, legal, moral, or otherwise, to be "tolerant of intolerance." The haredim are free to spew as much venom as they want towards secular society, skip army service, and sit in kollel as long as they forgo every penny of tax money they receive. Otherwise, I fully support dragging them kicking and screaming into the modern world.

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  4. discontinued in 1973. So whats the comparison?

    "Yet, somehow, because a man or woman is "religious", they are exempt?"

    Religious men aren't exempt, they are merely allowed to take deferments for their studies, which college students can get as well. And yeshiva deferments aren't automatic just because you are religious; I was denied a deferment even though I was in yeshiva, as are thousands of haredim. More importantly, though is the fact that the more than 1.5 million Arabs who are citizens are automatically exempt from the draft. It's a little bit more than outrageous to complain about the 700,000 Haredim who mostly don't serve when 1.5 million Arabs are given a free ticket out. And even the Druze, whose male population does [mostly] serve, Druze women are also granted an automatic exemption.

    "while he insists he can't be bothered because he might hear some lady sing."

    That's hardly the only reason people don't serve, but since you brought it up, how much sense does it make to try to integrate religious people into the army by not allowing them to quietly step out of a performance they don't want to attend on religious grounds? This is exactly the kind of obnoxious Israeli behavior the article above is talking about. Soldiers who slipped out of a performance and waited quietly outside were punished and then accused of oppressing women. Please! No wonder Haredim aren't lining up to serve if this is how the army treats even HESDER soldiers.

    "When the charedim show up in units and prove themselves to be good fighters, the culture will become more accomodating. That is the way of the world."

    That may be the way of the world but it isn't the way of Israel. The national religious are overrepresented in the military and are by far the most patriotic segment of the population and yet they are as hated by the media as the Haredim are. Just look how their stepping out of a performance was conflated with some Haredi men spitting on little girls and screaming obscenities. If Israel is serious about integrating those who don't serve, they can begin by drafting the Arabs so that they can put in their fair share for their country. Next, secular Israelis can learn that democracy doesn't mean forcing your hyper-secular culture on everyone else and despising anyone who is at all different. At present, Israel is doing all it can to keep Haredim apart and out of the military.

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  5. "I have never heard of a gym in America offering single-sex only after hours entrance"

    Then you haven't been to many gyms. Some gyms are even men or women-only.



    "just as there aren't (anymore) restaurants that serve whites only from the hours of 12PM-3PM, or housing developments that exclude Jews from renting. Why? Because these are violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, the Civil Rights Act, and decades of legal precedent."

    The comparison you make is not only silly, its obnoxious in the extreme. Racist exclusionary policies are not at all similar to the natural and healthy desire many people have not to expose most of their bodies in front of the opposite sex. And the 14th amendment has nothing to do with this at all; I honestly don't know what planet you've been on, but the 14th amendment was passed in 1868, yet the YMCA system did not start to admit women (and even then it was the YMCA's voluntary decision to allow them) until the 1970s. The Civil Rights Act and 14th amendment only apply to GOVERNMENT organizations, like public schools. And even then it would be exceedingly difficult to claim that equal separate hours are in violation of the law. According to your logic separate men's and women's bathrooms are unconstitutional segregation and comparable to the jim crow laws.

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  6. Gary Goldwater-
    It is not just the Haredi soldiers who object to hearing women sing, the "yeshivishe" National Relgious soldiers do as well. The Rav who gives the gemara shiur I attend graduated from a Hesder yeshiva and served in the IDF in the 1980's. He said it was no big deal if religious soldiers stepped out when women sang, their secular commanders didn't care. It has only become a big issue lately for two reasons:
    (1) The anti--religious elements who complained there weren't enough religious soldiers in the army now say there are too many and don't want to have to accomadate them, and
    (2) Many RZ rabbanim have been facing a crisis of values since the destruction of Gush Katif and have been reassessing their relationship with the IDF and are now demanding religious concessions that were not considered so important in the past, feeling that the time has come to demand higher relgious standards from the IDF.

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  7. Come on, R' Slifkin. Charedim aren't avoiding military service because it can't accommodate their religious lifestyle:

    1. Military service is hard, even if all your religious needs are met. It's also dangerous. ("People get killed, properly dead sir!"- Monty Python.) Who wouldn't want to avoid it? And the charedim are being given a simple way to do so, with the ishur of the gedolim, no less! Why turn it down?

    2. They're still suspicious of the "Zionism" thing. Some are even- brace yourself- *opposed* to it! Why would they serve in its army?

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  8. Rather, it was the fear that this was simply one step towards the more extreme exclusion of women that has recently been spreading from the haredi community.

    Such fears are perhaps understandable,
    ============================
    perhaps???
    someone tells you their declared goal, which you find personally abhorent. then they take steps towards it. what am i missing?
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  9. 'Lucile Roberts' is a women only gym chain in the US, but I'm not aware of any men only gyms. The last 'man only' club in NYC opened its doors to women about 10 years ago to avoid letigation. On a practical level, some gyms are just so 'male' in terms of their equipment and clientele that one would never see a women there. This is how our family does it: girls to Lucile Roberts, guys to hard core male outlets.

    When my son was in the army he said that the problem with women singing was the provocative style and content. They were not singing 'Hatikva' wrapped up in Israeli flags, you know.

    If Israel were a fair country they would have ended the draft exemption of the Haredim a long time ago. There was plenty of time to do it gradually and sensitively.

    Nachum, Chareidim want to serve for the same reason they want to play ball - men want to be men and normal. Please.

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  10. This was posted the same day. http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=254059

    Coincidence? Nice article.

    I keep waiting for more American Olim to help change Israel to be a bit more tolerant, and have better expectations of government officials.

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  11. I recall the Roshei Yeshiva extending the Zeman and asking the Bochurim to skip vacation due to the Lebanon War.

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  12. Carol, that's why they *want* to serve (see Dr. Johnson). I'm saying why they *don't* serve.

    I've heard female soldiers sing. Covered in modest uniforms, nothing provocative about it.

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  13. I know of no male only gyms in America. Women only gyms do not run afoul of discrimination laws because traditionally, it has been women and not men who have been discriminated against.

    The comparison to race is spot on. Black clubs are tolerated because blacks have been discriminated against while white only clubs would rightfully get sued for discrimination.

    More importantly, when did Israel ever revive an ancient culture? Perhaps they revived an ancient language (and I would argue that as well) but not a culture. The culture was borrowed from Europe.

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  14. Tolerance in the United States is facilitated by a culture of meritocracy and a strict separation of church and state. In this type of environment fear of the other is minimized and accommodation to differences is easier. These conditions are lacking is Israel, so calls for tolerance on an “American” model are futile.

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  15. I've said it before, and it bears repeating again and again. The problem in Israel is not Charedim or Chilonim or Ashkenazim or Sefardim. The problem is Israelis. On every issue, in every situation, both sides are always wrong, because both sides are taken up by Israelis. They always manage to be unreasonable, even when they would otherwise be right. Doesn't matter if you're talking about national security or the price of chalva.

    This problem is not fixable, obviously. But chutznikim, at least, are better off understanding this before they make aliyah, not after (when they eventually and inevitably find this out).

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  16. On the mark, Rabbi.

    It wasn't so long ago that Stanley Fischer said that the haredi world's unemployment numbers are unsustainable. It'll be fascinating to see if the phenomenon of increasing integration into public life -- which as Nurit Stadler demonstrates in Yeshiva Fundamentalism, is happening -- increases and there's a social revolution. I'm pessimistic; a community that largely is of the mindset that they're "sheep...among a world of wolves" and when not-haredi people are being nice to them it's part of a "spiritual Holocaust" is going to have trouble integrating, particularly when an important value to the community is keeping women out of the public sphere, their pictures out of the papers, a woman's impact to be "felt exclusively among women, in her kitchen, doing women’s mitzvos, and being devoted to her husband and his Torah as a model rebbetzin." But it'll be fascinating to see if the haredi community's moderates can pull it off and the community can integrate. I doubt it, but who knows?

    [All quotes taken from the mainstream American haredi (considered moderate by comparison to much of the Israeli haredi population) Cross-Currents]

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  17. Great article. And thanks for accepting my definition of (from earlier comments) of tolerance.

    But I would add, that Charedim have "astounding accomplishments" in Chesed as well.

    As far as single gender Gyms, of course they exist:

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,203029,00.html

    http://roguewriting.blogspot.com/2009/05/curves-members-protest-opening-of-men.html

    http://www.seattlepi.com/lifestyle/article/So-far-women-only-gyms-are-allowed-by-the-courts-1133532.php

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  18. In general, I find that Israeli democracy is more similar to a European version of democracy than to an American democracy. In Israel, there is this assumed better good that is decided by law. It is a snobby and elitist, and does not take into account the "right to be wrong." For example, it allows for less freedom of speech, in it's quest for liberal morality. People arrested for incitement far faster in Israel than in the US where speech is protected unless there is clear and present danger. (Just look at what the Citizens United decision by supreme court did to American politics.) Or for another example, the bans on burqas in some European countries.
    In the US, a ban on burqas has little chance of happening. The president criticized the ban in his speech in Cairo, and there wasn't much criticism. American democracy allows for people to do as they wish provided that it doesn't interfere. american democracy worries less that one may be harming themselves (obviously that someone disagrees).
    Thus in Israel, the Gvt is not looking to accommodate these soldiers as they don't agree that the halachos of kol isha apply to a modern man. (Btw defining these halachos is irrelevant. The reality is that there are soldiers who wish to leave as they believe it to be assur. It is not the gvts job to disagree with their view of the sugya.)
    The democratic models are different.

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  19. In his recent article ironically entitled "Building tolerance – even for haredim" Mr.Slifkin writes, "Deep down, many haredim probably don’t really believe that the country’s security requires having as many people as possible join the tens of thousands already in yeshivot and kollels... Furthermore, if haredim really did believe this, then they wouldn’t have taken their 2006 summer break while the country was fighting the Second Lebanon War." This assertion is not only factually untrue, but is potentially libelous to the Haredi community. As the Jerusalem Post itself reported ("Haredim cancel vacations due to war" by Matthew Wagner, Aug. 2, 2006) the leading Haredi figures did cancel the summer's vacations and the most prominent of Yeshivas continued their studies during the summer months.

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  20. James, give me a break. Over 50% of the Jews in Israel are from North African and Middle Eastern Muslim countries. Did they borrow their culture from Europe? Of course you're probably one of those people who likes to argue than none of the Jews are really Jews, their just descendants of Khzar converts from eastern Europe.

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  21. I know of no male only gyms in America. Women only gyms do not run afoul of discrimination laws because traditionally, it has been women and not men who have been discriminated against.

    It is not a "male only gym", but here is the schedule for the separate men's and women's hours at the Baltimore JCC fitness room: http://www.jcc.org/clientuploads/PH%20Schedules/Fitness%20Too.pdf

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  22. "Instead, the haredi refusal to serve in the army is primarily due to their trying to protect a certain religious lifestyle, which is very difficult to do in the army."

    My impression is not that it is difficult to do in the army (even if this is part of it) but because most Chareidim would not withstand the culture of the IDF and emerge from the army as Chareidim, any more than most would if they went to college, or secular lending libraries. There is a reason why Chareidi culture is isolationist.

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  23. S., to your comment on Rabi Slifkin's comment - haiynu hach.

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  24. To Gary Goldwater:

    First let me say that I DEFINITELY hear your frustration with Haredi non-participation in the army (or any type of public service, for that matter). I, too, am fed up with their taking without giving and their wanting others to do everything for them.

    However, your brushing away of halachic questions because the majority of non-religious Israeli citizens could care less about them is unfair. If only kol ishah were the singular issue for religious Jews who are supposed to join the army (BESIDE the Haredim who may want to join). There are kosher issues, tzniut issues, shomer Shabbat issues and many others. It is not so simple. I am decidedly NOT Haredi, but I would have many religious questions before joining the army.

    The problem on both sides is that the Torah focus has been lost. Jewish armies are not just a bunch of people forced to fight who wear the same uniform. There is a measure of holiness that must be maintained. It is a mandate of the Torah that ANY war that Jews fight should be governed by halachah. Liberal DLs think that everyone should just deal with the army that exists and "get over it" while Haredim largely feel that a military is unnecessary and make excuses for not even attempting to get involved. We need to strive for a middle-path that includes incentives for participation in a military guided by halachic principles.

    I also am offended by your adoption of US military protocol of "breaking an individual" and then programming them to follow orders under any circumstance. I am familiar with this and what it entails is COMPLETELY in contradiction to the Torah.

    Our military success does not lie in throwing Torah considerations to the wind, and emulating the ways of non-Jewish democratic nations (especially the US). Rather, our success DEPENDS on the Torah.

    Don't make the mistake that our enemies will be given into our hands because of the size or strength of our forces. Abiding by Torah principles is what gives us victory in war. How many times does this have to be emphasized in the Tanakh for people to understand it?

    All the best and with sincere regards,

    Yehudah

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  25. But after seeing what happens in any neighborhood when (real) Charedim move in, no wonder the secular don't really want them to join the greater Israeli society.

    Maybe there are significant numbers of Charedim who are tolerant and don't want to take over, but there is a strong contingent that does, and they do!

    Can the secular (and mesorati, and whatever non-Charedi groups) be tolerant enough to be inclusive yet simultaneously forceful enough to prevent a takeover?

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  26. Robert,
    I am NOT one of those people who argue that Jews are not really Jews. What I do argue is that Israeli culture is not Jewish culture. It is the culture borrowed from Europe by its founders and forced on all the North African and Middle Easter immigrants.

    I believe that Ben Gurion and other early Zionist leaders created a secular European socialist country. They then imposed those values and culture on the new immigrants. They didnt revive and ancient culture, political system, value system, etc.

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  27. Yehuda, I don't disagree with your analysis. But here is where I would put the emphasis:

    1] Stakeholders get more consideration.
    - When making policy decisions, groups who do not generally participate will get much less consideration of their points of view. That's just a practical reality of problem-solving. It's not necessarily mean-spirited [I would hope not anyways] though it IS thoughtless.

    2]L'hatchila vs. bidieved:
    - L'hatchila it would be great if the army were proactive about halachic problems. And, as more troops suggest that problems could be solved before they happen...I would assume that the army will eventually catch-up.
    -Bidieved problems come up. Troops who have religious training should be able to assess and remediate or minimize most problems. So, there's some slight discomfort with a bidieved situation...this is not the worst thing in the world. Through the history of the world...everyone complains about being in the military [especially the food and hours and highers-up drunk on their petty powers]. But that IS a universal military experience and not something directed at the observant soldier.

    3] Comparablilty:
    - It is not an equal comparison between remediating bidieved situations with the time and moser nefesh sacrifices of being in the armed services.

    Gary Goldwater

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  28. "Is it really so very important that religious soldiers attend ceremonies with women singing?"

    NO. A thousand times NO.

    And I say this as someone who regularly attends opera with the approval of his (orthodox) rabbi.

    "yet the YMCA system did not start to admit women (and even then it was the YMCA's voluntary decision to allow them) until the 1970s."

    I learned to swim at a co-ed YMCA in the 1960s. The big issue wasn't women, it was race: The city had had a white Y and a black Y and they merged -- the chagrin of the local rednecks.

    "The Civil Rights Act and 14th amendment only apply to GOVERNMENT organizations, like public schools."

    True for the 14th Amendment. Totally untrue for the Civil Rights Act. Any business of more than 15 employees engaged in interstate commerce is prohibited from discrimination on account of race, religion, or sex.

    "He said it was no big deal if religious soldiers stepped out when women sang, their secular commanders didn't care."

    I was wondering why this just came up recently; the IDF is over 60 years old!

    "Tolerance in the United States is facilitated by a culture of meritocracy and a strict separation of church and state."

    I have often speculated that many of Israel's problems today stem directly from its refusal to pay attention to the lessons learned in liberal democracies like America.

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  29. "I believe that Ben Gurion and other early Zionist leaders created a secular European socialist country."

    This is in fact one of the major canards promoted by the Arab terrorists.

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  30. It occurred to me that more respect needs to be given -- by both the religious and non-religious -- to the IDF's rabbis. They are all Orthodox and well equipped to deal with the halachic issues that come up with military service.

    If every soldier has to call his rav on a cell phone for every order, the IDF ceases to function, the Arabs overrun the country, and we have much bigger problems than whether a soldier has to listen to a woman's voice.

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  31. The point you make "maybe" valid if their gripe is against only the ultra-secular. But as we all know, it is against the ultra-orthodox dati-leumi Jews as well.

    Rabbi Jerimy Weder once said to me about himself, "I do not consider myself as a religious Jew, but rather as an Torah observance Jew, because sadly there are many religious Jews that are not truly Torah observance."

    With this sentiment as my motivator, I totally disagree that any concessions be made to the charedim via a demand based on terrorism.

    In America, all business decisions (e.g. gym schedules) are based on an economic demand.

    As far as the Israeli people, they are the most berutiful people in the world, just as they are with T-shirt and all. May God bless them!

    When it becomes the law of the land that, charedim must serve in the army, (where there they will know our true enemy) you can bet your bottom dollar they will be properly accommodated.

    And as for their (hostile) lifestyle, they and the rest of the world will be better without.

    I pray that Hashem will teach the charedim to "build tolerance", an understanding, and a love of acceptance for their fellow Jews.
    I.e. to become a Mentsch.
    o

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  32. I would agree that people like Ben-Gurion *wanted* to create a secular socialist European state, say a Jewish flavored version of France let's say, but that doesn't mean they succeeded, even among European and East European Jews, much less MENA Jews. If you want to get down to it, Israel is a multicultural society, with each sub-group except for the Arabs ( and including the "secular" ) having a strong Jewish cultural component. There is a continum in which the Jewish component of the culture varies from exclusive among the Ultra-Orthodox, to Primary among right-wing M.O. to subtle among the very secular.

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  33. It should be pointed out that serving in the army in a mitzvah d'orayta. It thus may outweigh other considerations, especially d'rabbanans or minhagim.

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  34. @Charlie Hall

    "Totally untrue for the Civil Rights Act. Any business of more than 15 employees engaged in interstate commerce is prohibited from discrimination on account of race, religion, or sex."

    That's incorrect. The Civil Rights Act there relates to "public accomodations engaged in interstate commerce" such as "hotels, motels, restaurants" etc. "Private clubs" are exempted. Gyms, which require membership, are defined as private clubs and therefore not affected by the CRA.

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  35. Jeremy wrote: "I have never heard of a gym in America offering single-sex only after hours entrance"

    Actually, there are many gyms in America that are either single-sex (usually women only) or have alternating times (days or hours) when only men or only women may use the facility.

    Many people prefer that, so the market supports a certain number of such gyms. But I am not aware of whether any university gyms have such rules.

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  36. Create a professional voluntary army. This will result in haredim joining the work force from an early age thus strengthening the economy and leaving the seculars with less to complain about.

    Spread the word - abolish the draft and have a pro army!

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  37. Well, Shoshi, Yeshiva University. :-)

    Charlie, what makes you think that law is constitutional?

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  38. Charlie,

    Arab terrorist? Really?! Are the Arab terrorists also responsible for the revisionist history painting the Maabarot as squalid, inventing the Yemeni babies affair, inventing the Ringworm affair, and creating the myth that Ethiopian blood was, for decades, discarded from blood banks?

    Robert,

    I think your definition of culture is too narrow. I suppose if you limit culture to food and music, then Israel is a multicultural country and Ben Gurion's attempt did partially fail. But I dont think that eating hummus and infusing pop music with an Arabic rhythm constitute the sum total of MENA culture and that's really all the MENA are left with.

    The only real educational options for the MENA were Zionist schools (enrolling your child in anything else was reason to deny a parent a Histadrut card) in which they were taught that their native language was the language of the enemy, "Jewish" History was history of the Jews in Europe, and that "Jewish" intellectual history, literature, and poetry was entirely European.

    If you dont believe me, try this exercise: Think back to your Jewish History class or Modern Hebrew language class and ask yourself what, if anything, you were taught about MENA history or intellectual history. The truth is that for most early Zionists, the MENA simply didnt exists in any meaningful sense prior to 1948.

    The sad thing is that many of the lessons we should be learning from history about how to respond to the challenges of modernity are better learned by studying MENA history than European Jewish History.

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  39. "But I dont think that eating hummus and infusing pop music with an Arabic rhythm constitute the sum total of MENA culture and that's really all the MENA are left with."

    Wow, wow, wow. I don't have the patients to argue with such an incredibly ignorant statement. I'll just say that pretty much every single person at the Syrian Shul I attend her in Jerusalem would be deeply offended by what you said, as would the people at the two Moroccan shuls next door, and the people at the Yemenite shul next to that. The Jewish MENA culture is quite a bit more resilient than you give it credit for.

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  40. "The sad thing is that many of the lessons we should be learning from history about how to respond to the challenges of modernity are better learned by studying MENA history than European Jewish History."

    This is such a counter intuitive statement, there's really no way to respond to it.

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  41. lakewood breaking newsJanuary 20, 2012 at 1:31 AM

    Sorry for interrupting, what is the link to the post about the Lakewood Roshei Yeshivah allegedly retracting an earlier Kol Korei, having written it after being fed false information that an illegitimate Beis Din was operating in Lakewood. There’s an important update about that, which was just publicized. I will continue comments and the update at the link. Thank you.

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  42. I didn't realize Yeshiva University was open to women!

    But now that you mention it, I suppose some religious colleges may have separate men's and women's gyms. I just don't know of any personally.

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  43. Robert,
    I meant no offense and I agree that MENA culture is resilient (though that resilience is manifest only in pockets of Israel and NYC) but that resilience is in spite of the overwhelming European bias of the early Zionist pioneers.

    Nonetheless, I would argue that even among those in the Syrian, Morroccan, and Yemeni shuls you attend, the average Sepharadi, having gone through the Israeli educational system, knows very little about their own intellectual history.

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  44. Really? Rabbi Slifkin, I would think your powers of insightful distinction would have been keener here. The Technion is a public institution. For that government supported/affiliated institution to seek to institute single sex hours in the current environment is a provocation. If a private company wanted to open a women's only health center, I hardly think there would be an uproar, except from the kana'im who outlawed Zumba recently (oh wait, those are charedi kana'im!).

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  45. Nachum,

    It may be counter intuitive but the argument is that the Ashkenazim did not do a very good job at responding to the challenges of modernity. The Sepharadim of the middle to late 19th century faced many of the same issues as in Europe but found a better way to deal with them. That history is not taught in standard Jewish History courses because it doesnt neatly fit into the Zionist (or anti-Zionist) narrative which views Modern "Jewish" History as taking place in Europe and culminating in the Holocaust and Creation of Israel. With few exceptions (notably the Damascus affair) that fit into that narrative, the Sepharadim dont even enter the picture until 1948.

    This is getting a bit off topic so if you want to continue this conversation offline, feel free to email me at James A Glick at gmail dot com.

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  46. "I learned to swim at a co-ed YMCA in the 1960s. The big issue wasn't women, it was race: The city had had a white Y and a black Y and they merged -- the chagrin of the local rednecks."

    Typical liberal hypocrite, Charlie Hall. "Redneck." Would you call someone a Nig**r"? So dont call people "Redneck." It's a derisive term used for a specific class of people. You want to know why liberals have no credibility? Hypocrisy.

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  47. ' The Civil Rights Act there relates to "public accomodations engaged in interstate commerce" such as "hotels, motels, restaurants" etc. "Private clubs" are exempted. Gyms, which require membership, are defined as private clubs and therefore not affected by the CRA.'

    Most gyms do not fit the legal definition of private clubs and are therefore covered.

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  48. 'Typical liberal hypocrite, Charlie Hall. "Redneck." Would you call someone a Nig**r"? So dont call people "Redneck." It's a derisive term used for a specific class of people. You want to know why liberals have no credibility? Hypocrisy.'

    Yes, it is derisive. And I will continue to use it. These were the people whose kids used to bully, harass, and beat me up on a regular basis. I'm no hypocrite here.

    I await your apology.

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  49. "Most gyms do not fit the legal definition of private clubs and are therefore covered."

    Well no court agrees with your interpretation; places that require membership are obviously private clubs, which is why there are many single gender gyms across the country.

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  50. "Well no court agrees with your interpretation"

    Wrong.

    http://ncfm.org/2011/04/action/california-courts-repeatedly-rule-that-women-only-gyms-illegal-again-in-march-2011/

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  51. 'So dont call people "Redneck." It's a derisive term used for a specific class of people. You want to know why liberals have no credibility? Hypocrisy.'

    It occurred to me over Shabat that those who want to keep people from swimming in swimming pools just because they have darker skin probably deserve more derision than I gave them.

    Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik z’tz’l, in *Logic of the Heart, Logic of the Mind* (p. 61) presents the Torah position on racism:

    From the standpoint of the Torah, there can be no distinction between one human being and another on the basis of race or color. Any discrimination shown to a human being on account of the color of his or her skin constitutes loathsome barbarity. It must be conceded that the Torah recognizes a distinction between a Jew and a non-Jew. This distinction, however, is not based upon race, origin, or color, but rather upon k’dushah, the holiness endowed by having been given and having accepted the Torah. Furthermore, the distinction between Jew and non-Jew does not involve any concept of inferiority but is based primarily upon the unique and special burdens that are incumbent upon the Jews.”

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  52. Charlie, your own article proves you wrong. The ruling applies only to California as it deals only with a California law, in fact the very first sentance in the article points this out:

    "...ruled a women-only health club violated California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act "

    This has nothing to do with the Federal Civil Rights Act.

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  53. On the subject of charedim and secular lending libraries, brought up by S. I'm not going to say what town but when I used to go to a very small public library of a goyish town (a town which is next to a village of chassidim) every day to work on a project, pretty much every day I saw a bunch of hasidim there (probably more of them than local goyish customers). They had smartphones and they used the internet on the computers there. And it was different people each time, not like some "library gang" or the same small group of chasidim every time.

    They did not emerge from this library and chop off payos. They simply went back to their village. It seemed to me they were getting the news there but I never really investigated into what they were doing at the library (never asked them much).

    I think a lot of the fear about individual haredim not remaining haredim is paranoia. Most are pretty strong willed, like any people. And the real threat these rabbis are scared off is NOT that haredim will go off the derech and start eating shrimp with the Peace Now chilonim. Their fear is that hashkafa and attitudes will shift thanks to these experiences. But if they remain religious who cares? Oh right, those whose power is threatened by a shift in hashkafic priorities among those they hold power over. They are the ones in utter fear.

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  54. The idea of james that "it's ok to discriminate against anyone who was not historically discriminated against in the past" is absurd and really does not have a source in any kind of american principle even if the small-minded of today think this is customary. What a joke.

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  55. Actually I don't remember if they had smartphones or not so you can ignore that part of my comment at risk of saying anything inaccurate. But chassidim do have those right? I'm not sure. Nonetheless they used the public library computers when I was there. At a different public library I went to, I saw a couple of chassidim in the reading section reading some books but I didn't see what they were reading and did not speak with them. Fwiw. It is my belief these were regular "run of the mill" chassidim from a nearby villages. No reason to think otherwise.

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  56. 'Typical liberal hypocrite, Charlie Hall. "Redneck." Would you call someone a Nig**r"? So dont call people "Redneck." It's a derisive term used for a specific class of people. You want to know why liberals have no credibility? Hypocrisy.'

    Yes, it is derisive. And I will continue to use it. These were the people whose kids used to bully, harass, and beat me up on a regular basis. I'm no hypocrite here.
    --------------

    I see. So Charlie Hall thinks he can use a slur against all southerners because he personally was beat up by their children regularly 40 years ago. Wow. This is the logic of liberals? So because someone's home was robbed by blacks, it gives him the right to call people nig*ers? What about a city - if someone's city was turned into a dump by blacks, do the whites now living in the suburbs have a right to use racial slurs?

    Come off your high horse. You're a classic left wing hypocrite. Thinks the niceties of a civil tongue are for everyone but himself. Almost as bad as the moviestars preaching the environment while zipping along in private jets and stretch limos and leaving biger carbon footprints than entire cities. Tolerance for thee, but not for me. Disgusting.

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  57. Robin-
    Redneck no longer refers to an ethnicity, but to a mindset. A redneck is someone who has a $40,000 truck, a $10,000 JetSki and a $5000 satellite dish outside his home (bought on credit), but resents paying taxes that go to education. A redneck is someone who will vote to hurt himself economically, as long as Blacks/Hispanics/Muslims/Jews/homosexuals/liberals are hurt in the process. I do use the term, but not as a general slur against white Southerners.

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  58. My view is America IS greater is many ways, HOWEVER Israel is obviously much more Holy. People living in Israel should be proud of that.

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