Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Now I'm A Charedi Fanatic!

This is too bizarre!

I've been condemned for a lot of things over the years. Due to my insistence that there was an Age of Dinosaurs, but there wasn't an Age of Mud-Mice and Mermaids, I've been branded a heretic, an apikores, and the Third Manifestation of Satan. Then I started writing about Orthodox society, and insisted that Chazal were correct in saying that a man should work to support his family, and that Torah study does not provide an exemption from military service, for which I was further condemned as being a hater of Torah. I also wrote extensively on local issues about Beit Shemesh, criticizing the the charedi political leadership and campaign, and advocating strongly for the non-charedi parties, for which I was further condemned as being a fanatical charedi-hater.

After all this, I was most surprised to discover today that a journalist is preparing an expose on me, charging that I am a fanatical charedi!

Here's the background. On Sunday, at a staff meeting at The Biblical Museum of Natural History, I suggested that we should start offering chugim (children's workshops), to be run by my colleague Shlomo Horowitz. I personally did not want to run the chugim, and Shlomo was only available for this on Sunday evenings, so we picked Sunday evening, which limited us to a small number of chugim. Then we had to decide who to offer them for. In the past, I had run two such chugim. One was for younger boys, and one was for older boys; I had tried offering a chug for girls, but for some reason there was never much interest. The boys who had attended my chugim were interested in continuing, and we had received further inquiries from other boys. So we decided to offer the chugim for three age groups of boys, since we already had a nucleus with which to begin, and to advertise for more to join.

And that's when the fireworks started.

Our Facebook post announcing the chugim met with heated comments. Is there a Biblical reason why girls cannot learn Biblical natural history? Why the intolerance against girls? Is a government-funded institution allowed to practice discrimination based upon gender?

Flabbergasted, my administrator and I started responding. No, we have nothing against girls; we just have not seen any interest from girls for these chugim. Yes, we are perfectly happy to offer chugim for girls is there is demand for it. No, we are not government-funded, but we are pretty sure that there are plenty of government-funded educational institutions and matnasim that run gender-separate programs for children.

But why can't the boys' chugim simply be presented as open to bother genders, people demanded. Well, the reason is very simple: the boys who are attending these chugim are from charedi families, and their families would not send them to the chugim if they were mixed.

But we want our children to attend mixed chugim, some people said. Well, we are perfectly ready to offer mixed chugim if there is sufficient demand, we responded.

Now, I can understand that our initial advertisement might have given the wrong impression, to people who didn't realize the background. Still, one would presume that after explaining the situation, there is nothing to complain about. But some people were still dissatisfied. They said that we should not allow separate-gender chugim to take place, and that a museum should be discouraging archaic attitudes. One person said that anyone who does not want to send their child to a mixed chug should in any case not be welcome at the museum!

All this raises interesting questions about who is truly intolerant - a person who wants their child to attend gender-separate chugim, or a person who wants such a person not to be tolerated.

Anyway, today our administrator received a call from someone inquiring about the chugim, and soon smelled a rat. She challenged the person to reveal the purpose of their inquiries, and the person stated that they are a journalist for The Marker - a subsidiary of Ha-Aretz - preparing a story about this. So we provided all the answers - we have nothing to hide here. Let's see what happens!

It's just too bizarre that I, of all people, am being accused of attempting to charedify Beit Shemesh!

23 comments:

  1. No, we have nothing against girls; we just have not seen any interest from girls for these chugim. Yes, we are perfectly happy to offer chugim for girls is there is demand for it.

    The problem with this response is it is exactly the same response you would give if you really were discriminating. If you care enough to try to refute the charges, you should affirmatively indicate on the same page that people looking for girls or mixed groups should indicate their interest and that you will create such groups as soon as you get enough people.

    Anyway, today our administrator received a call from someone inquiring about the chugim, and soon smelled a rat. She challenged the person to reveal the purpose of their inquiries, and the person stated that they are a journalist for The Marker - a subsidiary of Ha-Aretz - preparing a story about this. So we provided all the answers - we have nothing to hide here. Let's see what happens!

    Unfortunately, I'm skeptical that the story is going to come out that way that you want, despite your honesty... OTOH, a hatchet job could enhance your reputation in some circles :).

    david

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  2. "No, we have nothing against girls; we just have not seen any interest from girls for these chugim."

    The problem with your response is that it only seems reasonable if you assume that little girls are, statistically speaking, less interested in looking at skeletons than little boys. The fact that this assumption is (a) logically entirely possible and (b) actually true, won't help you because (a) liberalism is essentially a religion based upon not noticing things and (b) anything that suggests the two genders differ is some way is *morally impossible*. Therefore your attackers will assume that you received equal requests from girls and boys, but decided to run a boys only class anyway because you are consumed by "hate". You could document every single request to join a hug and it still wouldn't help you, because facts are vestiges of white patriarchy or something.

    You see how David Ohsie, who imagines himself to be a pragmatic conservative or something, demands that you "affirmatively" prove your innocence of this most grave of all crimes. This is how the game works. Someone made a ridiculous accusation, so you must prove your innocence. Of course, if you were to do what you were told, someone else would just demand some further act of grovelling ad infinitum. For those of us who are for whatever reason immune to American/European liberalism the whole thing just seems tedious and absurd in the extreme. Eventually some critical mass of people will just get tired of having to fake it and the whole grievance industry will fold quicker than Soviet Communism.

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  3. A museum is supposed to be archaic. That's the whole point.

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  4. I agree with you 100% on all both points -- the absurdity of you being accused of being a charedi extremist and the intolerance of many people who claim to be modern, open-minded, and liberal.

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  5. Simples; the rabbi misunderstands the nature of the complaint and the extent to which he will be required to accommodate. The thrust of the attack is on the discriminatory nature of separation of sexes, not on willingness to accommodate girs' groups. The rabbi has already unwittingly conceded territory with his use of the word "gender," which in social justice parlance is not just a synonym, but a politically-loaded term implying personal choice, as in the notion that one can choose to be male or female or that one can have all the physical attributes of one sex but is actually of another...all on his/her say-so. He can not be allowed to arbitrarily adjudicate willy-nilly on others' perceived gender identities.

    Thus, our dear rabbi's indignant complaints that he is willing to accommodate both sexes separately will only further enrage his critics, as the real goal is to accommodate all the possible genders." And the occasional fellow who insists that he is a unicorn. And no, the rabbi and his staff can not to be just tolerant (which is old school and churlish), but must genuinely celebrate all manifestations of diversity. Once the rabbi gets over this minor confusion, the next step of including some of the interested zoo animals in the tour groups will not seem so unnatural.

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  6. Liberalism, as perfectly encapsulated by this little vignette, is the best friend of Charedism. A great many people loathe almost everything Charedism stands for, but they loathe the opposite extreme of liberalism, and what IT stands for, even more. Whatever one thinks of charedim, it is crucial to recall that modern liberals are equally fanatical.

    Agreed with Gavriel Ms post above 100%. I think it highly unlikely that liberalism, and the race/gender warfare upon which it is based, will survive the death of its founding generation and a little bit after. No different than communism. It will run its course and die out, like every other political movement. I give it another 35 years, max.

    DF

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  7. Rabbi Skifkjin: You write, "Let's see what happens." Why don't you follow your own advice instead of saying that the journalist is preparing to write an article charging you with being a fanatical Haredi trying to Haredify Beth Shemesh. The article has not yet appeared! This is not the first time you have indulged in over-dramatization..


    Lawrence Kaplan

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  8. My Dear Gavriel M:

    1) I didn't made any demands.

    2) You seem to imply (and perhaps I'm misreading you) the falsity that anyone that supports giving women opportunities to do things that they typically didn't do before must subscribe to a particular set of odd political policies. To be concrete, western medical doctors were traditionally men. As late as 1972 fewer than 10 percent of US medical school students were women. It is now up to about 50 percent.* Using your reasoning, in 1972, you would have said that women are obviously less interested in practicing medicine than men and that anyone who thinks otherwise must be some kind of crazy left winger with a religious inclination "based upon not noticing things". But perhaps, as with other topics, you simply accept the way that women were viewed traditionally, without taking account of what might have changed between then and now.

    * Graph available here: http://crgp.ucsd.edu/documents/GenderinMedicalProfessionsCaseStudy.pdf

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    Replies
    1. David, fair enough, but in reality fewer women were actually interested in practising medicine in the 1970s for a number of reasons other than just restrictions or societal disapproval. These include preference of their recently acquired middle class status which in the post-war period included the ability to stay at home while maintaining a comfortable nuclear family lifestyle (which became harder to maintain and sustain in the 1980s.) You will also find that statistically fewer qualified males applied to med schools in the 70s as well; neither the demand nor the compensation proved to be attractive given the demographics. With our current shortage of physicians to meet the demands of a massive aging population and the move of women out of the dying blue and the ailing and poorly compensated pink collar sectors, the career of a physician has become attractive.

      A good example of the fact that entry of women into medicine has little to do with egalitarianism is the emergence of women doctors in the USSR and some of its satellites. An acute shortage of males due to the War coupled with the impact of universal education and rising standards of living are the most direct causes. The Soviet woman doctor, though, saw little in the way of rise in personal status or status as a woman; the leading positions were still male dominated, the salaries were unremarkable and family life remained traditional where the woman doctor rushed home to cook and look after the kids if married. Essentially, the notion that the ideology of feminism, as opposed to rapid and substantial changes to demographics and economic activity in the developed world explain current egalitarian approaches is, well, merely an ideological assumption, perhaps a part of the answer, but certainly a minor one.

      Delete
    2. I'm not arguing that the only or main reason that women entered medicine in the 1970's were changing of restrictions on them. I was simply refuting the argument that we can deduce from current participation rates some fixed and unchanging differences between groups. Undoubtedly, running water, electricity, mass production of consumer goods, the washing machine and vacuum cleaners played a large role in the changing role of women, and those changes were not inherently egalitarian.

      Nevertheless, there are sometimes blockers that need to be removed. The US Ivy League schools were sex segregated until the 70's.

      Delete
  9. "I've been branded a heretic, an apikores, and the Third Manifestation of Satan."

    Tsk, tsk, tsk.

    Only the *third* manifestation of Satan??!!

    Rav Slifkin, you're slipping!

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    Replies
    1. He is actually citing a critic.

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  10. David Ohsie,

    And it's also possible that men and women are actually different and may, just may, be interested in different things in different degrees,

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    Replies
    1. I never said otherwise, although the difference are almost always "on average" and do not apply directly to individuals.

      Delete
  11. Please tell us that you have decided to follow David Ohsie's excellent advice: "If you care enough to try to refute the charges, you should affirmatively indicate on the same page that people looking for girls or mixed groups should indicate their interest and that you will create such groups as soon as you get enough people."

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  12. " liberalism is essentially a religion based upon not noticing things"

    " I think it highly unlikely that liberalism, and the race/gender warfare upon which it is based, will survive the death of its founding generation"

    My comment:

    "Liberalism" means something rather different in America than in Europe. In Europe it refers to a philosophy of limited government and support for laissez-faire capitalism.In the United States it is a philosophy that supports government intervention to address social and economic problems. Contrary to the first comment, it is ENTIRELY about noticing things and acting on them. Those who want to continue to engage in racial, religious,or sex discrimination do consider themselves the targets of a war. May they lose. It should be noted that it is because of that liberal "war" that discrimination against women and against Jews in professions such as medicine is mostly a thing of the past.

    One manifestation of this is that single-sex educational institutions are now just about extinct in the US. My grandfather did not like coeducation; he taught at boys-only schools for his entire carder and forced my mother to attend a single-sex college. The institution where he spent the last 25 years of his career did him the honor of waiting until a few months after he died to announce that it was going co-ed -- his obituary is in the same issue of its magazine as the announcement of the policy change! There is actually research on the subject of student achievement in single sex vs. coeducational institutions but the pro- and con- arguments remain largely ideological rather than empirical except when the empirical evidence supports ones predetermined position. :(

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  13. Rav Soloveitchik z'tz'l on coeducation:

    http://www.jewishideas.org/articles/rabbi-joseph-soloveitchik-and-coeducational-jewish-

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  14. Charlie, perhaps you enjoy twisting other people's arguments, but it smacks of intellectual dishonesty. We both know exactly what Gavriel M meant in claiming that Liberalism "is based upon not noticing things," namely, that Liberals tend to ignore certain scientifically established differences between the sexes. If you wish to continue to feign ignorance, ask Steven Pinker or Lawrence Summers. Moreover, your victory speech over the death of single-sex education in the US bespeaks an ignorance of current trends. In recent years single-sex education has actually experienced a resurgence of interest. See here:http://tip.duke.edu/node/858,
    and here:http://feminist.org/blog/index.php/2014/12/24/new-fmf-study-finds-nationwide-increase-in-public-single-sex-k-12-education-despite-evidence-it-increases-sex-stereotyping-and-sex-discrimination/

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  15. Charlie Hall,

    1) Liberalism meant the same thing everywhere until the mid-20th century. Even today, some conservatives call themselves "classical liberals." Milton Friedman, for one, thought of himself as a liberal.

    2) You are not seriously suggesting that the world is a better place because men and women now study together at universities, are you?

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  16. While I agree entirely with Gavriel and those who agree with him, as a resident of Rechavia, where we have a similar issue (albeit at a fully publicly funded matnas, which makes a big difference), you should at least acknowledge why people might be so worked up over this: Having seen the encroachment grow and grow, and to ridiculous extents (a billboard near the aforesaid matnas regularly has female faces scratched out, and this is in an Anglo Yeshivish area that was pretty secular until very recently), people are on the lookout to prevent more. So when the matnas announced single-sex chugim, naturally there was an outcry.

    That said, your compromise is more than fair, especially considering where and what you are.

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  17. "Well, the reason is very simple: the boys who are attending these chugim are from charedi families, and their families would not send them to the chugim if they were mixed."

    This response unnecessarily adds fuel to the fire. You should have said, "The families who are sending to these chugim have requested boys-only; if you would like to sign up for girls-only or mixed, that would be of course fine." You should not play to anyone's stereotype by labeling Jews "Charedi", "Chiloni" or whatever.

    ReplyDelete

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