Thursday, July 15, 2021

From Bais Yaakov to MD

From Bais Yaakov to MD: 

A Post-Charedi Bais Yaakov Graduate Speaks Out 

Guest post by Dr. Efrat Bruck

Part One

I surreptitiously angled my test paper so that light would filter through and I would be able to see the question. I was in the 9th grade, and we were taking the NYS regents biology exam. A giant white sticker covered question #19. Luckily, it was a sunny day and faint rays of sunlight filtered through. I could just make out a diagram of male anatomy with an arrow pointing to the vas deferens. Funny how the topics our school avoided teaching us ended up seared into our minds. “The arrow is pointing to which structure?” I filled in the correct answer knowing it wouldn’t help. We would all automatically get that question “wrong”. That was my high school’s policy. 

It wasn’t surprising to us. After all, they tore out of our textbooks all the chapters covering evolution and reproduction. The former, perhaps is understandable, but the latter still baffles me; some of the students were literally 3 years away from getting married and starting families. I recall feeling anxious and angry. Somewhere, is some recess of my mind, I wanted to become a doctor. Would there be another five questions on reproduction or evolution causing my baseline score to tank? Would it affect my chances of going to college? My older sister had started the exam off with a 90% and I had even heard of one class that sunk to the 80’s. 

But I shouldn’t have been so worried. There were only two “bad” questions on our exam and we started off with a 99%. In addition, it would be a while till I would actually pursue medicine and by then, this particular score wouldn’t matter that much. What should have worried me more was how the philosophical underpinnings of my environment would affect me in the coming decade. For example, the time a seminary teacher spent an entire lesson telling us a story of a graduate from our school who went to Touro College in Brooklyn (a college that is set up to serve the frum community, with separate classes for men and women and professors staying clear of topics that would be considered inappropriate) and then went on to marry her non-Jewish professor and become irreligious. The teacher then paused, closed her eyes dramatically, and said: “Then she got cancer. May it be a kaparah for her.”

I’m writing this essay in a format addressing those who are part of the charedi leadership. I’ll be using “you” when referring to the charedi world/leadership and “we” collectively to address myself, as if I am part of the charedi world, simply because this makes for easier writing. If you are curious to know why an otherwise successful product of charedi chinuch chose not to continue in this path, read on. If you are a charedi leader, you probably care to know why people are “leaving”, and rest assured, they are. Some make a lot of noise or go OTD. Some just want to live their life peacefully and make a quiet, graceful (I hope!) exit, finding other branches of Orthodoxy. 

I see myself as part of the latter group, but having reached a number of milestones in my life lately, and having had some time for self-reflection, I’ve decided that I didn’t come this far to hide in the shadows and leave my people behind. Despite my personal choices, I am very connected to the charedi world and I care deeply about it; my roots lie there, forever. I still read their publications, have many charedi friends, and my immediate and extended family is, for the most part, all charedi. My purpose in writing this is to bring awareness to issues so that they are addressed and the lives of those in the charedi world are improved. But if you don’t like to hear criticism about the charedi world, please just stop right here. 

The contents of this article notwithstanding, if you are in the hospital, or if you are a premed trying to get to medical school, I will be your fiercest advocate. I want to make it very clear that my overarching criticism of charedi ideology and practice does not translate into disliking charedi people. Especially since most of them have had nothing to do with constructing the system they were born into. I’m happy to talk to people about my personal choices, in the appropriate setting and context (so not on the operating table please). But no, I will not try to convert you to my brand of Judaism or try to pull you away from yours. 

Are you part of the leadership in the charedi world? And even if not, are you someone who wants to help minimize shedding from charedi society and improve the lives of those living there? Here’s a checklist for you. 

1. Please stop selling the charedi lifestyle as the happiest, most fulfilling, most satisfying life.

This one really bothers me. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because it is people who have never lived other lifestyles, people who have only peaked surreptitiously and superficially at other streams of Judaism, who so arrogantly proclaim that being charedi is the “best”. In full disclosure, I want to publicly apologize for doing this as well during my work in kiruv. I did not know any better at the time. The modern orthodox, reform, conservative, secular, OTD, non-jewish-fill in the blank with whomever you’d like-many of them live very happy, fulfilling lives and are actually happy not to be charedi. 

This is something I would never believe when I was 20. I believed that if they were only exposed to our world, if only they knew the “truth”, they would surely see that charediism is the best, the only authentic path, even if they weren’t “brave” enough to join us. I think this is something that was hammered strongly into the girls’ chinuch and not so much on the boy’s side, probably because this tactic is not effective on men. My brothers (I have a lot of them) don’t recall lectures about how “frum Bais Yakov girls make the best wives and charedi children are raised in the best way”, but I can write a book about how Lakewood boys make the best husbands, career women regret how their children turn out, and modern orthodoxy is a “dying movement”. The charedi leadership often speaks as though they have a copyright on both happiness and authenticity of religion.

Since I’m already confessing my sins, I’ll go into some more detail. I have been involved in kiruv formally for close to a decade. I cherish those years. My students were everything to me at the time, an no doubt the experience of teaching and mentoring gave me an edge in the application process to medical school and helped catapult me into a career of service. But I was guilty, first subconsciously and then perhaps consciously, of “selling” the charedi lifestyle. 

Let me be clear; I happen to think that living an observant lifestyle, one that follows halachah, can definitely enhance one’s life; that’s just my opinion. But it’s not the case for everyone, everywhere, at all times, under all circumstances. Whether or not this is of any significance is a totally separate discussion. 

Getting people to believe that the charedi lifestyle is superior and leads to more happiness and fulfillment is a staple of many kiruv endeavors. We can have just as much fun, we are more emotionally healthy, our children are happier, and our souls are not empty. In my case, there was somewhat of a status differential between myself and my students that made it easy and natural to portray this message. But I had skeletons in my closets just like them; I was just better at hiding them. Oftentimes, people who join the charedi world are utterly surprised to find out that being a baal teshuvah makes them second-class. The same people who were mekarev them would never consider them for a shidduch and familial dysfunction can hide behind glittering shabboss tables. I’m not here to say that there is any more or less dysfunction in the charedi world than anywhere else. I’m here to say that it’s dishonest to sell the charedi lifestyle as superior as it relates to happiness, fulfillment, and relationships.

The ”our life is better” argument is often deployed when serious questions are brought up - questions with no good answers, questions with answers that make people feel uncomfortable, or questions that, the power that be, don’t really want to address. Consider this clip (1:00:00) from the 2019 Agudah convention where the moderator poses the following question to Rabbi Elya Brudny and Rabbi Ahron Lopiansky: 

“I work at Mishpacha…we don’t print pictures of women’s face… every year we get more antagonism and pushback to that decision…hurt and confusion from people connected to the torah world, from people in our tent who send their sons to Yeshivas and their daughers to Bais Yaakovs… we’ve seen this again and again, pushback to dinner ads featuring pictures of men or men addressing women’s events and not vice versa. However, most of these decisions are based on halacha, which delineates the role of men and women. Is what we’re seeing based on the rise of liberal values in general society? Does it mean that we failed in conveying the glory of bas Melech p’nimah? Does it mean that we went too far with chumros and maybe have reason to assess on a case-by-case basis?  What is the position of the roshei yeshiva on Orthodox feminism?”

Every sentence in this paragraph is a gem and represents a deeply-held charedi value. From seeing the outside world as an ever-constant threat, to declaring a copyright on halacha (not printing pictures of women is halacha, for sure), to using “kol kevudah” as a battle cry for men to decide what exactly women should and should not be allowed to do. 

But the answers of the rabbis tell us even more. Rabbi Brudny does not have any answers and cracks jokes. There are businesswomen whose advertising options are directly affected by these policies; I’ve heard of countless people who won’t read these publications because of the hurt at being obliterated. It really isn’t something to shrug off and laugh about. 

Rabbi Lopiansky had the courage to answer. He starts to talk about the #metoo movement and then says that not printing pictures of women is a “geder tznius”. Can someone please explain to me how not printing pictures of women equals the prevention of men acting inappropriately? Am I missing something here? Somehow, when there is a problem with men, the answer always has to do with further limiting women in some capacity. 

Rabbi Lopiansky then goes on to say that “some women on a case-by-case basis” – I’m not sure what he is referring to. Perhaps learning torah, gemara? But we have to check “is it real or is it an ego thing”.  Are the men also subject to this scrutiny, to see if they want to learn gemara for “real” or if it’s an ego thing? Funny that we automatically assume that men have pure intentions but women are doing it for their “ego”, whatever that means. Then he says “we don’t have those stories that you have… and if we have them occasionally it’s one in a thousand ”. Truly ignorant - those stories are unfortunately not uncommon - but fine. 

But then Rabby Brudny chimes is with some highly scientific pearls. “This is probably scientifically fact… take 100 bnei torah types… what we authentically consider bnei torah (aka charedi) and 100 non-bnei torah (aka non-charedi)… which are treated with more dignity b’derech klal? If we would do a scientific assessment, it would stop the conversation in its tracks. Bnei Torah, by definition, there are always exceptions, will treat the women in their lives with dignity... I don’t think it’s a safek… wives of bnei torah are treated with more dignity…” 

So interesting. We’re back to square one, with the ultimate argument being, that the charedi way of life is superior, happier and has better marriages. Well, Rabbi Brudny, I have some upsetting, but actually scientific news for you right here. But according to Rabbi Brudny, charedi men treat their wives better, so…. who cares if we don’t print your pictures. Having a husband who respects you is so much more important, right? Plus, did you know that erasing women from our literature is a form of dignity meant to prevent men from acting inappropriately? Charedi men are still teaching and lecturing women though. Because they have the purest of intentions. Don’t worry about all the scandals; they’re one in a thousand. 

You know what might actually prevent things that gave rise to the #metoo movement? 1. Not concentrating all the decision-making power solely in the hands of men and 2. Not perpetuating large power differentials between your men and women. (Women can’t speak in front of men, but it’s ok for men to lecture large groups of women. Your magazines splash successful men on the covers and your women are lucky that their names are printed.  The message about power and influence is crystal clear.) 

To be continued. If you'd like to subscribe to this blog via email, use the form on the right of the page, or send me an email and I will add you. 

About the Author:

Efrat Bruck, MD, graduated from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and is now an anesthesiology resident at the Mount Sinai Hospital. Before medical school, she taught Judaic studies, Hebrew, and Biology to 1000 now-alumni of Be’er Hagolah Institutes, in Brooklyn, NY. Dr. Bruck has worked as a content specialist for Khan Academy and created over 30 MCAT preparation videos on topics in molecular biology, DNA, and genetics that have also recently been translated into foreign languages.  Her videos have been published on the AAMC (American Association of Medical Colleges) website, Khan Academy, and YouTube, accruing millions of views on the latter. Dr. Bruck has published research in Nature, the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, and Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Dr. Bruck founded and leads the JOWMA PreMed Society that aims to advance Jewish women, from all backgrounds, in medicine. Dr. Bruck is a fierce advocate for premed students from insular and underrepresented backgrounds and strives to provide them with the resources and tools necessary to compete. (www.jowma.org/pre-med). She was among two out of 200 graduating MDs, PhDs, and MD/PhDs at Sinai’s recent commencement to be awarded the Patricia Levinson Award for the Advancement and Inclusion of Women in Medicine. Dr. Bruck, along with her colleagues at JOWMA, is also currently in the process of constructing a cultural competency curriculum that will help healthcare professionals in New York City hospitals provide culturally sensitive medical care to Jewish populations across the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy.   

Dr. Bruck’s experiences in education, acceptance to nearly 10 US MD programs, and service on the admissions committee of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have led her to have a highly successful track record helping premeds navigate the medical school application process. She is the founder and CEO of MDInspire, a medical school admissions consultancy that provides professional consulting for fees that are reasonable and a fraction of the standard costs. Dr. Bruck specializes in helping people weave their stories seamlessly through their application, building stellar personal statements and activities sections, interview preparation, and coaching students on how to study smarter, not harder. For more information, please visit: www.MDInspire.com.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not reflect the opinions or positions of JOWMA.

60 comments:

  1. I think this lady misunderstood Rabbi Lopiansky. The reason women are subject to an 'intent test' regarding learning Gemara is because they are halachically exempt from learning Torah. For her to do a mitzva in which she is not obligated, an 'intent test' is appropriate.
    Whereas men are obligated in learning Torah, in which case intent is mostly irrelevant, as לעולם ילמד אדם תורה שלא לשמה, שמתוך שלא לשמה בא לשמה.
    Her link to a YCT study on satisfaction caused by taharas hamishpacha has nothing to do with the point that Rabbi Brudny is making. That study is clearly not referring to Charedim as 'Less than a quarter of respondents reported no physical or sexual contact prior to marrying their current spouse'. And Rabbi Brudny was not referring to sexual satisfaction. His actual point is deeper than is expressed in this article or the original Q and A, but it should be quite simple to most people. A society in which the training is that your job in the world is more important than yourself, is more likely to produce people who care about others. If your own self-fulfillment is paramount, you are less likely to focus on how to make others happy. Of course, not all people who follow their dreams are sociopaths who trample on others. But they are still more likely to evaluate 'what am I getting out of this marriage' as opposed to 'am I making myself into a better spouse'. Which makes a difference, and will not be mentioned in the 'scientific' study that is linked.

    (The scientific rigor of that study is highly suspect. Through the name-dropping and scientific setup, the content is similar to a few ladies gabbing under a tree in a bungalow colony on a hot sluggish day. It seems they knew what they were trying to discover before actually making the study and lo and behold, they got what they wanted. Qui cherche, trouve.)

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    1. No one asks for an intent test when a woman wants to shake lulav and etrog. Nor when she wants to learn tzenah ur'enah. Or when a man wants to take on a chumrah, like not eating gebrokhts.

      It's a power play, plain and simple.

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    2. Full disclosure: I am related to one of the authors of the study.

      You write: "the content is similar to a few ladies gabbing under a tree in a bungalow colony on a hot sluggish day."

      Even if you don't think the study should be presented as science, this characterization seems pretty misogynistic. The survey offers food for thought, but only for those willing to think.

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    3. Mr Real Deal, let us see if you can figure out the difference between a lady starting a new thing of learning Gemara and a lady who wants to continue her mother's minhag of shaking lulav and esrog. It's not too difficult. We don't suspect the woman learning tz'enah ur'enah of feminism, we think she just wants more knowledge. Learning Gemara could go either way.

      That was easy

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    4. Simon - you are right. This study sounds like a group of men in the mikva, as one is pulling up his pants, the next one is pulling his down and the third one is lathering his ample upper torso. Their conversations are then written down and 'studied'.

      That 'study' is anecdotes of people who have been self-selected. It doesn't reveal anything at all about the subject. Nothing. Zero. Zilch.

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  2. Interesting but, similar to the evolution of RNS, is unlikely to end well. She may mean no harm, but subversion is oozing from her writings.

    Here is a not very common healthy example of someone entering the secular world, succeeding and remaining committed.
    https://youtu.be/65hlny9H0u8

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  3. But then Rabby Brudny chimes is with some highly scientific pearls. “This is probably scientifically fact… take 100 bnei torah types… what we authentically consider bnei torah (aka charedi) and 100 non-bnei torah (aka non-charedi)…

    I don't understand why "100 bnei torah types…" has to exclusively refer to Chareidim. I'm sure that Rabbi Brudny would agree that Frum Modern Orthodox people will more than qualify for the definition.

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    1. Actually he would. R Brudny is from the most open minded Roshei Yeshiva in the chareidi world.

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    2. I'm actually quite sure that he would consider at least some MO as "bnei Torah"

      He speaks in Yu (at least when I was there) once a year, much more moderate than other members of the moetzes

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    3. That's understandable even though is not factually true, because he is protecting the lifestyle that would be undermined by acknowledging the truth.

      רבי מאיר אומר הוי מעט עוסק ועסוק בתורה ושפל רוח בפני כל אדם ואם בטלת מן התורה יש לו בטילים הרבה כנגדך ואם עמלת בתורה יש לו שכר הרבה ליתן לך.



      פירוש הרמב"ם
      [עריכה]

      אמר הוי ממעט בסחורה והתמד על התורה והוי שפל רוח בפני כל אדם ר"ל שלא תהא שפל רוח בפני הגדולים לבד אמנם בפני כל אדם עד שכשתשב עם איזה אדם שיהיה יהא ספורך עמו כאלו הוא גדול במעלה יותר ממך וזה כולו לברוח מן הגאוה כמו שבארנו: וענין בטלים הרבה כנגדך הוא שיש דברים הרבה המבטלים ויצטרכו למי שנתעסק בהן וכשלא תתעסק בתורה יטרידך הזמן באחד מן הדברים ההם:

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  4. It's funny this article attacks R Brudny, when in fact R Brudny is literally the only reason the Agudah isnt falling in to Lakewood and Israeli extremism. He is literally singlehandedly holding back antivax extremist nuts like R Elya Ber Wachtfogel and R Malkiel Kotler from taking over American chareidi Jewry. He is very pro college for those not in kolel, and very pro secular studies if one is not cut out to learn. He is far more normal than any other major chareidi rabbi in America today.

    As for why R Brudny just cracked jokes, it's because if he would reveal his true opinion, he would get further ostracized by the Lakewood crowd and get fully written off as modern Orthodox and be unable to effect any change (or even prevent the status quo from becoming more extreme.)
    He knows it is smarter to work within to change communities instead of merely criticizing from the outside without any power (something R Slifkin has yet to learn.)

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  5. In number 1,it is peeked surreptitiously, not peaked.

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    1. and it's "kevudah" not "kevodah." But who's counting?

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  6. This woman is a poor and confused soul. Unlike the Satmar woman doctor who went off the derech that you wrote about in a different poast, who didn't really have anything bad to say about her upbringing. This post is basically an incoherent, stream-of-consciousness rant about everything she doesn't like about ultra-orthodox life. There are too many silly errors here to list all of them, but here's one striking example:

    You know what might actually prevent things that gave rise to the #metoo movement? 1. Not concentrating all the decision-making power solely in the hands of men and 2. Not perpetuating large power differentials between your men and women. (Women can’t speak in front of men, but it’s ok for men to lecture large groups of women. Your magazines splash successful men on the covers and your women are lucky that their names are printed. The message about power and influence is crystal clear.)

    Well, well, well. The #metoo movement, eh? Which society was all that about? The ultra-orthodox of Monsey? The chassidim of Kiryas Yoel? No??? You mean to tell me it was almost 100% about secular, non-jewish society? How could that have happened??? I guess the NYT and WSJ also doesn't print pictures of women. I guess in secular society, women are also not allowed to speak in front of men. I guess in secular, western society, the women are just as repressed as in the deepest confines of Satmar. That must explain why there's so so much sexual abuse there! And why the #metoo movement started!

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    1. If this is an example of your thought process, you must not do very well with תלמוד. The point of comparison between the #metoo movement and what happens in (ultra-)Orthodox circles is the power imbalance between men and women. We also know that, unfortunately, the sexual aspects of the movement are also present in the Orthodox community, wherein victims are blamed, if they are believed at all.

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    2. Oh, are you the guy who said that Hashem doesn't care about Shemiras Shabbos if you don't sufficiently contribute to the economy? In that case, I think it is more than Talmud that you need help with.

      My point was, it's just a dumb comparison. Trying to connect a secular movement with things that are unique to ultra-orthodox Judaism is like, really, really dumb. No matter what type of convoluted reasoning you try to use.

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    3. Even if victims are not believed in the Charedi world, that has nothing to do with gender. Male victims are just as likely to be disbelieved as female ones.

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  7. "Rabbi Lopiansky then goes on to say that “some women on a case-by-case basis” – I’m not sure what he is referring to. Perhaps learning torah, gemara? But we have to check “is it real or is it an ego thing”. Are the men also subject to this scrutiny, to see if they want to learn gemara for “real” or if it’s an ego thing? Funny that we automatically assume that men have pure intentions but women are doing it for their “ego”, whatever that means."

    Would the author also shrug away Rabbi Lopiansky's distinction, if the Mitzvah in question was regarding women putting on Tallis and Tefillin? I think he asks a legitimate question. And yes, men are supposed to ensure that they have pure intentions when learning Torah or performing commandments. The way to do that is by monitoring and questioning intentions.

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  8. Just read the word modern Orthodox, instead of chareidi, and you have a perfect article here. The line where Orthodox and modern Orthodox begin and end is a very gray area.

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  9. Am I to understand that Dr. Bruck said refraining from printing pictures of women is halacha ("not printing pictures of women is halacha, for sure")? Given the photographs of Rebbitzen Chaya Mushka displayed in countless Chabad homes and the image of the late Esther Jungreiss over her column in the Jewish Press, perhaps I'm misreading.

    By the way, the Press's willingness to print R. Jungreiss's portrait each week is why I, tongue firmly in cheek, refer to that paper as "that left-wing rag."

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    1. Am I to understand that Dr. Bruck said refraining from printing pictures of women is halacha ("not printing pictures of women is halacha, for sure")?

      The context shows clearly that that particular comment is facetious.

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    2. Chabad is different.
      Rebbetzin Jungreis' picture is grandfathered in (grandmothered?) in that her column predates the modern anti-photographite tendencies. If her column were to start now, I wonder if it would be published. Then again, the Jewish Press WAS the paper that was OK publishing a whole article about this issue, so maybe they are not exactly part of the chareidi world here.

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    3. Rebbetzin Esther Jungreiss was the only woman allowed to address any Agudah meeting. And rarely separate seating.

      Of course, her SIL was a top Agudah executive. Though to be fair, she would be allowed even without her SIL.

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  10. Very interesting but it seems to me that Chabad does not appear to have this problem what she is complaining about stems to a great degree about the power structure in the current litvish haredi world which has been an issue for many years and which is what initiated the Hasidic movement. The Baal Shem Tov revolutionized the Jewish world then. Of course the chasidic movement itself became a hierarchy of male power. The exception to this is Chabad, when it comes to women the Rebbe was very clear that women are equal partners with the men in running Chabad houses, teaching and being foremost and forefront on stage. This article reminds me of the very same original power structure and control system that the Hasidic movement came to address, all the power concentrated in the hands of a few scholars and millionaires, each one feeding off the other, ignoring the rest of the kahal kadosh. The charedy world today as she describes it reminds me of the picture of the Hamas elections how many years ago was it now they had two women running they took a picture and those two women it didn't matter how tznius they were, they had to look down on the ground you couldn't see their face because we know who's in power. Very interesting article.

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  11. I'm of an American-Charedi background as well (while not considering myself hashkafically Charedi) and agree with the bulk of what Dr. Bruck writes. I have a few points of disagreement though (especially #3 below):

    1) "[T]hey tore out of our textbooks all the chapters covering evolution and reproduction. The former, perhaps is understandable." --- I don't see the former as any more understandable than the latter. If evolution is an entirely erroneous field of inquiry (and I don't believe this, but let's say it is), it's nonetheless important to teach it as it is for people to "know what to answer" (and a high-school understanding, of course, would be an essential minimum to not be blinded by basic questions). That it is not taught reflects a lack of confidence in the Charedi world that they can intelligently engage with such lines of inquiry. As to the latter, I don't see such anatomy as presented on the NY regents (i.e., grayscale drawings) as being problematic. Even beyond the purview of medicine for example, it's necessary for a Posek (and anyone [man or woman] who will learn the relevant halakhah) to know what the vas deferens is (vasectomy...). I wonder if American-Charedi Yeshivas are different than the author's Bais Yaakov, because I don't recall any of my NY Regent questions (biology or otherwise) being censored in Yeshiva (and I went to a Yeshiva of one of the Rabbis criticized above).

    2) I think it's worth highlighting that Rabbi Lopiansky doesn't appear to see a halakhic argument for excluding women from being pictured. He states (after 1:03:05 in video) "Whether picture's a halachah, not halachah, it's a gidrei tznius." Beyond this, the overall argument being made is, unfortunately, a black-and-white portrayal of two choices only: The status-quo in the arena of Charedi publishing (which stems from Charedi society) vs. non-Charedi or non-Jewish society and the way they treat women (a blunt generalization, of course). Of course, reality is not dichotomous but, rather, lends itself to a spectrum of options. The answer was essentially a non-answer stating "we're on the higher ground overall, so obviously it's virtuous to exclude women's pictures from the magazines." This answer ignores the proposed solution entirely. I previously thought that they excluded women's pictures from print so they wouldn't offend when they inevitably only print pictures of certain women, to the exclusion of any they consider immodest. Perhaps I was too generous in this assessment. Then again, I have a feeling it boils down to a business decision by those publications like Mishpacha who believe that they have more business to lose (i.e., Chasidim) than to gain by those who rightfully care about the exclusion of women.

    3) Dr. Bruck presents a scientific rebuttal of Rabbi Brudny in the form of an emperical study on "Observant Married Jewish Women and Sexual Life." Though I merely skimmed over this study, I do feel that this rebuttal of her's is out of place (I imagine it's Rabbi Brudny's misappropriation of the term "science" which prompted the backlash). Rabbi Brudny stated that in his opinion it's without question that "the overwhelming majority of the Bnei Torah's [wives] are treated with more dignity, by far, than the non Bnei Torah's wife, and I'm willing for someone to try to disprove me." (I'm quoting from the linked video, as Dr. Bruck's restatements are not verbatim quotations.) To be clear, he is not at all talking about sexuality! If we are to discuss sexual dignity though, I would strongly agree with this application of Rabbi Brudny's statement (if we replace "Bnei Torah" with Torah scholars, Charedi or otherwise), as concisely reflected in Pesachim 49b (and restated by the Rambam at the end of Issure Biah ch. 21).

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  12. Apropos of nothing, "Efrat" seems like an unusual name for a chareidi.

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    1. Indeed. An in and out trajectory into Charedism reminiscent of the journey of one Rabbi Dr.

      Perhaps the lesson is that familial cultural mores encountered in childhood are less attractive in the late teens and early twenties than a decade later.

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    2. You guys know it's a biblical name, right?

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    3. Yes it's a biblical name (Divrei HaYamim 1, 2,18-20). So are Elitzafan, Chaniel, Chulda, and so many more names that charedis never give.
      However, Efrat is not one of them anymore, and many israeli charedim give it nowadays, because both Rs. Yosef and Kaniewski found it to be to their liking, and so ''allowed'' it (see Shemos Ba'aretz p.44).

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    4. Efrat is a common charedi name in Israel. My parents are Israeli. Neither of my parents are baal'ei tshuva.

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    5. Indeed, and I cast no aspersions on it. It's a wonderful name. The point we were making is that it is not a Charedi From Birth name.

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    6. We might have a semantic issue here about what Charedi means. Did your parents consciously self identify in their youth as Charedim and not Daati?

      Efrat is not actually a common Charedi name, even in Israel. It is a Daati Leumi associated name.

      Source: most popular girls names in Bnei Brerak and Jerusalem https://bloodandfrogs.com/2015/12/most-popular-girls-names-in-israel-by-city-for-2014.html

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    7. I propose a new term to describe my and Rabbi Drs background. 'charedi adjacent'. It's not the same as Charedi. The male and female reproductive systems were both censored in the 'Charedi adjacent' MJGS (now Manchester mesivta) school we both attended.

      The actual male Charedim went to 'Mechina lyeshiva' on upper park road, Etz Chaim on Middleton Road (I think it opened a little after Rabbi Drs time), or the Chassidish chadorim. Charedi adjacent girls went to Beis Yakov, then on Radford Street; Charedi girls went to Bnos on Leicester Road.

      The Charedi adjacent MJGS, despite the censorship, was always either the top or second highest in performing academic school in the metropolitan borough of Bury.

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    8. I’m not sure that the term chareidi is really applicable at all, outside of Israel. But I remain unsure as to what a good alternative is.

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    9. Mr. Hat,

      That was a fascinating blog post, btw. I wonder if any other such data has been compiled/posted since 2015.

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    10. It's not that uncommon for American charadim to have non-charadi names. Often the parents aren't so charadi, or at-least weren't so charadi when they named the kid, and/or they're named after someone etc. Then for whatever reasons, the kid gets sent to a (semi) charadi Beis Yaakov / Yeshiva, and they shift to the right (and go to an even more charadi highschool/seminary and shift even further right, etc.). (Interestingly, this does seem to be more prevalent with girls names tho, not sure why.)

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  13. Something is weird about this little rant. First, "charedi" is mostly an Israeli term. In the USA there are other terms.

    Yeshivish is a term. Frum. Right wing. And all these things differ depending on who is speaking. She seems to have a warped sense of the subtleties of Orthodoxy.

    Styles are less categorized in the USA than in Israel. Its more of a spectrum, and where you are depends on your view of what makes someone right wing or left wing or any other wing (birds excluded).

    The point is that she is getting too boxy. Maybe it stems from insecurity. Just breath in and out. Feel free to find a nice Orthodox Jewish community that works for you. There are plenty to choose from.

    If you are upset about how the educational system works in certain circles, then look around for something else. It doesn't mean you have to hold a grudge or throw away Judaism because of it.

    There is so much good in the Orthodox Jewish world that it doesn't pay to harp on all that you hate.

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    Replies
    1. As far as just choosing a community in the US (especially in the NY area, where Mt. Sinai is), I completely agree. There is a panoply of options, with multidimensional variabilities...

      But she still wants to go home sometimes and not feel like a meshumad in her parents' community. And she feels for others in her situation who might be more oriented to science or medicine or ANYTHING ELSE that isn't a day school morah or a speech therapist and would like them to be able to have a chance also.

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  14. Joel —

    What’s your point? There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of biblical names not favored in chareidi culture. Kalev is the name of a biblical hero… as is Gid’on (as well as Ehud and Otniel, since names from sefer Shoftim are coming to mind). Have you ever met a chareidi named any of these? I haven’t. The only women I’ve ever met (or heard of) named Efrat were (non-chareidi) Israelis. I’m not being critical, just pointing out that, like these other names of impeccable provenance, Efrat is simply not a name commonly given to chareidi girls.

    Mr. Hat —

    What’s your point?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's interesting that her parents are immigrants: "My parents immigrated to the US about one year before I was born"
      https://blog.accepted.com/what-life-at-icahn-is-like-as-a-med-student-parent-and-more-episode-399/

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    2. ...that many people who criticise Charedism in the first person (I or we) are not actually culturally Charedi.

      That's not to say there aren't important and correct criticisms to be made. There is absolutely is and these critiques are absolutely necessary.

      What I am saying, however, is that I, the Rabbi Dr, and quite possibly the Doctor, need to have the self awareness that we are punching down from a position of considerable relative privilege, and to adjust tone accordingly.

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    3. Shaul —

      Ah, that might explain it!

      Mr. Hat —

      I’m not sure quite how to respond to your deployment of common leftist tropes like “privilege” and “punching down” but, from Dr. Bruck’s post, it sounded like she was, davka, chareidi-from-birth (to respond to your previous comment), but apparently born to Israeli chareidi parents who made “yeridah” (as it were) to the US, so I agree that her cultural “make-up” is probably not exactly chareidi-typical (FWIW).

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    4. I'm pretty sure Hillel in Avos 2:4 (Al tadin es chavercho ad shetagia limkomo) wasn't displaying common leftists tropes. Not because it's the US right who keep making the point that the rust belt whites are underprivileged and left behind. Because it's common sense.

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  15. Another point Dr. Bruck overlooks is the progress being made in the Chareidi world. A few years ago, the idea of any Chareidi women learning Gemara would be anathema, even with a special test. So progress is being made, albeit slowly.

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  16. All of Dr. Bruck's criticisms are dripping with scorn and cynicism about chareidi attitudes towards women, yet she feels obligated to provide the perfunctory display of false sincerity:

    "Despite my personal choices, I am very connected to the charedi world and I care deeply about it; my roots lie there, forever. I still read their publications, have many charedi friends, and my immediate and extended family is, for the most part, all charedi. My purpose in writing this is to bring awareness to issues so that they are addressed and the lives of those in the charedi world are improved. But if you don’t like to hear criticism about the charedi world, please just stop right here."

    I love how everyone who bashes Chareidim and their lifestyle in public forums actually care so deeply about them and are really trying to help. Heck, even Rabbi Sifkin is gullible enough to believe that Avigdor Liberman and his party are trying to correct the mistakes of chareidi society, so Dr. Bruck is probably thinking: why not try to fool the rest of us?

    Some specific errors Dr. Bruck makes:

    "Rabbi Lopiansky had the courage to answer. He starts to talk about the #metoo movement and then says that not printing pictures of women is a “geder tznius”. Can someone please explain to me how not printing pictures of women equals the prevention of men acting inappropriately? Am I missing something here?"

    For someone who is living in the outside world, I find it hard to believe that Dr. Bruck is oblivious of the instinctive tendency for men to objectify women. The issue is not about "acting inappropriately" It's like we are afraid men are suddenly going to go out and rape or sexually abuse someone after seeing these images.
    As if she doesn't know, objectification of women happens primarily in the mind and in speech. But I would hope Dr. Bruck still isn't in favor of men doing those things.

    "Somehow, when there is a problem with men, the answer always has to do with further limiting women in some capacity."

    This line betrays Dr. Bruck as a cynical feminist critic of traditional Jewish life. Zero nuance, zero understanding of how a religious community has to balance different values against each other.

    "You know what might actually prevent things that gave rise to the #metoo movement? 1. Not concentrating all the decision-making power solely in the hands of men and 2. Not perpetuating large power differentials between your men and women."

    This means you are not advocating small tweaks or incremental changes. This means you are advocating tearing down the whole system. You are telling us the way to improve the lives of chareidim is to STOP BEING CHAREIDI.

    "(Women can’t speak in front of men, but it’s ok for men to lecture large groups of women. Your magazines splash successful men on the covers and your women are lucky that their names are printed. The message about power and influence is crystal clear.) "

    I fail to understand how women not being able to speak in front of men--while they are able to speak in front of thousands upon thousands of women--constitutes a large power differential.
    Let's be honest. The real beef you have is that women can't have the same public presence and focus as men can. It has nothing to do with power and influence.
    As I have shown in other forums,
    https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/is-there-a-danger-to-the-health-of-jewish-society-if-mishpacha-magazine-refuses-to-print-pictures-of-frum-women/
    women have plenty of voice and influence in chareidi society. Just look at who is writing, editing, designing, and publishing all those horrible women-erasing magazines with the men's faces splashed on them!
    That's right...women. Very powerful, very influential chareidi women.

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    Replies
    1. For anyone that doesn't know, Dovid Kornreich, aka Freelance Kiruv Maniac, suggested that the Torah condones "suicide al kiddush Hashem" for homosexuals unless they can be "cured" by, for example, "conversion therapy".

      Your repugnant views should continue to be publicized for the rest of your life until you make amends and make an honest attempt at evolving into a decent human being.

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    2. Oof, zdub with the tiyuvta...

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    3. The real beef you have is that women can't have the same public presence and focus as men can. It has nothing to do with power and influence.

      The fact that David can't see the irony and contradiction in those two sentences says all that needs to be said about him.

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    4. The fact that Avi intentionally took these two sentences out of their immediate context to distort them says all that needs to be said about him.

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    5. Dovid Kornreich, you twist every word Dr. Bruck says all the while ignoring the content of the arguments she makes while questioning her sincerity, which ironically proves her point, so thank you for that,

      the point you make that woman are the “power behind the throne” of Frum publications is accurate but you comfortably leave out the fact they don't get to make the "decisions" about those very publication that wouldn’t see the light of day without woman’s talent. In short men make the rules and the woman do the work and put in talent into said publications which has proud smiling men plastered on the front cover, men, any men Frum, secular, Goyim, right wing crackpots what have you, whatever but never woman no matter how Frum, how influential.

      When she complains that woman cannot speak for men with Tznius being the excuse all the while men speaking for woman which should have the same “tznius” issues is not all of a sudden being a problem, you comfortable ignore this point and focus only on why they aren’t happy enough speaking to woman only.

      Your whole attitude is exactly what Dr. Bruck is complaining about. Are you trying to prove her point? Or are you not aware of how you come across?

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    6. I think there is some confusion here. It seems we are discussing different parts of Dr. Bruck's post.

      I'm not sure why you are demanding that I address every single one of her complaints, and worse, by not doing so I am somehow twisting her words and ignoring her content. This is an absurd claim.

      When addressing her final argument about power differentials between men and women (i.e. "who makes the rules"), I was actually acknowledging that this is a basic feature of chareidi society, and that trying to remove rabbinic authority from women was effectively trying to tear down chareidi society.
      This is why her claims of trying to help chareidi society cannot be sincere. You don't help a society by dismantling some of its basic foundations. Don't you agree?

      I then objected to Dr. Bruck's claim that examples of this power differential in chareidi society is seen by how men can speak in front of women and not visa-versa and how only men's faces can be splashed on magazine covers.

      But you are referring to earlier in the post where Dr. Bruck raises the fact that men can speak in front of women and not visa-versa as an example of hypocrisy regarding tzinus which favors men.
      I did not address this point--because I happen to agree it has some merit and there was no need to comment.
      But that doesn't diminish any of the criticisms I made about the rest of her content nor does it mean I am twisting her words.

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  17. What about "Mirale Efros"? I have met quite a lot of Haredi women and girls named Efrat here in Israel.

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    1. I was going to ask who or what is "Mirale Efros" but, since I googled it, I will instead ask: what does a play by a maskilic playwright from 120+ years ago have to do what chareidim name their kids?

      But, if you tell me there are a lot of chareidi "Efrats" running around in Israel, maybe I just don't know enough Israeli chareidi chicks... All the frummies I know are named Chana and Esti and Rochel Leah and a bevy of not-exactly-mellifluous Yiddish sobriquets/diminutives (no offense to them, Yiddish names just don't generally sound pretty, at least to a non-Yiddish speaker). Do they pronounce it "Efros"?

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  18. Dr. Bruck's very couragious post hopefully will change the discourse somewhat. I only hope that she will not suffer too much from the expected backlash against her.
    She should be wary, though, about her wishes for women to learn Gemarah.
    She'll find out soon that, unless you pick a few choice "yeshivishe" Dapim, the rest of Talmud Bavli is quite disappointing. If the ladies of the house knew what their husbands spend their time with, they would stop being Mosser Nefesh and send the men to work to be gainfully employed.
    This is probably the hidden reason why ladies are discouraged from getting to know Gemarah too closely.

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    Replies
    1. Men are moser nefesh to learn and to support learning. Beis Yakov education brings girls with the same values. According to your thinking דעתן קלות, indeed. אין אמתינו אומה אלא בתורתה.

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  19. Heredism has unfortunately turned into a male dominated power structure which is only concerned about preserving male the structure for its own sake & privilege using tznius as the excuse

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  20. Efrat, if you ask your parents these questions, what do they say?

    ReplyDelete
  21. "Am I missing something here?"
    I'm afraid so.

    "Somehow, when there is a problem with men, the answer always has to do with further limiting women in some capacity."
    Allison Josephs, who you quote, does not agree. Or you mean "always" as it is understood on Venus, while she's spelling it out in Martian.

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  22. Anybody who puts down Dr.Bruk for perceived inaccuracies is missing the point. All of what she says is valid, and we know it.The constant saying that evolution is apikorsus, despite all the dinosaur bones found, all over the world; women always bearing the brunt of new restrictions; pretending that the sight of a woman in a photograph will cause amman to lose his mind, but walking down the street and seeing a woman is all cool. And of course turning the idea of a man working and the wife raining he family is only partly upset. The woman still has to raise the family, but now she works also, and she still cannot be seen in a publication.
    There are all sorts of issues, and Ive gone on long enough, but none of them will be raised where they count, which is a frum ( chareidi or orthodox), such as Mishpacha or Ami.

    ReplyDelete

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