Boro Park – Thousands are attending the “Tznius Asifa” in Ateres Chaya. @vosiznies
Some of you might have heard about the recent war on tznius happening in Boro Park. Apparently, there has been a rash of tragedies befalling the residents of Boro Park (illness, death, crime, poverty, failed business prospects, and the continued delay of Moshiach). It has been determined that women’s clothing and behavior is to blame.
In the meantime, cases of rabbinic improprieties continue to make headlines, and women continue to be implicated as the cause for the male lack of self-control. Even if people can get behind the concept of children not being responsible for abuse, if that abuse extends to grown women, the ladies must somehow be at fault with their wily ways.
Someone made a comment regarding the recent case linked above on Facebook (HT S.B. – will post full name if she gives permission) – and I thought she brought up some very good points. I will summarize some of the commenter’s points below and add a few of my own, in order to start the ball rolling for an Online Tznius Asifa. I am in complete agreement that breaches in tznius have been running rampant, and we need to organize a protest to end the madness and restore order and harmony to our communities.
We, as concerned members of klal yisroel, cannot ignore the alarming decline of tznius standards in our communities. Our most potent weapon in battle is always achdus, and so the women in our various communities have joined together with the objective of strengthening kedushas yisroel (the holiness of the Jewish people). With that objective in mind, we propose the following protections against tznius violations –
It has come to our attention in the form of more than one unfortunate case, that women have been violated under the guise of treatment from unlicensed rabbinic therapists. Women will no longer engage in therapeutic services from unlicensed therapists, even under the advice of their rabbis, and even if the said therapist is their rabbi. It is simply unethical for any unlicensed and untrained individual to perform such services.
Ladies and gentleman – we are all taught the prohibitions of yichud from the time of adolescence. Just because a man happens to be your rabbi, that doesn’t lessen the prohibition of yichud. No rabbi is allowed to be in a closed room with a female congregant unless there are other people in the building who can walk in at any time, the walls are made of glass so that you are both visible to the public, or the door is left slightly ajar. Rabbinical consultations do not override the laws of yichud. If you find yourself in a compromising situation with your rabbi, it is your right and responsibility to leave the room.
Husbands – there is no excuse for you to ever put your wife in the compromising position to have to personally bring her undergarments to a rabbi for a shaila. Nor is there any excuse for her to have to have a phone conversation about her bodily functions or sex life. This is YOUR responsibility. As a man, you should be the go between regarding these personal matters to protect your wife’s dignity and to prevent familiarity between your wife and the rabbi. If you feel embarrassed to address these subjects, think about how your wife must feel!
Ladies – if your husband is out of town, ill, or otherwise unable to take a shaila to the rabbi for you, insist upon having a female companion present. This can be the rav’s own wife, older daughter, or a friend that you bring along for that purpose. Shailas of an intimate nature should not be discussed alone with a rabbi, especially in his home if no one else is in the house (even with the front door ajar).
It is imperative that we encourage women scholars to become knowledgeable in hilchos niddah and poskening niddah shailas. Yoatzot halachot, maharats, whatever name a community chooses to confer upon such learned women – there should be female leadership that bridges laywomen and rabbinic poskim concerning intimate matters of halacha. In some cases, this feminine leadership will be knowledgeable enough to be the final authority, in other cases, rabbinic opinion must be consulted – but the woman with the question will have this female advocate to either ask a rabbi for her or act as a shomeret. (Hat Tip – Melech Tanan)
Rabbis and women of the community – because of the personal nature of the relationship between rabbonim and their congregants, sometimes an air of familiarity can creep in. We have seen the tragedies that can happen when rabbis and women overstep the professional boundaries and end up on opposite sides in a courtroom. For the protection of both women and rabbinic leadership, it is essential to assume a professional demeanor on the part of the rabbi and an equally professional demeanor on the part of the congregant. Friendly conversation is fine, but flirtatious banter is out of line. Men sometimes don’t know the difference, so don’t make it hard for them see the distinction. Be friendly not flirty.
In the name of sisterhood solidarity, we propose that all wedding ceremonies be treated as if they were a chuppat niddah. It is unconscionable that some of our Jewish brides, on the happiest day of their lives, must be publicly humiliated in front of their wedding guests and rabbinic witnesses by having their state of tumeh or tahor announced. To prevent such future transgressions in modesty, we are more than willing to put down our own veils, drink from a separate cup of wine, and accept a ring dropped into the palms of our hands, in order that no other bride should suffer embarrassment.
In those communities that still don’t adhere to mandatory reporting laws, and insist on first consulting with rabbonim when charges of abuse are brought to light, women should always have a presence on any beis din (as consultants) or community counsel that deals with with such charges. We need the perspective of wives, mothers, daughters, female professional counselors, and victims to determine the validity and threat level of accusations of abuse. This important task should not be left solely in the hands of men. (Hat Tip Yerachmiel Lopin).
This is just the beginning of our campaign to take control over our own dignity and tznius. We have seen that this isn’t merely a matter of hemlines, sleeve lengths, or the kinds of head coverings we wear. Finally, we are taking seriously the warnings of men, that they cannot control their animal natures. We must take precautions to protect ourselves. Assuming that men can control themselves has led to tznius violations that have caused untold harm to our communities. Women can fight these transgressions by believing the words of our gedolim, and guarding ourselves against improper conduct with the holy men in our communities. We must address the problem of modesty where it originates – with the men. This will ultimately benefit our entire kehilla.