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Mychal

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PostSubject: Women to the back of the bus   Thu Oct 20, 2011 1:52 pm

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44970711/ns/us_news-the_new_york_times/

This was an issue not that long ago in Israel; apparently it's now an issue in NYC as well.

I will admit, the complete and total separation of the sexes is the single biggest obstacle I see for me one day becoming an Orthodox-practicing Jew. I don't consider myself much of a feminist, but I draw the line at sex segregation. It's the reason why I have never considered Islam a viable religious option for me. The fact that some Jewish women are now wearing burkas in Israel scares the bejesus out of me (can I still say "bejesus"?).

I will admit, though, that I do not know what the modern Othodox position is on this matter, versus the ultra-orthodox position. Can modern Orthodox men and women mingle in public?
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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: Re: Women to the back of the bus   Thu Oct 20, 2011 2:29 pm

This kind of sex segregation is much more ultra-Orthodox than modern Orthodox. Failed Messiah covered the story yesterday, and I tipped NY1 News off about it, too.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Women to the back of the bus   Thu Oct 20, 2011 4:06 pm

I don't mind the separation of men and women but this is a public bus. They need to get their own bus. I also think women and children should be in the front with a curtain or something. They shouldn't have to go to the back with babies and strollers. They have to walk past the men to get their, right? So just let them sit in the front and put up a curtain so some prude doesn't have to look at the back of their sheitel. Since men and women look at each other walking on the street I assume they want to pray on the bus, therefore they do not even want to be able to see the ladies up front. If that isn't the case then it's just stupid. They see women everywhere else. A curtain on their own private bus would work, they will just have to pay more for it. If that is what they want, then I say they should go out and get it.

And no Mychal, Modern Orthodox Jews wouldn't force men and women to sit in different parts of the bus.
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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: Re: Women to the back of the bus   Thu Oct 20, 2011 4:18 pm

Dena, it's worse than you may think. In one of these communities in Brooklyn (I believe Williamsburg, not the more open Chabad community in Crown Heights), self-appointed halachic "authorities" have put up numerous handbills over the past year telling women to look down or cross the street if a man approaches on the same sidewalk, telling women not to walk down the street or enter certain stores based on the way they are dressed, and even telling secular New Yorkers not to ride bicycles through the neighborhood. These are the same types of handbills that go up in Mea Shearim, the (pun intended) "poster-child" haredi neighborhood in Jerusalem. It is happening because Williamsburg is a growing hipster neighborhood, popular with young secular New Yorkers. I guess the haredi community is trying to establish ground rules for living there, but, of course, they don't have any legal right to do so.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Women to the back of the bus   Thu Oct 20, 2011 5:33 pm

mikedoyleblogger wrote:
Dena, it's worse than you may think. In one of these communities in Brooklyn (I believe Williamsburg, not the more open Chabad community in Crown Heights), self-appointed halachic "authorities" have put up numerous handbills over the past year telling women to look down or cross the street if a man approaches on the same sidewalk, telling women not to walk down the street or enter certain stores based on the way they are dressed, and even telling secular New Yorkers not to ride bicycles through the neighborhood. These are the same types of handbills that go up in Mea Shearim, the (pun intended) "poster-child" haredi neighborhood in Jerusalem. It is happening because Williamsburg is a growing hipster neighborhood, popular with young secular New Yorkers. I guess the haredi community is trying to establish ground rules for living there, but, of course, they don't have any legal right to do so.

Nope, they don't.
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: Women to the back of the bus   Fri Oct 21, 2011 1:00 pm

You would think if they are that committed to living according to Jewish law, they'd establish their own private kibbutz in Israel. But seeing how there is a strain of the Ultra-Orthodox who are against the state of Israel--despite the fact that the ingathering of Jews and the return of the Lost Tribes to Israel, and Israel's repeated victories against crazy odds all align with Biblical prophesy on the subject--then they should just go buy some land from the Amish in Pennsylvania and do their thing there. I don't have a problem with people living according to their religion in their own compound/community/tiny uptopia, but, sorry, you can't tell everyone else in public how to live.

Dena, it was my understanding that there are two entrances to the bus--one in the back and one in the front. Apparently women paid the bus driver at the front of the bus, then went to the back door and got on there.
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: Women to the back of the bus   Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:24 pm

Mychal,

(Coming into this late having been logged out since the beginning of Shmini Atzeret)

A word about the Modern Orthodox view of gender segregation: It varies since there is a large range of practice between different groups that self-identify as "Modern Orthodox". Modern Orthodox shuls have a mechitza for davening, but the ones I've visited have the sexes freely mingle for kiddush and social events. Some MO Jews are "shomer negiah" meaning that they don't touch people of the opposite sex who are not spouses or first degree relatives. But they have no problem with seeing and speaking to the other sex as long as they are not off in private ("yihud") which is considered improper. (Hence stories of people getting off elevators if they would end up with a man and a woman together by themselves in the elevator.) A public bus is would not need any segregation. I attended a MO wedding with a divider down the dance floor with separate dancing for men and women, but people were seated at mixed gender tables for dinner. (And they took down the divider once the rabbi left, and the groom's parents exerted their preference :) )

Another example: the Modern Orthodox high school that a number of members and children of members of my minyan attended (with a couple of minyan kids attending now) is co-ed. Its gym classes are single sex and I'm guessing that some of the religious studies classes are single sex, but the secular studies classes are all of mixed gender. And being a high school, all the kids are post-bar/bat mitzvah age so rules of adults apply to them.
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Sarit

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PostSubject: Re: Women to the back of the bus   Tue Jan 07, 2014 8:41 pm

I think a lot about the gender segregation and I try to understand every personal and political/institutional position on that since I'm involved with gender studies professionally for quite a long time. I identify myself with the generation of post-postfeminists, or non-denominational feminists (in terms of theoretical and political denominations of feminist interpretations).

In my opinion, gender segregation need not to be a bad thing aimed at discouraging women and at making them feel miserable. On the contrary. Some dose (up to the some point) of creating a separate, almost private space for thinking about what it is to be feeling gendered like this or like that, or just for thinking about where is (or isn't) my space in the traditional and contemporary gender spaces can be quite inspirational and insightful and in that means every single experience is important and different.

So contrary of what I expected at the beginning, I like separate gender spaces in my synagogue. I don't mind it and it even gives me a bit of freedom to be more concentrated on my own position within the system of Judaism and on my own thoughts.

It's odd, but I even enjoy not having to touch everybody in the room (I'm not shomer negiah, but I've been playing with that idea for quite a long time). It's just about creating personal space and concentration on other things - speech, thought, other human interrelations.

My synagogue is Modern Orthodox and we don't have mechitza - only separate spaces (really separate enough) so in the same time I never felt I was disconnected, and still I had the sense of being granted the private space (what is funny - recently I was at another Orthodox synagogue in the region and they had mechitza made of not quite solid nor connected pieces of clothes - it was drawing my attention all the time instead of the opposite!).

But, I think that hysterically separating public spaces like this (example of the bus above) is just wrong. I mean, it can lead exactly to violating that private space and to the feelings of being deprived of something, which is not the way of behaving to another human being with dignity, so it's basically not ok. That's my opinion.


Last edited by Sarit on Tue Jan 07, 2014 8:41 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : typos)
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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: Re: Women to the back of the bus   Tue Jan 07, 2014 9:28 pm

Gender segregation is based upon the assumption that men and woman cannot control themselves or their thoughts around each other and hence would be thinking of sex and not God if mixed together. That's baloney.

Gender segregation is also based on the assumption that all Jews are heterosexual, and on the secondary assumptions that homosexual Jews are not valid Jews and that their needs need not be taken into account. And that's baloney, too.

The moment you accept gender segregation, you accept that human beings cannot think beyond their private parts, and that only human beings who use their private parts with the opposite sex matter.

Because of all of this, gender segregation will never be accepted by mainstream, liberal Diaspora Jews, who represent the majority of Jews on the planet. It is a relic of really backward thinking, kept in place by a single stream of Judaism afraid to deal with people as they really are.
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Sarit

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PostSubject: Re: Women to the back of the bus   Wed Jan 08, 2014 12:56 pm

I highly value what you have said, mikedoyleblogger! Unfortunately, these two concepts (the concept of segregation and nonsegregation) are rarely opened to the mutual dialogue and understanding of these very differences. I would not stand by any of them as regarding them a kind of fundamental truth; rather, they are separate worlds of different possibilities of interpretations. Politically I don't have a problem with any of them (personally I may be leaning here or there more, but it all, really, depends more on a rabbi which participates directly in shaping the community thinking than on a particular denomination!) and I would like to see more of the dialogue on the differences in the future, not just separating.
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daniel eliezer

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PostSubject: Re: Women to the back of the bus   Sun Jan 12, 2014 10:50 am

Regarding seating on public buses, maybe the day will come when the bus companies will provide seats with reversible back rests. That way men can sit in the back of buses facing backward and looking at where they came from, while women can in the front facing forward and look at where they're going to.

If and until that happens, allow me to share two stories that pertain to some of the dichotomy Jews live in. The first story relates to the downside of living in a ‘normative, halachic community’ in Israel, and especially in Jerusalem, where this often translates into close-minded intolerance and fear, which lead to ‘pressure from the street to conform’.

Story one: In the mid-late ‘90s, I made a rare visit to America, because my father’s poor health had caused my parents to cancel their trip to Israel for our daughter Ayelet’s bat mitzvah. My parents live in the NYC metropolitan area, and I went to Manhattan for one Shabbat to visit an old friend, who because of a longstanding invitation made arrangements for me to eat with a mutual friend on Shabbat day.

I was the last one to walk into the apartment late on Shabbat morning, finding myself being greeted my an eclectic group of liberal Manhattan Jews. Surprisingly, we were all the same age group, 40-50, and as far as I could tell all single except me, albeit I was traveling alone. With my arrival, the meal convened, and it was a really good time. For the first time in a very long time I had the opportunity to participate in cosmopolitan conversation that had once been a part of my life, but which is much rarer when living in Israel and in a small yishuv. The conversation simply flowed, as every subject seemed to be worthy of discussion. In that I was from Israel and that I lived in a yishuv and because my clothing clearly identified me with the modern-to-Orthodox world, I found myself to be quite involved in what was discussed, often seeming to be an impromptu spokesman for Israel and yishuvim and the modern-to-Orthodox world. Fortunately, everything was spirited and we got along well.

Suddenly, and for reasons I have never fathomed, one woman turned on me attacking me about ultra-Orthodox ‘hinyuchiness’. For those who don’t know this word, it’s from the Hebrew word for education, hinuch, and ‘hinyuchiness’ is the term that modern-Orthodox Jews use to describe the ultra-Orthodox world’s seeming obsession with the miniscule of halacha. Basically it's their way of saying ‘picayunishness’, and anyone who's ever felt intimidated in ultra-Orthodox surroundings knows what I'm speaking about, i.e. “Do I measure up?” or similar sentiments.

My immediate internal reaction was, “What’s with her nasty behavior?” That I was her target because of how I was dressed was obvious, but her nastiness (literally) was inexcusable. Outwardly, however, I simply responded, “Anyone who’s ever been in an earthquake knows that the first thing you want to do is grab something that will give you stability. It can be the smallest handhold, just as long as it gives you some sense of security.”...continuing...“If this is true for a physical earthquake, then how much more so is this true when society is going through great upheaval. Instinctively everyone seeks something that will give a sense of secureness. When there is no sense of freedom and wellbeing, then one just naturally draws inwards, closes up defensively, and hangs on. It takes tremendous courage to continue to believe and to progress when all navigational systems have become inoperable.” And then I stopped, expecting those present to contribute to the conversation as they had been doing all along.

Long seconds passed, however, with no response, and then, seemingly simultaneously, everyone began talking to someone…and it was all small talk: gossip, news, sports, weather, etc. I was stunned. “What?” I thought to myself. “What’s going on here?!” Within moments, though, I recognized what had happened. These people were guilty of the same thing that I had described, except instead of turning their fears toward some religious dogmatism they had turned it elsewhere, conveniently accusing others. With this came to mind a common maxim used in Israel to describe a situation where you accuse another of what you yourself are guilty of: “Take the beam from between your eyes.”

Returning to our dichotomy, the up side of living in Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox communities is that there exists the possibility of immersing ourselves and our lives in purity and sanctity. Doing so however, often means that when having to step outside we confront life where all the overt public messages seem to deny or attack this. This story gives us an innocuous yet concrete example.

Story two: One morning I boarded a bus in Jerusalem, and as I paid the driver and turned to find a seat, I found myself staring...whew! - almost, good reactions...up the dress of a 25 or so year old woman. She was sitting behind the driver in the first set of facing seats, and her legs were propped up on the opposing seat, oblivious (?!) to what she was exposing. She was wearing a modest, long-sleeve blouse and an ankle length denim skirt (typical of modern, religious women), and as I passed her I discovered that she had a prayer book in her hands and was saying her morning prayers!? One doesn’t have to be a religious extremist in order to understand that sense of self, self respect, and decency of person all affect how we behave within society.

It is necessary for all of us to understand thoroughly, “Israel is about Jews”, regardless of whatever other peoples live here. If we're honest, it's outright anti-Semite heaven in Israel, because you can only 'blame the Jews'. Conversely, no matter where else Jews live in the world, they are only some percentage of a larger population. Israel is a pressure pot in terms of societal demands, and unless we live here for an extended period of time we’re never going to understand it. All the criticisms of Israel that come from outside of Israel, pale in comparison to those which exist inside Israel.

Regarding all that we've said, I have a prayer that reads like this:

My heart aches for the day when the Torah observant community will say…“Our Holy brothers, we so much want to learn Torah with you…”

…and the non-observant community will say…“Our Holy brothers, we so much want you to help us build Am Yisrael and the Land of Israel…”

…and simultaneously both will say…“We’ve been waiting so long for you ask!

If we’ve ever spent any considerable time in Israel, we understand and feel these words reverberating deeply inside us...and I write them here I don't doubt in the least that they are as equally true for all Jews wherever they live.

B’Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer
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