Dying for a Shidduch

Hungry to Be Heard – Eating Disorders in the Orthodox Jewish Community – A Project of the Orthodox Union Young Leadership Cabinet

The other day I was listening to a recently recorded episode on Jewish Talk Radio, of The Date Program, hosted by, Baila Sebrow.  Sebrow has devoted herself to helping frum singles find their bashert, and has a weekly program discussing the issue.  The episode I was listening to featured Rabbi Chananya Weissman, who pioneered efforts to “combat the angst and hardships associated with dating in the religious Jewish community” with his organization, End The Madness.

During the program, Baila Sebrow mentioned that she has observed how single women return home after seminary, only to begin starving themselves to fit the physical requirements that will make them marketable on the shidduch dating scene.  Sebrow described the pattern:

“You know it’s interesting…eating disorders…there are girls that are starving themselves.  It’s sad and funny at the same time, because the girls feel that they need to be very very skinny, and what’s interesting is the mother’s of the boys want the girls to be very skinny.  But, yet, in talking to these boys, that’s not what they’re looking for.  And so, when girls come home from seminary, they literally starve themselves, and I see that.  I see girls when they first, you know, they, they arrive and it’s just a very short time and they shrink, some of them anyway.”

I think one of the main points of Sebrow’s observation is that having multiple people involved in choosing one’s life partner can have unintended consequences.  The consequence here is that women (aka mothers) tend to value slenderness more than men.  It’s been said many times that while some men like skinny women, many men also prefer curves.  However, in the current beauty culture our women are exposed to, curves are akin to fat – and fat isn’t good.  Women worship skinny.  In fact, studies have shown that “men prefer a woman that is 10-15 pounds heavier than what the women believed to be the ideal weight that men want.”

When orthodox Jewish mothers are vetting dating prospects for their sons, one of the top checklist items is the woman’s dress size.  If it’s anything above a size 4, the prospect will likely be dismissed.  This practice has been decried for some time, yet nothing seems to be changing.  One person critiqued this low weight requirement on a popular Jewish forum a few years ago:

“Why are mothers teaching their sons to be weary of the dress size of a girl? I find it amazing that mothers have the audacity to ask what size a girl is. Girls who are not “fortunate” enough to have a small build feel like less of a person because of something so superficial and so physical. I know of a girl who was 20 years old. and was overweight. A shadchan redt her a boy who was hashkafically NOT for her, he was divorced, and he had a child from his previous marriage… The shadchan told her that because of her circumstance (being heavier) she would have to compromise… Not only are people not redting these girls to normal boys, but they are also insulting them, degrading them, and offending them.”

While in theory, many folks agreed with the poster, it boiled down to this response by a single bochur:

“Something once happened to a friend of mine from Yeshiva. He asked our Rosh Yeshiva for advice. he was dating a girl. The conversation was great, they were on the same page hashkafically, etc. He had one problem: he didn’t think she was good looking at all. As he told the Rosh Yeshiva, “I could probably talk to her on the phone for hours. Even in person, once the conversation gets going, it’s great. I just don’t like the way she looks!” The Rosh Yeshiva told him to end the shidduch. My friend asked, “Since when do we put such an emphasis on looks?” The Rosh Yeshiva told him that you must be attracted to your wife, or the marriage will never work.”

While the commenter likened being overweight to being unattractive, many men are attracted to average size or larger women.  However, if men are given the message that it is not normal to be attracted to anything but a skinny woman, most won’t want to go against that norm by dating someone larger.

Women who have suffered with extreme weight problems are prompted to take drastic measures upon reaching shidduch age.  One Chabad woman, Merav Yitzhaki, made the news when she underwent bariatric surgery and lost 205lbs in order to increase her chances of a making a good shidduch:

“at the age of 21, when religious girls start seriously thinking about getting married, she reached the weight of 155 kilos (342 pounds).

“I was warned that I should be thin when I enter the ‘shidduch’ world, so that I could be matched to a good-looking guy. But I had already accepted the fact that I would probably be matched to a fat guy and that’s it.”

But Merav didn’t really accept the situation, and at some point found herself on the operating table at the Assuta hospital, where a ring was adjusted on her stomach to reduce her appetite.

And then, about a year ago, she looked in the mirror and saw a girl weighing 62 kilos (137 pounds) with a lot of excess skin, which used to cover her 155 kilos in the past. “I looked really weird, only in a different way this time,” she says.

 In order to look her best and fit into the dating world, Merav was treated by Dr. Tali Friedman, a senior plastic surgeon from the Assia Medical Center in Tel Aviv.  

“The problem of obesity is extremely relevant to the haredi-religious sector these days,” says Dr. Friedman. “I have been exposed to many patients from the sector who have undergone weight loss treatments and body shaping. Merav is a very impressive and highly motivated young woman, who has done very well.”  

At the end of the treatments, Merav said goodbye to the excess skin as well and finally joined the world of single women and men.”

I don’t know if Merav ever got married.  It would be interesting to find an update to see if the surgery helped her achieve her marriage goal.

An insightful piece in Tablet Magazine, called, Orthodox and Anorexic, portrayed Chaya Faigie Jundef, a young woman who began the road to anorexia at the young age of 13:

“like many people who suffer from anorexia, Jundef was an overachiever and a diligent student, a type-A personality. She was valedictorian of both her elementary and high-school class. Her anorexia began innocently enough: a diet, when she was 13 years old. She wanted to lose some weight for her twin brother’s bar mitzvah.

“I got a lot of compliments and I thought that was nice,” she said. “If it looked good to lose some weight, I should probably lose some more. That’s something you’ll hear from everyone who has an eating disorder.

Jundef began restricting what food she ate. She looked a little skinny and fainted twice, but school officials figured it was just because of stress. She also began running. “People thought it was normal I was so exhausted,” she said.

But a routine medical check-up in the 12th grade found otherwise: At 5-foot-3, she weighed 93 pounds. She was officially diagnosed with anorexia, and her doctor recommended a psychiatrist. The diagnosis shocked Jundef and her family. “I was a well-adjusted, happy teenager,” Jundef recalled. “Psychiatrists were for crazy people.””

After being mistreated in various eating disorder programs, Jundef finally found one in Toronto General that worked.  However, she was still a long way from being fully recovered.  Despite that, at the age of 21, she began shidduch dating:

““The matchmaking world has led to overwhelming pressure,” said Sarah Bateman, a licensed clinical social worker at Renfrew. “Women’s statistics are kept on file by the matchmaker. … The No. 1 question is about women’s size and weight.”

Jundef received a heter, or permission from a rabbi, to wait until she hit a third date with the same young man before telling him about her eating disorder. At the time, Jundef had fully recovered and was pursuing her college degree and teaching full-time.

“It became a lovely cycle of going out with fine young people,” she said. But, “every time they heard about my eating disorder, that was the end of it. … With each ‘no,’ I lost more weight.””

Ironically, the very shidduch system that prizes impossibly thin women, used this very trait against Jundef when the label of “anorexia” was stamped upon it.

The Tablet article also reports that:

“The Orthodox community has begun to grapple openly with eating disorders in recent years. In 2008, the Orthodox Union released a documentary film to be shown in Jewish schools called Hungry To Be Heard, (linked above) about eating disorders among observant Jews. And treatment programs that cater to Orthodox women have opened.

“Now practically everyone knows someone who suffers from an eating disorder,” said Dovid Goldwasser, one of the most prominent Orthodox rabbis to deal with eating disorders.”

With all the dangers that come along with starving yourself skinny, why are we, as mothers, demanding such standards of future brides?  Why are we creating a shidduch system that encourages eating disorders among our women?  These disordered behaviors don’t only last during the single years, and magically disappear upon marriage.  We are setting young women up for a lifetime of starving, binging, purging, and abusing diet pills and laxatives.  It’s bad enough being exposed to skinny celebrities in the media, some of whom are mothers themselves, and are photographed weeks after giving birth looking as if they’d never been pregnant.  Must we, as orthodox women who pride ourselves on holding higher values, subject ourselves to those same standards and scrutiny?

Our girls look to their older sisters and mothers to set examples of healthy eating.  If they see mothers who eat healthy foods, exercise on a regular basis, and accept themselves, this is what they will emulate.  If they see mothers who restrict their food, exercise excessively, and constantly complain about how fat they are, this is what they will emulate.  When young girls hear us criticizing their older sisters about their weight, the amount or type of foods they are consuming, or their level of exercise, this also sends a disturbing message.  Average sized girls who have barely hit puberty are starting to restrict foods and use excessive exercise to lose weight their developing bodies sorely need.

The shidduch process starts way before the age of 18 for most girls.  They learn lessons about what attributes secure a good shidduch long before they’ve even put together their first resume, or interviewed with that initial shadchan.  Our young men are learning these lessons too, when they see their parents prepping their older siblings for dating.  We are teaching our children what traits are valuable in shidduchim.  Until we, as parents, relearn what’s really important, lives will continue to be devastated as kids strive to meet our impossible expectations.

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When Activism Turns Exploitative

The growing pains of orthodox Jewish activism efforts against child abuse are becoming apparent.  I opened my Facebook page this morning and was horrified to find a post shared on my timeline linking to a video clip of a young boy being groped by a Camp Dora Golding counselor this summer.

The incident apparently happened in July, and camp counselor Chisdai Ben-Porat, 19, of Ottawa, Canada, was charged with indecent assault of someone under 13 years old, unlawful contact with a minor and corruption of a minor at the camp.  The camp’s executive director, Alex Gold, told the press that the counselor was arrested within hours after the camper reported the alleged incident.  Another camper apparently filmed the incident on his cell phone, which was turned in as evidence, and now a short portion of that video has been leaked online.

While I sympathize with the need to use desperate measures to have justice served, in my opinion, this film should be given to the police department to be used as evidence in court, not passed around the internet.  I understand that the purpose of posting the video is to prove that the abuse really happened.  However, I feel that by circulating this video, we are victimizing the underage child all over again. This is why I have chosen not to link directly to the video.

I hope that the family has given their permission for the video to be made public.  Even with parental permission, the laws regarding child pornography are so strict, posting a video of a minor being assaulted by an adult is still probably illegal.  Despite the noble intentions, the video should be shown to those who can make it result in a criminal conviction, to law enforcement officials. How many sick people are going to actually enjoy this film instead of be sickened by it? How long before the rest of the film, which allegedly depicts the full molestation, is leaked online?

Behind the headlines, behind the scandals, there are young children who need protection and not further exploitation in the name of a cause.  Surely, there must be a way to advocate against child abuse, without further abusing the victims in the process.

Does Chesed Begin at Home?

I once read a book for female baalas teshuvahs (the title escapes me at the moment) where an anecdote from a Rebbetzin was given.  It’s a story that I have heard more than once, with slightly different details, so I will paraphrase what I remember.

A Rabbi and Rebbetzin attended a networking conference for Jewish professional women.  The Rabbi was going to give a keynote speech on halachic issues in the workplace.  The Rabbi went off to a side room to look over his notes, leaving the Rebbetzin to mingle and meet with the women at the conference.

Walking among the attendees during the hors devours hour, there was a distinguished representation of doctors, lawyers, CPAs, educators, and even a few elected officials.  Upon introduction, each woman asked the other what she did for a living.  When the Rebbetzin was asked her profession, she replied that she was a stay at home mother.  Hearing her response, the women’s eyes glazed over and they quickly ended the conversation to move on to someone with a more illustrious career.

Finally, the Rebbetzin grew weary of being dismissed.  When the next woman she met greeted her, they exchanged names and pleasantries.   This time, when the inevitable question about her profession came up, she replied that she ran a non-profit home for unwanted children.  Her companion exclaimed that she must be a saint!  The Rebbetzin went on to explain that she cooked, cleaned, tutored, clothed, budgeted, and managed medical care for eight little souls, whom no one else would take responsibility for.  It was a 24/7 career, but well worth it in the end.

The other woman shook her head in admiration and called some of her friends over.  They just had to hear about the noble work the Rebbetzin was doing to help this houseful of wayward children!  With a crowd of women paying rapt attention, the Rebbetzin stood in the center of the circle and described an average day in her busy life.

“With all that you do,” one woman cried,” I hope you are being paid a good salary!”

“Actually,” the Rebbetzin replied, “I don’t make a salary at all.  You see, the children I speak of are my own.  I am a stay at home mother.”

Of course, the women listening were floored and appropriately chastised.

This is a nice story that portrays how stay at home mothers are undervalued, but I wonder if we don’t do something similar in our own Jewish communities.  Every orthodox community depends on the tzedakah and elbow grease of its members.  Without donations and volunteer labor most shuls, schools, kollels, and other communal organizations couldn’t operate.   On any given night, there will always be people bustling about to volunteer their time, attend dinners, parlor meetings, and all sorts of various fundraisers.

In many cases, aside from doing a mitzvah, attending board meetings or participating in volunteer projects replaces other forms of socialization that happen in the secular world.  Instead of bowling night, it’s packing up food for the needy.  Instead of poker night, it’s making fundraising calls at the school.  Instead of heading to the local bar, it’s stuffing envelopes for the yearly banquet.  Although the motive is positive, the end result is many nights spent away from the family.

Where all this activity turns even more iffy, is when we are given the message that giving tzedakah and doing chesed only count for something when you are helping people outside of your family.  A friend and I were having a discussion about the chesed hours requirement at our kid’s school.  Many Jewish day schools, in order to teach the importance of doing chesed, will make mandatory volunteer hours outside of school that each student must complete.  The type of chesed done must be approved by the school.

In our school, students may not count their chesed hours from activities done at home.  We did manage to get our child special permission to do chesed hours at home this year, since I broke my leg.  We are fortunate that an exception was made.  However, my friend said that her request for her child to help out at home, due to her bad back, was not accepted.  Hence, she has to hire outside help, while her child does her chesed hours for another organization.  Another example would be that visiting an elderly grandparent would not fulfill the chesed requirement, while visiting elderly strangers in a nursing home would.

I can remember being the harried mother of 3 children, ages 3 and under.  I was working at the time, and practically a single parent, as my husband was in his medical residency program.  I saw examples around me of the ultimate balabusta – the modern day Jewish superwoman who worked, ran the home, raised the kids, and was a baalas chesed in her community.  I desperately wanted to emulate them.  A few years before the children were born, I tried to get involved in various communal chesed organizations.  One way I used to volunteer my time was cooking meals for women who just had babies or were recovering from illness.  However, by the time I had my 3 oldest children, it was getting difficult for me to even manage cooking for my own family.

Unfortunately, I had not yet mastered the fine art of saying no.  I really felt that if I didn’t help those outside my own daled amos, I was not fulfilling the mitzvah of doing chesed.  One morning, I woke up to the usual bustling routine of getting myself ready for work and the kids ready for preschool and day care, only to see a large red X on the kitchen calendar.  That X was a reminder that I was supposed to have delivered a dinner to a new mother the night before.  My stomach sank, and I felt like the worst person in the world.  I called the meal coordinator and apologized profusely.  I called the new parents and did the same.  I sent over a meal from the local pizza shop the next night.  I felt horrible.  I realized that I had reached my breaking point, and that overextending myself had only resulted in broken promises.

Pouring my heart out to an older and wiser friend, she told me that chesed starts at home.  What good is making a hot meal for someone else, while your own kids eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?  What good is giving your last penny of tzedakah, when your own bills are going unpaid? Beyond that, what good is giving your limited tzedakah dollars to strangers, when your parents/siblings/grandparents/cousins, etc. are struggling to make shabbos and yom tov?

Does chesed and tzedakah only count outside of your own daled amos?  Is that the lesson we want our kids to learn when they are told that only chesed done for strangers counts?  The social status that one receives when doing chesed for others is a great motivator.  I am not saying that people don’t have good motives – surely those that devote themselves to helping others and giving tzedakah are doing a mitzvah.  However, especially for women, how many opportunities do we have to distinguish ourselves outside the home within the community, but for the chesed we do?  Yes, doing chesed is a laudable activity, but we have to remember that it’s not chesed if we are working ourselves to the bone and neglecting our own family’s needs in the process.

Pssst….Is Your Wife Refusing To Receive A Get?

It’s not a problem!  Yeah, you!  Come over here.  Shhhh!  Where there’s a will there’s a way, right?

Here’s how it works.  I know a guy….a facilitator if you will.  We’ll call him Shlomo.  He can get you around the heter meah Rabbanim.  It’s not a problem.

Just hear me out.  First you need to pay the fee.  If you have the money, great.  If not, Shlomo  can help you raise it.  The standard fee is around $50,000.  These things aren’t easy to orchestrate, you know.  Listen, he has a beis din that he normally works with.  You tell them the situation, and they are almost always sympathetic.  They see it all the time.  Women can be emotional…not see that the divorce is for the best.  See, I understand?  Am I right?

If for some reason the beis din doesn’t agree, it’s also not a problem.  Shlomo can get a new beis din together easy, just for your case.  It’s all kosher – these are shtark Dayanim, all of them.  Shlomo only works with the best so the heter will never be questioned.  He guarantees it.  Heck, Shlomo even acts as one of the Dayanim if he can only get two guys on such short notice.

Will your wife find out?  No!  Chas v’shalom!  She will be totally unaware that any of this is happening!  You don’t have to worry that she will make trouble…it’s all part of the service.  Beis din should be simple, you walk in and tell your story, they give the heter that you can remarry without the get.  Don’t worry, your surname won’t be used…no, no identifiable information about you or your wife.  First name basis only!

Here’s where the kollel community comes together.  It’s a beautiful thing, really.  Shlomo will take the heter to various yeshivos, accompanied by a donation.  He needs to get 100 signatures.  Yes, that’s part of where your fee goes – you think Shlomo is a ganif?  A tzadik is more like it!  The halacha is that the signatures need to be from at least three different countries, so the heter will be sent to kollelim in Eretz Yisroel, the United States, Europe, and sometimes South Africa.

Actually, some hold that three different states in the United States constitute medinos (countries).  But, we try and be machmir.   Now, ideally all the signatures come from rabbanim, but sometimes we can’t get rabbanim as quick as we need, so we have kollel yungerleit sign.  They aren’t that familiar with gitten or beis din, but they’ve learned enough that it’s patur.

Do you have to worry that those signing will want more information?  I’ll tell you a secret.  Most of them don’t even read the heter.  They just sign.  If their rosh yeshiva tells them to sign, they’ll sign.  They don’t need to know who, or why, or what.  They don’t need to know names.  If it’s good enough for their rebbe, it’s good enough for them.

Ok, once we get the signatures, Shlomo contacts your wife and tells her you are free to remarry.  He gives her the address of the beis din (he operates out of a small office in ____), where she can arrange to receive her get and kesubah.  That’s her choice.  At this point, you are free to marry and build a bayis ne’eman b’yisrael!  Mazel Tov!

By now you are probably thinking that the scenario above is the fantastical imaginings of a freminazi (frum feminist nazi).  I wish you were right.  However, the information came from a July 6, 2011 Hamodia article written anonymously by a “respected Rav.”  The article, Tragic Abuse of Heter Meah Rabbanim, spoke out strongly against this practice.  Being that this is the first time I have heard of such a practice, I wonder how much of an impact this article actually made when it was written.

The general practice of getting a heter meah Rabbanim was pointed out to me when I asked a Facebook question about the RCA’s recent statement, RCA Condemns Refusal to Deliver or Receive a get.  My question was whether or not there was a precedent of a woman refusing a get?  Had there ever been a chained man?  It was pointed out to me that there was a scenario within the past 30 years or so, where a prominent Rosh Yeshiva’s wife refused to leave Eretz Yisroel and come with him to America so that he could take over his father’s yeshiva.  The rabbi went to the United States without her and tried to give her a get, but she refused.  In a rare move, he received a heter meah Rabbanim, and was permitted to take a second wife, which he did within a few months.

If the wife doesn’t want the divorce, she’s being emotional – unreasonable.  If the wife wants the divorce, she’s being emotional – unreasonable.  We can’t win.  Men can divorce us even if we want to stay married.  Men can keep us married even if we want to be divorced.  Where is the heter meah Rabbanim for women to take a second husband, get be damned?  Where is the loophole for agunot?  Nu, if we can free men from needing a get to remarry, where is a leniency for the ladies?  This kind of halachic creativity should work both ways, no?

Bigotry Towards Chassidic Jews – Am I a Hater?

A few weeks ago I joined Facebook.  I had been off of that site for a few years for a variety of reasons, and hadn’t missed it.  However, since starting my blog, I have grown to realize that a good portion of readers and relevant discussion is happening over there.  I seemed to be missing the boat by not having a Facebook presence for Kol B’Isha Erva.  I took the plunge and created an account.

Being back on Facebook has been an eye opening experience.  In some ways, it’s been positive.   I see people forming connections in groups and discussing issues of concern to the frum community.  I see activism taking place, inspiring others to sign letters to district attorneys and judges to get tough on child abuse, to help agunahs receive a get, and to help a Jewish mother get her kids back from their abusive father.

In other ways, there has been a lot of negativity.  Facebook is like high school on steroids.  Teens are often highly unfiltered in what they say to peers and authority figures.  Apparently, Facebook is the place where we grownups get to be teens again, whether hiding behind a screen pseudonym or under our own names.  We all get brave online.  I readily admit that I am much bolder with my written words than in verbal conversation.  I do try to maintain a respectful code of conduct while online, but I know there are times when I fail.

The most interesting thing that has happened is “meeting” people on Facebook who friend me through this blog.  Usually, someone will read a blog post, connect with my message, and friend me thinking that I am a likeminded individual.  Many times they are correct, but sometimes not.  The question I get asked most often is if I am off the derech.  The next most common question I get is if I am gay.   My stock response is that I am neither of those things, but am sympathetic to those who are.  The third most common question I get asked is if I am haredi or chassidic.  Can I also say that I am not, but am sympathetic to those who are?

Some of my posts reflect that I am part of the frum community and attempt to lead a halachically observant life.  Sometimes when I post something critical of the haredi world, it rattles some of my readers who assume that I am firmly in the ultra orthodox camp.  Likewise, when I post something critical of the off the derech movement, it brings down the wrath of readers who thought I was sympathetic toward those who have left orthodoxy.

My answer is that I am a person who asks questions.  My questions aren’t limited to my own orthodox community, but also reach out to those beyond my particular brand of yiddishkeit.  After all, we are all just Jews.  What one group does affects the others.   I don’t blindly accept the tenets of any faith, nor do I blindly accept the versions of anyone’s truth.  I accept the right for people to have their own truths, but that doesn’t mean that I have to accept it as my own.

Regarding questions I ask about haredi communities, I have to look inside my heart.  I can’t deny that stories in the news negatively influence my opinions about haredi groups.  I can’t deny that with each passing article about blurring female faces in publications, blaming haredi poverty on government cutbacks, communities holding fundraisers and rallies for child abusers, the list goes on – my view of the haredi world is a little more tainted.

For myself, I know that this negative outlook stems from fear.  Fear that some of these societal scandals and stringencies will come to my own, more modern, community.  My older children are already being given a stricter approach than I ever imagined in their schools.  A few are being taught that it is assur (forbidden) to speak to members of the opposite sex, that masturbation creates dead spiritual babies who will torment men upon their judgment days in olam haemes, and that it’s admirable for men to keep their eyes shut in the presence of women when they come to lecture at schools for girls.

However, two instances recently in the news have caused me to check myself before diving over that hate cliff.  One was an incident at a fancy kosher steak house, Prime Grill.  My husband and I have been to Prime Grill several times.  It is a rare treat we sometimes indulge in when we visit New York, and we have always had excellent food and service.  Therefore, I was disappointed to read that a rogue waiter at the restaurant had tacked on a 20% gratuity fee for a chassidic couple.  The waiter incorrectly told the couple that it was standard to add the gratuity to the tab for all chassidic diners.  The waiter stereotyped the chassidic couple as the sort who would not leave a tip, or would leave an insufficient amount.  Of course, news of the couple’s overcharge has circulated through the kosher grapevine like wildfire.  Upon hearing the couple’s complaint, Prime Grill owner, Joey Allaham immediately fired the waiter, reversed the gratuity surcharge on the couple’s credit card, and has offered to donate the amount of the meal to the couple’s favorite charity.

Another instance of negative stereotyping occurred when a well written article by a Satmar biblical scholar, named Yoel,  hit the web.  The hullabaloo wasn’t as much about the content of the article, but rather, the disbelief that a real Satmar could be so well spoken.  The speculation of fraud got so bad, that Rabbi Eliyahu Fink personally spoke to the gentleman, confirming that he was indeed who he claimed to be.  Rabbi Fink denounced the bigotry that doubting this fellow implied –

“To think that a certain group or subgroup is inherently inferior and incapable of achieving greatness is bigotry. Pure and simple. It’s no different than saying that a black person cannot be president or that a woman cannot be a Supreme Court Justice or that an Asian cannot play basketball or that an Orthodox Jew cannot be a rockstar. There are talented and incredible people everywhere. Some are given an easier path to discovering and sharing that talent, but talent is everywhere.

We should be encouraging talent from the chasidic community to contribute to greater society, and stop being so shocked when they actually do.”

Former chassids also decried the stereotype that there is an innate lack of talent or intelligence within the haredi community.  Lack of educational opportunity does not equal stupidity.  Those looking to further their education either through their own endeavors or formal academic training, are certainly just as capable as anyone else of intellectual achievement.

My challenge is to be able to question, analyze, and discuss the actions of those in my wider daled amos (home), yet not judge.  I need to remember that that the actions and attitudes of a few do not necessarily define those of the majority.  If I prejudge a person from the haredi community, how is that any different than non Jews or non religious Jews judging me?  I know what it’s like to be labeled as a professional baby maker, an oppressed woman, and have people react with surprise when they find out I have two college degrees.  How can I do that to another person?  My goal is to be able to debate, yet not hate.