Man Veils – Taking Personal Responsibility For Shmiras Einayim

Shmiras einayim, or, guarding your eyes, is a mitzvah that seems mainly geared toward men guarding their eyes against the sight of immodestly dressed women.  It also applies to men lingering their gaze for immoral purposes on any woman, whether she is modestly dressed or not.

Usually, women bear the brunt of the burden for ensuring that men don’t violate this mitzvah by adhering to laws of modest dress and behavior so that they don’t attract attention to themselves.  Be attractive, not attracting.

A few years ago, I heard about the phenomenon of religious men wearing blurry glasses outdoors, in order to prevent themselves from sinning.

blurryglasses

I’m not sure how well that particular invention took off, but lately there have been sightings of another innovation to help men preserve their purity – male modesty veils. [ETA – Shmilda commented that the photos are of Breslov Chasidim leaving for their annual Rosh Hashana pilgrimage to Uman from Tel Aviv in 2012.  For some reason these photos are making the rounds of the internet again.]

man veils

man veils 2

The bottom photo is accredited to Yaakov Naumi on the Mystical Paths blog.  The first photo was shared on Facebook, and I didn’t see an accreditation, but as it is also in an airport, it’s possible it’s from the same photo shoot.

I find this a refreshing change from the usual onus put upon women to weave an ever expanding cocoon of material over their bodies.   These men are taking responsibility for their own stringencies.  They aren’t placing demands upon women to cover up or stay at home.  They aren’t shouting “Pritzus!” or “Zonah!” at immodestly dressed women.  They are covering their own eyes.

Would I want to be driving alongside a veil-wearing man on the highway?  No.  Would I want to be within groping distance as he feels his way along a hallway to get to a correct office suite number?  No.  Would I want to be on the receiving end of a veil-wearing sales clerk handing me a package of pickle jars or paper weights?  Not unless I had fast hands.

However, I have to respect a group of men who are putting the burden of extreme modesty requirements where it belongs – on the men who demand them.

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Kiruv 2.0 – Kicking Out the Riff Raff

lakewood shabbosHT Fred MacDowell

 Language alert for both videos:

This morning I saw two videos of mass Shabbos protests over the past two weeks to “restore Kavod Shabbos at the Lake.” Apparently, Lake Carasaljo, near Lakewood, NJ, has become a hangout for troubled teens, who find respite from long Shabbosim in a community they feel increasingly alienated from. Their presence has been making frum families feel uncomfortable, so the men of the community decided to make a peaceful protest to discourage the teens to “desist from spending time there.”

As the videos show, the marches might not have had the desired effect. In the videos, the teens can be heard jeering, laughing, and marveling at the numbers of men in full Shabbos attire, who turned up to the park. Their marches were seen for what they were – passive aggressively attempting to reprimand and shame the teens for violating Sabbath restrictions.

If the video clips are any indication, the marches didn’t cause the teens to vacate the premises of the public park. I suppose if this large group of protesters come back every week, it will either inspire a counter protest (the latest word is that there is a counter protest planned for this Shabbos, 5/30, at the park) or maybe the kids will eventually leave. However, if the teens do stop coming to the park, they will merely change venues. These protests won’t cause any of them to stop violating Shabbos.  If anything, it will cement their decision to become less observant.

What was the goal of these men? Clearly stated, it was to kick the teens out of the park. It wasn’t to reach out to them, or show them the beauty of Shabbos, or to approach them with kindness. Think of the difference between the kiruv folks who frequent the Kotel and reach out to any Jew who looks a bit lost. Think about how many kids have been invited to their first Shabbos meal, or been made to feel like they are important and worthwhile, by frum people who make it their business to reach out to disenfranchised Jews. One can argue about the motives of kiruv professionals, but their goal is to recognize the value of every Jew as an intrinsic part of Klal Yisroel. There are no throwaway Jews.

That’s not the message I saw in these videos. That’s not the message these teens received. To me, these protestors indicated very clearly that these kids were lost causes and no longer needed in Lakewood. Their very presence is a nuisance and a danger to their holy community and they need to leave. This message goes beyond leaving the park, and has larger implications for leaving their community altogether.

I can think of many creative ways to reach these teens that wouldn’t involve making them feel unwanted. How about starting some groups on Shabbos, specifically for these kids, so that they have somewhere safe to hang out other than the park? How about starting some groups in the park? Talk to these kids about issues they care about, find out what topics concern them, find out what’s bothering them and what can be done to help. Don’t condemn them for asking questions or expressing doubts. Show them that they matter and don’t attach any strings to it. Every person matters, whether they keep the laws of Shabbos perfectly or not.

These protests are the lazy way out. There is zero effort in trying to solve the real problem, which isn’t that these kids are hanging out in the park on Shabbos, but that they are hanging out on the fringes of a society that rejects them.

(HT to @MaleiRikud on Twitter who pointed out that there have been two protests over the last two weeks, and not just one protest last Shabbos, which I had previously reported)

From the Mailbox: The Damaging Effects of Sexual Humiliation

Dear Sharon,

I’ve been following your Facebook posts on the Rabbi Freundel saga. While I personally don’t think that a 6 ½ year sentence and $13,000 fine is enough punishment, I’m glad that his victims did get some form of justice.

I am writing to you because of the desire to speak up for Freundel’s victims concerning the crime of humiliation. Many of the articles and comments on Freundel’s crimes have people (mostly men) asking what the big deal is. They seem to be able to understand Freundel’s misuse of his title, the abuse of power, and yes, the perversion of his actions. Still, there seems to be the idea that being a “Peeping Tom” is a victimless crime, as long as the victim doesn’t know about it.

What I find odd, is that we live in an orthodox world that constantly bangs the tznius drum to an ever louder beat. It seems like every year, there are new lengths women must go to in order to wear proper and modest attire fit for frum society. When it comes to going to mikvah, we are told that this is a sacred women’s only space. When it is mikvah night, it’s even ok to lie about where we are going, in the name of tznius and privacy.

At every funeral I’ve ever been to for a frum lady, the highest and most frequent compliment given to the niftar is that she was a tzanua – a modest woman. Her chesed is a close second, but her dedication to tznius seems to be the main trait marking a worthy life for a frum woman.

Why then, is it so hard for people to understand the level of shame that has been brought down upon Freundel’s victims? Doesn’t it say in the Talmud that shaming someone is like shedding their blood? That it’s better to throw yourself in a furnace than embarrass another person?

People are saying that since he only intended to view these videos by himself, the crime isn’t as bad. However, in order to prosecute Freundel, countless law enforcement officials and lawyers had to look at the footage of the women Freundel taped. Many more eyes saw the videos than just Freundel’s.

But, let’s say that no one else had seen the videos other than Freundel, would the level of mortification be any less? A man that these women knew, trusted, turned to for spiritual guidance betraying them in this way?

Perhaps I am offended by how lightly some folks are taking the crime of humiliation, because I know what it’s like to be humiliated. A lot of women do, unfortunately. No, what happened to me, and what happens to many women isn’t a crime in the same sense as what Freundel did, but it happens all the time.

When a man wants to exert power or revenge over a woman, he often turns to sexual humiliation. All someone has to do is Google revenge pornography to find countless websites devoted to disgruntled ex-boyfriends posting compromising photos and videos of their ex-girlfriends. Do women post similar revenge videos of former boyfriends? I suppose it happens, but usually posting such things would humiliate the woman too, so she’s much less likely to advertise her former exploits.  While a sex tape with an ex might be a feather in the man’s cap, it’s still a humiliation for the woman, even in today’s day of sexual freedom for both genders.

A lesser version of this kind of sexual humiliation is “locker room talk.” As long as a woman isn’t his wife (most men still feel that it’s off-limits to discuss a spouse in a sexual way), many men feel free to brag about their exploits with a girlfriend. While there may be no visual proof of their tales, many men paint pictures with words for their friends about their sexual activity with the lady. Many times, if a man is actively in a relationship with a woman, he will keep his private life private. Either his feelings for the woman keep him discreet, or he fears that if she finds out he’s been sharing their bedroom secrets she will break up with him.

However, once the relationship is over, discretion is often tossed out the window. One of the remaining pleasures he can enjoy from their time together is sharing raunchy stories with his friends, earning their audience and respect. While the man is raised in the esteem of his friends, the female subject of his exploits is lowered. It’s a win-win for the man.

Often the ex-girlfriend is unaware of the stories being spread about her. However, on occasion, some audience members with even less discretion than the original storyteller, will alert her to her new-found fame. This once happened to me, and I can tell you that I understood for the first time what it means to die from embarrassment.

I have never been the same since finding out that an old boyfriend had been spreading salacious tales about me, and in my circumstance, I had been a willing participant in the activities being spoken of. Although I made many mistakes in that relationship, the biggest one was in assuming discretion where there was none.

Freundel’s victims were unknowing and unwilling participants. Their victimization and mortification is exponentially worse than even the humiliation suffered by those like me, who had been consensually involved with the men who exposed us. There was no consent for Freundel’s victims.

People think that men like Freundel get off on seeing naked women, masturbating, or engaging in the sexual act itself. That isn’t true. Their sexual perversion manifests in getting off on humiliation. The turn on is in the control. The excitement is having power over a victim who doesn’t even realize she is being victimized. The payoff is having a woman, who if she knew what he was doing or saying about her would slap him in the face, smiling at him and wishing him a “Good Shabbos,” completely unaware that he has stripped and laid her bare for himself and others without her knowledge.

I guess I just want someone to know that, to a degree, I understand the humiliation that Freundel’s victims feel. A lot of women understand and have experienced sexual humiliation. It is a form of death, especially in a community where a woman’s greatest achievement in life is preserving her sexual modesty.

Signed,

A supporter for Freundel’s victims

Why Doesn’t the Chicago Police Department Want a Private Jewish Neighborhood Patrol Group?

shomrimThe answer is simple. Anti-Semitism.

Nah, I’m kidding.

However, it’s likely that will be an underlying assumption by some who support a new community safety patrol initiative in West Rogers Park. Apparently, it’s an initiative that the Chicago Police Department is none too pleased about, according to a recent DNAinfo article:

[T]he neighborhood’s top police officers are unhappy about the move, saying they don’t want residents to get a false sense of security…..

The patrols caught the eye of the Chicago Police Department, which is tasked with patrolling the whole neighborhood and keeping its residents safe.

District Cmdr. Roberto Nieves hosted a special CAPS meeting with Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) Tuesday night to address the patrols, which began two weeks ago.

“It was brought to our attention there was a group of citizens in the area that don’t feel the police are serving the community the best we can,” said Sgt. Shawn Sisk, who leads the district’s community policing office. “We can’t stop that from happening; however, we’re not going to support it. We don’t want that to send a false sense of security to the neighborhood.”

Additionally, the article reports:

[T]he police — in one of the safest districts in the city — implored residents to stop the patrols.

Robert Concaildi, the CAPS beat facilitator for the area, encouraged residents to rely on 911 when they feel unsafe or witness suspicious behavior.

Some Jewish attendees at the meeting said they can feel helpless during Sabbath, when their religion forbids them from using a phone unless their lives are in danger.

“I look at this as not a problem, but as a challenge,” Concaildi said, suggesting Jews find a non-Jewish person nearby their homes to whom they can go to for help.

Cmdr. Nieves said the security of the community “involves, cooperation, collaboration and vigilance.”

“Never be afraid to reach out and ask for help — and make contact,” he said.

The article also describes several incidents directed at the West Rogers Park Jewish community since December, ranging from graffiti, to suspicious letters laced with baking powder sent to Jewish institutions, to armed robbery. These crimes have spooked Jewish residents and prompted a few to hire off duty police officers to beef up security in the area, especially during Shabbos and yom tovim when religious Jews don’t have access to cell phones to dial 911.

While the police’s public objection is private patrols signal a lack of faith in the police department and dilute efforts to encourage people to call 911 in emergencies, there could be other concerns that remain unspoken.

As soon as Hatzalah came to Chicago, I’ve guessed that it was only a matter of time before a group of Chicagoans would decide that we also need our own Shomrim. Although this current neighborhood patrol initiative isn’t affiliated with Shomrim, and as of now, seems staffed by non-Jewish officers, it isn’t a far stretch to think that this patrol could spark a community initiative to start a Chicago branch of Shomrim.

With anti-Semitic incidents on the rise worldwide since last summer, some cities are actually encouraging, funding, and training Shomrim volunteers in places where the organization exists.

However, private police patrols, such as Shomrim, are also controversial.

Just last summer, a member of the Crown Heights Shomrim faced hate crime charges after assaulting an African American man. Peter Moskos, a criminologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said:

Citizens should be responsible for preserving safety and order in their own neighborhoods,” says Peter Moskos, a criminologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “But the question to ask is if Shomrim fights against all crime they see or just against crime done to their people. If it’s the latter … then they’re more like a private security agency.”

This is a common critique that comes up with Shomrim – they are quick to work with police authorities in reporting crimes committed by non-Jews against the Jewish community. However, if the perpetrator is a Jew, they fail to report the crime to secular authorities, and instead, handle the incident within the community.

This tendency to not report crimes committed by Jews was brought to light by the Borough Park Shromrim’s handling of the tragic Leiby Kletzy case. Eight year old Leiby Kletsky was reported missing to Shomrim in the summer of 2011. Three hours passed from the time Shomrim received the call to the time the police were eventually notified by Kletsky’s parents. In this Village Voice expose, the case is discussed at length:

The most heat the Shomrim took in the aftermath of the Kletzky murder wasn’t for failing to find the boy or for waiting too long to call the cops. It came with the revelation that the Shomrim actually maintain a list of suspected child molesters in the neighborhood that they will not share with police.

“The community doesn’t go to the police with these names because the rabbis don’t let you. It’s not right,” Shomrim coordinator Jacob Daskel told the Daily News shortly after Kletzky’s body was found.

The statement resonated because it placed the Shomrim at the heart of an issue that has been bubbling in the Haredi community for the better part of a decade: a sex- abuse epidemic akin to the far more publi- cized scandal rocking the Catholic Church.

“The Shomrim have helped the police maintain a community that’s mostly free of the shootings in the streets and crimes that usually end up in the media,” says Ben Hirsch, a founder of the advocacy group Survivors for Justice. “But you do still have some of the terrible social crimes that police would normally be responding to. Instead, within these communities, these crimes are usually reported to Shomrim, and the Shomrim coordinators working together with Orthodox Jewish “community liaisons” cover it up, and it never gets to the cops.”

Between precious tax dollars that might be lost to funding private neighborhood patrol watches, the fear of vigilantism, and discouraging community members to make 911 their first point of contact in an emergency (Hatzalah already does this, as it is fast becoming a communal habit to call them before dialing 911 in a medical emergency), I can understand the Chicago Police Department’s reluctance to support such private security initiatives.

Child Sexual Abuse in the Modern Orthodox Community

On Saturday night, May 9, a program was held at the Young Israel of Woodmere, NY, about child sexual abuse.  Ms. Rena Gopin-Wolf, a survivor of sexual abuse, shared her story and gave pertinent insights as to why many survivors wait many years to come forward with their stories.

Some of the points she mentioned really struck me.  She said that when the topic of child sexual abuse in the frum community comes up, many people will say that this isn’t something that happens in the orthodox community, but only in the secular world.  When this theory proves untrue, others will chime in that yes, it happens in the Jewish world, but it only happens in the chareidi or yeshivish communities, so it’s not our problem, which we also know isn’t true.

Finally, people might admit that such abuse does happen in the Modern Orthodox community, but always to someone else’s family, not ours.  However, Ms. Gopin-Wolf cited a statistic that 3/4 of all reported cases of abuse are committed by family members.  In fact, 50% of all sexual abuse cases committed against girls are perpetrated by family members.  This means that girls have even more difficulty reporting abuse to secular authorities, because doing so would mean destroying their families.

I once wrote a post theorizing about why we mainly hear from male victims of sexual abuse in the orthodox community.  Is it because men get abused more often, or is it because there is a greater stigma and penalty for women to admit they’ve been sexually assaulted? In keeping with that theory, the only women I’ve seen publicly speaking about their past abuse are those who are already married, and therefore, safe from any shidduch blacklisting that might occur.

Ms. Gopin-Wolf puts things into a different perspective.  She said that we mostly hear from courageous men who disclose their abuse from the rebbe, the counselor, the outsider, while the women remain silent, because the majority of women who experience abuse, are molested by one or more family members, and they feel guilty for betraying a family who long ago betrayed them.

She makes it clear that it’s not at all true that more men are molested than women.  However, because women are usually assaulted, not by an outsider, but by a family member, they would rather have a less than perfect family, than no family at all.  Women are silent because they have more to lose.

Ms. Gopin-Wolf brings up many other important insights concerning abuse in the orthodox community, but her points above were the first time I had ever heard anyone articulate an explanation for the gender differences in experiencing and reporting abuse.  I recommend you take a brief moment out of your day to listen to her full speech below.

Part 1:

 

Part 2: