Forward Thinking

A Woman Is More Than a Wedding Night

By Mordechai Lightstone

  • Print
  • Share Share

Racheli Ibenboim chats with writer Tuvia Tenenbom./Photo by Isi Tenenbaum

I may not be a dyed-in-the-wool feminist by any stretch of the imagination. But I have a strong sense of the rights of women to take agency in their own lives and a repulsion for the oppressive nature of men who harass women for their own reasons. That is why I was completely taken aback by Tuvia Tenenbom’s latest article “Everything He Wanted To Know About Sex Among the Orthodox.”

How this tabloid-worthy work of voyeurism could ever be considered a legitimate work of journalistic inquiry is beyond me. Which is a shame, because there is a so much to explore here.

Racheli Ibenboim’s story is fascinating. Here is a women, seemingly pious and observant, in love with her Hasidic lifestyle, but dedicated to being a change-agent in her community. She may have taken a step back due to internal pressures, but it seems that she has not stopped in her mission.

Yet instead of focusing on her deeds and actions, we’re given what amounts to some sort of voyeuristic look at a man who must fetishize women in thick stockings and wigs. The reader sits and reads with increasing shock as we witness the literal recreation of catcalls on the street. Tenenbom pushes her to a place no man that respects women ever should.

Ibenboim, to her credit, responds with great dignity when asked about the experience of marrying someone heretofore a complete stranger. But Tenenbom was obviously aiming for something lower.

He asks more directly about how it feels to be physically intimate with someone for the first time. Clearly uncomfortable she resorts to euphemism to maintain her dignity.

He pushes and pushes. She asks if they can move on. He tells her “No” — and asks again.

Is it ever acceptable to sit down with a woman and repeatedly ask her how her wedding night was, in the face of her discomfort and objections, again and again and again? Are Haredi women different than other women that their sense of personal boundaries and right to privacy is somehow denied to them?

Gur’s culture of sexual austerity may be a problem, but that does not deny Racheli Ibenboim a sense of privacy and decency. Yet Tenenbom tries to dissect her sexual encounters with the same level of lurid fascination that would be used to describe the mating life of primates or cannibalistic spiders on National Geographic.

One can only hope that perhaps next time Ibenboim will get the chance to be interviewed by someone who respects her for what she wants to do.

Mordechai Lightstone is a rabbi by training, but a blogger by choice. He can be reached on Twitter @Mottel


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: ultra-orthodox, racheli ibenboim, jewish, hasidic, haredi, gur

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.