Sisterhood Blog

Jewish Women, Behind the Veil

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

  • Print
  • Share Share

The politics of Muslim women and the burqa has sparked debate and grabbed headlines worldwide. Numerous communities and countries have been wrestling with the question of whether banning modest dress that covers the face is protecting — or violating — human rights.

Here on The Sisterhood and in numerous feminist circles, it has been hotly argued. Jews have appeared on both sides of the debate. Some agree that fully veiled women in public is disturbing and a security risk. Some on the left, view it as free expression. And many Orthodox Jews fear the slippery slope — one day burqas and veils are banned, the next, all forms of religious garb could be in danger.

The phenomenon of veiled Jewish women has been a non-existent to fringe issue in the debate. It was unheard of until a few years ago when some extreme Haredi women in Beit Shemesh in Israel began covering their faces. The media spotlight shone briefly on the phenomenon, when one of these women, dubbed the “Taliban Mother” in the Israeli press was accused of child abuse.

But now the Israeli Haredi press is reporting both a growth and strengthening of the trend — and a backlash against it. Two English-language blogs that have been covering the trend faithfully are A Mother in Israel and Life in Israel.

This Hebrew-language Haredi website “B’Hadrei HaHederim” which both blogs cite, reports that more women have been convinced by other charismatic “Taliban” women to adopt the veil, and that “Taliban Moms” can now be found in Jerusalem and Elad.

In Beit Shemesh, the publication reports, has reached the “point of no return.” According to a report, 20 of the families in Beit Shemesh sent a letter to their town, saying that the ultra-Orthodox school their children attend is inappropriate because the teachers’ wives do not veil, and the group expressed a desire to start an exclusively “pro-veiling” school. This would institutionalize the phenomenon and give them a base for growth.

And then there is the backlash, which is the most fascinating aspect of the story. While, in Muslim communities, it is widely understood that increased modesty in dress is a result of pressure from men — and indeed, many Haredi men seem obsessed with extreme Jewish women’s dress as well — in this case, at least some of the Haredi men don’t appear to be crazy about their wives’ being draped in fabric from head to toe.

The Haredi website reports appeals from a group of husbands of veiled women to influential Haredi rabbis, asking them to declare an outright ban on full veiling. According to the husbands behind the appeal, this is the only way they can convince their wives to uncover.

So far, the rabbis have been unresponsive. So far, no men have come forward publicly to denounce the trend. So until an ambitious reporter can truly “pierce the veil” it is difficult to know whether indeed, the trend is indeed fully driven by the women or is encouraged by their fathers and husbands.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Veil, Haredi, Burqa, Beit Shemesh

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 Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • 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.