Facebook is forbidden among Chabad teenage girls, as The Sisterhood told you — and as the Forward reports here. This reflects a blatant double standard, the report points out, because the movement has widely embraced technology to spread its message, but refuses to allow its own youth to use these tools.
But Chabad’s double standard in its relationship to secular society is only one part of the problem. It seems to me that the story of girls being forbidden from using Facebook and other internet tools is less about Chabad’s missionary stance and more about their view of women and girls. After all, it is only girls whose school is handing out $100 fines and having mothers’ monitor their computer use.
Moreover, the practice of banning girls from the computer largely revolves around one concept: modesty. The Facebook ban is just the latest in a long string of insidious practices in the Orthodox community — not just Chabad, to be sure — aimed at restricting women’s and girls’ freedom. These practices are promoted under the term tzniut, or “modesty,” but really are nothing more than classic misogyny.
In Crown Heights, a neighborhood that has recently seen lots of change in its population, an article on the Lubavitch website COLLive has sparked a bonfire of reaction. An anonymous “open letter,” titled “Take Back Our Neighborhoods,” urges Jewish landlords in the heavily Lubavitch and West Indian neighborhood not to rent to non-Jews, as it describes their immodest ways:
Friends, we pay a premium to live in this neighborhood, and we strive to create an atmosphere of holiness and kedusha for our children and teens. These yuppies bring pritzus [Sisterhood translation: immodesty, with overtones of whorishness] to our neighborhood. They come out at night to our restaurants and act inappropriately while waiting on line etc.
We would hope that landlords, especially the Crown Heights landlords, would put a priority on our values, but sadly the need to make money is taking precedence for them. Some young agents and landlords will specifically rent to these goyim instead of a fellow Jewish family. Sadly, some homeowners have gone so far as bringing these yuppies as tenants in their home in prime locations.
The article author points to things like suntanning gatherings on the rooftops of local buildings, at least one of which was visible to students at a Lubavitch school, and recommends forming a committee, as the Satmars have in nearby Williamsburg, “to curb this issue.”
Another “rabba” is slated to be ordained next month by the Academy of Jewish Religion, The Jewish Week reports. (The Sisterhood will have more on this shortly.)
Chabad.org has a story about “The Heart That Sings,” a movie with an all-female cast. The film was screened in 11 cities during the Passover holiday; audiences were all women, and mostly Haredi.
Over at Double X, Amanda Schaffer writes about the potential risks of taking too much folic acid — a vitamin that has been shown to reduce the incident of some birth defects.
On the blog Family Inequality, sociologist Phillip Cohen writes about the new National Center for Health Statistics’ findings showing that the recession has driven birth rates down.
Sunday was the enormous Lubavitch Kinnus HaShluchim, replete with 3,500 of the rebbe’s emissaries in Crown Heights for Shabbos and coverage in The New York Times, of the banquet meal at Brooklyn’s cruise terminal, the only space large enough to accommodate the crowd.
I write this while watching a live feed of the speakers. The shluchos, or female emissaries, have their own convention in Brooklyn in February. Shluchim are only sent out as married couples, and in the Lubavitch community both the husband and wife are regarded as full partners in the work.
Seeing this weekend’s convention reminded me of the speaker I heard at a recent Shabbos dinner, where Rabbi Chaim Miller spoke about “kosher feminism.” It was held at the synagogue where my husband and I were married, 20 years ago, which is being revitalized by a young Lubavitch shaliach named Rabbi Ari Kirschenbaum.
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