Thursday, August 23, 2012

Brooklyn-Based Writers Should Get to Know Their Neighbors 

Many writers don't understand the significant differences between Modern Orthodox Jews and their Ultra-Orthodox cousins, explains Yair Rosenberg at Tablet. It is the latter community, of course, that tends to insist on exclusively domestic roles for its women, while the former has a history of women with high achievement in academia and the professional sphere:

    "That no woman has emerged as a political candidate [in New York], despite the Orthodox community's growing size and political sway, is largely a result of women in the community being relegated or elevated, depending on one's perspective, to a domestic role—expected to dress modestly, live quietly, and draw little attention to themselves in the outside world. Some women won't shake the hands of men," Yarrow [a writer for Newsweek/The Daily Beast] wrote. "Others refuse to speak in gender-mixed company, be photographed, or wear a color as flashy as pink." Yarrow also expressed astonishment that Meyer's candidacy had not elicited "blowback" from Orthodox leaders, dubbing her "The Unorthodox Candidate."

    But this sort of blanket generalization about Orthodox Jewish women is profoundly misleading and fails to take into account the differences within Orthodoxy—which are so vast that to ignore them is to completely misunderstand Mindy Meyer's story. The fact that Meyer is Orthodox, unmarried, in law school, and pursuing a public career is only surprising if one is woefully ignorant of the impressive professional achievements of contemporary Modern Orthodox women.

More here. Most Americans could be forgiven for not knowing much about the various major strands of Judaism, but you'd think writers for sites like The Daily Beast—who, like Yarrow, tend to live in Brooklyn, where religious Jews are hardly invisible—would know something about their neighbors. Then, of course, there's Wikipedia. If none of that sounds appealing, one always can take one of the Chassidic Discovery Center's tours of Crown Heights. 


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