Einat Barzilay

Modesty rules isolating haredim

Op-ed: By adopting strict modesty guidelines, religious schools exacerbating haredi-secular divide

Before the current school year began, students in the private religious school system received a letter containing a list of demands: The father's hair must be cut; the mother must wear a head covering; the family should not have a television set at home - or full Internet access - and it is preferable that the skirts worn by the female members of the family be long.


These "modesty memos" are commonplace, but it is only now they are being distributed openly. The religious schools are increasingly intervening in what is going on in the student's home and forcing religious norms on the child's parents.


Such letters are usually viewed as an expression of religious extremism, and there is definitely some truth to that. I see it as raising the walls that separate between the various haredi sectors of society.


When you force parents to give up watching television in their own home and force them to use "kosher" Internet and "kosher" cell phones, you are essentially preventing them from communicating directly with those who do not share their worldview. By forbidding all forms of personal expression, you are turning them into aliens on some bionic planet where everyone is identical. They will no longer be able to exchange pleasantries with their secular neighbors, and their children will not be versed in "water cooler talk." They will be destined to live in a bubble.


Do the religious educators really want to create a separate galaxy that is closed to other opinions, even if at times these opinions are shallow?


The independent school systems do not allow for any interaction between the sectors and create culture and information gaps between secular and religious Jews that are very difficult to overcome during the later stages of life. It seems that by drafting such stringent modesty regulations, the religious educators have destroyed any chance of bringing haredi and secular Jews closer together in the future.


Imposing a particular way of life and taking away the ability to interact with the outside world will lead to ignorance, arrogance and suspicion, which will turn into hostility when our nation's resilience will be tested. My fear is that the educators who drafted these "modesty memos" understand this all too well. Apparently, this is their goal.



פרסום ראשון: 09.02.12, 17:54
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