A Woman's Place

Editorial

Published October 28, 2011, issue of November 04, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Not on the buses in Jerusalem or Brooklyn, not on the streets on Sukkot, and now not on the billboards, a contributor complained to the Forward’s blog, The Sisterhood. “Where,” she asked, “is it okay to be a woman?’

Before trying to answer the question, we’ll explain the references. In recent weeks, we’ve learned that some publicly sanctioned buses in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Brooklyn have required women to sit in the back of the vehicle, reserving the seats in the front for men. If this sounds familiar, that’s because some public bus lines in Israel have operated this way for years. And when a member of the Jerusalem City Council recently petitioned the high court to oppose such gender segregation, she lost her job and her membership in the governing coalition.

In those same Brooklyn neighborhoods with the segregated buses, there were reports of signs in Yiddish posted during Sukkot urging women to step aside when a man approaches. (In other Haredi enclaves, men and women walk on separate sidewalks.) And in Jerusalem, a nonprofit civic organization is tracking “the disappearance of women from public life” — including a dramatic absence of women on billboards and in local newspaper and magazine advertisements. For instance, reports The Sisterhood’s Renee Ghert-Zand, the public safety campaign for Jerusalem’s new light rail only features men and boys, and posters for a women’s running race did not include any images of, well, women.

If these incidents were confined only to the inner workings of Haredi communities, whose fundamentalist religious practices lead to extreme separation of the sexes, then there’s little the public can do or say. That such segregation has become increasingly entrenched in Haredi schools, synagogues and homes is, frankly, their choice. But the examples above are not in the private sphere. Buses operating on a public route, citizens walking down a public street, government-funded public safety campaigns — all should be available equally to men and women, and reflect that reality. It’s hard to believe we even have to make this argument in the 21st century, let alone in 21st century America and Israel.

Combined, these incidents signal a trend, not a social upheaval. Israel remains a strongly egalitarian society in so many arenas, including governance, where both its major opposition parties are now run by women. (The same cannot be said for the United States.) And in the United States, social and legal standards outlawing segregation quickly kicked in once the buses and the signs became news.

But it’s not being alarmist to note with concern where this trend is moving. Relegating women to the back of the bus, forcing them to walk on separate sidewalks, excising them from all public appearance is not Torah or Talmud. It’s abuse of power, and it has no place in a modern, just society.


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 can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • 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.