Everything He Wanted To Know About Sex Among the Orthodox

Interview With Haredi Politician Gets a Bit Awkward

Let The Rebbe Call Her Rebel: Former Jewish Home party candidate Racheli Ibenboim sits down for a chat with Tuvia Tenenbom.
Isi Tenenbom
Let The Rebbe Call Her Rebel: Former Jewish Home party candidate Racheli Ibenboim sits down for a chat with Tuvia Tenenbom.

By Tuvia Tenenbom

Published February 16, 2014, issue of February 21, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Racheli Ibenboim is a Haredi lady of the Gur dynasty, one of the most fundamentalist branches in the hasidic world. The Gur people, for one reason or another, are ever busy with ever more rules forbidding more and more “sexual temptations” of whatever kind. For example, not long ago a new prohibition was announced: A father shall not dance with his little kids at public events. Kids, apparently, have been declared to be sexual temptations. In the old days, only women were the “temptation” of the Gur hasids.

A few months ago, Ibenboim was the Jewish Home party candidate in Jerusalem’s municipal elections, but she was reportedly pressured to withdraw. Luckily, no rabbi knows that I’m in town and no rabbi has forbidden Racheli from meeting me — a man.

READ: Racheli Ibenboim’s story is far more than what she did on her wedding night.

A man, God has said long ago — in case you didn’t know — shall never talk with a woman who is not his wife or mother. In addition: A woman, as every child of God knows, never shakes hands with men, unless he is her husband and she is not on her period.

Yet, when we meet and I offer Ibenboim my hand, she takes it.

Did she lose her marbles? Did she fail to notice that I am a man? I have no idea, and I’m very intrigued. And so, I ask her.

“Tell me, Racheli: How come a Gur woman offers her hand to a man?”

“I am a member of the President Peres Youth Forum, a place where there are many events attended by many people: Goyim from all over the world, people of all colors and shapes, and I had a big conflict because on such occasions people shake hands all the time. I was thinking about it and I made a rule for myself: I will shake hands with men I meet in official affairs, provided I don’t know them personally.”

The rationale, she explains, is grounded in the ultra-Orthodox tradition, not something she has made up. She gives me an example: “Haredi women, when they board a bus, pay the fare by giving money to the driver, into his hands.”

Wow! Drivers are men and I should be treated like a driver. Or a goy. I love it!

“Tell me more about yourself,” I say.

“I was born in Tel Aviv,” she says. “I was the youngest kid. I think I was born by mistake. My brothers were much, much older than me.”


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!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • 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.