A recent marketing campaign for Unilever’s Axe deodorant for men raised the hackles of the ultra-Orthodox community when the corporation sponsored a poolside party for teens, DJed by a topless Hungarian disc jockey flown in for the event, and attended by other partially-clad young women. Unsurprisingly, despite Unilever’s written apology to the Haredi community, its leaders remain unsatisfied. Rabbi Gabriel Papenheim, who chairs the Kashrut Committee for Badatz, told TheMarker that the matter was initially to have ended with their apology, but Badatz is now demanding that an apology also be published in the secular press. “The insult was to the secular community no less than to us,” he said.
I’d like to note the hilarious home-page teaser that Ha’aretz ran for this article: “Deodorant maker apologizes for topless DJ, Haredim still angry”
UPDATE: Commenter Joel Katz of the Religion and State in Israel blog helpfully informs me that my original headline (“The Haredim Are Right!: Topless DJ’s Shouldn’t Be Used To Sell Deodorant to Teens”), which was based on the Ha’aretz article I cited, was misleading. He explains that the party was geared toward adults, and it appears from a video of the event (warning: there’s nudity) that he may be right.
Still, I stand by my larger point. Not to be too much of a prude, but I do think there’s something vulgar and a little exploitative about a big corporation putting on a party like this to push deodorant. (I’d be more tolerant if a similar event were put on in the name of bohemianism rather than crass commercialism.) I also think that Tikkun Olam blogger Richard Silverstein goes (characteristically) overboard in accusing the Haredim of behaving like the “Taliban” in this particular instance. (I actually thought that the rabbi’s insistence that the company should direct its apology not to the Haredim but to the secular community was kind of classy.) Silverstein would have been wiser to reserve the T-word for a different recent incident instead. Then again, it is also true that given the leaders of Israel’s Haredi community’s general proclivity for religious coercion, they’re not likely to be taken seriously even when they’re making a reasonable point.