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Women: Sit at Home or Risk Being Spat Upon

Years back, when the Lubavitcher rebbe was alive and I was covering various events connected with that movement, I was always pleasantly surprised when my job seemed to cancel out my gender.

For instance, at a gathering of thousands of Chabad emissaries, then held at a hall on Eastern Parkway across from the movement’s headquarters, instead of being kicked upstairs with the wives, I was led through a packed, black-jacketed male-only crowd to be introduced to bigwigs at the front. It was definitely not in keeping with that community’s practice of maintaining physical distance between women and men if they’re not immediate family members, but it didn’t seem to matter, because I was a journalist.

A female reporter for ABC News-Europe covering haredi rioting in Jerusalem over a parking lot opened on Shabbat was not so lucky.

Anne Barker knew enough to dress conservatively to cover the haredi community, as she describes it in this account. But she wasn’t prepared for what happened once she started reporting.

She was attacked, showered with mucus as haredi men cornered her and rained spit on her. She wrote:

Later she was told she was attacked because she turned on a tape recorder on Shabbat. Never mind that she may not be Jewish and therefore not bound by prohibition against using electrical devices on the Sabbath.

In a new interview, a hasid named Yoilish Krauss, who is identified by The New York Times as “the operations chief for the Eda Haredit, the militantly Orthodox organization behind the protest,” makes it clear that she was attacked because she was not dressed in accordance with the haredi community’s stringent norms for women, and because she was a woman where only men belonged.

The interview was conducted by Rabbi Yair Hoffman of the haredi webzine “Vos Iz Neias” (Yiddish for “What is News?”). The original video of their conversation in Hebrew is on the site, as is an English translation. The Eda Haredit has categorically denied that Krauss works for them, and denounced violence, according to his article:

This to me is reminiscent of the old “defense” offered by men accused of rape: that their victims were asking for it because of the way they dressed.

So women, be warned: your job is to sit at home. And if you dare enter the realm of the Edah Haredit without dressing exactly like their women do, be prepared for rain.

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