'Modern' Orthodox Org. Behind Blurred Fogel Pic

As the ultra-Orthodox leadership in Israel lurches ever rightward, we’ve learned that they don’t simply view scantily clad women or their images as unhealthily erotic. All images of women are out of bounds. Even the most modestly dressed woman, innocent little girl or feeble old lady is potential a potential source of sexual temptation for the men and therefore needs to have her honor “protected” by being covered up or erased.

Death, apparently, offers no exemption. In the weekly bulletin of the Jewish studies center Machon Meir, a publication distributed in synagogues across Israel, an advertisement publicizing a memorial service for the Fogel family, the family of five brutally slaughtered by terrorists in their home in the settlement of Itamar nearly a year ago. In the photograph of the family in the advertisement, the face of the mother, Ruth, was blurred beyond recognition. Her image was deemed too immodest for publication.

What was unique — and disturbing! — about this particular chapter in the ongoing “exclusion of women” saga was the fact that the target audience of the publication is not the ultra-Orthodox population. Machon Meir, is squarely located in the “knitted kippa, religious nationalist” camp — in other words, Modern Orthodox and highly patriotic, with strong ties to the settler movement. On its website Machon Meir brags that the Jerusalem center has “become the landing point for many new immigrants from all the countries in the Diaspora because of its value on full integration into Israeli society and the encouragement to be a part of the Israeli Defense Force.”

This is not the camp normally identified with eliminating images of women. The blurred Fogel photograph offended several right-wing Orthodox male bloggers who have previously gone on the defensive on other gender-related controversies.

One of these men is David Bogner, with whom I’ve disagreed on many issues and who has asserted that the “whole exclusion of women thing is a completely fabricated non-issue designed to vilify the religious community.”

But the Ruth Fogel picture has apparently threw him for a loop. He spoke out strongly against it on his blog:

Another blogger who goes by the name of Jameel, of similar political ilk as Bogner and a friend of his, posted a video by the Rabbi Shlomo Aviner on his blog. Aviner, one of the leading figures in the religious Zionist camp, when asked about the photo, chose to defend the decision to blur Ruth Fogel’s picture, saying, “It is to her honor. Just because she died doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respect her. If she would have been asked when she was live, then this is what she would have wanted. Just because a person is dead doesn’t mean the photo should be “hefker.”

The term “hefker means “abandoned, ownerless property.”

Jameel didn’t buy it. He wrote:

True confession: It’s nice when a critical mass of conservative Orthodox men get worked up about this kind of thing and cry out in protest, so we women can take a rest. Very quickly, after feeling the heat from folks like Bogner and Jameel, Machon Meir published an apology:

If you read the apology carefully, it is clear that they believe the “mistake” was running the picture at all — not blurring Ruth Fogel’s face. From the apology, it is understood that the publication, like too many places, is officially a female-free zone.

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'Modern' Orthodox Org. Behind Blurred Fogel Pic

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