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At Brooklyn Girls School, Facebook Is Off Limits

One Hasidic girls school is demanding its students remove their Facebook pages. Noncompliance means expulsion.

Beth Rivkah High School, in the heavily Lubavitch Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, is requiring 11th grade girls with Facebook pages to cancel their accounts and pay a $100 fine. That’s quite a U-Turn from the school’s position in 2010, when it was asking students to log onto Facebook. “It’s a great opportunity to do a mitzvah!” the school wrote at the time.

CrownHeights.info is reporting that the crackdown aims to restore a certain level of tznius [modesty] that had been lacking among the girls, as Facebook accounts had been cited as a contributing factor to the decline of tznius standards by many Mashpi’im [spiritual guides] and educators.

The issue of modesty and social media engagement are particularly particularly challenging for the Lubavitch community.

Because its mission is outreach, to Jews who are not (yet) religious, Lubavitch is more involved with secular society than are other Hasidic groups, like Satmar or Bobov. The distinctions between Lubavitch and other Hasidic communities are subtle but clear. Girls wear school uniforms in all of them. But in Satmar and Bobov, only opaque tights or seamed stockings will suffice for adequately covering girls’ legs, no matter what the weather. Lubavitch allows knee socks.

Crown Heights in general and Beth Rivkah in particular find it to be a tricky balance. A member of my extended family was suspended from Beth Rivkah High School, some time ago, for wearing patterned knee socks, instead of solid-colored ones.

Handbills urging women and girls to dress modestly routinely paper Crown Heights light poles and store windows. At the same time, an industrious pair of young Lubavitch women started a consignment store, featuring clothing best described as “tznius sexy.”

So one wonders: Will Beth Rivkah’s efforts actually keep its students off of Facebook? Given how entrenched internet and social media use are everywhere, including in Hasidic communities, probably not. After all, more than 220 people have commented on the CrownHeights.info story. And 217 people have “liked” it. On Facebook.

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