Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Life

The Orthodox Response to Mindy Meyer?

My mother is an Orthodox woman who was raised by Orthodox parents and married an Orthodox rabbi. She has also earned, thus far in her career, a bachelor’s degree and three postgraduate degrees. And while she has more degrees than the average Orthodox woman, she also has more degrees than the average American; as of this year, only 30% of American adults had at least a bachelor’s degree.

I was raised in an Orthodox household where, as you can gather, education reigned supreme, so I was frustrated when I read Katie J.M. Baker’s recent Jezebel article, “Orthodox Jews Are Unsure How They Feel About Divalicious Aspiring Politician Mindy Meyer,” about the so-called Orthodox response to Meyer — and how it’s been labeled a conversation about the domestic role of Orthodox women.

To help make her point, Baker quotes former Forward staffer Allison Yarrow, now of The Daily Beast:

That no woman has emerged as a political candidate, despite the Orthodox community’s growing size and political sway, is largely a result of women in the community being relegated or elevated, depending on one’s perspective, to a domestic role-expected to dress modestly, live quietly and draw little attention to themselves in the outside world.

I covered Meyer’s story as much as the next journalist (here and here). I called her, met with her and wrote incessantly about her. I was the Forward’s Meyer expert. But I never considered it interesting that she was an Orthodox woman pursuing a career, nor did I think of her as someone who was “trying to break down her community’s gender divides,” as Baker writes. Meyer was fascinating to me for a myriad of other reasons — her enthusiastic (if naïve) campaign; her seemingly random career decision — but I wouldn’t consider Orthodox feminism among them.

Baker also cites the recent anti-Internet rally as an example of Orthodoxy encouraging women to stay out of the limelight (women were not allowed to attend). But she confuses Orthodox Judaism with ultra-Orthodox Judaism, and she isn’t the only one making this mistake. In fact, Jewish journalism tends to make the same generalization, and as a Modern Orthodox woman, the distinctions are enormous.

Ultra-Orthodox communities may advocate a separation between men and women that seems extreme and unusual to average Americans. Ultra-Orthodoxy may not support a woman in the public eye, and it may not advocate for women wearing “a color as flashy as pink.” Ultra-Orthodox women might be placed in more domestic roles than non-Orthodox women. But Modern Orthodoxy produces career women and community women; women who dress fashionably but modestly as they lead corporations, schools and law firms, who become doctors and business owners and, yes, even journalists.

So, no, Jezebel; the article you’ve posted is not the “Orthodox” response to Mindy Meyer, as the headline implies. You’ve taken a conglomeration of various aspects of Orthodoxy, picked out seemingly sexist ideals of the ultra-Orthodox, and assigned them to a nebulous, Jezebel-defined “Orthodox” at large. Don’t worry; lots of people do it, but no one should.

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.