Judging the Standard of Judging Standards

37

 

Every year, as the summer sun reveals herself and beats down upon us, the essential matter of tznius – the unequivocal hallmark of a frum, Jewish woman – is discussed, encouraged, and demanded by our leaders and fellow community members. Tznius has kept our nation pure and exalted for generations.

 

What is undebatable is that specific tznius standards are debatable. While there are clear general requirements, frum communities set detailed standards for their members based on the times and circumstance resulting in varying expectations based on location, generation, and persuasion.

 

Schools’ Standard of Standards

 

And then, there are the educational institutions that establish tznius-based criteria for acceptance of children into their schools. Standards – not for the children enrolled in the school – but for the mothers of these children.

 

In a free country and market, schools have the right to create and enforce rules and parents have the ability to choose where to send their children. And, to be fair, the imposition of tznius standards on mothers of children is quite logical; ensuring the child observes consistent styles at both school and home.

 

However, while the enforcement of a student’s tznius style can be easily imposed from within the classroom, determining whether a child’s mother maintains the required standards is often based on sketchy observations, unintentional misunderstandings, hazy perceptions, distorted hearsay, and untrue gossip.

 

In short, the school’s administration employs assumptions and glorifies judgmentalism as the mechanism of implementing the key filter meant to set the course and tone of their school; an institution which they are confident will be a cut above the rest.

 

One can certainly wonder how this judgmental and elitist ‘tone from the top’ trickles down to the staff, teachers, and ultimately, students of the institution.

 

The broader issue, though, is that these administrators, who surely have the purest intentions at heart, fail to realize the potential pitfalls of their approach. The problem here is not the imposition of tznius standards but the process and method of determining which women adhere to them; the passing of judgment on others.

 

A Tale of Five Women

 

At the risk of sharing loshon horah, the following scandalous gossip was heard being shared among a group of close yentas:

 

Note: Due to the sensitive nature of the matter, the names and details of the women involved have been changed to protect them and their children – who still hope to be accepted by certain local schools.

 

  1. “Shprintza told me she saw Rachel by the Brooklyn Museum’s water fountain kissing a boy. Oy, what a shandeh…”

 

  1. “If you think that is bad, did you hear about of Ani Pells, a woman from our community, who was seen sitting on the porch of her bungalow with her tichel half off her head? I mean, she knew a group of men would be walking by right then and had no shame. A busha!!”

 

  1. “And did you hear about Chana who, I hear, has become an alcoholic? I shudder to think what kind of home she runs…”

 

  1. “Let’s talk in a whisper now. Hush… I heard through the grapevine that a particular woman, I think her name is Tamar, has mamesh gone off the derech. She was seen on a street corner selling herself… Oy, what t’zores in Klal Yisroel…”

 

  1. “Yenti, it’s so sad, but Chava has gone off the deep end. She wears such skimpy clothes; she’s practically walking around naked!”

 

Exposing the Women

 

Do the daughters of these “rotten” women have a chance of being admitted into the local school?

 

I hope they do! In fact, if these women’s children would not be accepted we would not have a Jewish nation today.

 

It’s time to pull down the curtain on these women. We have:

 

  1. Rochel – our foremother – who kissed Yaakov at the well (Bereishis 29:11).

  2. On Ben Peles’ wife – who saved her husband from Korach’s clutches (BaMidbar Rabbah 18:20).

  3. Chana – the mother of Shmuel Ha’Navi (Shmuel I 1:13).

  4. Tamar – who seduced Yehuda, a union which Moshiach descends from (Bereishis 38:14).

  5. Chava – the mother of mankind (Bereishis 3:7).

 

Each woman had her personal reasons based on the time and need and each was righteous and is venerated. On Ben Peles’ wife is regarded as the model wife on whom is attributed the often-quoted accolade: The wisest of women, each one built her house (Mishlei 14:1).

 

Each of these women was judged solely by the ultimate judge, Hashem, and so should every woman.

 

The same is true with the Sota, a woman accused of engaging in promiscuous activities, who is only judged by Hashem – not an anonymous Vaad – via the bitter potion. And, when all goes well, she is promised wonderful children (Bamidbar 5:28 Rashi); children who, I hope, would be accepted into the local school – despite the rumors.

 

It is telling that whenever men attempted to pass judgment on “rotten” women – as Yehuda attempted with Tamar and as Eli Ha’Kohen did with Chana – they quickly found that they were in way over their head and immediately regretted it. When Moshe Rabbeinu passed judgment on women’s tznius standards with regards to their mirrors, Hashem immediately corrected him and had those precious mirrors prominently integrated into the kiyor (Shemos 38:8 Rashi).

 

Some of these examples are, admittedly, extreme for the sake of highlighting the larger point. In the context of our realities, we’re talking about much narrower and subtle distinctions – a woman whose sheitel is an inch above or below her shoulder; makeup that “draws too much attention” versus a more “neutral” palette.

 

Should a child’s chinuch and future be determined based on a school administrator’s perception of her mother? If our forefathers utilized this approach, where would we be today? If we continue employing such methods, where will we be tomorrow?

 

None of this should cause anyone, Heaven forbid, to decrease their standards even an iota. On the contrary, every woman must do her job at glorifying herself and our nation by being modest and dignified.

 

And, school administrators should continue to perform their noble mission of focusing on the children – the future mothers; raising our next generation of yiddishe neshamas and uplifting them by infusing them with positive love and acceptance – not elitism and judgmentalism.

 

One can never know which special daughter will be the mother of royalty.

37 COMMENTS

  1. Very large topic. Don’t agree with this writers approach. If tznius in a home is compromised, there’s a big chance that those children will affect others. By girls, if tznius isn’t adhered to, at the least the Halacha requirements, almost all other mitzvos turn into chores and the yiddishkeit is strongly in question. I wouldn’t want my daughters with children brought up where tznius is optional. Plain and pashut seichel

    • In lita women didnt cover their hair. So did all those women bring up apikirsim. And hilariously that you sanctify the historic precedence of the Beis yacov structure. Beis yaciv is a compromise according to jewish history. And here people get high and mighty over the structure of Beis yacovs.

    • So public outcry of an inch of a skirt to short. But the jewish community takes hardly an orginized backlash for molesters,rapes,thiefs,violence against other jews,domestic abuse, drug use on simchas torah and purim, heavy alcohol abuse in yeshivahs and minors on simchas torah and purim. Etc… etc….

  2. there are many many women not adhering to basic halacha in this area. They are creating the problem the schools are contending with. Don’t blame the victim! To suggest that the many women out there who are in flagrant transgression are motivated by avaira lishma similar to the txidkoniyos mentioned above is one of the most dishonest assessments i have heard in my lifetime and is a disservice to the klal. When criticism is valid it should be acknowledged not rebuffed. This should of never been printed.

  3. You lost me with those absurd comparisons. Had you made your point WITHOUT comparing to the avos hakdoshim, your point would have been well received and worthy of discussion.

    In our times if a girl is r’l seen kissing a boy at the fountain, it’s very bad. Chas vesholom to think that our holy patriarch Yaakov Avinu and our holy matriarch Rochel Imainu are in such a category. Everything that they did was kodesh kodoshim. That kiss was kodesh kodoshim.

    If a mother of a school applicant is caught with such deviant behavior ch’v, then the question arises of whether to accept the child. It’s a legitimate question, and it may be that the school should accept the child.

    But don’t dare think that this mother is like Rachel Imainu. This mother is acting out in a bad way and deviating totally from the ways of our holy matriarchs.
    Reply

    • if these standards were heavily imposed in the 1950s when yeshivas begged parents of traditional/nonobservant households to send their kids to yeshiva/religious schools. what do you think would have been the affect, do you think it would have had a massive affect on the jewish tzibbur today! people remove history from the equation. stop it already its enough the last 20-30 years doesn’t make up the mass of jewish history.

      • I fully agree with what you are saying here. I just wish these statements would be made without defaming the Avos and Imahos Hakedoshim. Isn’t there anybody with normal Torah hashkafos who can say this? Does it have to be a leftist who lacks proper respect for all that is sacred?

  4. This is the most disgusting article in a vain attempt to normalize prietzus with a stupid liberal approach, such as if I’m bad, than eo else needs to be bad. Besides the lack of any intellect, this article is a beautiful example of מגלה פנים בתורה שלא כהלכה. Im really let down by this website for printing such worthless garbage. I would expect to find this on yahoo with all their other feigned outage over dress codes by catholic schools where yes they throw girls out for breaking their level of tzius. Ty matzav.com for ruining my appetite and day.

    • You sound infantile by launching an assault with the word liberal. So jewish schools throw out kids according to the same strictures as Catholic school. You wanna borrow anything else from the Catholics? So schilissal challa kosher? Upsherrin taken from sefardim kosher for Ashkenazim ? It’s irrelevant if someone is dressed not tznius. Its not the schools business to decide a final ruling. Or do you trust someone you owe money to if the a obligation to pay you back is null? You see the logic?

  5. Just to ad the the only jew who the ramban ssaid is worthy of the moniker יימח שמם was a person who referred to שיר השירים in a inappropriate way. The author does the same with the holy of holiest . SHAME!!!!

  6. Why is the author of this piece of worse-than-garbage unnamed here? Afraid of something?
    This is a horrific piece that one would expect to find in an anti-religious publication.
    I am absolutely disgusted with Matzav for publishing it.

    • do you have anything to add? what is exactly wrong with the piece? does it cause cognitive dissonance? is it unsettling to you that yeshivas employ distasteful tactics to bully parents? if someones parent wears anything untznius according to the standards of the school it should make no difference. how does it come into the equation maybe the parent realizes they themselves are hard to change but want their kids to be chairedi? the problem is also how do the schools always lean against dan leckaf zechus? someone reports loshan horah and a person in power automatically believes it? interesting maybe the parent shouldn’t want their kid in that school if its so easy to forget what they should be teaching!

      • I agree with what you are saying here. But what is terribly wrong with this piece is the defamation all our holy patriarchs and matriarchs. It’s a shame that a good point is presented in such a terribly distasteful package. It makes people cringe rather than want to hear the valid point.

      • There are plenty of options out there.
        The author ,and several of the commentors, ‘want to have their cake and eat it too”
        ah.. want the status of a select institution, without fulfilling the oblgations?
        The Imahos ,whatever the externals, had to pass far more difficult situations than the author or the commentors.
        We collectively have passed those, largely because of them. Now, we must keep going foreward .She wants us to fall backwards.
        What sacrifices does the author give up??

        • what obligations does a girls school command? girls school have no halachik obligations. their is no historical precedent. so whatever you say is nothing but revisionist hogwash. girls schools are trying to act like boys schools. at least boys schools have some sort of precedent. and boys schools work towards producing rabbis. no such equivalency is expected from girls schools. i mean unless you agree on having female “rabbahs”. just open your eyes and admit the institutions want to have their cake and eat it too. acting no different than an american private school one minute. then feigning religious institutions the next.

  7. I would like to think that matzav posted this without reading it first. This is probably the worst article I’ve ever seen then post. A terrible bizayon and distortion of our avos hakedoshim.

  8. People In the comments come off like a bunch of first or second generation “litvishers” . Ungarichers trample litvishkite!. Making up new rules! Lita had ehrilichkite!

  9. its a very simple exercise all of you who are so quick to throw someone out of yeshiva or girls school. go take out the family album from 40 50 60 70 80 years ago if you have any pictures or home movies or family stories go over them. and then reexamine if you should be so quick to do the prosecutions job!

    And on a side note tell me is it fair on the Jewish community to be at the mercy of a Jewish institution without no recourse? did the sanhedrin ever punish a son for his fathers sins? did a sanhdrin ever subcontract out its authority to the prosecution? if schools consider a hanhalla meeting about students to examine to expel. does that bring into questions of it functioning as a possible corrupt beis din?? you cant have your cake and eat it to.

  10. its a very simple exercise all of you who are so quick to throw someone out of yeshiva or girls school. go take out the family album from 40 50 60 70 80 years ago if you have any pictures or home movies or family stories go over them. and then reexamine if you should be so quick to do the prosecutions job!

    And on a side note tell me is it fair on the Jewish community to be at the mercy of a Jewish institution without no recourse? did the sanhedrin ever punish a son for his fathers sins? did a sanhdrin ever subcontract out its authority to the prosecution? if schools consider a hanhalla meeting about students to examine to expel. does that bring into questions of it functioning as a possible corruptable beis din?? you cant have your cake and eat it to.

  11. Do people ignore how Jewish america was in the 40s-60s ,etc.,

    In early the decades, Bais Yaakov school leaders felt an achrayus to accept all students because if they refused a girl admission, she would likely go to public school.
    Bais Yaakov accepted students from a variety of backgrounds, even those not in line with their hashkafah. A colleague of Rebbetzin Kaplan stated, “She took girls who were not necessarily from the best homes, and transformed them into mentschen.”

    But by the 1980s and ’90s, schools could afford to be more selective in admissions and demanding in rules. As other Bais Yaakov/orthodox schools opened, girls had alternatives as to which school to attend. Individual Bais Yaakov schools no longer felt the burden of being community schools that had to appeal to a wide variety of students.
    Additionally, the increase in the size of the yeshivishe community also broadened the pool of potential students. Bais Yaakov schools, no longer desperate for students, could therefore be more selective in terms of “quality” of students.

  12. What really concerns me out of all of this is, will the Dolphins be a playoff contender this season? How much more suffering can we possibly bare?

  13. Our children are not our private property, not for good and not for bad. A school is there to be a public servant to be mechanech Jewish children, regardless of the actions of their parents. No one has the right to open a school of Torah chinuch without taking upon themselves to put themselves aside and serve the public. One may not treat it as a business for prosperity, because Jewish children are not objects of inventory to be exploited for someone’s business venture. A school isn’t there to glorify it’s leaders, by taking in children with which it will be easy sailing. If the school directors are looking to be in a business where they can choose the most convenient inventory to carry, let them not be in the chinuch business, to exploit and use Jewish children for self glorification and advancement. School directors have no right to select which Jewish children they want to be mechanech and which not, not on the basis of not liking the parents behavior and not on any basis. Imagine a Hatzola member saying he’s not taking the call because the parents’ negligence caused the emergency. A person may not join Hatzolah with the idea that he’ll choose which calls to ignore, thinking that he’s at least helping some, because he’s covering a territory which needs to be covered by a devoted Hatzolah member and he’s taking that person’s place and he isn’t filling it with the necessary devotion. So too a school, may not do that, because in their place there should be a school which doesn’t reject any children.

  14. We do not have a central school system. If the current schools all band together to be all inclusive, then someone will open another. We do not have a central governing body controlling things.
    Also, remember, the outside influences are not the same as they were years ago. What do you do when someone brings drugs to school? Now, I understand that this may be an extreme example, but once the door is open to removing some kids for negative influences it is just a matter of where you draw the line.
    It is the reality, not a good one, but reality nonetheless. Until society as a whole can agree to universal leadership, this won’t happen. Don’t blame this only on the most right wing schools. The centrist communities are just as inflexible with whatever they consider their guidelines.

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