Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Separate Sidewalks?



Much has been written about the recent Tznius asifa in Israel. I plan to comment on it too in the future, but I need to get some materials together. In short, I think that raising people's conciousness about tznius is a good thing (even if the asifa went about it in a completely wrong fashion - but that's for another post).



However, there are times when it gets carried too far - and I think that the residents of Beit Shemesh (where I have relatives living) have reached that point. In parts of the town, there are now separate sidewalks for men and for women. Signs are posted on the street advising women that they have to cross over to the other side of the street. Women are not allowed on the side of the street where the shul is located.



Now, lest I sound like someone who is in favor of licentiousness and free love, let me reiterate that standards of tznius are a good thing. Lord knows I don't need to see any more bare midriffs in New York in the summer. But the idea that the sexes have to be so completely separated that they can't even walk on the same street is ludicrous.

Has there ever been a Jewish community where it was noted that this standard was observed? Did our ancestors in the midbar walk on different sides of the paths between tents? When Dovid danced in the streets, did he do it on the men's side? In any of the shtetls in Europe, was there ever a reqirement that the men and women occupy different streets?

Rabbi Maryles has noted in his blog recently the ever-increasing trend toward the separation of the sexes, starting with separate seating by weddings, to the ever-increasing fact that the kallah does not come over to the men's side during the dancing, to separate seating by Sheva Berachos - even of the chosson and kallah!

I recently read a science fiction series by Robert J. Sawyer called the Parallax Trilogy. The series centers on a world where the Neanderthals, not humans, survived and became the dominant species of the planet. On the Neanderthal world, the sexes live separate lives for most of the month. For 25 out of every thirty days, the men live in one community and the women (and small children) live in another. It is only during the remaining five days (when "Two Become One" that the men and womenfolk get together.

One has to wonder if that isn't the goal for some of the ultra-zealots - to, in short, have separate communities where men will sit and learn all day and not be distracted by the womenfolk and the women will work and support the men without being distracted by their presence. Of course, I realize that I'm greatly exaggerating the situation - after all, we're only talking about separate sidewalks, not separate houses and communities. But sometimes, I feel like that is the direction that we are headed in.

What ever happened to taking a moderate approach?

The Wolf

25 comments:

happywithhislot said...

its gonna get worse, because we are lambs. we dont want to rock the boat, and we are allowing those crazy charedim to get away with it.

1

The Answer said...

I agree Wolf. There is a very simple solution to the problem of looking at women: just don't look. If you don't want to talk to them, just don't talk. If they are passing the door of the shul and that distracts people in the shul, close the door. Very simple.

Ezzie said...

I think that went out when non-Jews started using the Golden Rule. Now, since they're using it, "we" can't. Or something like that.

:::sigh:::

FlatbushTorahJew said...

Funny, Wolf. You and your ilk are always gung-ho on giving people choice - you decry it if someone takes away your ability to read a book by a kofer, you decry it if someone takes away your ability to hold by a certain eruv, you decry it if someone takes away your ability to eat from questionable hechsharim, but heaven forfend that you allow a community to set up it's own standards of tznius. Then it's gotta be your way or the highway.

Your type makes me sick. These people are doing nothing more than protecting themselves from the evils that are ou there in the world - and rather than helping them, or at least just shutting up and letting them be, you go out there and attack and threaten them.

Until this comes to your neck of the woods, mind yourown business!

happywithhislot said...

ftj
wrong approach. These things always end up here. they are not being frum. they are being taliban nuts.
why should i respect that?
if they decided to started locking their women with balls and chains and put burkas on them, i should mind my own business as well?

Shoshana said...

Separate sidewalks are old news - New Square has those.

Sholom said...

My father used to tell a story of the man who was so holy, he would stare at the wall when walking in the street so as not to be aroused at the sight of the woman.
Instead of looking at the wall and thinking about the women, look at the women and think about the wall.

Larry Lennhoff said...

Frankly, I suspect separate residences will happen at some point unless this trend reverses. The 'women's tent' is part of the historical middle east. I have friends who keep TH who prefer separate bedrooms to separate beds for when they are niddah - only high housing costs may be keeping them from making the next step.

Esther said...

There were seperate lines at the bank in Emanuel when my husband's family lived there. However, the men didn't feel like dealing with the extra wait when there were more men than women. So they would stand in both lines, and inform the women that they essentially couldn't use the bank. (This actually happened to my mother-in-law on several occasions.) My concern in this case (after reading the linked article) is that the women in question are mothers taking their children to the doctor's office next door. So this is directly causing added inconvenience for women who are doing nothing wrong, rather than the men accepting on themselves some inconvenience as is often the case when one has halachic obligations. (Since this is an issue of a mitzvah incumbent on the men, not the women.) Additionally, as I am sure many people will mention, the charedim chose to move to Beit Shemesh after it was an established area, so it is not a matter of a community setting up its own standards as it would be if this was Meah Shaarim or Lakewood.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

I read the first part of that Parallax trilogy in some kind of short story form. It was really good, thanks for reminding me of it!

Rare Find said...

"Has there ever been a Jewish community where it was noted that this standard was observed?"

Yes, in New Square. Shoshana mentioned it before.

"Signs are posted on the street advising women that they have to cross over to the other side of the street. Women are not allowed on the side of the street where the shul is located."

1- There aren't any signs for men to cross over? That's sexist.

2- So women can't daven in shuls?

Ahuva said...

I was wondering the same thing as Rare Find. They don't let women daven in shul?

The thing that always worries me about extreme separation of men and women is that it results in men thinking of women almost as an alien race (and women feeling the same way about men). I have a hard time understanding how this can NOT have a negative impact on a future marriage.

Kay said...

The way the divorce rate is rising these days, maybe separate houses (at least for couples without children) would be a good idea.

(I am only half kidding.)

Anonymous said...

This is a comment on ynet news:

Ok, This one I found hard to believe, so went to take a look in Bet Shemesh for myself. What is the REAL TRUTH?? The sign asks that women going to the clinic next door do not walk through the courtyard of the shul because sometimes the minyan overflows during Shacharit. they are not separating the sidewalks, otherwise this would be done in ALL Haredi neighborhoods, especially Meah Shearim and Kiriyat Sefer. There is very little reality in this article. The sad reality is thet each day Y-Net finds another way to drive a bigger dagger into the secular/religious rift and you talkbackers go and pounce of every bit of vitriole you can. Go and look for yourself and stop calling every Haredi person crazy. Yes, there are NUTS, we all agree. There are secular LOONIES too.
Stop the hate .

The Answer said...

Anon 2:11

Good to hear this is overblown.

I can tell from your post you agree with the position that separate sidewalks are overboard. No?

David said...

I read that Kelm had separate sidewalks (that's Kelm, as in the Alter of Kelm, not Chelm).

>>separate communities where men will sit and learn all day and not be distracted by the womenfolk

The Chovos HaLevovos describes this exact scenerio and praises it to no end!

The Answer said...

For David:

The g'mara also describes several married scholars who traveled far away to learn from the best teachers. Rabbi Akiva is one famous example, but there were others.
How common was this? Not too common just because the tannaim and amoraim themselves were not a large population.
Would this be practical or advisable today? I don't think so. A home without a father is a big problem, as we see in society today.

David said...

>>Would this be practical or advisable today? I don't think so. A home without a father is a big problem, as we see in society today.

I agree. In Europe it was common for talmidei chachamim to learn from Yom Tov to Yom Tov in Yeshivah and return home just for Peseach and Succos.

Perhaps you're familiar with the story of Reb Elchonon Wasserman who heard his wife had a baby boy while he was in another town learning, stood up to make the bracha tov umeitiv, and then sat down and continued the Tosafos with his chavrusa.

They were a different generation and on a different level. Also, the communal and family structure allowed for this kind of dedication.

A Rosh Kollel in my neighborhood wanted to build dormitories for the married students to stay over and learn all week, and only return home for Shabbos. However, he was stopped by the gedolim. My problem is, what was he thinking in the first place?

boruch said...

The analogy to New Square is inapt.

Chareidim moved in to Ramat Bet Shemesh and began imposing their strictures on exisiting residents.

btw - what side of the street does the letter carrier walk on while delivering mail in New Square??

ed said...

>I agree Wolf. There is a very simple solution to the problem of looking at women: just don't look. If you don't want to talk to them, just don't talk. If they are passing the door of the shul and that distracts people in the shul, close the door. Very simple.

Doesn't sound like you ever heard of Hilchos Tznius. What do we need it for? Just don't look!!

Neither does it sound like you ever heard of a creation called "Yetzer Hora" and "Kol Hagadol Mechavero, Yitzro Godol Mimenu"

And ever heard the gemara that when one has another path, and chooses the one where the women are, he's called a Rosha?!? A Rosha?!? for choosing the path?!? Just don't look!!!

>wrong approach. These things always end up here. they are not being frum. they are being taliban nuts.
>why should i respect that?

First take your nose out of the movies you rent. Then we can talk.

>Instead of looking at the wall and thinking about the women, look at the women and think about the wall.

How about looking at the wall and thinking Torah? Or is that too taliban?

The Answer said...

ed:

There is a reason we only have mechitzos for Shul. In Shul we are on a higher level and can have any pritzus in our prescence, it's not enough to just not look. But on the street, this is the only practical advice. That is the way it is in the world. If you can't learn not to look, then you can't survive spirtualy.

Thus this separate sidewalks thing, wherever it manifests, is way overboard.

Neandershort said...

Taliban indeed. Why would I want to live in a neighborhood where I can't walk down the sidewalk and talk to my wife, or daugher, or sister, or mother, or female student?

Chana said...

Instead of looking at the wall and thinking about the women, look at the women and think about the wall.

Hear, hear!

Farmer said...

2 comments:

1. Ed's posts are waaaaaay toooo angry. He may want to be/act frum but he needs to work on his middos. Also, anyone who starts a post using the word 'ilk' is someone who needs to be watched, or avoided.

Secondly, I live near New Square and have been there many times. The signs "men's side" and "women's side" are posted on many telephone poles and buildings. However, in truth, I've often seen members of either gender walking on the 'forbidden' side. I guess it means "please use your side unless you need something on the other side....like your house!"

Jacob Da Jew said...

I recently posted on my blog about an incident that had happened to me http://jacobdajew.blogspot.com/2006/12/boys-are-forbidden.html.

very similar situation