Thursday, January 04, 2007

A Note On The Clothing Store Activists in B'nei Brak

(Wow! Two posts in one day!)

I was reading an article in this week's Yated about the activists who have started insisting that stores in B'nei Brak must sell only clothing that appeals to certain standards or not be placed on a "white list" of stores where chareidim there may not shop.

The activists (known as the Vaadas Hapikuach Lechanuyos) brought a list of stores who have complied to Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman. According to the article (bolding mine):

HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman read through the list with obvious satisfaction and wondered aloud how there could be chareidi store owners who have not yet joined the program. HaRav Wosner said he was pleased be'ezras Hashem there are now clothing stores where Jewish women can shop without concern, and expressed confidence additional store owners would join the program. HaRav Nissim Karelitz, who has guided the organization since its founding, encouraged the delegates and suggested a course for further activity.

I find it interesting that the path of action to take was to pressure the stores, rather than to pressure the individual buyers. If one were to successfully pressure the individual buyers, then the buyers would not buy the items and the stores would not sell them. The most obvious example would be a store that sells ham (among other items) in an exclusively Jewish neighborhood. Since no one is going to buy the ham, eventually the store owner would see the futility of carrying it and stop doing so.

It would seem to me that the need to pressure the stores stems from a failure of the activists to pressure the people individually. Since they can't (or won't) tell their women not to buy certain articles of clothing (or the women won't listen to such instructions), they feel that they must remove the opportunity to buy them.

Of course, however, that, too, is a failing proposition. While it may make it more difficult for women to shop for clothing that they want, it certainly won't prevent them from doing so entirely. One can always drive or hop on a bus and go to the next town to find clothing, purchase it through mail-order or the internet, or some other way.

In short, if you want any sort of ban to succeed, you have to first win over the will of the people. If you can convince the people that the ban is necessary, then you won't have to resort to pressuring shopkeepers - economics will take care of the problem for you. If you can't convince the people of the necessity for the ban, then, in today's global market, pressuring the shopkeepers will harm no one but the shopkeepers.

The Wolf

11 comments:

SephardiLady said...

HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman read through the list with obvious satisfaction and wondered aloud how there could be chareidi store owners who have not yet joined the program.

Please tell me the Yated is full of terribly inaccurate reporting. So long as there is a demand for a product there is will a supplier.

The Yated might knock bloggers for lack of kavod haTorah, but they provide plenty of fodder.

The Hedyot said...

> In short, if you want any sort of ban to succeed, you have to first win over the will of the people.

Actually, as I see it, if you've won over the will of the people, then there's no need to ban anything! They'll follow your directives as you advise them, because they trust you. A ban only comes into play when you know they don't trust you, and won't listen to you willingly, so you have to use a more forceful and frightening tactic.

BrooklynWolf said...

Actually, as I see it, if you've won over the will of the people, then there's no need to ban anything!

Fair enough. Truth be told, that was the exact point I was trying to bring out. If you have a community that, for example, is highly motivated to keep the mitzvah of kashrus and trusts the local rav implicitly; then he can have the power to say "don't eat this dish at this resturaunt becuase of x, y and z."

The Wolf

SaraK said...

A ban only comes into play when you know they don't trust you, and won't listen to you willingly, so you have to use a more forceful and frightening tactic.
That's exactly what I was going to say. All these bans make me feel that the Gedolim can't seem to get the Chareidim to do what they want through education and trust, so they make everything into a takanah.

Fern R said...

The funny thing about the part you bolded ("HaRav Wosner said he was pleased be'ezras Hashem there are now clothing stores where Jewish women can shop without concern") is that it implies that immodest clothing either a) jumps off the hanger and bites patrons, or b) that women who normally dress very modestly might "accidentally" buy a tank top.

Baruch Horowitz said...

I wrote a post on what I think are larger issues. Please feel free to stop by.

http://mishmar.blogspot.com/2007/01/chareidi-insularity-and-blogger.html

PsychoToddler said...

Reminds me of those old commercials where they showed a fashion show in some communist country. An unattractive woman would come out wearing something that made her even less attractive, and then the announcer would say "summer wear" and "is next" and then she'd come out wearing the same thing and they'd say "winter wear".

Glad to see where this is going.

This is not the Judaism I signed up for, sorry.

Enigma4U said...

Psycho, this is what you were looking for:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=DWAKtYGJZSM

Bnei Brak is probably the closest example of a totalitarian state within a democracy

Still Wonderin' said...

Your example is weak. Ham is a concrete issur in the torah. any god fearing observant Jew will be careful to avoide ham and other nonkosher products.

However, the vagaries of tznius are entirely arbitrary, hardly 'min hatorah' and subject to the whim the chumrah du jour. That bein ghte case, there becomes a need for thugs to enforce the new regulations on a population of people that may be initially resistant, but will predictably fall in line once threatened and manipulated.

BrooklynWolf said...

No, SW, that was *exactly* my point. Something which the community has accepted, whether it be the prohibition on eating ham (d'orissa), the prohibition of eating a fowl/milk mixture (d'rabbanan) or even wearing a yarmulke (minhag) will not require any "banA" or "edict" to enforce. However, something which is not acceptable to the community (arbitrary standars of tznius) will not succeed even with a ban or edict.

The Wolf

Still Wonderin' said...

"However, something which is not acceptable to the community (arbitrary standars of tznius) will not succeed even with a ban or edict."

And that, the reliance on threats of excommunication and violence to enforce rules, is why Chareidim are fascists.