In my post on (what I thought would be fictional scenarios of) segregation of the sexes, ZachM made an interesting comment that I felt deserved a response.
Here is Zach's comment:
Please, everyone, we know that these aren't rational approaches, do not make sense, and are completely abhorrent, but only some of us know that it is not the norm. Living in a modern orthodox community, i have been privileged to live with common sense, a strong sense of values, and equality and I truly believe that these are the sentiments of most Jews--not the crazy separatist views portrayed by those ultra-orthodox (though i do not like this designation, as it makes them seem more right, when all they are is ridiculously extreme and wrong); however, many especially *outsiders* looking in do not know this! Imagine how we Jews look to others who see posts like this! If i did not know that this was a small minority, i myself would be turned off of Judaism! Please, everyone, in your posts we could avoid a huge Chillul Hashem by pointing out that these outlandish customs are just that--outlandish--to the rest of the Orthodox community!
I'll admit off the bat that Zach has what is potentially a valid point: that people who read about the customs of some of the extreme (or even not-so-extreme) fringes of our society may be turned off to Judaism and may just dismiss us as a bunch of provincial, backwards kooks. However, I do have to disagree with Zach. I think that it behooves us to actively make the point that these customs do *not* represent normative Judaism. If we fail to do so, and simply hope that people who are "on the fence" about becoming frum aren't going to find out about the extreme fringes, we are doomed to failure -- because they will eventually find out. In today's day and age, where information flows freely, they will hear about the people who demand separate seat buses, or who beat up girls who walk through "religious" neighborhoods anyway. It's up to us to actively bring to the fore the fact that these people *do* exist and that they are *not* a part of normative Orthodox Judaism.
UPDATE (12/26 7:22am): Apparently, I misunderstood ZachM's point. He agrees with me after all. My apologies for misreading your comment Zach.