Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Don't Know What's Sadder...

So, here's the scene...

-- A sizable portion of the male chareidi population in Israel learns all day and does not work.
-- Charieidi families, like all other families, need to purchase food, clothing, etc.
-- Due to various factors (education, the economy in general, etc.), it is difficult even for chareidi women to find employment.
-- Chareidim (like all other communities) want to boost employment in their community.

With me so far? Good, because here's where it starts to get tricky.

-- The chairman of the Shas party arranges for a government call center to open near where chareidim live and employ chariedi women in Northern Israel.
-- Said government call center handles various different services, including health care organizations and pharmacies.

So, the calls start coming in. The women answer them, direct them to where they are supposed to go, whatever. Services are being provided and the women bring home a check, and all is right with the world.

Of course, I wouldn't be bringing this up if the story ended there. As you might expect, there is a fly in the ointment. As it turns out, some of the women have been getting calls regarding "virility pills." Older men are calling in asking questions about Viagara, Cialis or some of the other erectile dysfunction medications that are available. This has caused some problems for the women who view the calls as indecent and obscene. While I suppose it is possible that some of the calls could be what you or I would truly call obscene, I'm willing to bet that the vast majority (if not all) of them were actual honest calls for information about treatment for a medical condition. Since the call center handles calls for medical organizations and pharmacies, such calls are probably to be expected. Rav Asher Idan describes just such a call:

“She answered a call that was supposed to go to a pharmacy,” recalls Rav Idan. “On the other end of the line was a man of about 60, who wanted advice on pills designed to increase virility. He asked her what it does. Because she was unfamiliar with the product he had to explain it to her and then proceeded to ask detailed questions. Only when she realized what he was referring to did she hang up on him.”

Rav Idan then proceeded to state that answering such calls when not in her husband's presence* is a violation of the prohibition of giluy arayos (sexual immorality).

I think it's quite sad that people who are calling a health center about a legitimate health concern are considered "obscene" and "indecent."

I think it's also quite sad that these women are so sheltered that they had no idea that erectile dysfunction exists.

I think it's also quite sad that discussing health matters in a professional setting is considered as violating the boundaries of sexual immorality.

The bottom line is that people should not work in fields where they are unsuited to work. For example, I know that despite the fact that I like to cook, I can never work as a chef in a fancy restaurant. Why? Because of the prohibition of cooking meat and milk together. It would be disingenous of me to look for employment in that field and then say "oh, I can't cook this dish" and "oh, I can't cook that dish." Employers should make reasonable accomodations for employees, but if a bona fide criterion for the job is going to interefere with your religion, then you simply cannot take the job. If these women feel that they cannot truly work in a health center because answering bona fide questions regarding male health issues is obscene/indecent, then they should not work there.

Or, perhaps better, they should learn that not everything relating to male sexuality is obscene -- and learn to handle such calls professionally.

That being said, I'd like to end the post on a lighter note. Here's what one "leading askan" said about the incident:

“Employing charedi women should not be taken for granted,” a leading askan in the North told Hebrew website NRG. “Because of modesty issues rabbonim do not recommend women work outside of the home – only in cases where the financial situation is pressing and the woman needs to go out and get a job. Such cases require halachic clarification and a she’elas rov.”

Isn't that priceless? They set up a system where men don't work, forcing the women to work. Now this guy wants to say that women should not work either -- unless they get a hetter (permission) from a rav. And all this in a call center that was set up specifically to emply chareidi women. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up.

The Wolf

* I'm not sure why it would be any better (or worse) if she answered such calls if her husband was there.

** Would they say it's obscene or indecent for one of them to call their male OB/GYNs with a gynecological question?

18 comments:

G*3 said...

> I think it's also quite sad that these women are so sheltered that they had no idea that erectile dysfunction exists.

I can see this being made into an inspiring anecdote in a vort about tznius. Look at these women, so holy, so pure, that they don’t even know that there is such a thing!

> Or, perhaps better, they should learn that not everything relating to male sexuality is obscene

Not male sexuality per se. All sexuality is obscene, and should only be discussed in context of learning gemara or halachah. In those cases it is transformed from obscene to having the highest kedusha.

> Isn't that priceless? They set up a system where men don't work, forcing the women to work. Now this guy wants to say that women should not work either -- unless they get a hetter (permission) from a rav.

I don’t think that anyone planned it this way, but what this does is make families indirectly financially dependent on their rav. The rav is the one who decides if and when they can have an income, and what kind of a job is permitted. An awful lot of power for someone to have. One can only hope that the rabbonim in the chareidi communities are ethical enough never to misuse it.

ProfK said...

Not limited to areas of male concern. I'd imagine that there are any number of questions/concerns relating to a variety of female conditions that would make these women quite uncomfortable. Do you suppose they would be less disconcerted if a woman called asking for a referral to get birth control? Or if someone called asking for a practitioner to handle an STD? Or problems of dysmennorhia? Clearly shoulds like the wrong match of employee and job.

Garnel Ironheart said...

First of all, there are ways around this. You could set up the system for the women to simply ask: is this a call about a drug, information or etc. Then without inquiring as to what the caller wants, she can simply redirect the call.

But yes, the system is set up to ensure that the Chareidi sector is impoverished and undereducated. That makes them more dependent on their leadership. A successful, wordly population might question those leaders and they don't want that happening.

Off the Derech said...

G3: >I don’t think that anyone planned it this way, but what this does is make families indirectly financially dependent on their rav. The rav is the one who decides if and when they can have an income, and what kind of a job is permitted. An awful lot of power for someone to have. One can only hope that the rabbonim in the chareidi communities are ethical enough never to misuse it.

Gut gezogt.

Garnel: >the system is set up to ensure that the Chareidi sector is impoverished and undereducated. That makes them more dependent on their leadership. A successful, wordly population might question those leaders and they don't want that happening.

So you agree the rabbis are like jailers and Nazis and communists. Just making sure.

BrooklynWolf said...

Nazis

TWEEEEEEEEEET! Foul!

Unless you think the Rabbis are trying to exterminate people, let's not use the term "Nazis," okay?

I even think your terms "jailers" and "communists" are too strong for your point. Perhaps "manipulators" might be closer to what you're looking for?

In any event, please play nice. Don't start a OTD/Garnel war here.

Thanks,

The Wolf

Off the Derech said...

Who's starting wars? I just asked him a question.

Off the Derech said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BrooklynWolf said...

Please. If I asked you not to call people Nazis unless they actually are, don't go calling other posters Nazis out of rhetoric.

If you disagree with Garnel, then by all means, argue with him on the merits. Don't go ad hominem.

The Wolf

(I hate censoring comments. Please don't make me do it.)

Off the Derech said...

>unless they actually are

They are.

Don't go ad hominem.

To go ad hominem implies there's a human being worth debating. Hardly applicable in this case.

megapixel said...

"I think it's also quite sad that these women are so sheltered that they had no idea that erectile dysfunction exists."

actually, I think it's quite happy!! (they obviously are doing okay in that arena if they dont know what it is!!)

anyway, why couldnt they work out a system whereby if a woman picks up a call about this issue and she is uncomfortable discussing it, as is reasonable considering their background and extreme sensitivity to these issues, that she couldnt just transfer that particular call to someone more qualified/comfortable discussing it. why assur an otherwise good thing?

Yeah- sounds crazy to set up a system where men dont work and women are not supposed to, either. when I graduated HS,20 years ago, the prime career was considered to be a teacher. everything else was second class. SO how can you support a family on a teacher's salary? answer: you cant. SO the whole thing doesnt line up anyway.

melbournite said...

Sounds like calls in relation to spam emails.I would be worried about the legality/morality of the employer, but then I know nothing about this except for the post.

N said...

quite sad how funny real life is...

Anonymous said...

This is just another example of how Judaism has gone from worship of God to rabbinical tyranny. and Charedim still blame drugs and alcohol when someone walks away from their system.

sara maimon said...

one wonders if the rav also objects to male physicians who treat women patients, or better yet, to male rabbis who examines vaginal secretions on women's underwear

Yerachmiel Lopin said...

Tznius does not imply never to discuss or look at certain things. It exists in tension with other principles. When a senior citizen who is incontinent needs to be changed it is criminal not to routinely visually inspect to ensure there are no bed sores developing. If a same sex nurse is not available it is criminal to leave such a person undiapered for too long.

I knew a frum rav who told me of dealing with a couple with marital problems became convinced that he needed a clearer understanding of the sexual nature of the problem. He told me it was awfully embarassing for him but he insisted to them that not only was it OK to describe but obligatory becasue saving the marriage was more important. They did reveal it. He in fact did give them some advice and their mariage was saved. Regrettably it turns out that they had been to a half a dozen rabbis beforehand whose advice was not helpful because they never inquired about the specifics.

Normally I am dubious about such stories but the person in question was a man of impeccable truthfullness and modesty.

When will tznius not become an absolute to be further maximized and instead become a goal that coexists with other goals so people know when not to let it get in the way of other relgious necessities? More broadly, when will the chumrah culture spread its chumras across all obligations instead of focusing kashruth (where there are obvious finacial issues, and Tznius) which is in part an overreaction to feminimism. I dont mean MO. I mean that if women go outside to support their husbands inevitably they will acquire more knowledge and income, and that always leads to more power. For example, clearly the pressure for eruvim comes more from mothers of young children who are stuck indoors without an eruv.

Shalmo said...

Let the charedi starve. Don't give them jobs they cannot handle. Rather than constantly making accomodations to enable their lifestyle, let them choke to death on the aggressive halacha they have manufactured. That is the only way to end them once and for all. When we stop enabling them, then a mass exodus from their ranks will ensue into modern society.

Pesky Settler said...

I had a difficult time understand just what the purpose of the call center is to begin with. After all, AFAIK, none of these women are actually pharmacists and therefore should not be handing out advice about drugs - Viagra or or even Motrin.

Then I read this from the original article According to Teleall CEO Gabi Arad, “This is a message service, therefore the phone representatives are not required to answer professional questions, but merely to pass the message on to the customer. Nevertheless, when the company became aware of the problem we made sure the calls would not go to the charedi representatives, but to other women.” and I gotta say I'm even more confused.

Not required to answer professional questions, but merely to pass the message on to the customer? Then what the heck is the service?

Ahavah Gayle said...

What's REALLY scary here is that people who have no modern scientific, medical, or hygenic knowledge and no intention of acquiring any are answering people's medical questions in the first place. Seriously. Would you want one of these ignorant girls giving you advice on ANYTHING, especially something that can affect your health?