Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Airing Dirty Laundry

There's a battle going on in my town that is hurting my heart. I don't know what to do about it. I know if I speak up on the maillist (which has been going nuts over this), I will get stomped on. But this is weighing on my mind. How can I not speak up? But what do I say? No one will listen if I start jumping up and down, yelling, "but we're all the same!!" I'll get my head slammed if I even try anything religious. I've found a number of quotes, just in davening that address the hate that is flying. But no quotes like that would fly. I'm stumped. And heartbroken. Considering the last time I commented on a thread on the maillist, about dog poop, I had my head bitten off. So since I suspect anything I could post to the Modi'in list would be dismissed out of hand, I'll post it here. Hardly anyone will read it, but at least I will have spoken up somewhere.

The background: According to nearly everyone involved, at a recent Chol HaMoed event in Modi'in, a Charedi woman went up to to a man performing a clown/juggling act and asked if the female volunteer he was using could be switched to a man. The performer stated the woman asked "very politely." He agree to switch, the audience protested, the female volunteer was reinstated and that should have been the end of it.

Except the Modi'inites are now out for blood. The email list for the town has become a basket for vitriol, for anti-Charedi rants to be spewed without limit. The few times someone has spoken up about the hate language being used, they have been viciously shot down. People have requested that the moderators stop this topic already, but nothing has been done except the posters writing back to say stop asking that the topic be stopped. If I hear the term "free speech" one more time, I may scream. Everything has been claimed from Holocaust comparisons, to keeping women from performing is illegal, to who does this woman think she is, to keep them out of our town. The whole situation makes me very sad to think that we can hate each other so much. How we feel about ultra-Orthodoxy's marginalization of women is a valid issue, but not one that is being discussed here.

We should appreciate that this woman approached the performer and spoke "very politely" to him. There were no rocks thrown, no demands made, no names called, just a quiet request. We, as a community, reject that request. We reject the beliefs that are behind that request. That is a good thing. There is nothing wrong with making a request.

The performer chose to honour her request. We, as a community, disagree with his choice. What was behind his response, we can't know. Was he just trying to be nice? Did he think that's what the majority wanted? Did he just want to avoid an argument? Did he not even think about it, because he was focused on his act, so he just said yes because it was easier? Who knows.

We, as a community, rejected that request. We do not believe that women cannot be on stage. We do not believe that men and women should be separated in public. We do not believe that women have no place in mixed public events. We made that very clear, very loudly.

We should proud of that. Instead, we are using terms like "Modiinistan" "those Charedi people" "keep them out." We are generalizing, we are making them the "other."

We are being hateful.

There are no two ways about it. We are secular and Orthodox, we are left-wing and right-wing. We are business executives, blue collar workers, military officers, mothers and fathers. We are respectable, and we speak of respecting each other.

But that is not what we are doing right now. And what we are doing right now, as a community, makes my heart hurt. Generalizations, rumours and negative talk have no place here. We spoke up, we put our collective foot down. No one is saying we were wrong.

Let us be the example of community. Let us turn this around and stop talking about what didn't happen, and instead talk about what did. And this is what did:

1. Someone politely made a request that was objectionable to our community.
2. We said no, that is unacceptable to us. And we were heard.

Please, let us be proud that we spoke as a community. Let us take comfort in the knowledge that as a community, be us secular, orthodox or somewhere in between, we have essentially the same values and the same goals for our community. To live together, peacefully and with respect for each other.


Rona Michelson said...

Well said. Notice I have been quiet too. People are clearly playing out other issues in their responses... (overcontrolling parents, need to be in the "in" group, anger and guilt they are unable to express directly...) The way I took it wasthat before now it had not been clear what the standards of behavior in Modi'in performances were. Now that it is clear, such an incident will, in all likelihood, not recur. As for those who might have been offended, as others have suggested, they can "vote with their feet." I simply don't put myself in situations where I believe that my sensibilities will be offended.

Alissa said...

I've frequently felt there were other issues going on; reactions are so often out of line with the issue. Maybe you should offer one giant group counselling session for the whole city? ;)

It appears that the frenzy seems to be leveling out and heads are clearing. Today's emails have been much more reasonable. B"H.