Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Parting of the Ways

Oorah does kiruv work. They certainly don't try to hide that fact. Their stated purpose is to get young children and bring them to frumkeit. They work with families and they work to get children into yeshivot. It's admirable work. They hold a huge auction each year to fund their activities. In previous years my family has generously donated to them. Not this year.

This year the auction catalog had a questionnaire in it. Among the questions was one asking if pictures of females in the catalog should be eliminated. I was stunned. Mostly the pictures in past catalogs had some pictures of students involved in Oorah sponsored activities. Mostly the female pictures were little girls.

Anyone else see the irony in this question? Do you suppose that some of the people that Oorah services might see the catalog and the questions in it? Do you suppose that the families who are being helped to become frum might just wonder about a frumkeit that says that pictures of girls are forbidden? We aren't one of those families and we sure wondered. Do you suppose that people from all walks of orthodoxy might wonder if their money might be spent better elsewhere?

Nor is it Oorah alone. How about those dinner pictures with the guests of honors pictured, only the "Mrs." in "Mr. and Mrs." has been cut out of the picture? Hey, if they're frumming up, why not just ban women from the dinners altogether? (I can answer that question myself--money.)

What's next? No yearbooks for girls schools? Hmm, no they couldn't do that for the high schools because where else would the yeshiva boys be able to see a picture of the new "crop" coming up for harvesting. But I bet they are thinking about it.

And let's not forget simchas. Bar Mitzvah pictures that eliminate the mother and the sisters and the grandmothers and aunts. Or how about wedding pictures featuring only the choson?

I sent off a note to Oorah declining to donate this year and telling them why. My family doesn't support organizations with the kind of policy they are putting into place. My husband is still shaking his head that they could even have asked this kind of question. I still wish Oorah well in its endeavors, but they'll go forward without us.

It seems to me that the problem is that some people can't spell. They are spelling "frumkeit" as "krumkeit." What a difference a letter makes.

14 comments:

heshel said...

Tzedakas make business decisions just like any other businesses. They look at who their customers are. Oorah must have gotten some complaints about women in the catalog and put it out to their customers to decide on. Their majority of people donating might be those who would object to the pictures. Certainly your right to not send them any money but they might get more money from people who wouldn't give before because of the pictures.

Allan said...

We got the Orah mailing for the first time this year and I saw that question. Turned me off and we didn't send any money. When tzedaka organizations are competing for the same dollars why would they take a chance like this? IMO it's the people who wouldn't object to the pictures that have the real money today.

rachel said...

I will say this straight: any man who gets aroused by pictures of little girls needs therapy. The question is beyond ridiculuos. What's next, women can't go out of the house at all lest men see them? Or should we wear veils? wait, that already happened...

http://mominisrael.blogspot.com/search/label/hyper-tzniut

TJ said...

I'm thinking that Oorah may have bet the wrong way and they're going to feel it in their bottom line. My family is sort of MO and this kind of reasoning doesn't go very well with us.

d said...

Not only that, they recently (two weeks ago I would guess) ran an advertisement in the Yated asking people if they would rather have catalogs with no photos of females. Those so desiring were asked to e-mail nowomen@oorah.org

Couldn't they have used a more sensitive address ?

d said...

Re Oorah - the charges here

http://mschick.blogspot.com/2007/11/rjj-newsletter-november-2007.html

should be investigated. Oorah should be given a chance to respond as well.

Compliments on the impressive site.

ProfK said...

d,
Thanks for the kind words and for the link to the marvin schick piece. As you say, the allegations about Oorah need some light shed on them. And as a Staten Islander I've got some problems with the wording and tenor of the first part of the article as well. You've given me some investigating to do.

SephardiLady said...

Thank you very much for saying something. I don't believe I got the Oorah questionaire or I might have wrote a letter too.

Bas~Melech said...

I'm not going to comment on whether or not they should display pictures of females; it's a matter of personal sensitivities. However, I think they should have come to an independent decision in consultation with their rabbinical advisors and do what THEY think is appropriate -- if it means keeping women's pictures out, this can be done quietly and seamlessly. Some eyebrows might be raised but most people would probably let it roll past them as they flip towards the auction pages...

No, the picture issue doesn't concern me. But making a poll about it was definitely an unwise move. And, as another poster mentioned, the email address and phrasing are not very positive at all. An organization and publication that beg for money do not need negative publicity.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree that Oorah really blew this. I don't look at the pictures in the auction book. Until you mentioned it I don't think I even remembered there were pictures. I just look at the auction items. I think that most people wouldn't care if they left out anything but what is in the auction. But now they have made a whole big deal out of it. And I agree that the email adress was a really stupid move.

ProfK said...

Bas-Melech,
I'm not going to argue with you about putting in pictures of women or not putting them in, but five- year-old girls are not women, no matter what definition you use.

Just a strange little observation here. Men should not/cannot look at pictures of females, even little girls, but women can look at pictures of males. Just what might that tell you about the moral fibre of the two sexes?

d said...

"Just a strange little observation here. Men should not/cannot look at pictures of females, even little girls, but women can look at pictures of males. Just what might that tell you about the moral fibre of the two sexes?"

With all due respect, you have a fine blog, but this comment is offensive and seriously out of line.

Men and women are different, women have certain weaknesses, let's not start a m-f conflict here.

I hope you haven't been infected by the virus of the new theology that claims that women are on a higher madreiga than men in the eyes of Judaism.

ProfK said...

D,
The comment was not intended to be offensive nor was it intended to start a male/female war.Sorry if you did take offense. It was intended to point out what to me is an interesting observation. I have never, not once ever heard anyone tell a woman that she should not look at a picture of a man. Jewish publications are full of such pictures. I have never seen a published complaint to any of these publications about their having pictures of men. We both know that this is not the case when it comes to pictures of females, regardless of the age of the females.

I don't think that logically you could say that pictures of men are "prettier" then pictures of women or that they are more aesthetically pleasing. So that can't be the reason. I honestly don't think that you can say that woman cannot ever be influenced by a picture to have certain thoughts--and let's leave that at that. So what does that leave us with to think? Plenty of people say it is an issue of self-control, and self-control can certainly be classified as a moral issue.

Is it a question of nature or of nurture? If nature, then I'm not convinced the moral fiber comment was so out of line, certainly as regards the viewing of pictures. If nurture, then just what is it that frum Klal is doing that better "protects" its girls then its boys?

Let's put it this way. If a hat store had opened its business across the street from a girl's high school and it had pictures of youngish married men wearing hats in the window, I don't think we would have heard one thing, not one, about it.

d said...

"I have never, not once ever heard anyone tell a woman that she should not look at a picture of a man."

If a woman would be negatively affected by such, she should not do so. You can ask a Rav about that. However, generally it is assumed not to be problematic.

The male makeup is different then the female, in more ways than one, and there is additional halachic strictness due to that.

"If a hat store had opened its business across the street from a girl's high school and it had pictures of youngish married men wearing hats in the window, I don't think we would have heard one thing, not one, about it."

See what I wrote above. Also, it's still a man's world, in some ways.