Monday, March 14, 2011

People and Pictures

My father a''h loved technology. He was fascinated by every new invention that came along and when he could he bought one of them. Now granted, in his time period the new technology didn't pop up every four minutes, but often enough that we had quite a bit in the house. Among those pieces of technology that he loved were cameras. My mother has hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of pictures that were taken while my dad was living. It's a wonderful record of what we looked like when younger, what occasions we celebrated, where we went.

In addition to those pictures taken here in the US, there are some pictures that were taken in Europe, both pre and post WWII. As my mom told us, a lot of those pictures were destroyed during the War, but they did find some when they finally returned to their homes. There are pictures of my mom's parents and grandmother, and even one rare picture that includes my great great grandfather and his children. There are wedding pictures as family members got married post WWII.

I married another man who loves technology, and he entered our marriage with a full complement of equipment, including photographic equipment. So like my mom, I have a record of our lives from engagement to the present.

I have a long upstairs hallway that is our photo gallery and is loaded with pictures of our kids, pictures of us at engagement and marriage,a few pictures of us when we were young, pictures of our parents and siblings and of my grandparents and great grandmother. I love walking down that hallway and stopping to look back at our history. There are also pictures scattered throughout other parts of the house.

So, you say? Welcome to the club. A friend, looking at the pictures in the hallway, made a comment that it's a good thing he loves us because we really aren't frum enough to be living in NYC. He explained that he had gone to visit a relative of his wife's (in one of the heart-of-Brooklyn neighborhoods) and noticed that they had done a bit of wall redecorating. Where once there had been pictures of that relative with his wife at their wedding, where there had been pictures of family members, there was now nothing. Our friend asked if they were having the pictures re-framed. The answer he got was that those pictures were mostly now in drawers and his wedding picture was now in his bedroom, which is private and off limits to guests. Why did he remove those pictures? Because in the area he lives in it is not the done thing among the frummer element to have pictures of women out on public display. Wedding pictures are relegated to private bedrooms. That cute picture of your two-year-old daughter with her face in her birthday cake is no longer acceptable for public display.

There are a number of Jewish publications that have for some time been refusing to publish pictures of women, whether as illustrations for real-life occasions or in their advertising. Not even line drawings are acceptable. They and their readership believe such public display to be against halachah. And now we get that putting up pictures of women in your own home shouldn't be done either.

What's next? Outlawing women from the public sphere altogether? Yup, I can see it now: Thursdays are going to be the only day that women will be allowed out in public, for the purposes of Shabbos shopping, but no men will be allowed out on the streets during that time period. And when the men get tired of being cooped up for that one day, women will be banned from being out in public altogether. I can't wait for some enterprising men to decide to ban women completely (obviously a man or men who also didn't believe in studying biology). Because of a lack of women, men will die out as a species. And when God decides to repopulate the world, I sure hope He fixes whatever brain function error seemed to crop up in the original man.

I've had enough of what some call silliness and what I call just plain shtuss. Pardon me now because I have to go out and buy some more frames--I'm in a picture hanging mood and the men and women of my family are going to find themselves up on yet another wall.


efrex said...

Not to beat this point further, but you really have been out of the loop. Women have been written out of the public sphere in certain parts of the charedi world for several years now. Pick up a copy of certain charedi publications and you won't even see women's NAMES written ("Rabbi Yankel Shapiro's wife, Rebbetzin Yankel Shapiro... " and the like). A recent postcard that I saw raising money for a widow of a chasid showed a picture of his younger children with the 3-year-old girl's face deliberately blurred (naturally, the older girls and the widow herself were completely eliminated from the picture).

As one of my personal heros noted in a recent shiur: soon, our extremists will be censoring the Tanach to get the women's names out from there as well...

At the same time, the reality is that your friend has made a choice: Being accepted by his community is worth the discomfort and inconvenience. Obviously, he finds enough positives in that sphere (or has enough invested in it) to maintain his membership.

ProfK said...

Obviously wasn't clear from what I wrote but our friend was being sarcastic in his comment. He lives in our area and looks at Brooklyn as a foreign country with truly strange customs and observances, despite having been raised there many many years ago.

He also once made the comment that he now fully believes that there are little green creatures in outer space that regularly come to earth. They obviously abducted all the real inhabitants of Brooklyn and replaced them with the robots now there.

Anonymous said...

Methinks the lady doth protest to much. I'm not sure which part of Brooklyn he's from, but in my parts, as well as in Lakewood, family pictures of the whole family are proudly displayed. It feels like almost every house has a wall /area with wedding pictures of each of their married couples (that's the chosson and the kallah)

Lakewood Falling Down said...

Stupidity like this is what unfortunately is promlugated as "frum". My friends wife wrote an article about this in the Flatbush Jewish Journal last week. However, just for kicks, maybe you shouldmake separate walls for men & womens pictures somewhere in your home and tell people it's a chumrah, and see how many people believe it. Alternatively, you could take random pictures of Jewish singles and put them facing each other. Any couple that ends up married can be used as poster people for using cosmic carma to end the shidduch crisis. Of course you would be labeled a rasha, but why would that bother anyone in this day and age?

efrex said...

In my last post, strike out "your friend" and replace with "your friend's wife's relative." (*mumblemumble* getting older and reading retention obviously ain't what it used to be).

Allan said...

I confess I don't understand how any of this can be considered as being frum. Somewhere in the far future--although I hope not too far future--our seichel gene is going to start working again. Maybe then actual halacha will once again replace chumrahs based on who knows what.

Abba said...

you're lucky you have all those photos from europe. (i've hoarded most of my grandparents old photos, much to the chagrin of my aunt. they are among my prized possessions.)

i've never heard of taking down pictures for the reason stated, although i did know about the ban on publishing pictures (and even names) of women. this is actually one chumra i can get behind. i'm not a fan of displaying portraits and family pictures in general, and i really hate wasting a morning at sears. although i guess now i might have to waste even more time at sears if we need to take separate pictures.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I hope this is post is Purim shtick. I can't imagine why someone would not show pictures of their family in their own home. If it is for the benefit of guests, do they also hide the women and girls in their rooms? Come on!

ProfK said...

As to hiding the women and girls in their rooms, there are indeed places in the NYC area where, if there are strangers/non-family members in the house, the men and the women eat separately, not at the same table, and not necessarily in the same room.