Wednesday, January 29, 2020

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Regarding Sarah Abenaim’s “Another Modest Proposal (June 6, 2019): Thank you for your response. We think you’ve hit the nail on the head and highlighted a question that many have been grappling with: Shouldn’t we just live and let live? Why are so many women and men upset about others’ choice to leave women out of pictures? Why are they bothering to fight this new phenomenon?

Not only have you highlighted the question, but we believe you have also highlighted at least part of the answer. You wrote: ”The modest proposal should be that we should embrace all of klal Yisrael for whatever their beliefs are, so long as they are not damaging to us.”

That’s the rub. The question of women in pictures goes beyond simply “not resonating with us.” This new policy is not neutral, and its effects are not limited to those who choose to hold by it. It is causing significant damage to many: loss of parnasa; loss of history; loss of role models; loss of what we believe true “modesty” means. We could go on and on and on.

Of course, we would certainly do our best to accommodate a guest who paskens differently about chalav Yisrael, for instance, or respect a particular community’s more stringent dress code when visiting there.

In fact, we embrace all our fellow Jews and respect their rights to their opinions even if they differ vastly from ours.

But when another’s opinions or practice comes and removes us without our consent, causes harm to us and our children, and distorts our Torah, we feel it is absolutely our responsibility to speak out. Everyone, no matter how respectful of others’ differing opinions, has their lines that may not be crossed.

We believe refusing to print pictures of women and girls has crossed that line.

We wonder: Instead of erasing women’s photos so they will not perchance be seen in a magazine, what if the new practice were that all women should wear burkas whenever they left their homes so they will not perchance be seen at the grocery store? Would you still feel so tolerant? Would you go so far as to try out the latest burka fashions out of respect to those who believe their service of God demands this of you? Or perhaps you, too, would say: stop. This is a distortion of Torah. This is not for us.

Sarah Rudolph and Ann Koffsky