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This is a guest post by Nechama L.

 

A few weeks ago, a series of signs were posted in Crown Heights, home to one of the largest chassidic (sect of Orthodox Judaism) communities in New York City, urging non-residents passing through to dress modestly.  Supposedly, these signs were addressing people of all genders, but in practice, all subsequent comments on the signs singularly addressed women.  In response, someone assumed by most to be a woman, though the poster could have been of any gender, posted a sign of her own.
"A sign posted in Crown Heights, NYC, responds to previous signs urging visitors to the area to dress modestly.  The sign reads: To the Jews in Crown Heights: maybe if you spent less time worrying about how other people dress, you could spend more time doing things that matter!  Some ideas: give tzeddaka (charity), put on tefillin (ritual observance as part of morning prayers), daven (pray) for Israel, spread kindness and good deeds, love your fellow Jew no matter what!  Let's make the world a better place! #spreadlove"
The sign became the picture of the day on CrownHeights.info, a news site for the Crown Heights Chassidic/Orthodox community.  It was exciting that they posted it, and even more exciting to see it circling around my social media, with multiple “like”s and shares from women friends of mine within the Crown Heights Chabad community. Clearly the poster of this sign was not the only person within the community who felt that the posters of the original signs were over-stepping their bounds in pressuring women passing through the neighborhood to dress a certain way.

Of course, there were also responses to this sign that were less “thrilling.”  As usual, my favorite was the comments below the article.  Needless to say, they are full of wisdom, logic, and deep insight into the workings of religion and humankind, so it would be a shame not to share some of them here.  In Rashi-style commentary, I have appended my own commentary on how to translate these verses for their true meaning.

The Modesty Poster, with Nechama L. commentary

Pasuk (Verse): “Flaunting one’s body and assets regardless of dressing is also not allowed .. Though making oneself look nice and beautiful should be done”

Translation: I have never read Catch-22.

Pasuk: “Its normal when going to a community to respect the community dress code, nobody is being forced to dress a certain way but was asked in a very nice way.”

Translation: No one is forcing you…but there are modesty squads patrolling the neighborhood who will politely threaten you if you don’t.

Pasuk: “As one who can analyse hand writing u can clearly c that this women wrote that out of anger.”

Translation: You can always identify those angry feminists by their bright, pastel-colored fonts

Pasuk: “If you dress like a harlot even all your chesed [kindness / good deeds] is not accepted if you provoke issues on a man for shmirat eynaim [keeping himself from seeing immodestly-clad women, etc.]”

Translation: Invented a new vaccine for HIV?  Sorry, you’re still going to hell.  I caught you wearing shorts.

Pasuk: We don’t want soldiers getting killed help them and dress tznius [modestly],you in America Los Angeles , Miami, dressing like a Bas Melech [daughter of a king] can save tons of lives and you can enjoy many blessings, choose wisely your personal journey is between you and Hashem [God], you like to see your body :dance on the mirror naked but don’t damage others in your vulgarity and provoke lewdness in others appearing on the streets with provocative attire.”

Translation: Your sexiness is magically murdering people across the globe.

Pasuk: “To say tznius in crown heights has fallen would be an understatement.”

Translation: The current state of affairs, in which women in crown heights cover themselves literally from head to toe, is unacceptable.

Pasuk: “lets not forget the very fabric and foundation which has helped us survive throughout the years- tznius. The polar ooposite of tznius is assimilating into society-ultimately assimilation, Gd forbid.”

Translation: If women stopped wearing clothing according to rules from the middle ages that are not found anywhere in the actual bible, we would all become Wikkans.  Immediately.

Pasuk: “LOVE is a buzz-word for ‘get off my back’. Christians also spread love”

Those love-spreading bastards!  How dare people encourage others to treat each other with kindness, compassion, and respect.  Luckily, most Orthodox Jews who I know agree that how women dress is the least of Orthodoxy’s concerns right now, will not literally cause the deaths of Israeli soldiers across the globe, and does not in any way cancel out other righteous acts that a person might do throughout their lifetime.  The unfortunate thing is that there are many who don’t think this way, and sometimes their voices dominate — voices who see “love” as a word that means anything but.  Yet if enough of us speak out, as did the brave person who posted their own sign, and the brave people who shared it, even if just on Facebook, maybe things can start to change.  And maybe both Jews and non-Jews can see past the ugly parts of Judaism on the surface, past the streets covered by modesty signs, to the beautiful parts within.