Friday, September 08, 2017

"Measuring" a Twisted and Perverted Cult - Once Known as a "Light Unto Nations"...

Measuring Hair at NJ's Lakewood Girls School Bnos Yaakov.

How Long Should a Schoolgirl's Hair Be? 

Modesty Clampdowns Spark Anger in Haredi Circles!

 A video shared on social media shows teachers measuring students' hair in a New Jersey school, while an Israeli school monitors the parents' wardrobe.

Ultra-Orthodox society is becoming more open in many ways – for instance, by allowing the teaching of non-religious subjects in some schools – but two recent incidents in the United States and Israel show that this trend may have sparked a conservative backlash.

A video clip circulating on social media shows an incident in New Jersey, which piqued a flurry of comments among the local community: Female teachers are shown measuring the hair length of schoolgirls at Lakewood Girls School Bnos Yaakov to be sure the girls meet the strict Haredi standards of modesty (tsnius).

Bnos Yaakov administrators wrote a letter to the girls’ parents, declaring that their hair may not reach more than four inches below their collarbone, with the optimal length being two inches below. The length should be measured with the hair left loose, the school wrote, though naturally while in class, any girl with below shoulder-length locks must tie them up in some fashion. If their hair exceeds the limit, the girls will be forced to have it cut, according to the letter.

The Lakewood school is not associated with conservative sects like Neturei Karta or the Satmar Hasids, but rather belongs to the relatively moderate Lithuanian stream of ultra-Orthodoxy.

The letter and the Youtube clip showing hair being measured have sparked much debate in the Haredi world – and not for the first time: In 2012 the American Jewish community was roiled by the description of hellishly painful punishment meted out to immodest girls, courtesy of Bnos Yaakov.

At present, many people, even those subscribing to the principles of tsnius, have been outraged by the school’s conduct. One anonymous response to the video was, “If the school has an issue with a child’s hair length, it should be taken up privately between the administration and the parents. How DARE this school humiliate these girls in front of their classmates and teachers.”

Other commenters blamed such regulations for causing children to go “OTD” – off the derech, in Haredi parlance – meaning to go astray.

Moms and dads, too

A second recent incident involving modesty occurred in Israel and was reported on the local Haredi website Bhadrei Haredim. The Clal Hasidei Elad girls' school sent a letter to parents demanding that they abide by certain strict policies to ensure modesty in the home.

The mother, the letter said, must be sure the wig covering her hair will not reach the bottom of the nape of her neck. There are even directives for the wig itself: It must be of a certain quality suitable to those of fine Hasidic families and it cannot have any curls. If the mother wants to use makeup, it must be applied with a delicate hand but is forbidden on the eyes.

Mothers must also undertake to eschew nail polish and not wear skirts that are any shorter than halfway up their shins, let alone to wear any tight or gaudy apparel. Nor may they wear anything made of Lycra, or bandanas, in keeping with the precept that “I am careful that not even one single hair on my head shows."

The girls’ fathers, according to Clal Hasidei Elad's administration, must wear suits and hats when leaving the house, and “not touch the beard.”

The parents must declare that they follow these directives in order for their daughters to be enrolled and to remain in the school, but its administrators are not satisfied with a mere statement: A third party must guarantee that the families are indeed adhering to the rules, and must sign a document stating: “I the undersigned guarantee that the ___ family, the signatory, will comply ... and if heaven forfend they do not, I shall make sure to remove their daughter from the school."

Chaim Walder, a religiously observant author and educational consultant in Israel, says he personally can’t understand such policies and wouldn’t send his daughter to a school like that, but stopped short of condemning it in a conversation with Haaretz.

“I haven’t heard about things like this in the past, but the parents who send their children to such a place want the strict rules. Nobody forces them to send their children there. Just as I don’t understand a person who takes jeans, tears them up [before wearing them] and thinks that looks pretty, but I don’t have a problem with it – it’s the same here," Walder said. "In contrast to many liberals, I am also liberal toward people who are not liberal. To each his own.”

Walder does agree, however, that some of the liberal trends surfacing in the Haredi world today may be causing a conservative backlash – and justifiably so, in his view, because of the mounting worry in ultra-Orthodox society about the burgeoning influence of Western culture on life today.

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/features/.premium- 1.810524?v=218828E75AA7E48D8E52AD3BD4E73F80

This Hasidic Educator Teaches Secular Subjects To Boys — Despite Violent Opposition

Menachem Bombach is waiting behind the gate outside his school building on a dusty hilltop: long black coat, short beard, thin-rimmed glasses, the look of a refined yeshiva student, hands folded in front of him. He smiles and says, “Welcome, welcome!”
It’s hard to believe that this gentleman’s home has become the site of frequent demonstrations by religious zealots. His apartment door and lock have been smeared with tar several times; his neighborhood was covered in pashkevilim, posters, denouncing him as a Haredi imposter and calling on him to “return to Tel Aviv.” And when he was recognized upon a visit to his childhood neighborhood Mea Shearim, locals threw bottles and diapers at him, tearing off his yarmulke.
Bombach has faced this sort of protest ever since he first opened his school in Beitar Ilit three years ago — a high school for Hasidic boys that teaches math and science, and offers bagrut matriculation, exams. While this model has always existed in the Haredi Lithuanian community, though on the margins, this school is the first of its kind in the Israeli Hasidic world, and it’s quickly beginning to attract attention from prospective parents.
A Mea Shearim Boy
Beitar Ilit is a colorless metropolis rising out of the Judean Hills, a settlement-city 10 kilometers south of Jerusalem with a rapidly growing population. With rent a fraction of the Jerusalem rate, Beitar Ilit has attracted both Hasidim and Lithuanian Haredim alike, desperate for space to accommodate their growing families. Walk down Rabbi Akiva Street, and watch the perpetual rush of the crowd, fathers in long black coats and black hats, mothers in headscarves and stockings, more strollers than cars, boys with curled side-locks and girls in long pleated skirts.
“It’s a liberal city,” Bombach says.
I laugh.
“Nu, in Haredi terms, liberal,” he says, smiling. “It’s all relative.”
The zealous demonstrators, Bombach explains, are not Beitar Ilit locals. They’re imports — either residents of Beit Shemesh, who originally came from Mea Shearim, or Lithuanian Jerusalemite Haredim, who are affiliated with Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach. Nothing is truly monolithic here.
But he pays the protesters no attention. “They don’t worry me,” he says. “After all, it’s thanks to them that many more people know about me!” He waves his hand, as if to dismiss the shouts echoing in his mind, and smiles calmly. “Anyways, they keep me on my feet, they’re a constant watchdog, they keep me accountable for my actions.”
Despite his innovative thinking, Bombach is no outsider.
Raised in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim, with a Satmar Hasidic father and a mother from a zealous Eda Haharedit family, Bombach did not speak Hebrew — only Yiddish — until he turned 20. After studying in a local heder, he went on to study in the Yeshiva Ktana of Vizhnitz and then at the Lithuanian Mir Yeshiva. When he married at the age of 20, he left yeshiva and eventually turned to education: He moved to Migdal Haemek, where he started as a counselor at a boys yeshiva, and within four years became vice principal. As his children grew, he sought a more Haredi environment for his growing family, so he moved to Beitar Ilit, where he began working in a yeshiva for Russian immigrants. It was here that he began to dream of opening his own boys high school.
Tapped by an administrator at the Mandel Institute’s program for leadership development in the Haredi community, Bombach completed the institute’s leadership training program (of which he is now a senior project director), and then went on to complete a degree in public policy at Hebrew University, where he picked up a fluent English as well.
His dream was to open a school for Hasidic boys that taught secular studies — a radical idea in this insular community. And three years ago, he finally launched it, calling his project “Hamidrasha Hahasidit”: Not a “yeshiva,” but rather a Hasidic “academy.” The curriculum includes the usual schedule of hours spent on Talmud, the Bible, Halacha and Hasidic thought — coupled with a packed schedule of classes in English, mathematics, literature, Hebrew language, computer science and history. Students are prepared to take the bagrut, Israeli matriculation exams required for university entrance — a contentious issue in the community, with many Haredi rabbis virulently opposed to religious youths taking the exam at all.
The school, however, is entirely in line with Haredi societal norms: Teachers are all male, all Haredi or Hasidic. Eventual army service is not discussed, and the school does not recognize Israel Independence Day — though Bombach says the students do pray for fallen Israeli soldiers on Memorial Day.
But this program isn’t just about secular studies, he says. “It’s teaching them to be mensches, productive citizens of society. Not to reject others.”
But how does one teach this, practically?
“Haven’t you seen my website?” he asks me.
You have a website? I am stunned. In a community where the internet and smartphones are purportedly forbidden? What Israeli Haredi yeshiva that wants to be taken seriously has a website?
He gives me an amused look. “Of course I have a website,” he says, and opens a sleek, well-designed page on his desktop.
On a page titled “Life Skills”, a list of icons appears, subjects of seminars taught over the four years: body language, the individual and society, team work, overcoming preconceptions, personal hygiene, relationship with his parents, relating to the state, citizenship, nutritious eating, personal finance, personal boundaries.
Looking at the analytics, Bombach says 600 people enter the site daily to access information on education, parenting and recordings of lectures: “I think it’s becoming a resource for people, even those outside our school.”
But most community members don’t have internet, I counter.
“People ask me for information, and I tell them, go to my site,” he says, simply. “They tell me they don’t have internet access. So I tell them, find a way to get internet. I don’t have time for these games. I’m very upfront.”
When Bombach opened Hamidrasha three years ago, the protests, the angry articles and denouncements, were almost immediate. But so was the demand.
Quietly, inquiries began to pour in. Parents were curious about this experiment.
Bombach takes only 20 students per year; for this incoming fall, he says, there were 80 applicants for the 20 spots available. Half of the students are local, the rest are from all over the country and live in a dormitory nearby. About 60% of the funds come from the state, and the rest from foreign donations.
‘There Is No Alternative’
Just this past week, after an article on Bombach appeared in the Israeli magazine Makor Rishon, the Haredi daily Yated Neeman blasted him as a “spiritual murderer.”
I ask him how it felt to be shamed in what is the most widely read paper in the Haredi Lithuanian community.
“I am blessed to have support from others,” he says. “But in the end of the day, one must accept that one is alone. I am always walking on eggs.”
“Most people tell me I’m making a mistake,” he says. “They tell me that I have to work ‘under the radar’ [to improve my community]. But I say that the radar is very, very high. Even if I work under the radar, people will see me. It’s inevitable. People are just suspicious by nature. But listen, Yated is the past. What I’m doing, this is the future.”
Bombach is deeply concerned about the next generation of his community. Between the ages of 0-14, there are approximately 500,000 Haredi children in Israel today, he estimates.
“If they don’t enter the workforce, we will become a Third World country,” he warns. “And the Haredi world will be the first to suffer for it. It’s hard for Haredim right now to understand how this can be. But there’s no alternative. From here, we will have the future heads of hospital wards, engineers, high-tech companies, scientists in the service of the public. I really believe it. “
“Haredi society is a very good society,” he explains. “There is so much idealism here, it is truly a world of chesed [acts of kindness], a miraculous world. And it is turned to the future, it understands there will be challenges. And we are figuring out how to protect our identity throughout those challenges. You have to understand, I’m not changing the community here. I’m protecting it.”
Read more: http://forward.com/life/faith/381723/hasidic-educator-teaches-secular-studies-to-hasidic-boys/