Letter: A Response

An open response to the letter posted on TLS last week regarding Tznius.

I want you to know that your letter sparked many a conversation over the course of this past week.

While I am sure that there are many who agree with your opinion, and to be honest when I was younger I was much more vocal about the downgrade in the Tznius level in our community; I do believe that your request from the Morah is unjustified.

First, on a practical level, do you take your child shopping anywhere in Lakewood? Do you take them anywhere Chol Hamoed other than the Bais Medrash? And what about what you’re exposed to when you go to these same places? I am not saying that the standards of Tznius don’t need improvement, what I am saying is that the Morah isn’t the policeman on how parents of 3 year olds dress. If you want a playgroup where the wives dress properly, do your due diligence and find a playgroup that caters to your level of Tznius.

See, its people who are likeminded that in many respects have caused tremendous Sinas Chinum right here in Lakewood.

Twenty years ago the Lakewood Cheder stopped taking in parents who wear colored shirts.

Where’s the Issur in colored shirts? And it is a known fact that parents are calling schools demanding that they don’t accept families who don’t meet their standards. Who do they think they are? I cannot tell you how many beautiful families we have in Klal Yisroel that you would consider “non conforming” and therefore not worthy of sharing the same classroom as your child.

We as a society need to be inclusive of other Yiddin, not exclusive. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have standards. That’s why there are school uniforms and codes of conduct at schools. Of course we all want our schools to have a beautiful parent body made up of people who live on our standard of Yidishkeit, and the way to get there is to be inclusive.

There was a question posed to Rabbi Greenwald of Meohr as to why girls are taught about technology and it’s challenges, and not the boys.

The answer notwithstanding, he made a point that 50 years ago all the Yeshivos had one mission, take in every Jewish child and give them a Geshmack and understanding in Yidishkeit, so they will want to lead a life as an Ehrlich yid.

Today we expect everyone to know what is right on their own and all we teach are rules. Don’t do this and don’t do that. If we don’t educate and inculcate in our children the beauty of being the chosen nation, and for that reason alone we must act and dress modestly, no level of finger pointing is going to change it.

Many of the last generation of Rosh Yeshivos started out in public schools, and even my generation, Pirchei would take us to ball games We actually had non Jewish friends, and many of the kids I grew up with were not Shomer Shabbos. As a matter of fact, Camp Kol Torah which was a pipeline for Telshe yeshiva took the boys to the ballpark.

I know that times were different and the street today is much worse, but we are so fortunate that our kids have so many kosher outlet. The yeshiva boys in New York today still take public transportation, and for those that don’t, they’re still exposed to the ads on the streets they travel. And despite this, we have so many choshuve talmidei chachomim and yirei shomayim who grew up in that environment.

I will end with a famous story about the Satmar Rov Zt”l and R’ Leib Maalin ZT’L.

R’ Leib once went to visit the Satmar Rov and he gave him tremendous Kovod. His chasidim asked him after; but he doesn’t have a beard so why did you show him so much kovod? The Satmar Rov answered, that when R’ Leib comes up to shamayim they will ask him, Yid Yid Vu is dayn burd? But when you come up they will ask, Burd burd vu is dayn Yid?

Enough is enough, we must live be’achdus with our fellow Yiddin even if they aren’t on our level. You can lead by example and show how a Yid should dress and behave, but please stop pointing the finger at everyone else.

EB

LAKEWOOD

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41 COMMENTS

  1. I’m not sure why you think wearing white shirts versus colored shirts is comparable with an issur doraysa of Lifnei ivair, which is being transgressed by any woman who does not over her knees or elbows. I don’t think they are intentionally creating a michshol, but it is a michshol nontheless.

    • I wasn’t comparing the two. My point was that there are people who have decided for even silly reasons like colored shirts, not to want their children sharing the same classroom.
      Now the letter writer indicated that there were two issues, one that their kid was exposed and also that they were exposed to people dressed untznius. I don’t think this is an issue for a 3 year old. As far as the men dropping off their children, I am not saying that it isn’t an issue, but just like you have to watch where you look when going in the street or shopping in the stores, same applies here. If you really want you can pick up your child a little early before the mothers arrive and drop off a little late. To be honest, even if the women are properly dressed it should be avoided if possible, if that’s the level you’re on.

      • Maybe the goal was that more people in Lakewood will wear start to wear white shirts?
        I’m living here a few years and it seems that colored shirts are fairly scarce. I wonder if the goal was for Lakewood as a whole to remain more yeshivish. It’s not a bad thing to be yeshivish.

    • It is not lifnei ovair. This is a common misconception. People think that the reason a women needs to dress modestly is so that men don’t fall prey to their evil inclination. It is quite silly when you think about it.

      Every man sees many goyim daily that dress worse, so why would this lady specifically cause an issue? Is every Jewish lady so exceptionally beautiful that it will turn on men more than goyim? You should surely hope that men should be able to handle an exposed elbow! (In rare cases it definitely can be a michshol but in most cases it is missing the point.)

      The reason why women need to dress modestly is because humans crave attention. Men and women have different ways of getting that much desired attention. Men may drive a fancy car or the like, and women like to show off their beauty. Therefore to curtail this desire, the Torah instructs men to not buy too fancy clothes/cars/houses etc. (This is codified in Halacha), and women to dress inconspicuously.

      Therefore if the tznius standards need to change, it needs to change from the inside. It needs to change by explaining to our children why we need to be modest and not crave attention. And the reason for that is בהצנע לכת אם ה. Which means we walk in this world privately with Hashem. You live with Him on your mind, and He looks after you. You simply do not need anyone else’s approval. If He approves of you and your actions, what do you need anyone else’s approval for?!

    • Please check with a competent halachic authority before asserting that anyone doesn’t cover their elbows and knees in public is actually oveir a doraysah. A halachah or minhag, yes (and certainly not a small thing at all) but a Doraysah requires more clarity.

  2. This is such a difficult subject because there is truth on both sides and is therefore a question of to what degree? I will tell you that even I as “yeshivish” person – inside and in dress, find myself excluded at times because I didn’t learn in the “right” yeshivos – brisk etc.

  3. As someone who may not be as conforming as others, I find these tznius issues to be very obnoxious. Where does it say that my kid has to be a carbon copy of me? Maybe I want my kids to have a better education and enjoyment in yiddishkeit than I do? Who are you to decide what level of education my kid can or cannot have because you don’t like the way I’m dressed?

    • Where does it say??
      Doesn’t say anywhere.
      But why can’t you understand that while I’m not judging you or the way you dress and live, I might not want my child exposed to you and your way of life. If your kids are in same class as mine then perhaps they will become friends. Perhaps they will want to go to your house where you have TV or kashrus standards which don’t work for me. Perhaps your daughter will dress like her mother and that will in turn have an affect on my child.

      Where does it say you have to send your kid to a school where the parent body is vastly different than the way you’re conducting your life?

      • The problem is that trying to prevent any/all exposure to others will come at the expense of another child. Like it or not, our schools have all types. We are not talking about having yeshivish, modern, conservative and reform families! we are talking about ehrliche yidden who may dress a bit different or struggle with technology. They are still B’nei Torah.

        You have to be careful; your demand for chumradik standards which are unrealistic for most people pressures the schools not to take certain children. Be careful.

  4. @EB, very well said. Hopefully the original writer, and like minded people will read and truly understand the many valid points you covered.

    My children are each on a different madreiga in their mitzvah observance. And I love them all. Just as our ‘Tatte’ loves all of us Yidden wherever we’re holding.
    The biggest mitzvah is to follow in Hashem’s ways.

  5. Why is it so hard to understand that people want to have their husbands be able to drop their kids off by playgroup , without exposing them to peritzus . No-one is judging anyone – all I saw was a request to please dress appropriately when dropping your kids off at playgroup- which many people assume ( I would think rightly so) to be a safe enviornment. Im also assuming that this Mother did her due diligence and as a general rule the crowd did fit with the standards she wanted for her kids.

  6. I grew up in a very frum family with no technology etc and i can say it severely backfired whereas my friends who came from well balanced homes did much better.
    Stop judging on externals it’s a sickness.

  7. One of the dumber letters I’ve seen in a while.
    One line in particular, “we all want our schools… parent body… who live on our standard of Yiddeshkeit and the way get there is to be more inclusive”.
    Huh?
    You can argue that we should be more inclusive and have people with different standards or you can argue that we should be exclusive and have all parents with same standards, but you can’t be “more inclusive” and still have “OUR standard of Yiddeshkeit”.

  8. Reb Dovid

    Chinuch begins at home. Schools are not there to replace the roles of the parents. All of today’s older rosh yeshivos (i mean 50 and older) have shared classrooms with boys from all stripes.
    When I went to Philly yeshiva the policy was to accept the local boys who wanted to enroll in the yeshiva. There were boys who wore srugies, and many of them came from backgrounds “you” would look down upon. Some of those boys are Maggidei shiurim in popular yeshivos today. Maybe your child will be lucky enough to have one of them. Not only did they evolve, but they took their families and sometimes their communities along with them on their way up.
    Also noteworthy is the fact that the Rosh Yeshivos own children went to the same schools, and even though they were a few amongst many are now leaders.
    If you want to have an impact on the community at large and raise the standards, you have to be inclusive.

    Last but certainly not least, exclusion only causes machlokes. Look at what is going on in our community on a yearly basis. Look how many kids feel left out of yidishkeit. It doesn’t matter what type of family you come from, there are korbonos everywhere.

    I hope that we can come together one day, so moshiach can finally come and we can be oleh regel together. Or maybe you will choose to stay home.

  9. Nevermind what the 3 yr old is exposed to, there is a responsibility though for the father’s that are dropping off and what they’re exposed to. If I register in a group of nice frum families, my husband shouldn’t have to see you undressed for the gym on a daily basis. Realize you’re in public and the way you dress matters!

  10. This is a question for Daas Torah, whether it is OK to expose our kids to other lifestyles, is today the same as 40 years ago when all types schooled together, are other lifestyles worse that it used to be since there is internet exposure involved today, today there are more choices of schools should we pick a school that has only our standard, etc. These are questions for your Rav or Daas Torah, not to be pecked at on a public forum from whatever we think.

  11. Comparing Morah to a grocery or public transportation is not a equal comparison. School should be a safe place, physically and spiritually. Just like schools have kashrus standards, you can’t send cholov stam in even if you eat it at home, you can’t show up half naked even if you would go that way in the train.

  12. Nice letter but 2 points
    1. You can’t compare blue shirts to pritzus. I see a mother every day dropping off in an “dress” that is more like a long shirt as it hardly covers the thighs, and sleeves that hardly cover the shoulder.
    2. you can’t compare Morah to what you see in a store or on the street. Morah is not the street, it is a place of chinuch where values are supposed to be instilled.

  13. This letter is beautifully balanced. Kol Hakovod.
    But I must say that some of the comments here are not very tzniyusdik. We can talk about tzniyus standards in general, but comments that are specific about how a woman dresses, are not tzniyusdik.

  14. The cheder doesn’t allow kids of fathers that wear colored shirts? I don’t think that’s true… I know people that send there that wear colored shirts.

  15. 100%. It’s balance and acceptance. Explaining to your children that people can have different standards and that doesn’t make them “bad”. It’s understanding that there might be some things that one takes as “halacha” that really might have more than your interpretation.

  16. You are lumping together 2 different sets of people – people that grew up on a lower level of “Frumness” and people who are looking to throw away the “Frumness” they grew up with. Yes, we can be accepting of people that are happy and possibly looking to grow in Yiddishkeit. But do we need to really tolerate and accept families that are looking to downgrade their Yiddishkeit? I think the expectations that these families have who are looking to downgrade their Yiddishkeit – how dare they not accept my kid why can’t I come dressed unrefined etc. You don’t want to be part of the frum society you are looking to downgrade – We don’t have a right to tell you our school is not looking for people who aren’t that interested in Yiddishkeit? (TLS mentioning a school and their rules I’m not sure that Maybe Loshon Hara..)

  17. I love these comments. E/o thinks that the only thing in Juadiasm is Tznius. How about Bain Odom L’chavairo?
    How many of you posters keep all the Driving Laws?
    Ex. – Never ever went over the Speed Limit?!?
    Oh I know, you know better than the government what is Safe!

  18. Thanks for the great letter.
    The older generation sees the bigger picture. The more accurate view.
    Bottom line. Machlokes is fueled by “gaavah, gaavah, gaavah”…
    We need the Geulah. May we be zocheh bekarov.

  19. ******************************************
    I think the key here is that the original letter referenced standards and expectations of parents that were communicated on admission that were not being adhered to. Let’s focus on that!
    ******************************************
    I can point to experience in various schools where parents are shocked to see that in practice, many parents are not adhering to the contracts of conduct they signed to get admitted to the schools. Not only out of school, but even openly at parent teacher conferences!

    Whether it’s technology policies (internet, smart phones, entertainment, etc.) or standards of dress, there is often a blatant disregard for the rules. The menahels and principals can’t really do anything about it unless they want to throw families out of the schools. Even the chassidishe schools have a problem with kids having their own phones, but it’s not out in the open.

    How can we blame the “closed schools” for turning people away on the basis of colored shirts? What else can they do when parents are so desperate and often dishonest?

    BUT it’s simply impossible for the more conservative families to get into the appropriate schools, so suggesting that the mother takes her child elsewhere is not a practical solution.

  20. Go to Israel, the amount of “untznius” Jews will shock you. Be grateful you live in a city where majority present themselves to your standards

    • Watch out for dibas haaretz.
      Compare apples with apples. The chareidi standards, the standards of Torah and kedusha, are actually higher in Eretz Yisrael. As they should be.

  21. wow. such a crisis. It would be good to have a shiur on shmiras anyim. The frumius, however, would tell you that you cant since it is not tznuisdik to talk about such things

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