Letter: Preserving Tznius in Our Communities

Attention my fellow Lakewood area neighbors.

As I spent Shavuos in a neighboring town, I was disheartened to witness a breach of tznius that left me concerned for the erosion of our values.

In a community that prides itself on higher standards, I was quite startled to see men and women (who I know were not related) addressing each other by their first names, a familiarity that blurs the lines of tznius.

In an era where informality and familiarity are increasingly prevalent, we must hold fast to our standards. Using first names may seem innocuous, but it chips away at the barriers that maintain healthy boundaries between men and women. It’s a slippery slope that can Ch”v lead to much worse, as seen time and time again.

We owe it to ourselves and our children to uphold the standards of tznius, even in the face of an increasingly permissive world R”L.

A former Flatbush resident (already a Zeide) who moved to the area for a higher standard of living.

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78 COMMENTS

    • the letter write is correct

      most comments here are from leitzanim=mitztaref l”aveira

      the halacha not to call women by their first name is well known and documented, for those who care to find out

      People who are chagrined at a breach in a standerd they are accustomed to / expect, are doing the right thing,
      even if it WERE true that what they are proposing is a chumrah (it isnt here) The fact that its being ridiculed shows a nerve has been hit, great hallmark of yetzer at work.

      Each one of you who responded derisively is an accomplice to those who transgress.

      Stop the ridicule of people with holy sensitivity!

  1. Although it is commendable of you to try to uphold the level of Tznius, not every community is on the same level and you should not try to push your chumros on other communities. It is the job of their Rov to help raise their level

    • Apparently you didn’t really read the letter.
      Mr letter writer’s point was that he joined the community for the higher standards and found that not everyone is up to the standard.

  2. Maybe go back to Flatbush and instead have your offspring move near you in Flatbush.
    It won’t solve your zneeut issue but it will make you feel better.

  3. I could be snarky and write that using last names is chukas hagoyim. Jews did not even have last names until it was imposed by the diaspora governments in recent centuries. So its hard to characterize not using last names as un-Jewish.

  4. Your standard is not everyone’s standard. If all Jews accepted one another on whatever standard they are, then moshiach would already be here. Our goal if for moshiach to come, not to get others onto our “correct” standard. Let’s unite for this cause.

    • His point is somewhat there.
      He joined a community for their higher standards and found them lacking.
      He is pointing out an area where he sees a need for improvement (much like you are pointing at something you’d like to see improved).
      He isn’t not accepting them, he found a forum where he believes he can provide gentle reproach. I happen to think that this isn’t the correct forum, but that is neither here nor there.

  5. I hate to say this but perhaps sending letters to TLS about tznius issues is not the best idea. The comment section will blow up with people that don’t have a sensitivity to gidrei tznius and make light of such a serious problem. It hurts me to see comments that degrade and trash people who have a desire to improve their yiraas shomayim. It is a problem but sending a letter to TLS, no matter how eloquently you state your case, is only going to bring out the the negative comments that will have people outside our community reading the comments and being left with a terrible impression of us.
    To them I say, the people that are looking to grow and improve are generally not commenting on TLS.
    The comments you read are not an accurate portrayal of the Lakewood that you look up to.

    • you are 100 percent correct. im not from LW but when i see the comments i assume they are all from LW. the scary thing is as a long LTS follower i can recall that this was posted once before as well in regards more to offices and business and using first names. the chilling thing was then how 90 percent of the comment agreed that it was an issue and its a dangerous precedent. look at the comments now….what happened to LW??

  6. Thank you for writing this letter.
    Im taking the time to write this because after seeing the responses it pained me.
    Im a product of those who felt as the commentators indicate- “chill! its just a name”
    well- its not just a name. My husband is the boss of a successful business in Lakewood were they used first names as a way to make the work environment relaxed. Its been 15 years. Years of watching the slippery slop. It doesnt stop at just the name. By referring to the opposite gender in a friendly first name basis, not overnight but standards slip. Slowly but surely. Just last night I was holding my husbands phone and a text comes in from a female worker and the only question was how it get to that….
    And he’s a ben torah.
    You have questions – what’s appropriate or what’s extreme ASK.
    There are many, many Rabbanim out there who are not “extreme”. Who understand the situations in work and home life and will guide you.
    You think your hurting yourself to be extreme and have boundaries.
    Just ask me, Ill tell you what hurts more.

  7. If an individual or a community chooses to avoid first names as a fence that is fine.
    But to present, as a given, that using first names is a “breach of tznius” is without basis and highly judgemental.
    And to attribute breaches in tznius in an office to the use of first names is total conjecture. But it’s much easier than questioning whether our chinuch is failing.

  8. A kochleffel….

    You sound like a temimusdig person.

    Maybe familiarize yourself outside your box. I’m sure you’ll rethink your post.

  9. this issue was adressed to harav HaGaon Harav Nachman Bulman Ztl many years ago in eretz yisroel, and he responded that it is correct to be makpid on it but it wont fly in america

    • America of ”many years ago” is a completely different place than it is today. We have grown in many ways. Go around Lakewood and see all the offices that try valiantly to uphold standards of Tznius, and this standard in particular.
      I believe that Rabbi Bulman Zt’l would not have said that when referring to Lakewood of 2024.
      As an aside, This is why it is important to have a Moreh Derech who can guide one in the present day, and not to rely on decades old advice. Facts on the ground sometimes call for a change in Hadracha.

  10. Thank you to the letter writer, you are 100% correct.
    However please be comforted that this doesn’t happen everywhere! Definitely not in my neighborhood. Hopefully what you heard was just a select few people (who were possibly related) and not the norm.

  11. Seeing most of the comments, the issue is much more serious than what you describe, the slope has black ice on it already.
    I visit certain non-Jewish companies in the Lakewood surrounding area as a consultant. The other day an Indian Manager asks How I spend my Shabbos. Then he says you don’t know how to spend shabbos, I see these Jewish fellas that mover here recently, they take their bottles of schnapps and start in one house, then they go to the next one to party, etc.

    He comments that their outside dress is of being very religious, but I see what is really going on, they aren’t realy religious at all, sorry to say.

  12. I am shocked by all the comments coming from people within a Torah community, these are sensible Gedarim that any sensible truthful person will agree is a healthy habit.

  13. Tznius is a way of life for a Yid. The way he dresses, how he eats, how he relates to the oppsite gender, his avoidance of nivul peh, how he presents himself to the world (& actually how he drives as well). A good number of frum Jews are unaware of this element of living a Torah lifestyle & fall in the halachic category of Perutzim. This has ramifications in hilchos Yichud. The halachos of Yichud are more strict with a porutz.

    While girls hear a lot about tznius while growing up, boys aren’t taught much about it, & it leads to a laxity once they enter the professional world.

    It’s not a chumra to act with refinement & tznius, it’s the essence of a Yid. Those that are Perutzim were influenced by the secular culture around us & often were never mechunach about how a Yid carries himself.

    In my neighborhood in Lakewood, we are Bnei Torah & men do not address women by first name or vice versa. This is standard behavior by Bnei Torah. Ashreinu Umatov Chelkeinu!

    • “In my neighborhood in Lakewood, we are Bnei Torah” “This is standard behavior by Bnei Torah”
      Perhaps where you live it is but there’s a bigger world out there than your Daled Amos of Lakewood & I can tell you serious Frum Bnei Torah where I’m from have not adopted this “Chumra”
      If it works for you, Great! If you feel you need it, Wonderful!
      But don’t start claiming this is the “Norm” when it’s not.
      “Norm” is short for “Normal” & normal people in normal work environments don’t have issues with calling a co-worker by their 1st name.

  14. I will remind everyone – there is halacha. please show me where in the torah or which Rav paskins the allowance to call the opposite gender on a first name basis. were so quick to go and get a bracha from a gadol how how about see what they say about such aspects of kedusha??

    • And which allows internet and blogging? Not one of you here is addressing this, only totally ignoring, but it won’t go away.

  15. You start by making up your own standards of Tznius and then wonder why everyone doesn’t follow them. We are governed by Torah and Halacha. If you can find for me a single source for this in Tanach, Talmud Bavli or Yerushalmi, Shulchan Aruch please let me know. I am curious why the Torah does not refer to Sarah Imenu or Mrs HaIvri , or Rivka, Rachel or Leah, Tziporah, Miriyam, D’vorah etc etc etc. let’s try not to be “Frumer” if that’s what this is, than the Torah. Distortion works both ways, when we don’t do what the Torah tells us to do or when we think we know better Gidarim than the torah requires. They are both wrong and both are the cause of problems. If you as an individual feel you need this Geder, then by all means use it, but please don’t push your Gedarim on others.

    • the melachim who came to Sarah Imenu spoke to Avraham Avinu so she could overhear the conversation without being addressed directly. There is a clear mesorah. There is also a clear halacha about how to address elders, like the writer of this letter and I wish to apologize to him on behalf of all the commentators here who may have not been aware of the degree of respect and deference we must have for those older than us. Derech Eretz Kedimas Ha Torah doesn’t mean that we should ignore the Torah C”VS to uphold societal norms but rather that without proper dignified behavior bein adom l’chavero is a prerequisite to acceptance of the Torah.

    • Please keep your kefira to yourself. First names are fine, only if you abide by the standards of tznius that the Torah writes explicitly. “Where is Sarah your Rebbitzen?” “Henai BiOhel!” Do you think that the Imahos Hakedoshim would approve of women and girls working in offices with men, or mingling with men by seudos?

      As for the oft quoted “heter” of “Family Friends”, news flash: It doesn’t exist! Explicit in the Shulchan Aruch: ” A man is Required to distance himself from women, Meod Meod!!

      There is a kal vechomer in Avos Perek 1 Mishna 5: “Don’t converse much with the woman. This is regarding your Rebbitzen, kal vechomer your friend’s Rebbitzen!!”

    • It doesn’t say in the Torah that men addressed women by their names. It talks about the women, so it mentions their names so we can know who the Torah is talking about.

  16. Some of these comments AGAINST this letter above are simply shocking and astounding. How such a simple letter filled with so much common sense sets off so many people in Lakewood is truly depressing.
    But when I think about it, why should I be shocked? Looking at the level of gashmiyus and tayva that has permeated our community, it is no wonder that people can’t understand what’s he is talking about just like they can’t understand how they are destroying the chinuch of their children living such a lifestyle let alone themselves….
    All part of the ikvasa demishicha and dark galus that we live in…..May Hashem have rachmunos on all of us.

    • It’s not about Gashmiyus or Taiva. It’s about people being tired of every Kanoi &/or Meshugene coming up with a Chumra & demanding the Oylum adopt it as basic Halacha mainly through guilt (an age old Jewish tradition)?
      The worst phrase in the Frum community is, “Would it kill you?”
      So let me ask you:
      Would it kill you to wait 12 hours between meat & milk?
      Would it kill you to Daven Vasikin everyday?
      Would it kill you to start Shabbos at the earliest possible time every week?
      Would it kill you to lower your standard of living so you can work in a more tsnius environment for much lower pay?
      “The more you stare into the abyss the more it stares back at you”
      Sometimes less is more. Growing up not in Lakewood or NY in a community with a mainstream Yeshiva that insists on “Normalcy” there doesn’t seem to be anymore issues (probably less) there than here. No one is writing letters or comments like this because they’d be embarrassed to do so.

  17. I’ll say the obvious. With higher standards in gashmius has always came along certain things. Idk where you live but I do know it’s not yeshiva area. Bh you are privy to this only but I assure you there’s along more going on that your not part of. Did you forgo any values when chose a location based on materialistic instinct in “central Jersey” or was the higher standard of living you only criteria.
    I don’t want to sound as snarky as I feel. I actually whole heartedly agree with your point. But I think you should point inward rather than outward.
    You went to an area where people are pursuing a lifestyle that you claim you abhor.

  18. I agree with the writer of this letter. It is not only calling the opposite gender by their first names that, it is the immodest clothes that some of the women wear, the short shirts, the very long sheitels etc. Even talking on ones phone in public could be considered a breach of tzinius.

  19. what should i say I personnly dont feel comfertable calling my employees by thier first name.

    and some men in the office call their co worker lady by their first name

    some ladys are uncomftsable with it

    and some love it – unfortanttly its attention from another male!!

    is it an averih probally not – but its a sensitivity that some people are not conftorble with.

    The fact is we can all better the office with levels of modesty.

  20. Everyone’s invited to learn Shulchon Aruch Even Hoezer 21 to understand the seriousness Chazal had when in comes to mingling between men & Women.
    Once you understand the concept, you won’t need specific halachos covering every possible interaction.

    In Kelm which was in Lita, Men & Women walked on opposite sides of the street. I’m sure that in Poland by the Chassidim they were more stringent. The world has changed so much in the last 80 years that we’ve forgotten how even non Jews once acted with modesty.
    This isn’t a chumrah. This is what Hashem expects of us as the Am Hanivchor, an Am Kadosh.

    • All photos pre WWII show men & women on same street, in same market, etc. Where did you get your info? Most of these gender chumras never existed. Let’s not revise history.

      • Pre WW2 Yiddishkeit was a disaster. Go back to that you’re asking for another …. r”l. Look it up in Meshech Chochma or “A Divine Madness” by R’ Avigdor Miller.

        • R’ Miller ? He is refuted by others , he didn’t visit the holy shtelels of Europe personally except for his stay in Slobodka. Do not insult our families from Europe.

        • You’re from American grandparents I gather. Do not insult the holy communities before the war, you know knothing about them. Please do not bring in Rav Miller, do yourself a favor.

  21. Whoever does not understand the OPs concern is living under a rock and being naive. A slippery slope is exactly that, a slippery slope! It starts somewhere….

    • Everything can be a “Slippery Slope” Why not just reach the end & require male employers to only hire men & female employers (why they’re not at home with the Kinderlach is a separate issue) to only hire women? All the problems of names, tsnius dress & socializing are gone with one simple Takanah.

      • No, unfortunately, all Tznius problems would not be gone with such a Takana.

        Tznius is a way of life. Separation of genders is not the answer. Learning how to appropriately interact with those of the opposite gender in a Tznius fashion would go a lot farther to curb the issue.

  22. Stop lecturing and chumra’ing. All of you concerned with 1st name calling, are perusing on line with smartphones and computers, even unwillingly and unwittingly hitting shmutz.
    Work on sinas chinom, work on mentchlechkeit, complain about the feuds in chareidi dynasties that are ripping families apart. Stop your sanctimonious pretensions. Enough. Talk to old time erliche yidden and they’ll tell this never came up. Frum chassunos with mixed seating by rabbonim ( not dancing ). Stop hocking already !

  23. This comments section is sad. This is a basic geder that makes a lot of sense. It is not difficult to call your co-workers with the title Mrs. You don’t call Rebbeim or parents by their first name because it is too familiar. The same logic applies here. The halachos are very clear about the lengths neccessary to keep a familiarity from breeding. People on here clearly think this is a personal attack on themselves.

    • Growing up I was taught about the greatest Halachic decider in America.
      He was called “Reb” a title used by & for anybody & everybody. It does not denote Smicha or any type of Religious authority.
      & His first name “Moshe”
      No fancy titles or honorifics.

      • This applies when talking about a gadol not talking to him directly. The point still stands. You (hopefully) don’t call your parents or rebbeim by their first names.

  24. In my office we refer all as Mr x or Mrs. X Or miss x. And I distinctly recall learning this in Lakewood high school and in seminary that this is how it should be. So there are definitely offices that abide by this.

  25. if that’s the worst thing you saw in Lakewood you should be happy with the amount of women in this town who dress immodest it’s disgusting to think about

  26. Ironic how many tznius people seem to notice long shaytels, length of dresses, this, that, more than the average person. YET, they’re on internet blogs from their homes. Something fishy.

  27. All those who are in disagreement with the OP, or all those who are truly seeking to grow, not merely those who are on here to mock a serious issue, please sign up for Doeihu Daily Halacha. You might be surprised at what you learn regarding appropriate behavior between the genders in the work environment.

  28. I’ve seen Vort & wedding invites from some chadiddish circles and the kallah’s name isn’t mentioned. Is this normal ? Is there where it’s going? We regular Yidden need to draw a strong line in the sand and fight these shtusim .

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