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Friday, October 26, 2007


Tear down that wall!

All the usual bloggers have already cited and commented on this story: The Beis Yaakov school of Emanuel has separate classes for Sephardi girls and Ashkenazi girls, and there's a curtain dividing the schoolyard in half - one side for the 'darker' girls, and one for the lighter ones.

Now, I know the media are all anti-charedi. And I'm sure there's some bias to the story. But they have footage of the schoolyard. They have girls who speak on the record. They also have a member of the school's PTA, who looks for all the world like a very religious Jew, speaking on the record. He's even very polite about it. He says, "This is definitely not an educational [decision]. And it might be something worse."

So I, for one, am convinced that there's something rotten in Emanuel. And it is abhorrent and unconscionable. As Rabbi Horowitz is wont to say, "They don't represent me."

The school claims the separation is based on the spiritual levels of the two groups. Almost like the way many yeshivos have "higher" and "lower" shiurim. But a mechitza? Who are you kidding?

In Monsey, mechitzos are all the rage. We have them in shuls, on buses, in wedding halls, at kiddush, at vorts and sheva brachos, at restaurants, you name it. We've also discovered that at certain events, especially shabbos programs where families of different observance levels come together, there are 'mixed' tables where several couples eat together, 'separate' tables where individual families eat without socializing with others, then mechitzos for families that will eat 'together' but won't eat with 'others' in the main dining room, mechitzos for families that won't eat together, period, and mechitzos for single men and single women who won't eat at separate tables in the main dining room. It makes one's head spin, but the organizers do everything they can to make sure everyone's comfortable.

I am against these, naturally. But I think that even if one accepts that we need to separate the genders ALL the time, the case of Emanuel would be seen as mugzam - too much - over the top. Do we need to separate the white girls from the dark girls? When they're both in the same school? With an opaque curtain? Even on the playground?!

I believe, firmly, that this is where the excessive emphasis on separation leads. And if someone doesn't take a stand and say, "ad kan," it's not going to stop.

Several blogs have extended discussions about how some RW Jewish authorities maintain that Muslims have so much success and power (relative to us) because they're so careful about modesty. This is where we're headed, people. Why put up a bunch of mechitzos when we can just drape every woman and girl with a sheet?

Sigh. We need moshiach. That's the bottom line. We need normalcy and tolerance to reign in our communities. I don't think anything short of a direct revelation from G0d Himself is going to change anything. And even then, it won't be a fait accompli. In the meantime, however, all we can do is daven and set a personal example. Good Shabbos.

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