Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Question

It's wedding season! Whether you're happy or bitter about yet another wedding invitation, at least you get to enjoy some great food and hopefully have a good time!

Frum weddings are fun. My family (totally unconnected to orthodox Judaism) still swears that my wedding was the most fun wedding on the face of the earth, but little do they know that it was fairly "normal" in these circles. Frum weddings have such a spirit, a ruach, that no other event has, in my experience. Of course, you can have a bad time at a wedding, but it's rarely related to the wedding itself (if you're being honest).

And the bedeken. Can you beat the beauty and sweetness of a bedeken? C'mon now.

What a good topic to talk about, right? Well, one of the admins at BeyondBT managed to ask the question in such a way that it makes me gag. Yes, physically gag. 
Frum weddings are amazing. The energy, the joy, the dancing, the camaraderie, the segregation.
What do you like about Frum Weddings?

The segregation? Really now? Of all the great parts of a frum wedding, and that's one aspect worthy to point out as a highlight?

Is the rest of frum society not gender-segregated enough for you that you need to celebrate when it's done at a wedding? Even when not "imposed," gender segregation happens naturally of its own accord in most circles. 

And what is so wonderful about segregation? I don't get it. There is a time and place when it's better to hang out with your own gender, but since when is that time 24/7? Why should we ignore half the human population as much as possible? In my opinion, this push for segregation (since when has that word ever had a positive connotation?) is one of the most disturbing trends in the frum community. It's dangerous, and it leads to a fetishization of the other gender (especially women) that leads to all the non-tznius thoughts/reactions this is supposed to prevent. I think this is a dangerous trend that is harming our children. Unfortunately, others disagree with me.

But remember: segregated seating is NOT halachically required at a wedding. It's not. At all. Yet we have wedding halls who acknowledge this, but say they "can't" allow it because their kashrut teudat would be pulled. Yes, kashrut. Because failing to segregate your diners while they eat shows a laxity with kashrut in the kitchen. After all, they might brush elbows. Or talk to each other.

Teudat threats have happened for years with mixed dancing/not having a mechitza during dancing, but at least there's some basis for it, though it is disputed.

I don't know whether the author is male or female, and I wonder whether that makes a difference. Do you think it would mean something different coming from one gender rather than the other? Considering the "party line" of gender segregation, I don't feel that there would be a difference.

Would you like some Kool Aid? I just made a fresh batch.



  1. I understand where its coming from to an extent. The Rabbis who gave the heksher cannot be associated with avairahs in any way, including mixed dancing. Not just because they don't approve in the break from halacha, but from a business perspective. It hurts their reputation, and they're libel to lose the business of the more religious folk. As for the mechitza thing, that's again, a business decision for the rabbi just as much as the hall, and it does make it more difficult for innapropriate or seemingly innapropriate behavior to occur, thus protecting their reputations.

  2. When I first read the question, I just assumed from the word "segregation" that it was being asked sarcastically. "Separate dancing" would've been a reasonable thing to list, since that is one of the things which distinguishes frum weddings from non-frum weddings.

    But "segregation"? I agree - using that term in a non-negative light, let alone as something "amazing" (!), is pretty disturbing.

  3. I thought he was being sarcastic about the segregation.

    As a gal who grew up with separate-seating weddings (segregation sounds a little Jim Crow), an whose parents and grandparents attended such weddings, I don't find it offensive.

    I have noticed in many cases that when men and women sit together, conversation can be stilted. There are limits as to what topics are of interest to both genders. When women sit together, and men sit separately, the chatter flies back and forth without the restrictive presence of spouses. After all, one spends an entire life with a husband; the women that I sit with appreciate the freedom of having a "girls night out" and attend a wedding the same time. It's more relaxing, more enjoyable. One doesn't have to sit so straight.

    You have to understand that this is a mentality that I grew up with. While of course separate seating is not an halachic requirement (I have attended both types of weddings) I always find female dinner companions to be more fun than male ones.

    Just observe at the next wedding.

  4. I am the administrator of Beyond BT.

    First of all, thanks for reading Beyond BT. Gerim and BTs have much in common in regard to our growth in Torah.

    I understand that you disagree with the post above, but I don't understand why you had to be so mean in how you wrote it. I felt it was hurtful and uncalled for in it's nasty rhetoric.

    On the issue itself, I live in Kew Gardens Hills which is in Queens NY. It's generally considered a right wing Modern Orthodox community.

    Over the years as the community has grown, many people have become much more comfortable at a separate seating wedding and that has become the norm for most of the community.

    The people in my community know would take great offense at your characterization of them and their Torah values.

    Please consider being a little kinder when you disagree with someone in the future.

    1. I understand your perspective, but I also believe this "development" is a dangerous to the orthodox community and to individual orthodox Jews. I think it must be condemned strongly and regularly. People can choose to sit separately, and individuals may choose to segregate themselves for halachic reasons (takes a very strong person to realize that!), but to have the community enforce it as a "Torah value" is offensive to me.

      As a convert, I am especially offended at how these "values" are presented to BTs and converts as the "only" orthodox Judaism or the "minimum" orthodox Judaism, making people feel forced to choose a community that may not be right for them hashkafically or otherwise. On a related note, I am regularly offended by Beyond BT's tendency to make the same kind of statements, as though "right wing modern orthodoxy" (of which I generally consider myself a part - though the "further right" makes me reconsider this label) is one chareidi monolith. It isn't, and setting it as a "baseline" for orthodoxy is dangerous and disrespectful to those who don't hold the same way. It denigrates other orthodox Jews who are living perfectly halachic lives. There is a severe lack of differing opinions on this site, which is sad considering the great variety of "prior contributors" you list. When I began following the blog many years ago, it felt much different. Today, I feel "less than" when I read many of the posts there. I guess I should really delete it from my reader, but I understand what an important resource you are for the BT community, so I continue reading it for the sake of this blog.

      I did not intend to be hurtful to you individually. I understand why you said it, but I believe this mentality needs to be rooted out as the danger it is. Or at least recognized as being a choice and NOT halacha or even minhag. I believe this kind of behavior can (and should) remove a community from the "modern orthodox" label.

    2. Funnily enough, yet another article is out today about what calling gender segregation a "Torah value" leads to: http://www.haaretz.com/mobile/1.538978. "Ultra-Orthodox protesters shatter bus windows after female passenger refuses to sit in back. Demonstrators in Beit Shemesh block path of bus and smashed its windshield with a hammer, before moving on to two other buses nearby; police detain two." I believe this is where such teachings will lead if we continue this path in the "modern orthodox" world.

      And the Facebook commentary on the article by Dov Bear: "Someone needs to make a video with sweet shweky music proving how it was all the female passenger's fault. How DARE she try to do something an ultra orthodox person didn't like. Such nerve. Such gaavah. Clearly she has major problems with torah true Judaism and the words of our sages. /Menken /Pruzansky"

  5. Separate seating is not an enforced value, just one that more and more right wing Modern Orthodox Jews are choosing. They see it differently than you, and you seem to be open minded enough to accept other people's Torah values. We certainly don't want a monolithic Orthodoxy.

    As for Beyond BT, it's hard to get regular contributors, but if you have something you want to say there, please send us an email.

  6. Thank you, Kochava. And I do not see your tone as "hurtful". If the moderator finds the tone hurtful, I would respectfully suggest that perhaps her sensitivities are too refined for public discourse. There's nothing wrong with being highly sensitive (and taking it further, being easily hurt), but discourse in the public sphere demands the ability to take it and dish it out, within certain limits.
    I am hurt and offended by rioting and windshield smashing. "Sticks and stones", etc.

    1. Did the Administrator from Beyond BT say anything in support of window smashing? He describes himself as living in a right-wing MO community -- are they rioting over something in Queens?

  7. When I was younger, frum weddings weren't "segregated." Only the chuppah (ceremony) and dancing. The drive to have segregation at all times is relatively new.

  8. Another great post, and another example of Jews not only trying to out-Jew their fellow Jews by going above and beyond what is expected, but actually trying to out-Jew Halacha itself. It is a chilul Hashem to represent Judaism as something it is not. It is disgraceful that mashgichim would abuse their authority to push their distorted ways onto others by bullying halls into making something that 1) has nothing to do with kashrut, and 2) has nothing to do with halacha, a requirement for kosher certification.

    When people with authority actually start to rewrite halacha I believe that they have crossed the line between religion (from G-d) and cult (from man). When Judaism is presented in such a distorted way it is not wonder that so may Jews have lost touch with their heritage.

    1. What halachic authority are you relying on, Mike, when you say that these rabbonim are misrepresenting halacha?

    2. Ron, What halacha are these rabanim relying on when they suggest that having a meal with the opposite sex at a wedding is not allowed? What halacha are they relying on when they force others to follow their extra stringent interpretations by holding kosher certification over the heads of hall operators?

  9. I think he (she?) did not mean segregation, but rather separate dancing. Separate dancing is much more fun and relaxing.

  10. Despite the Moderator's caveat that he lives in a RWMO community, notice that he does not claim to be RWMO himself. He is most definitely chareidi. If you read his posts and comments, it's clear that he believes moving to ever-more-restrictive observance is an important part of spiritual growth. So your pushback against increasing non-halachic restrictions is anathema to someone like him.

  11. "he believes moving to ever-more-restrictive observance is an important part of spiritual growth."

    In my personal experience, this attitude actually kills spiritual growth and gradually squeezes all the joy out of Judaism for families and society as a whole.

    1. In my personal experience it gives life to spiritual growth and gradually enhances the joy of Judaism ... etc.

      What families and which society are you referring to -- or is that just a way of referring to yourself and your opinion, too?

      Chana, this is not an argument, just a subjective and conclusory statement you're making.

      But why not make an argument? Do you want to engage intellectually with people who see things differently, or do you just want approval from people who agree with you? Let's see: What restrictions are you referring to that have made Judaism joyless, and compared to what?

    2. Indeed, Ron. You remind me too much of a pro-haredi polemicist who ends one of his formuli with "Therefore, eating non-kosher meat is just as evil as torturing small children to death." Uh, yeah.
      You can chop-logic yourself into positions of complete absurdity, and many people seem to get great satisfaction out of this.
      I am not referring to any specific restrictions, rather to a general approach some have of continuously ratcheting up external strictures under the illusion that this necessarily promotes either individual spiritual growth or the development of a morally evolved or sensitive society.

  12. I think it depends on the person. For someone it can be destructive while for someone else it can be great.

  13. "For someone it can be destructive while for someone else it can be great."

    But that's the problem. When you live your life this way, you personally may benefit, but it creates a dynamic that is often harmful and repellant to the family you try to form. And you lose the ability to accept other attitudes towards observance that may sustain others you love.

  14. Why are you so offended at the word "segregation" in the first place? That's an accurate descriptor.