Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rabbi Pruzansky's Blog Post Told in Memes

I have not been as vocal as I should have been about the conversion/exploitation of women balagan lately. I can blame starting my own law firm, and that's part of it, but it's all so complex, and I didn't know what I could add to the conversation. A fire has finally been lit under me, but I'm traveling, so I hope to publish something longer soon. In the meantime, my phone can provide a short post that sums up the most-shared article I've seen on these issues: a blog post by Rabbi Pruzansky announcing why he's stepping down from heading the Bergen County, NJ, conversion program:

I'd make that a pretty link, but my phone and I are having technological difficulties. 

Let me sum up that blog post for you: 

And then the overwhelming public reaction: 

I'll highlight some of the issues without going too in-depth right now:

Sexism: Don't worry your pretty little head, girls, we rabbis know best. If you feel that you were exploited, manipulated, or sexually harassed and you don't live in DC, then you're probably just over-sensitive or whiney and wanting a quickie conversion. Tough luck, honey.

More sexism: even talking publicly to women about these issues is a good enough reason to drop your mic and walk off the stage. Sure, oppose women as "quasi-rabbinical figures," but sitting on a committee that will make recommendations (no guarantee the RCA will actually accept those recommendations) is too much. We can't let women tell rabbis what to do, no way no how, even when they're just making non-binding recommendations.

Women can't change conversion halacha: besides the fact that many of the examples the rabbi shares about conversion are not halacha (one year minimum process, for example), he totally misses the fact that this committee will have almost nothing (if anything) to do with halacha. It's about derech eretz. But derech eretz is self-evident, just like abusive behavior, right? If that were true, someone forgot to tell newlyweds. Men and women generally have trouble communicating even in the best of circumstances, much less in such an unequal power dynamic as orthodox conversion. 

Total disregard for conversion candidate emotions: the Mikvah isn't what makes this rabbi uncomfortable, it's the hatafat dam brit (circumcision part of conversion). You know what's wrong there? He only mentions HIS reaction to it, not how the person feels. That's hella disconnected from the reality of conversion candidates. 

Nationality analogy: sure, America makes you live here for five years before letting you become a citizen. Did you know that during those five years, you can't work, send your kids to school, or date? Oh wait, they don't. Your life is not on hold according to the whim of one human being with no oversight. (I used to think there is oversight, but now I know better.)

Hm, that turned out a lot longer than expected. My thumbs hurt.


  1. Great post Skylar. Definitely incorporated less profanity than my reaction to this horrible guy.

  2. It's becoming ever clearer that there is not, and never was, oversight.