Monday, January 24, 2005

Rabbi Eliyahu Abergil, head of the rabbinical court in the southern city of Beersheba, bans Jewish women from dressing in red

17 Comments:

At 8:35 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=oddlyEnoughNews&storyID=7410678

Israeli Women Lawmakers See Red Over Rabbi's Ruling
Mon Jan 24, 2005

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Female legislators in Israel have seen red after a leading rabbi compared women who wear the color to prostitutes.

Protesting against a ritual ruling by Rabbi Eliyahu Abergil, head of the rabbinical court in the southern city of Beersheba, banning Jewish women from dressing in red, several woman lawmakers wore the color in parliament Monday.

"It's not up to a rabbi to tell us to whether to wear black or red or any other color," said Erela Golan, a legislator from the Shinui party who organized the protest. "Just because we wear red doesn't mean we are prostitutes."

 
At 8:42 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=oddlyEnoughNews&storyID=7410678

Israeli Women Lawmakers See Red Over Rabbi's Ruling
Mon Jan 24, 2005

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Female legislators in Israel have seen red after a leading rabbi compared women who wear the color to prostitutes.

Protesting against a ritual ruling by Rabbi Eliyahu Abergil, head of the rabbinical court in the southern city of Beersheba, banning Jewish women from dressing in red, several woman lawmakers wore the color in parliament Monday.

"It's not up to a rabbi to tell us to whether to wear black or red or any other color," said Erela Golan, a legislator from the Shinui party who organized the protest. "Just because we wear red doesn't mean we are prostitutes."

 
At 9:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"bans Jewish women" - I think what this really means is "bans Jewish women in his community". He has the freedom of speech to say whatever he wants, and the women in his community have the right to follow him if they want. This is one person's opinion, don't forget that. I don't think he meant this ban to be inclusive on all Jewish women.

 
At 10:15 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>He has the freedom of speech to say whatever he wants,

Yes, quite true.

>I don't think he meant this ban to be inclusive on all
>Jewish women.

I suspect the problem is he did and publicized it in just such a way (can anyone clarify further?).

Remember his group went inside a private shul to liberate Torah scrolls from the hands of women on Simchat Torah.

http://www.kolhaneshama.org.il/english/gensec.asp?secid=9

 
At 4:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there is a din in Shulkhan Arukh forbidding a woman from wearing *all* red or *predominantly* red garments. I don't think this would forbid women from wearing a black skirt with a red blouse or similar combinations. Why not check this out (and check out the rabbi's full ruling) to see if he has gone beyond the din?

Shmarya

 
At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Off topic but worth a look:
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/530902.html

Shmarya

 
At 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fail to see how this falls under the purview of your site. I'm not sure why this rav's ruling needs a whistleblower to right any wrongs. I'm a woman, I wear red, and I really don't see the big issue here.

 
At 5:01 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>a leading rabbi compared women who wear the color to prostitutes

That kind of stupidity deserves a whistleblower.

There have been numerous religious communitities in the past where women had traditions of wearing various colored and bright garments including red.

If someone feels this color is not modest or appropriate for their community, that's fine. But to compare women who wear such colors to prostitutes, that's nonsense.

Is a Yeshiva Bochur who wears a blue shirt to shul to be compared to a gigolo?

 
At 5:42 PM, Blogger yeshivaguy said...

What's the whistleblower's take on this:

http://www.projecttruth.info/truth.html

 
At 5:48 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>What's the whistleblower's take on this:
> http://www.projecttruth.info/truth.html

All confirmed. If you check Illinois legal records, you will find that Aaron Thomas's account is truthfull.

He initially tried to take Danny Shabat to a beis din. Shabat refused to go. Thomas then got permission from the beis din to sue in civil court.

Thomas and his son sued Shabat in civil court. There was a settlement agreement initially with Shabat in which the son would settle his claim (it was hard for him to continue with the lawsuit emotionally due to the abuse suffered) with Shabat and his father would continue with a lawsuit against Shabat.

At the same time, Shabat moved with his own proceedings at a local beis din to put Thomas in cherem despite the fact another beis din had already given Thomas the right to sue him.

Thomas's son seeing the treatment of his father rescinded his settlement agreement with Shabat in disgust, not taking the money, but did not re-start litigation.

Thomas sued for what Shabat and the corrupt beis din had done to
him.

Ultimately, the court ruled that it was our religious right to have unaccountable corrupt beis dins.

That the Rabbi Feurst Beis din could put someone in these circumstances in cherem just shows how uterly corrupt it is.

 
At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see how stupidity ever needs a whistleblower. I feel your blog is performing an important service, but I hope to see less of these posts about stupidity (your term - not mine). Rabbanim have been issuing these types of proclamations since time immemorial. Those who choose to pay heed do so, most do not. I remember being told throughout my jewish school career not to wear red. Not a big deal.

 
At 6:47 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>Rabbanim have been issuing these types of proclamations
>since time immemorial. Those who choose to pay heed do
>so, most do not. I remember being told throughout my
>jewish school career not to wear red. Not a big deal.

I agree to a point, the point at which they decide to make such idiotic proclamations public and to a more general and inappropriate audience.

That appears to have been what happened here.

If people/groups want to hold certain beliefs as to modesty and appropriate attire, that's fine. Some elements I may agree with, some I may not. There are people who have mesorahs that women do not wear red or bright colors due to modesty, that's fine too. But there are other mesorahs as well.

Clearly, when a woman wears red, that does not make her a prostitute.

 
At 7:45 PM, Blogger yeshivaguy said...

"If you check Illinois legal records, you will find that Aaron Thomas's account is truthfull."

I poked around a bit, but found only his suit against the beis din. Do you have any other link?

 
At 8:44 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>"If you check Illinois legal records, you will find that Aaron
>Thomas's account is truthfull."
>
>I poked around a bit, but found only his suit against the beis
>din. Do you have any other link?

I do, I just don't want to post links to filings that give his son's name.

 
At 1:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Queens cemetery case settled.

Here's the url:

http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/531757.html

Shmarya

 
At 5:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think wearing red is a sign of גאוה for someone of either gender. Sorry, but I can't remember where I saw that.

 
At 6:44 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Shira Schmidt has an opinion piece claiming Maariv got it all wrong (see 2 below). I wouldn't take Shira Schmidt's story too seriously or take it as the definitive take on this situation. Basically, she interviewed Rabbi Abergil, took him at his word and that's it. That's why it's an opinion piece NOT a news story. Until I see Maariv retract or a reporter fired over the story, I give more credence to the original story. My reasons? 1) If Shira Schmidt's could show that parts of the original maariv story were false it would be a huge story. 2) Rabbi Abergil is skilled at "the spin".

Read the following story and then tell me Rabbi Abergil is a credible and believable person.

1)
Israeli Temple Dispute Stirs Judaism Debate;Reform, Ultraorthodox Rift Rekindled
by Glenn Frankel
Washington Post Foreign Service
October 27, 1986
The Washington Post

A group of ultraorthodox Jews led by a senior rabbi allegedly invaded a prayer service of Reform Jews here over the weekend, tried to seize sacred Torah scrolls and assaulted the Reform rabbi when he intervened. The incident has rekindled the bitter debate here over whose Judaism is valid and permissible in Israel.

According to the Reform rabbi, the Orthodox rabbi screamed and cursed and accused him of running a house of prostitution because men and women were dancing together with two Torah scrolls at the service, held to celebrate Simhat Torah, the joyful festival day that climaxes the autumn holiday of Sukkot. Two of the Orthodox rabbi's followers grabbed the scrolls but were prevented from leaving the worship hall. The Reform rabbi, American-born Levi Weiman-Kelman, said he grabbed one of the men, who kicked him in the groin after screaming, "I'm going to kill you."

The man let go of the scroll and fled the hall. The Orthodox rabbi yelled, "Go back to America, we don't want you here," said Weiman-Kelman in an interview.

The incident, which took place Friday night in Baka, a middle-class neighborhood where until now Orthodox and secular Jews have mixed easily, was the first time in memory that a Jewish service has been disrupted in Israel. For many, the irony is that the disruption was carried out not by antisemitic intruders but by fellow Jews.

The criticism continued today when Israel's chief Sephardic rabbi, Mordechai Eliahu, told an Israeli radio interviewer that, while he disapproved of violence, "at the same time, I demand of all of the people of Israel to honor the Torah of Israel and its heritage. I think it's the right of the people who live in a neighborhood to protest against the degradation of the honor of the Torah."

Asked by the interviewer about freedom of religion, Eliahu replied: "There is no freedom of religion, only the way of the Lord, blessed be He, as revealed in the Torah to Moses our father, may he rest in peace."

The episode also exposes the difficulties that the Reform movement has in establishing a foothold in a nation where Orthodox rabbis have long held tight political and religious control over the institutions and practices of Judaism.

"We've had all kinds of frustrations and aggravations-crank calls, demonstrations and all kinds of attempts to stop us-but this is the first time someone has actually interfered with a service," said Rabbi Richard Hirsch, executive director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, a Reform institution headquartered here. He called Eliahu's remarks "a perversion of the very essence of Jewish tradition and Jewish values."

Reform is the most liberal and ritually permissive of Judaism's three main branches and claims more than 1 million adherents in the United States and Canada, where it is the most popular. In Israel, Reform and the other branch, Conservative Judaism, have largely been shut out by the Orthodox rabbinical establishment, which views both rival branches as somewhat heretical and a threat to its power.

The struggle in Baka began a year ago when Rabbi Weiman-Kelman, 33, sought to open a Reform congregation. He says he quickly ran into opposition from Rabbi Eliahu Abergil, his ultraorthodox colleague who has the official title of "neighborhood rabbi." Abergil draws a salary from the government's Ministry of Religious Affairs and oversees 23 local synagogues.

"Like anything having to do with religion in this country, this has more to do with politics than anything else," said Weiman-Kelman. "This is his {Abergil's} territory and he feels threatened and it's a power struggle."

Weiman-Kelman said Abergil pressured the managers of one local meeting hall into having the congregation evicted last fall. The group, which is loosely made up of about 200 families, most of them English-speaking immigrants, then moved to the local community center not far from Abergil's house. The Reform rabbi said Abergil and about 20 supporters showed up Friday night about an hour after the service began while congregants were performing the ritual Simhat Torah dance with the scrolls. In Orthodox synagogues, such dances are traditionally performed by men only.

Experts in Jewish law interpret this custom differently. Some say the law is mute on the matter. Weiman-Kelman said Abergil insisted on addressing the congregation of about 150 people, a demand the Reform rabbi tried to politely turn aside.

"I told him now was not the time for speeches and he started yelling, You are evil, you are corrupt,' " recalled Weiman-Kelman.

Abergil's version is very different. He told Israeli radio he was unaware that a Reform congregation was meeting, but that neighbors came to him to complain of "men and women hugging each other with the Torah scroll, not in a modest way at all."

The rabbi said he went to investigate and "when I saw them dancing with the Torah, boys and girls together, it was horrible." Abergil denied anyone tried to grab the scrolls or that anyone assaulted the Reform rabbi. He also denied that he referred to the gathering as "a whorehouse." He said that when he accused the dancers of impropriety, Weiman-Kelman accused him of being "antisemitic." "I just wanted to give a little lecture, even that they didn't let me do," said Abergil, who added, "I reject all violence in all forms."

Weiman-Kelman last night filed a police complaint charging Abergil with inciting violence, attempted theft and offending religious feelings, which is a crime in this land where Judaism, Christianity and Islam uneasily cohabit.

2)
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1107400718397

Feb. 3, 2005
When black hats see red
By SHIRA LEIBOWITZ SCHMIDT

One gets the impression that journalists setting out to cover the haredi beat are furnished with the following tips: Scour the Orthodox newspapers' rabbinical court decisions, synagogue sermons, and posters for statements you can blow up out of all proportion to titillate readers; report only one side of a story; if you're short of time, pick any page of the Talmud and select a statement that - taken out of context - will strike readers as absurd.

The recent brouhaha over the reported statement by Beersheba rabbinical court judge [Dayan] Eliyahu Abergil - "Red clothing is reminiscent of prostitution... Red is suitable for non-Jews, for foreigners who come from the land of Esau, but not for the women of Israel. Therefore, a Jewish women must not wear red clothing even at home, or under her skirt or dress" - meets all these requirements.

The story hit the news when Machon Toda'a, the Awareness Center for Research on Prostitution and Trafficking in Women, came upon the dayan's statement and claimed it incited men to violence.

The center, a member of the International Abolitionist Federation, is waging a struggle against the appalling practice of trafficking in women in Israel. That is commendable. But it is also de rigueur for obscure organizations to seek ways to gain the limelight.

What better than to seize upon a statement by a rabbi, take it out of context and wave it like a red flag to arouse public ire?

Demonstrations by women - in red, of course - were promptly organized. According to the women of the Awareness Center and subsequently, the media, Abergil said it was forbidden for Jewish women to wear red because red is the color worn by harlots and prostitutes. If a married woman does wear a red garment, her husband has the right to rip it off her body.

Sounds pretty draconian, right? Taken out of context, it does.

But when I called Rabbi Abergil to get the story straight, I discovered that not only was he unaware such a controversy was raging - as no media outlet had even contacted him - he was distressed to hear that his words had been taken so out of context. And he was shocked at the suggestion that he would condone any form of violence against women.

These are the points the rabbi made:

* This was something he had written 10 years ago in one of his books on Halacha, in reference to a specific couple who had been quarreling over the wife's clothing. The issue was resolved and the pair have been living happily ever since.

* He had written that if an Orthodox woman wanted to avoid any problem inherent in wearing red she should not wear a red garment outside in public; but she could wear a red item indoors, or under a jacket; or wear a garment that was not entirely red.

* This was not presented as a "ruling" for the entire Jewish world but designated for a specific couple to resolve their particular problem.

* Not one of the women from the Awareness Center had called the dayan. If they had, he said, he would have been more than glad to speak to them. No one from Israel Radio news called him, either.

* He faxed me his two-page discussion of the issue from his book of 10 years ago. In his decree he explicitly and categorically forbade any physical action or violence by a husband (albeit phrased in rabbinical language).

WHEN DEALING with rabbinical language it is imperative to remember that the Talmud uses coded language to convey values and concepts.

Example: The Talmud insists that "a scholar who has a smudge on his shirt deserves to be killed."

What's that - incitement to murder? If so, perhaps we should hold a demonstration against anyone who repeats this "call for violence" against men. Furthermore, why should Jewish law concern itself with men's clothing?

With a little thought it becomes apparent that this reference is a terse, emphatic expression of the importance of study for the survival of the Jewish people. It is not a call for wives to take rolling pins in hand and attack husbands for coffee stains.

Sloppy clothing can lead to disrespect for the scholar and what he represents.

We can similarly understand the conceptual underpinnings of the statement attributed to Dayan Abergil. He may have had in mind the talmudic passage (Berachot 20a) illustrating the importance of public decency and discretion. The Talmud references a vivid example involving a non-Jewish woman who was wearing a "karbalta" in the street.

According to some, the karbalta was red, signifying an overly conspicuous garment. Others say it contained a mixture of linen and wool (shatnez), which Jews are forbidden to wear (though non-Jews are not proscribed from wearing it).

In the episode, Rav Adda saw the non-Jewish woman wearing the karbalta in the street. He mistook her for a Jewess, arose, and tore it from her. It was then discovered that she was not Jewish and he had to pay a fine, evaluated at 400 zuz.

When he asked her what her name was, she replied, "Matun, Matun." He said to her, "Matun, Matun cost me 400 zuz !"

THE COMMENTARIES are as puzzled as some Jerusalem Post readers may be about this narrative. The Talmud itself is not happy about it. Even if Rav Adda thought he was rescuing the woman from serious violations - of the shatnez laws, or dressing in an outrageously conspicuous manner - the sages are uncomfortable with his rash action.

The ending "Matun, Matun" implies self-criticism by Rav Adda, since one meaning of "matun" is moderation and hesitation.

If he had not been so impetuous, this would not have happened.

No one has ever used this passage to incite men to violence against women. It is used, however, to emphasize the need for responsible deportment in the public square.

On a deeper level, it is legitimate to address the contemporary degeneration in the way many girls and women conduct themselves in public. Avoiding decolletage or flashy colors is one way to reduce tension.

Women would do well to see themselves as partners with men in the endeavor to reduce tension resulting from inflammatory dress. Therefore in some Orthodox communities women - and men - minimize wearing red or flashy colors.

Jewish law recognizes that for men and women to function in the public domain the natural attraction between the sexes must be muted to facilitate family focus. The woman's task is to be attractive but not actively attracting attention in public. The man's is to avoid wandering ruminations and roving eyes and exercise self-control.

As the advertising industry well knows, men are more subject to visual stimuli than women.

If I put the rabbi's statement through my imaginary translation machine, I would say he was cautioning women to be attentive to their dress and not "put a stumbling block before the blind."

The Awareness Center took a cheap shot here. Many parties genuinely contribute to trafficking in women - police and judges who are lenient toward pimps and brothel owners, newspapers that publish ads, employment agencies and brothel customers. Why not target them?

Nevertheless, just as diplomats and judges must be careful with their statements, so too should rabbis weigh their words and anticipate their effect on the public.

There is another talmudic statement that we all - including rabbis - might be more stringent in applying: Life and death are in the hands of speech.

The writer is a translator and is affiliated with the Haredi College.

 

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