Thursday, September 04, 2008

Locking up the women - in the name of modesty

Four years ago, Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, chairman of the rabbinic court in Bnei Brak, asked righteous women to kindly leave shul before the service was over, for reasons of ‘modesty’ – ie so that they should not mingle with the men.

But what if the women didn’t want to leave early? A shul in Tzfat has come up with a rather ingenious solution:

New guidelines imposed at the Breslover Shul in Tzfas determine women must leave after Shabbos morning Davening before Aleinu, or they are locked inside the women's gallery until men make their exit. According to the new rule, after Aleinu the women's gallery is locked for 15 minutes, during which the men make their exit. The women's gallery is then reopened to allow those who didn't make it out in time to leave.

As if physically locking up the women (why is it never the men?) wasn’t horrifying enough, the shul didn’t even bother telling them they were doing it – leading to distressing scenes:

"In the beginning we thought someone had locked the women's gallery from outside by mistake, but as time went on we realized we had been locked in purposefully, without being informed," said one woman, a guest who attended the Shul on a recent Shabbos. "It was horrible; dozens of women banging on the door trying to get out. In the men's gallery someone yelled to the manager 'the women have been locked in!' The men didn't know about it either, and many of them stood helplessly outside waiting for their wives."

Somehow, in the ever more radical search for “modesty”, all common sense seems to have been lost. Not to mention dignity, kindness and respect for others.

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