Monday, March 18, 2013

Jew in the City - I Beg to Differ (Part 1)

Many of my readers have probably come across the internet personality, "Jew in the City", whether on YouTube, on her Website, or on her recent Buzzfeed article, "13 Annoying Things Most People Assume About Orthodox Jews."

Some of the 13 "Annoying Things" that she mentioned are, indeed, misconceptions. We don't have sex through a hole in a sheet. Not all - or even most - Orthodox women shave their heads when they get married. Our food doesn't have to be blessed by a rabbi. I'd venture a guess that most of us HATE Manischewitz wine. 

But there were also a few that she got very, very wrong. 

One of them - where she claims that birth control is readily allowed - I addressed previously in my post, "Dark Side Confessions #2: Birth Control." She's right that Jewish law allows the use of birth control, but she fails to mention the immense social pressure to have many kids. Maybe her particular community, which sounds Modern Orthodox Judaism, doesn't preach to, "have as many children as G-d gives you", but ultra-Orthodox communities do

Another of her 13 "Things" states that Orthodox Jewish women not only work, but even have top positions in companies, hospitals, and law firms. Again, I think she's speaking for the Modern Orthodox world because in the ultra-Orthodox world, college is severely frowned upon, for men AND women. It's slowly becoming more accepted to attend Orthodox colleges, where men and women are separated, but in the ultra-Orthodox world, where girls generally marry and have children very young, young women do a quick undergrad degree by getting credits for seminary and taking CLEPs and\or choose to major in an area where they will have flexible hours so that they can care for their children, such as speech therapy, graphic design, and teaching. 

Just to be clear, I'm not criticizing these women for wanting to put their families before their careers because that's admirable. But the picture that "Jew in the City" paints of Orthodox women as career women is, by majority, inaccurate. 

The last of the "Things" that "Jew in the City" writes about that I take exception to is when she writes that Orthodox women are not subjugated. In that one, she is absolutely wrong. 



  1. Hmm...It does sound like she's talking more about Modern Orthodoxy. Like you said, aspiring for a career as a doctor or lawyer is frowned upon in Ultra Orthodox and Yeshivish circles.

    1. As a kid I decided that I wanted to be a brain surgeon. I was also a kid when I changed my mind about that after finding out how long it would take... Because there was NO way I wasn't going to be a mother by age 21, so how could I possibly have time for school?

      I actually just heard this from my nine-year-old niece. She said that she wants to be an actress when she's young but have an out-of-the-house business (her choice: cake decorator) when she grows up because she wants to be there for her kids.


    2. Oy vey. It makes me sad to see women who have much potenital, hopes, and dreams but do not bother to access it.

    3. I just read PL's response. I agree that as long as one makes a CHOICE and is not forced to go one way or the other, than that's the most important thing. You can read more of my opinion on this on my "Mona Lisa Smile" blog post.

    4. Agreed. There needs to be a CHOICE. That's the bottom line.

  2. Does everyone who's not Jewish have top jobs? No. So why should everyone who is Jewish be at the top?

    As for "immense social pressure," I am not exactly sure when a couple's choice to have "numerous children" became public domain. It's not like all couples have ease with fertility, so no one is going to walk up to a person and say, "Hey, only three? Seems a little low." And that counts for chassidim as well.

    I think her community is Lubavitch, so I don't believe she is espousing a modern orthodox outlook.

    Is it feminism's belief that a woman who chooses to raise her children as opposed to pursuing a career as "lesser"? Not all women are the same; some desire a career, others choose (and I mean, CHOOSE with their own free will) to stay at home and raise their children. And they still consider themselves to be feminist.

    For instance, while I am not chassidish, nor yeshivish, nor modern (but in that wishy-washy place between) I am not interested in a career. Me. My parents begged me to go to law school, to medical school. I CHOSE not to, because I really want (and I mean I) to be a mommy. I believe it is my purpose in life. It is my passion, my drive.

    I don't have that feeling when it comes to a commute and work.

    I have a job now, and I'm saving up so I can buy a house one day.

    While you say otherwise, I know of individuals in the chassidish world who followed their drive in the career world. They do exist. If others chose not to, that is their business.

    You niece actually sounds quite astute. My nieces talk the same way; many girls are just programmed like that.

    There are many non-Jews who also choose to be STAHMs; that is also their choice, whatever Sheryl Sandberg believes. She is extremely driven and that is admirable, but it does not follow that all women have to be like her.

    As for subjugated . . . I'd like to read your logic on that.

    1. Social pressure doesn't always come in the form of words. There's the peer pressure of "keeping up with the Joneses". Or the things that you're taught in school. (As I wrote about in my post about birth control - they taught us in seminary that practicing birth control meant you lacked emunah.)

      And I have no problem with women who want to me stay-at-home-moms. As long as it was a clear choice that they made. In the frum world, it really isn't because we're raised to become homemakers and mothers.

  3. Modern Orthodoxy and Lubavitch are very similar with regards to their outlook on college, so it's easy to place her in either community in that regard. However, I don't think that JITC is Lubavitch but she is heavily involved in outreach. That being said, it's easy to u understand why she's giving the more liberal points of view or portraying Orthodox Judaism as more "with it."

    Like PL, and I'd imagine every other reader, I'm very interested to read your post on women being subjugated.

  4. I look forward to part 2!

    PS "13 Annoying Things Most People Assume About Orthodox Jews" makes 13 assumptions about most people. Gotta love the irony.

    1. Haha; I agree - 13 assumptions about what people think!