Are We Pro or Against ‘Women’s Rights’?




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    Are We Pro or Against ‘Women’s Rights’?

    Tishrei in Crown Heights is a whirlwind of spiritual energy, bustling crowds and late-nighters. Most notable, however, is Simchas Beis Hashoeva when live music plays until dawn, and the spirited dancers keep it real the whole night long. Written by Shainy Peysin • Full Article

    Written by Shainy Peysin

    Tishrei in Crown Heights is a whirlwind of spiritual energy, bustling crowds and late-nighters. Most notable, however, is Simchas Beis Hashoeva when live music plays until dawn, and the spirited dancers keep it real the whole night long.

    There is however, one big eyesore. Why is half of the Lubavitch population standing by the sidelines, watching? And by that I mean, why are the women not dancing? Given the opportunity, I am sure that dozens of women, if not more would like to participate with a little more than balancing on crates on watching. Is it possible? Why shouldn’t it be?

    It’s only a matter of finding space and setting up a mechitza. How about… on Montgomery Street, between Kingston and Albany, or Kingston and Brooklyn? The streets are blocked off anyway, and I’m sure that some clever minds can find a way to build a functional and convenient mechitza. (It is the season of temporary structures after all!) Some tarp and cable ties and half the work is done already. Throw in an extra speaker to carry the music to the women’s dancing area and it’s good to go.

    So, why not?

    Well, that’s a tough question to answer. You see, in all the conversation that I’ve had with rabbonim and event organizers, it never really seemed to boil down to Halacha, although they would all like me to think that it did. Unfortunately, it sounded a lot more like, “we don’t think it’s a good idea… we’re SURE it’s not a good idea… it will never work anyway… hang on, are you modern Orthodox?”

    No, it’s not for lack of practical ideas. I presented a number of suggestions to arrange that we could have a male-proof mechitza, (short of armed guard at the entrance) and it really doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor. I did hear the word “pritzus” thrown around quite a bit, as though the concept of women dancing is pritzus, which it isn’t, because women dance at weddings without calls of “pritzus!” (By the way, Miriam and the Nashim Tzidkonios danced outdoors after Kriyas Yam Suf. And while it says that they brought tambourines with them, it doesn’t say that they brought a portable mechitza.)

    While we’re on the subject of pritzus anyway, the current arrangement is not exactly the height of tznius either. Numerous men and boys walk through (and even stand in!) the women’s standing all night long. Kingston Pizza and Kol Tuv remain open to them even though the only way they can access it is through the women’s section. Which begs the question, is women dancing really the problem?

    But let’s say it is. Or at least, let’s say that there’s a risk that it might be. Couldn’t we at least test it once to see? You see, years and years ago, people didn’t think that women should vote. Or participate in government. Or leave kitchens. But we’ve come a long way from that. We have a Rebbe who encourages women to be active and utilize their talents. We even have restaurants that cater food, so women can step out kitchens for a breather every now and then. Maybe we can try it out for just one night? We set up the mechitza, we place the speaker, we stand the guard at the entrance, and we even put up signs to remind the women not to sing and cause men to be oiver on kol isha. Who knows? Maybe it will be amazing. Maybe it will be a positive experience for all.

    Many may be concerned based on the known fact that in the times of the Beis Hamikdosh the women came merely to see and hear. That is true. But as the Rebbe said on the second night of Sukkos, 5748, “Even though in the times of the Beis Hamikdosh they came only “To see and to hear,” the simchas beis hashoeva of the Beis Hamikdosh was nullified after the churban. What remains is merely a commemoration. Hence, “Our degradation is our repair”, “A descent in order to ascend”, that also the women celebrate simchas beis hashoeva.” Clearly, seeing and hearing is no longer enough. Women also need to be celebrating. And yet, we continue to have throngs of women standing by the sidelines just watching and listening.

    Fortunately, there is a precedent for women’s dancing outdoors at a community event. For two years in a row, (not this past year, unfortunately), a mechitza for women’s dancing was erected at the Lag B’omer bonfire. (If you’re a man and you didn’t notice it, then it worked! If you’re a female and you didn’t notice it, where were you!?!? The party happened without you!) The mechitza served its purpose well. Women got to dance, men didn’t notice and all around it was a great arrangement.

    Could it work at simchas beis hashoeva on a much larger scale? I think so. Here are my suggestions to provide tznius dancing for women, and overall heighten the tznius of simchas beis hashoeva:
    –       Mechitza can be erected on Montgomery, even halfway down the block if deemed necessary. Additional speakers should be set up close to the mechitza.
    –       A guard will stand at the entrance to the enclosure to ensure that it is truly women’s only dancing.
    –       Shmira will stand at either side of the women’s standing section to ensure that it is women’s only.
    –       Kingston Pizza will either be closed to men, or arrange an alternate way to serve male customers. Same for Kol Tuv.

    Ideally, we will be celebrating the next simchas beis hashoeva in the third Beis Hamikdosh, which I’m sure will boast arrangements for women’s dancing, but if not, I hope that the message I’ve presented here will bear fruit, and women will be able to truly participate in simchas beis hashoeva in Crown Heights.

    If you think that women deserve this opportunity, please show your support for it.


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    1. Cearing ch

      Will doing this increase “Kol Kevuda Bas Melech Penimah”?!

    2. Shainy Peysin

      Depends what you mean by that. Does it mean that women should remain indoors constantly? If so, then the current arrangement is inappropriate.
      If you mean that women should be modest and private, then yes- that is the point of a mechitza.

    3. Zev

      If the rabbonim said “no”, do what is there to talk about?
      “All male board” smells like Reform…
      Be careful how for you go with your words, they express your thoughts.

    4. Shainy Peysin

      Rabbonim are not infallible. They are humans like anyone else. In this case I am questioning whether their stance is based on halacha or an assumption. I think that rabbonim should be held accountable for what they say and be able to define it is halacha. I am suggesting that they reconsider this matter based on the interest of the community and the guidelines that I recommended.
      As for the “all-male board”, I was merely pointing out that decisions made for women without their input are biased.
      Remember, there have been many advances for women in recent years. Perhaps the idea of Torah education for women would have sounded “reform” to you at the time.

    5. Moshiach Now!

      If you want to dance there was dancing in Razag and ly
      If it’s closed and speakers it doesn’t need to be on the street on near the men it can be in Lubavitcher yeshivah!

    6. Crown Heights Resident

      I have a simple solution.
      Let the women gather in the Beis Rivka Ballroom on Lefferts Ave & they can have a women’s only Simchas Beis Hashoeva.

      If it’s to crowded they can always make a 2nd Simchas Beis Hashoeva in the Razg Ballroom on East New York Ave

    7. Shainy Peysin

      It’s just not quite the same thing as participating in the grand community SBH that takes place outdoors. Think about how you would feel if you were told to go somewhere else.

    8. crown heights resident

      It’s more important to dance in a tznius way during Simchas Beis Hashoeva. Even if the men and women are in separate locations

    9. Shainy Peysin

      How is it untznius I ask you? No kol isha and kosher mechitza. That’s my point. Is there really anything wrong with this or it just people’s perception of it? What is the real concern, I would like to know.

    10. mushky

      does anyone know what the Rabbonim say about this idea? i would love to know!

    11. Shainy Peysin

      I asked them. They said “no.” ?
      It’s hard to pass legislation that is pro-women with an entirely male board.

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