Friday, February 21, 2014

Ramaz: Tefillin for Women, Yes; Rashid Khalidi, No

I don’t usually comment on this blog about religious controversies among my fellow modern orthodox Jews. As in other religions, and in society at large, women’s roles are changing rapidly, and, periodically, the question of women wearing tefillin (leather boxes containing verses from scripture) during morning prayers, traditionally a male custom, pops up.

But the same school has now banned Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi, one of the leading historians of Israel/Palestine, and the scion of a distinguished Palestinian family from Jerusalem, from speaking to a student club, who invited him. No doubt the school is fearful of alienating its donor base. No explanation has been given so far.

It’s not as if Prof. Khalidi doesn’t have a Ramaz connection. Ramaz alumnus, Prof. Jonathan Gribetz, wrote his doctoral thesis under Khaladi a few years ago.  Prof. Gribetz’s  wife, Prof. Sarah Kattan Gribetz of Princeton, recently gave a seminar on The Portrayal of the Other in Rabbinic Literature at Ramaz.

For an orthodox school the administration at Ramaz is relatively liberal on women’s issues and sensitive to the Jewish portrayal of the Other in rabbinic literature. But when it come their students hearing the Palestinian Other, they apparently are not so liberal. Not surprisingly, the religion of the State of Israel means more than the religion of the People Israel in modern orthodox day schools, even the liberal ones. And listening to a distinguished historian whose families were taught into refugees  by the state that Ramaz students are taught to believe is the “beginning of redemption” is too much for a religious zionist school.

The good news is that when you teach students tolerance, when you provide a crack in the wall of intolerance, that’s where the light comes in. Ramaz students have signed a petition calling upon the administration to let the club hear Prof. Khalidi.

They will win in the end. These are changing times for modern orthodox Jews.


wkovacs said...

tell me you didnt just tell the world that you are an am haaretz.

"the question of women wearing tefillin (leather boxes containing verses from scripture) during morning prayers, traditionally a male custom, pops up."

tefilin are not a custom, they are a mitzvah aseh d'oraisa shehazman gramah....which is why women are patur.

as for the online petition, the vast majority of signatories are not students or alum of ramaz, and therefore its a non issue

as for inviting rasheed khalidi into the school. baruch hashem, ramaz has yet to step over the line that allows students to set the agenda of the school, so no, the small group of students who see the need to self flagellate and invite a soneh yisrael into their midst, will never happen.

but they are free to watch his vids on youtube. read his non historical screeds online or in his books

or take a subway and go audit one of his courses

"...the religion of the state of israel means more than the religion of the people of israel"

care to show everyone the halacha that says it is ok to give honor to a soneh yisrael?

your am haaratzes knows no bounds

please stop referring to yourself as an observant are nothing of the kind

Jerry Haber said...

Geoff KI, please read more carefully and learn halakha.

Wearing tefillin *during morning prayers* is a custom. The mitzvah d'oraisa is to wear tefillin, and the zman of the mitzvah is during the day; see Rambam, Hilkhos Tefillin, etc. chapte four. One can be yotze the mitzvah at any time during the day, but it is now the custom to fulfill the commandment by wearing them in the morning. But I know people who wear tefillin all day.

The other stuff is not worthy of reply.