The mainstream should accept frum values

November 24, 2016 23:28

I have assisted the Belz community with media relations following last week's JC exclusive, regarding the alleged ban on women driving. I have found our community's response particularly interesting.

In talking with journalists from the national media I have found them to be fair and understanding of the situation. The national media has found the Belz directive weird, but see it as coming from a small, self-governing group.

There has been a strong desire to respect their right to choose and understand that this is a choice for Belz and does not reflect on the Jewish community as a whole.

However, Jews working in the national media have been angry and unable to have an amicable conversation with me.

The main feeling exhibited within the Jewish community is one of embarrassment, as if this is somehow a slight against the life we lead as Orthodox Jews in the 21st century. We have rejected Belz and taken every opportunity to condemn them in the press.

I have read the musings of various communal leaders, all of whom have claimed that the way Belz wish to live is not in keeping with Jewish values.

But whose Jewish values are they talking about and what gives anyone the right to claim that their interpretation of the "70 faces of the Torah" is the correct one?

The values in question may not be mainstream, but if the mainstream demands the wider community respect their values, why can't they provide the same courtesy to Belz?

This is a choice of a small group within our community who have taken something upon themselves. They are not forcing anything upon anyone outside the Belz community, nor if the women of Belz are to be believed, is it offensive to those involved.

Not only that, but perceptions of the Jewish community as a whole do not change because of a directive given to 200 families in north London.

So why are we embarrassed? I think we are coming to a critical point where we as a community and a society have to accept that religious freedoms are paramount, even if they go against the general norms.

As a community we have accepted many different cultures, sexualities and practices. We are happy to accept partnership minyans but not those who want taller mechitzas. If someone decides to become secular - that's free choice; if someone becomes frum - they are brainwashed.

So why, in this accepting society we live in, do our values suddenly change when we are talking about (perceived) strict observance of Jewish practice?

If the answer to that is because it's embarrassing, then we need to take a long hard look at ourselves. Society is willing to accept us; perhaps it is time for us to catch up.

Shimon Cohen is the chairman of The PR Office public relations firm

November 24, 2016 23:28

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