Unless you’ve been buried in a cave somewhere, you have surly heard the entire national media go overboard with the story about a how an Orthodox Jewish sect in London has supposedly “banned” women from driving and oppress women in general. This is the inside story:
In Orthodox Jewish culture, spiritual morality and family purity are of paramount importance. We live our lives by a certain moral code because we want to maintain that spiritual standard at all costs. As with all communities and other large groups, we have hierarchical governing bodies, which in our case is made of learned Rabbis, who study the Talmud and other teachings daily, and we trust them, and their judgement as to the best way to maintain the high moral code we have chosen to live by. We trust in the absolute judgement of the Rabbinical authority that their primary objective is to maintain our spirituality.
Far from being subjugated and degraded, Jewish women are considered princesses. It is encumbent on the men to provide for their families whilst their wives maintain a kosher home and raise the family. Women are sheltered and protected, not because they are brow beaten and forced to remain locked indoors, but rather because she is considered a precious jewel, a diamond, which needs to be protected at all costs. The woman, whose primary job is to raise a family, is the matriarch, and the spiritual radiance that emanates from the souls and smiles of the children is to her credit and in her merit.
And thus certain traditions, strictures and guidelines were set up by the Rabbinical authorities to maintain the modesty and to protect the jewels of our nation: the woman and mothers. There is not an iota of degradation in being a woman in the Orthodox Jewish community. On the contrary, she feels cherished and protected.
Back in the days when cars first became popular, it was the men who were the bread-winners, thus they were the ones who went out to work and the woman stayed home. This was the situation in the general population not just among Jews. Obviously as women in general didn’t drive neither were Jewish women. Overtime, the idea that women don’t drive has become embedded in the culture and has stuck as an accepted tradition.
We live our lives according to tradition. Yes, we move with the times. Many women do go out to work and are even encouraged to do so, if they so choose. they do have a choice. And their choice is to live their lives according to these traditions because our primary objective is to maintain the spirituality and family purity. And while women driving is a minor issue, we understand that once we start letting go of our traditions it is a slippery slope that leads to immorality and social strife. We trust our Rabbis to maintain our spiritual standard, and when they issue guidelines we not only accept them, but are happy and willing to follow them for the sake of the future of our generations.
It is our choice!
There are many Orthodox Jewish sects, being a member of any sect is a choice, it’s like joining a club, no one is forced into it and anyone who is a member of any sect does so freely and because they choose the principals and the traditions of the sect. Anyone is free to move from one sect to another and many do so. When you sign up into a sect you know what you’re signing up for.
Some Orthodox sects have become more lenient overtime on women driving, and many Orthodox Jewish women do in fact drive. However many sects, including the Belz sect, just as with other original traditions, have maintained the tradition of women not driving. A Woman who joins the Belz sect does so by her own choice, not because she’s oppressed or stupid, she wants to abide by original traditions. Just like a woman has the freedom to drive if she so chooses, these women have the freedom to choose not to drive.
The Belz schools consist of some three hundred parents, all of them send their children to this school because they want to provide their children with an education that maintains original traditions, including the tradition of women not driving.
Lately a handful of women took up driving, the majority of the women of this sect found it offensive. They claimed that they picked this sect for its original traditions and didn’t like the idea of some women abandoning those traditions fearing they will have a negative influence on those who wish to abide by them. At the request of those women the school sent out letters to the members reminding them of the rule that women driving is not accepted in this sect. This had nothing to do with taking away a womans right to drive this was about maintaining the rights of those women who don’t want to drive and expect the sect to stick to this principal.
Some people just can’t accept the idea that in the 21st century there are still people, including women, who wish to stick to original ideas. Newsflash: There still are many of those people out there, you may not understand it, you may not like it but just as we accept and respect your choices we expect you to accept and respect our choices.