Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Did Baci Weiler do anything wrong?

The other day, a Habad emissary accosted a short-haired Jew, and after introductory words - Have you heard of the Lubavitcher Rebbe? -the emissary invited the young Jew to wear tefillin.

Here's a photo of the magic moment:

Your surprise after the jump....

Only - surprise - the young person in the kippa and short hair cut is actually a woman called Baci Weiler, who posted the photo on Facebook and was, subsequently, attacked for embarrassing the emissary. She seemed to  agree with this interpretation telling Facebook
Though I didn’t force him to do something wrong, I allowed him to do something he presumably would have been uncomfortable doing given complete knowledge of the situation,” Weiler noted, adding that “despite our ideological differences, I owed him this basic level of respect as a fellow Jew and as a human. For that I am sorry.”

However her remorse was incomplete and she closes her Facebook statement with a point I think is wonderful:
On another level, and more importantly, the photo - also separate from the encounter itself - is powerful because it depicts an instance of accidental pluralism and of shared joy in the mitzvah of hanachat tefillin. It is a serendipitous glimpse of the world I wish I lived in: a world where both he, a bearded chabadnik guy, and I, a buzz-cut egalitarian girl, could be “frum”, regardless of gender or labels, equally bound by mitzvot. I'll end as I did before: Bimheira Beyameinu.

My thoughts: Mr Chabad didn't do anything wrong, and shouldn't be embarrassed. He gave a Jewish person the opportunity to do something permitted.

However, Rabbi Zvi Drizin, Director of The Intown Chabad in Dallas, TX, disagrees. He wrote the following letter to Baci Weiler in criticism of her actions: (My fisking interpolated)

Dear Baci,

Must be a great day for you? You got 66 shares on your recent public Facebook post. A family member sent me the article about it in the Times of Israel telling how you suckered this poor naive Chabad boy into putting Tefillin on with you, a female, against what he believes.

Wow. What a nasty opening. This Rabbi sure knows how to bring the mean., Also, he's making a few bad assumptions. (1) The boy wasn't "suckered"; and (2) maybe he beleives, as the Rambam beleived, that its harmless for a woman to wear tefillin. 

That poor boy who doesn’t have “any concept of fluidity in gender expression” didn’t realize that not only are you really a woman but you had already put on Tefillin that morning.

The idea of gender sensitivity and fluidity seems to be of importance to you, but the concept of being honest in your interactions are not?

Its not clear to me that Baci was dishonest. She was invited to wear Tefillin and she accepted. Moreover, she did nothing to hide her identity. She's not require to announce her femininity with curls and skirts. Its perfectly legitimate - not to mention honest - for Baci to represent herself ambiguously. As for the Rabbi, this line of attack is a nonsequitor. Why does someone who cares about gender sensitivity automatically have to be super honest about everything? How are the two related? 

Your friends on Facebook (at least 121 of them by last count) seem to love what you did, but what about that boy? What about the fact that this boy was just a nice guy who trying to help out another Jew in his way. Did he deserve the embarrassment of being a public sucker? He is a real person with real feeling living amongst real people.

How do we know the boy was embarrassed? Who says he was a public sucker? I think he's a public hero. 

A good friend of yours recently reminded me of the importance of being sensitive to others who are perhaps not the mainstream… A “Chareidi” man is no less worthy of sensitivity than anyone else in society and our tradition is very clear about what the values of sensitivity are.

Baci, I don’t know the boy’s name, but he deserves an apology. Fast.

Ah, the rabbinical arrogance. This dope doens't know the boy's name, but he's dead certain the boy feels embarrassment and took no comfort from the words of great Rabbis who permit women to wear tefillin? On what basis?

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