She reviews the incidents of the last few weeks leading to a condemnation of the cult by the Edah Haredit:
- A 16-year-old boy got married twice withing several months. The first wife had returned to her parents’ home and refused to receive a get (writ of divorce). When she learned of the remarriage, she and the young man went to Rabbi Karelitz’s rabbinic court in Bnei Brak for the divorce.
At first the family maintained that the groom received a “heter me’ah rabbanim,” a document signed by 100 rabbis allowing a man to remarry without a formal divorce. In addition, the 21-year-old bride, who covers her face at all times, refused to immerse in the mikveh (ritual bath) before her wedding. She cited modesty reasons. [Rotem pointed out that one immerses while naked.]
Rabbi Shmuel Pappenheim is quoted as saying that fewer than ten rabbis could possibly have signed the proclamation. He said that no one knows who performed the wedding, and whether or not there was a minyan (quorum). If ten men gathered in Meah Shearim for a wedding someone should have heard about, it but no one did.
- A home birth was supposedly attended by the laboring woman’s father (not her husband, as I wrote earlier). The baby was brought by a volunteer medic to the hospital and the social services were notified. The parents appeared after a few hours to claim the baby.
Rotem writes about the hearing by the Edah Haredi council:
“Fathers of daughters who had joined. . . the group of veiled women, including prominent rabbis, along with dissatisfied husbands. sat and testified over several hours at the rabbinic court about what was happening in their homes. The women were condemned for not accepting rabbinic authority, for removing their daughters from school and teaching them at home, and worst of all: not following the most serious precepts of Jewish law. It sounds almost like the great women’s revolt.”
Women in the group were also accused of breastfeeding only their daughters, not their sons.
Not all husbands testified against their wives in the cult, but those who support their wives were dismissed as weak and easily led.
After this meeting, the Edah issued its statement warning women to stay away from the group.
Rotem points out that in the Edah Haredit, neither private schooling nor home birth is uncommon. But the Edah has now understood that the group has taken hold and is not limited to returnees to Judaism in Beit Shemesh. It is a social problem, not only a religious one.
The women who covered their faces and believed they were thus bringing the redemption closer, soon found themselves isolated and their daughters rejected from school. This is why there are stories of 16-year-old boys getting married to women from the group. The veiled daughters are not easy to marry off.
Rotem writes, “They were ostracized and so became a closed group that earned the name of cult.” Pappenheim claims that the group attracted women on the edge of society. He says the mistake was ignoring the phenomenon until it had already taken root. “As soon as they allowed women to forge their own way, it developed into licentiousness, because they don’t know [when] to stop.” [I am not sure where the licentiousness comes in--there is none mentioned in the article.]
Pappenheim tells of his experience as an ambulance driver, when a woman from the group ran away from him instead of staying to explain to him, a man, how her husband had fainted.
Yoel Krois, an unofficial spokesperson for the community, minimizes the prevalence of the cult claiming it contains only about four families. But because each family has so many children, they are quite visible.
The article quotes several haredi women about aggressive recruitment efforts by the group, especially at weddings and other large gatherings.
The article also contains an interview with an American shawl-wearer, who insists that she nurses her children of both sexes and dismisses those and other claims. I’m not sure why it’s included, as the discussion here is not about the thousands of Israeli women who “merely” wear shalim. The women the Edah Haredit belong to an extremely small, closed sect of women who wear veils and, according to reports, violate many aspects of Jewish law.
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