Keren Interview V: Miriam compromises by leaving one eye uncovered

Miriam, 32, mother of six, is a Breslover baalat teshuva (returnee to observant Judaism) and a follower of Rabbanit Bruria Keren. She wears 5 skirts, two capes, seven scarves, and a veil angled to cover one eye. She uses the other eye to see in front of her, because she is disgusted by the idea of using her children as guide dogs.

This is the fifth part of the translation/summary of the Hebrew Maariv article by Sherry Makover-Balikov where the journalist interviews Rabbanit Bruria Keren and her followers.

Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII

To view all posts on the subject, and see pictures, click the label hyper-tzniut.

Highlights:

  • The Rabbanit thinks that blue is a modest color.
  • When Miriam said that her husband would like it if she dressed like the R. Keren, the R. Keren encouraged her with a motion of her hands.
  • Gradually a large group of Miriam’s friends began to come to the talks, and layering on more and more clothes. At first Miriam felt like a mountain.
  • As she felt herself come closer to God, she began to cover her face.
  • At one stage she had doubts, so the Rabbanit sent another student to fetch her. Miriam told the rabbanit that she felt like a “Fatima.” The Rabbanit said, “Why does it matter? There is your will, and there is God’s will. And God’s will is what counts, not yours.”
  • The rabbanit told Miriam how in the beginning she was humiliated by policemen who “scattered her bags and stopped traffic” [presumably they suspected her of being a terrorist]. Ready to give up, she got home she opened a holy book to a page that read, “One rises in holiness and does not descend.”
  • Miriam feels that her beauty could cause men to stumble, so it is more important for her to cover her face than for a woman with average looks.
  • She suffers in the summer, but the Rabbanit has asthma so how can Miriam complain?
  • The Rabbanit emphasizes that each of them is an example to others, and if they regress in their level of modesty, they will cause 300 other women to sin [i.e. those women will continue to dress as they do].
  • Miriam’s husband objected at first, but with the rabbanit’s encouragement she got him to accept it. Or at least not oppose her.
  • In Ramat Beit Shemesh, many women dress this way so Miriam does not get too many comments. When she feels guilty about leaving one eye uncovered, she comforts herself with the fact that one eye forces her to hurry to get where she is going, so she doesn’t stop. [I think she means that she attracts less notice.]
  • She doesn’t talk to men, but she chastised a pair who made fun of her on a bus, asking them whether their wives’ wigs were better, and whether “pritzut” (licentiousness) was preferable. That shut the men up. [Or so Miriam claims.]

Next up: A rabbi’s point of view.

Check out the 2016 fashions at Hydrochic modest swimwear.

Comments

  1. mominisrael says:

    Thanks, Abbi.
    Rona, you make a good point about the warmth and closeness.

  2. Thanks for these summaries. I saw the article last week, but I didn’t have the koach to read through the whole thing.
    I really hope this stays a fringe anomaly, rather than a real trend. But that scary that she’s getting more and more women to do this.

  3. As a marriage and family therapist, I can only wonder how long it will take before we have a diagnostic category to describe this and what we will name it. I see this as truly disturbing. To believe that men are unable to control themselves is to seriously devalue men. Dressing this way undermines the ability for children to feel warmth and closeness with their mothers. I wonder about the self image of these women and about their children, especially their daughters. From my point of view, this is very very sad.

  4. I am not medically trained, but I wonder, wouldn’t using only one eye lead the other to atrophy? And it must be a given that these women don’t drive. But how can they properly care for children if they can’t literally keep an eye on them in public? Their kids don’t get to play in playgrounds?

  5. aidel maidel says:

    Thank you for translating.
    Everything I read in this section just smacks of cult behaviour.
    “At one stage she had doubts, so the Rabbanit sent another student to fetch her. Miriam told the rabbanit that she felt like a “Fatima.” The Rabbanit said, “Why does it matter? There is your will, and there is God’s will. And God’s will is what counts, not yours.”
    The rabbanit told Miriam how in the beginning she was humiliated by policemen who “scattered her bags and stopped traffic” [presumably they suspected her of being a terrorist]. Ready to give up, she got home she opened a holy book to a page that read, “One rises in holiness and does not descend.”
    # She suffers in the summer, but the Rabbanit has asthma so how can Miriam complain?
    # The Rabbanit emphasizes that each of them is an example to others, and if they regress in their level of modesty, they will cause 300 other women to sin [i.e. those women will continue to dress as they do].

    I’d like to see what Rick Ross has to say about this.

  6. Ariella: She can alternate which eye to leave uncovered… 🙂
    on a serious note; It seems that the whole approach of the charedi world is that tznius is the cause of every problem we have: illnesses, death, war. Just name it and it was caused by lack of tznius. If you look at it from that point of view it is natural something like this would happen.
    It also means that in their “hashkafa” every problem that we face was caused by women, not men. The message I get is that men are faultless, they aren’t responsible for their thoughts and their behavior isn’t the one that’s causing divine retribution. And women are the ones causing EVERY SINGLE PROBLEM we have by wearing red… scary

  7. I think Dr. Michelson is on to something. It’s one thing to avoid actively luring a man to sin through lewd conduct or clothing (or lack there of), but ultimately men have to be responsible for their own behavior. The logical extension of the whole veiled mentality is the thought that men are animals and don’t have any self control. It’s a rather pathetic view of men.
    Beyond women shunning this sort of extremist behavior, men need to stand up for themselves (and not throw fruit at women, that is rather pathetic) and denounce the necessity for Jewish burkhas.

  8. Wow. That’s all I can say. I’ve been reading through your posts on the topic with great interest. I’m really shocked and disgusted by the whole thing.
    And the point mentioned about is fabulous. This sort of behavior really does devalue men. I can’t stand when people jokingly belittle men and insist men can never do XYZ right just because they’re male. The mindset behind this really isn’t much different.
    I too hope this remains a fringe group. What must this do to the entire family? I can only imagine how the women, the family and the larger community must suffer.
    Thanks so very much for posting this. I never knew such a movement existed until I read about it here not too long ago and yesterday and then today, I find myself popping back repeatedly to read more of the story.

  9. Last year I believe there was a tzniut conference for women in Jerusalem. I didn’t go but got reports from my friends who went. Personally, I understand why the rabbis blame our problems on tzniut. I live near a charedi area and I have to say that many of the charedi young women dress less tzniusdig than the dati leumi women in my area. There are women with skirts that I would say are too short (they reach just to the knee) and fishnet stockings, long blonde sheitels, lots of eye makeup, etc. I am disgusted when I see them like this. Many times they wear tight clothes and that’s viewed as okay.
    Personally I don’t understand why they can’t look attractive without attracting. A person can look put together without attracting everyone’s attention. There are some beautifully dressed sfaradi women in my community. They wear nice hats or mitpachot, button down shirts, nice A-line skirts, normal shoes. I don’t think they’re shlumpy. They look put together. I think part of the reason that the charedi girls don’t dress this way is because of the lack of values. Don’t you only want your hubby to look at you? Do really want all the men on the bus to be looking you up and down?
    So yea, I see that in some ways it is because of some of the women. Of course most of us who get deffensive are probably dressing properly. And by properly I don’t mean wearing ten layers of clothes. I think it’s crazy, radical and needs to be stopped. What about the Rambam’s shvil hazahav-golden path. The Rambam says that one needs to travel along a path that is the middle between two exremes. Ten layers of clothing is very extreme ( I don’t think even the most extreme Arabs would do this), but so is following Western fashions. There has to be a middle. There are plenty of nice, frum, families who are living in the middle ground. I bet they’re happy too.
    I sincerely think that these women must be very very messed up. I would hate to see the effect on their kids. It’s just trajic. I wish that the gedolim would come out against this. Hopefully this will come to an end soon, maybe even with the coming of mashiach to straighten them out.

  10. More layers do not equal more tzniut. In Iran which is an extreme by world standards a single layer of black crepe is sufficient. It drapes away from the body and covers EVERYTHING, it is shapeless and fully opaque. How could a person tell the difference between flowing black crepe many sizes too big as worn in Iran for example and ten layers of skirts. Additionally a black crepe Khimar would cover the hair, every hair absolutely as well as the neck and shoulders. Even in an Iranian abaya, khimar and niqab it is possible to function in the market and see. One cannot tell from appearance the difference between a woman in an Iranian chador/abaya/burka and one of these ladies in their ten layers.
    I am not advocating for this or supportive of it in any way. I believe that it has absolutely NOTHING to do about tzniut because the way to achieve even the most extreme level of tzniut is not via multiple layers but with an opaque and over sized flowing garment, even the Taliban knows that.
    I thing this is schizophrenia more than anything. Just from the textbook definition there is the suffering martyr/hero (the heat and discomfort of many layers), the need to suffer on behalf of others so that they will learn, be redeemed etc because of your suffering and the “everyone is against me” aspect too.
    I do not believe this has anything to do with an extreme in modesty but more to do with a mentally ill Rebbetzin who has attracted a group of borderline or mentally ill followers.
    It is very very sad.

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