It seems Natalie and I have generated quite a bit of conversation with the article we posted yesterday on the Jewish Week’s website. As of this writing, the article has been posted 376 times on Facebook (only 16 tweets, though–come on Twitter people!). And Natalie and I have reached the point where we need to stop paying attention to every comment, because it’s too easy to be sucked into them, especially the ones that are nasty in tone. We respect and appreciate people who substantively engage our arguments with civility. But such is the state of our modern media world that those people are drowned out by the people who missed the halakha classes on derekh eretz (good manners).

The main thing we take away from the experience at this point is that you have to be very strategic in crafting your message. We knew this going in of course, and thought we did a good job. But as one of our friends pointed out, the Maccabeats as subject distracted people from the main point we were trying to make, which wasn’t the Maccabeats per se, the but the issue of women’s portrayal in Orthodoxy. The essence of the article is this line: “The Orthodox community remains challenged to find a way for women, in their bodies, to participate in the public life of the community.” Unfortunately a lot of people got caught on us being let down by the Maccabeats, even though the first line of the piece is “We love the Maccabeats,” which we still do. (One of our kids wants to dress as a Maccabeat for Purim.)

Virtually all of the heat the article has generated is about how it’s unfair to pick on the Maccabeats, with some accusations that we had this article all ready to go and were just waiting for the right moment. That isn’t true. We wanted to focus on the larger issue of women’s public portrayal in Orthodoxy, and we saw this issue clearly in the Maccabeats video. Many of the folks who have read the article wouldn’t have done so if it were only about the klal, the big idea, and not the prat, the example, of the Maccabeats. Any discussion of generalities needs specifics to discuss. It seems to us that’s basic argumentation, not crass opportunism.

For all those out there who have been dwelling on the question, “Why did they pick on the Maccabeats?” we would ask you to consider our main point: “Women are welcomed in the public life of Orthodoxy when that public takes place in the form of words, when their bodies—including their voices—can be separated from their minds.” What do you think of that observation? Do you agree? Do you think we as an Orthodox community can do a better job in the way we think about and present men, women, and the relations between them? We do, and that’s what we’d like others to consider.

Tzom kal – an easy fast today.

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