Women In Jerusalem
By Linda Krog
Meah (Mea) Shearim is an ultra-orthodox neighborhood in the northern section of Jerusalem. Founded in 1873 by orthodox, primarily Hasidic, Jews from eastern Europe (Simon, 1978), Meah Shearim is referred to as the “Jewish Section” of Jerusalem. Its customs and lifestyles are based on the Torah and its inhabitants display a desire of separation from the other Jews who have shown a willingness to compromise with secularism.
The Gentiles of the New Testament were barbaric and disgusting to the Jewish standards Of Jesus’ day. In Acts 15:5-29, a council was called to give Gentile converts a sense of appropriate lifestyle without putting on them the entirety of the Mosaic Law. The Christian church had few ancient role models as is true of most Gentiles. it took 200 years to convert Norway to Lutheranism, and they still incorporated dragons in their architecture to ward off evil spirits (Norwegian Folk Museum, Oslo). The Jewish heritage, however, as presented in the Old Testament, provides a great heritage and Jesus Christ, our greatest role model. As Meah Shearim studies the Torah and establishes its orthodoxy on the Torah’s precepts, the ultraorthodox Jews are presenting modem patterns of modesty which we can emulate.
In accordance with the stated intent of these Jews to live totally in submission to the Torah and the laws of orthodoxy, the required dress of women is as follows: shirts are at least mid in length, blouses have long sleeves, outfits are subdued in color and loose-fitting. A sign welcoming visitors to Meah Shearim delineates the essence of modesty within its confines. It reads:
“Dear Visitor: You are quite welcome to Meah Shearim, but please do not antagonize our religious inhabitants by strolling through our streets in immodest clothing. Our Torah requires the Jewish women to be attired in modest dress: a modest dress, dress sleeves reaching until below the elbows (slacks forbidden), stockings, married women having their hair covered, etc., are the virtues of the Jewish women throughout the Ages. Please do not offend our residents and cause yourself any unnecessary inconvenience. We beg you not to infringe upon our way of life and ‘Holy Code of Law.’ We beseech you to use discretion by not trespassing our streets in an undesired fashion. The men are requested not to enter bareheaded. Thanking you in advance for complying with our request and wishing you blessings from above for your good deeds, Committee for the Guarding of Modesty, Meah Shearim and Vicinity, Jerusalem, the Holy City.” (Rice, 1973, p. 103).
Dress standards reach into the educational curriculum. Girls in Meah Shearim are taught to sew their own clothes. This is to discourage them from going to shopping malls and being tempted by inappropriate styles of dress (Simon, 1978).
As a side note, the inhabitants of Meah Shearim take a strong stand on television. The ultra-orthodox leaders have insisted the followers not expose themselves to the typical programming available. This is not to say they are against television as a modem electronic device, much as the Amish or Hutterites in America. The orthodox Jews base their objections of the content of the programs. These programs are immoral, distasteful, obscene or, at least. frivolous and trivial (Simon, 1978).
According to my sources, women are credited for having “binah yeteirah”, additional wisdom. This is displayed in the Mother of the Hebrew race, Sarah. Specifically, in Genesis 21:9-13, upon the occasion of a celebration for lsaac, Sarah advises Abraham to cast out the bondwoman and her son, as he will not be an heir with her son, Isaac. Abraham is remiss to do this until God speaks to him and sides with Sarah. This story is taught by the Rabbis as an example of the sensitivity of women and a natural desire to perform God’s will and fulfill His law (Kaufman, 1993). Is it any wonder that the enemy of our souls would like to strip the women of today of their access to the throne of God and the benefits which are promised them? I Corinthians I 1: 10 speaks of that power which God has ordained to women. In Strong’s #1849, power is rendered: “authority, jurisdiction, liberty, power, right, strength in the sense of ability and privilege or delegated influence. ” Satan continually tries to destroy access to the promise by enticing women to feed their fleshly lusts and desires for male admiration. The question arises, whose admiration is more important to the woman of the Church, God’s or man’s?
Romans 13:11-14 states that it is time to awake out of sleep. Women of the Church need to heed that warning. Hebrews 2:1-3 also admonishes us to give “heed to the things which we have heard…” It is the devil’s business to bind us to the earth through our earthly lusts and desires. It is the will of God to free us from those bondage’s and lift us high in the Spirit. The Committee for Guarding Modesty in Meah Shearim sums up the matter in this way: “We beg you not to infringe upon our way of life and the ‘Holy Code of Law “‘.
Bible, King James Version
Karufman, Michael. (1993) The Woman in Jewish Law and Tradition,
Northvale: Jason Aronson, Inc.
Rice, Edward. (1973) The Five Great Religions, New York: Four Winds Press.
Simon, R.J. (1978) Continuity and Change, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Strong, J. (1990) The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible,
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
The above material was published in the Minnesota Messenger magazine by Linda Krog, June 1996, pp. 5. This material is copyrighted and may be used for study and research purposes only.