January 23, 2019 The people who police others have templates
When I still lived in Kiryas Joel, I once got this unsigned notice in the mail. It is an anonymous warning that I had been immodest. The letter is only signed “from a good friend”. What so amused me about this letter was not that it is pretty out there – there are always people in very insular Hasidic communities who are more out of touch and obsessed with modesty and policing others. But rather, that someone had brought efficiency to the process. Now all you need to do in order to inform someone if you don’t approve of them wearing crocks (the shoes), is fill out a brief form and drop it in the mail. Does it work? I can’t promise results…!
Here is the translation and image below. The underlined parts are what the sender underlined, checked off or wrote in.
Dear Ms. F. Vizel,
As it is the obligation of every Jew to be responsible for the well-being of the other, I need to make you aware of the following thing:
The __ “2 piece outfit – dark color”__
that you wore last __”week”__ is not permitted according to the Halacha (Jewish Law) because:
“with every step you took, we sadly saw your back [exposed between the skirt and shirt]. Please be careful not to cause the public to sin! Thank you!”
- open at the neck
- wasn’t properly buttoned
- long robe outside of the home
- red turban
- spoke or laughed loudly in the street, bus, store…
- the scarf or turban wasn’t properly covered
- the wig was long
- white sneakers (crocks)
- went with “babby socks
May your efforts to behave with modesty and reserve, as is fitting for a Jewish woman, be rewarded with God’s blessing of plenty of money, joy and pride from the children, health. And may it be ing God’s spirit in your home, and the remedy of modesty will hopefully do its work to rid us of illnesses, god forbid. As is written in the books, until the messiah will come, amen.
Of course the people who busy themselves with such zealous policing of others are a minority, but they wield a kind of power. Because no matter how absurd I found this letter, I also felt humiliated.