Leave girls alone

Last week, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, one of the leading figures of the religious-Zionist community’s hard-line wing, issued what he called the “Ten Commandments” for modest dress for young girls.

Jpost editorial logo  (photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
Jpost editorial logo
(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
Last week, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, one of the leading figures of the religious-Zionist community’s hard-line wing, issued what he called the “Ten Commandments” for modest dress for young girls.
Aviner posted the instructions on his Facebook page. Among the guidelines, he said that girls ages 12 and older need to wear ankle-length skirts, shirt sleeves down to their hands, and to button the top button of their shirts so that the bottom of their neck is concealed. He also said that girls need to wear baggy shirts, refrain from tucking them in so as not to accentuate their hips, and to keep their hair tied up.
Aviner wrote the post in first person, as if he himself was a young girl. He has issued similar directives including determining the acceptable color of clothes for women and young girls, going so far as to give instructions for the acceptable thickness of stockings. Despite coming under criticism then, Aviner published his new post on Thursday.
“I will soon be bat mitzvah and I want to be a modest girl,” Aviner wrote. “I want to be a beautiful girl in the eyes of God, meaning modest.”
In this fictional 11-year-old’s name, the rabbi wrote that the girl would not grow a ponytail, but rather braid her hair; would button up the top button of her shirt and wear a shirt that covers the bottom of the neck; would wear a “wide shirt” and “wide skirt” that “disguises the form of the body”; wear sleeves down to her hands and skirts down to her ankles; wear shoes with modest colors and without heels; and would go without “rings, jewelry or decorations.”
Aviner’s post generated strong criticism among Facebook users, as well as from several organizations.
The moderate religious-Zionist organization Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah said that Aviner’s obsession with female modesty objectify women and have the opposite effect.
“Dealing with dress in this way, down to the smallest detail, is likely to bring us to objectification and immodesty,” the organization said in a statement to the press. “This is in addition to the educational mistake that makes our daughters feel that they are sinners.”
Parents, the group said, need to draw a line and make sure that “our children’s educational institutions do not have male rabbis or educators who will address our daughters in such a way.”
The nature of Aviner’s post is disturbing, and is just the latest example of the obsession some parts of the national-religious community have with the way young girls dress.
The post came a few weeks after a prominent Jerusalem national-religious girls’ school took some of its students – on school time – to a store where they can buy skirts deemed long enough by the school’s administration. Some parents lodged complaints, asking why the school felt it necessary to take the girls shopping for skirts at the expense of time that they are supposed to be studying math, science or history.
Dress should be a personal matter and should be something that is determined by a young girl together with her parents. Obviously, different communities will have different standards, but the ultimate decision is something that should be made in and by the family.
Judaism has a lot of beauty to offer the world. One example was seen just last week when the country shut down to mark Yom Kippur. Even Israeli Jews who are not religiously observant appreciate the day and the opportunity it affords them to take a break from the hustle of daily life and to consider their purpose and direction.
Sukkot, the holiday that began Sunday evening, is a celebration of agriculture, family and remembrance. Over the next week, Israelis will be flocking to tourist sites, nature reserves and national parks across the country, enjoying the good weather and their families.
Aviner would do well to focus on the positives that Judaism has to offer as opposed to dictating to young girls what to wear and how to look. His Facebook post is an embarrassment for him and the people he pretends to represent. It needs to stop.