Piety blurs the female face in haredi catalogues

Haredi newspaper Hamodia removes books dealing with female adolescence and dating.

haredi girls 88 (photo credit: )
haredi girls 88
(photo credit: )
You can never be too pious when you are among the believers. Feldheim Publishers, a publishing house that caters to Orthodox Jews, discovered this when the English edition of the haredi newspaper Hamodia censored its book catalogue this weekend. Hamodia insisted that Feldheim blur female faces appearing on pictures of its book covers, including cartoon caricatures, before agreeing to distribute Feldheim's catalogue as a supplement in its weekend edition. Books published by Targum Press that appeared in the same catalogue were also blurred. Hamodia also removed two books from the catalogue, one dealing with female adolescence called The Wonder of Becoming You and another on dating called The Magic Touch. Feldheim and Targum censor themselves according to their own religious sensibilities. This apparently was not enough to meet Hamodia's more stringent standards. Aryeh Frankel, head of public relations at haredi advertising agency Gal BSD - the BSD stands for bsiata dshamaya, Aramaic for "with God's help" - said the difference in approach among Feldheim, Targum and Hamodia reflected the difference between American and Israeli haredim. "American haredim are usually more liberal than Israelis," he said. Ya'acov Feldheim, owner of Feldheim Publishers, told The Jerusalem Post that Hamodia's censorship was "legitimate." "Maybe people at Hamodia somehow balance the horrible immodesty that we see on our streets," said Feldheim. "For me, women walking around half naked is a million times worse than being a little over stringent." One of the books, The Bamboo Cradle, a story about a Chinese girl abandoned on a train and adopted by a Jewish university professor who converts her to Judaism, has two pictures of the girl, one as a young woman, which was blurred, and one as a baby, which was not. But Gal BSD's Frankel said that pictures of baby girls are prohibited in both Hamodia, which is owned by Gerrer hassidim and connected to the Agudat Yisrael party, and Yated Ne'eman, controlled by the Lithuanian Degel Hatorah party. Agudat Yisrael and Degel Hatorah together form United Torah Judaism. "About three years ago both papers disqualified an ad for Kimberly diapers that featured a four-month-old female infant," said Frankel. Frankel said that even the most liberal Israeli haredi newspapers such as Kav Itonut, a chain of local weeklies owned by Aharon Kurnik and edited by Avi Rosen, did not publish pictures of women. "But the haredi press is split on pictures of baby girls," he said. Dudi Zilbershlag, publisher of the haredi weekly Bekehila and a Sert-Viznitz hassid, said Hamodia was even stricter than Yated Ne'eman regarding pictures of baby girls. "It's something that was instituted by the current rebbe [Yankel Aryeh Alter]," said Zilbershlag. Pictures of infant girls appear in Bekehila. "The Zohar says that a female pure of sin does not arouse forbidden thoughts," said Zilbershlag.