(Yes, this is despite doing feministy things, like including women in a minyan — but that's mostly so that they'll sometimes have a minyan because relying on the men alone often doesn't add up to 10 in many of their communities.)
So girls have the option to get a bat mitzvah at age 13 (rather than age 12, according to halachah), which they are expected to do so they don't make the fake liberal men feel inferior. Of course, no one actually says that. Instead, they claim the delayed bat mitzvah is for reasons of "maturity."
Also, there's not much mitzvah involved when you consider all the chilul Shabbat taking place in this movement, what with driving on Shabbat and using microphones during the service on Shabbat, etc.
At that time, I did not know that just attending services in such a place is a halachic problem and it didn't occur to me to ask. Informative Orthodox literature was limited at that time, especially if you lived outside the main frum centers of the USA, where you didn't have frum bookstores and the like.
So a friend of my parents volunteered herself & her family to host me for Shabbat. No one asked her.
This point is important in relation to what happened later.
So please remember that this family — particularly the wife — VOLUNTEERED to host me and did so CHEERFULLY, along with the verbal reassurance that they both UNDERSTOOD Shabbat observance & WANTED to host someone with these standards.
This couple had a 13-year-old daughter & a 9-year-old daughter, both younger than me (I was around 18 or 19), and both of whom I liked.
The American wife (whom we'll call "Atalia") and her Israeli husband lived in Israel at one point and gave the impression that they were comfortable with Shabbat observance.
Atalia had always been very friendly toward me with an engaging sense of humor, and I looked forward to spending more time with her and her family.
Prior to that, there were only 2 signs that anything was off:
- The younger girl walked around like she was literally depressed, which is very unusual in a 9-year-old. I literally never saw her not depressed. Shoulders sagging and her mouth always turned down, she once confided that she was forced to attend basketball practice every day after school, even though she hated every minute of it.
My heart went out to her because when I was her age, I hated phys. ed class and she was such an introverted bookish type with a solid heavy build (not fat, but just very big-boned with wide flat pigeon-toed feet), she wasn't made for playing basketball at all.
- The very nice older daughter was unusually quiet and sometimes verbally bullied at the tri-weekly (2 afternoons, plus Sunday) Hebrew school we all attended at that age.
(Unfortunately, such bullying is not an uncommon occurrence among the Hebrew schools associated with the movement for Conservative-which-is-actually-very-liberal "Judaism." But you will never hear about it officially because people are only allowed to malign ORTHODOX institutions & communities. Conservative & Reform are considered above reproach. Alternatively, they're considered so ignorant & compromised that they inspire a "Well, what else would you expect?" attitude — which still doesn't nullify the very real harm they cause.)
The Jekyll-Hyde Mommy
When I arrived at their lovely home, I was greeted warmly.
They showed me to a clean & pleasant guest room.
After around half-an-hour, I heard a berating outburst.
It went on. And on.
What could possibly be so wrong?
I poked my head out the doorway, which was just down the hall from the kitchen.
There was Atalia criticizing her older daughter non-stop.
Apparently, the 13-year-old girl was not tossing the salad just right.
Nor was she seasoning the salad in exactly the right way.
The anger in Atalia's voice shocked me.
At that point, I had never heard someone berate their child like that and so relentlessly.
It just went on and on. (I knew people who'd been abused in other ways, but not this kind of verbal onslaught.)
Also, it struck me as insane to feel so strongly about salad-tossing.
The daughter just submitted to it, only murmuring "Okay" and "Sorry" here and there, which made the mother's ongoing verbal battery even more disturbing and mystifying.
I really couldn't stand idly by while this was going on, so I appeared at the kitchen doorway and pleasantly offered my help with preparations.
Atalia turned to me with a fake delighted smile while her daughter kept stoically tossing that salad, doing her best to accommodate her mother's nitpicky instructions.
Atalia cooed, "Oh, that's so sweet of you, but we're fine here."
"Are you sure?" I said pleasantly. "I really don't mind. It's so nice of you to host me for Shabbos and I'm happy to help."
Just for background: At that time, I knew nothing about salad-making, except for the pre-washed & pre-cut make-your-own-salad bar available at Pizza Hut. But it was the only thing I could think of to offer, and I figured that as long as I was around, she'd be too self-conscious to keep on at her daughter.
Finally, they let me help, but I can't remember how — probably because I'd never chopped a cucumber in my life, and I was in shock at the whole display of abuse, especially toward such an accommodating & submissive victim.
I'd also never seen a teenager respond to such an attack with such utter submission.
I also wondered how Atalia regularly treated her children, if this was how abusive she becomes over something so minor.
The 9-year-old's depressed demeanor started to make more sense.
I tried to act like I hadn't heard anything so the girl wouldn't feel embarrassed around me.
Then came the time for Shabbos candle-lighting.
The Shabbos Light "Disaster"
If memory serves correctly, I was still wearing jeans because I didn't know about changing in honor of Shabbat, but rather just changing right before you go to the synagogue.
Anyway, I stood there pondering the room intensely, then brightened upon remembering to turn out the light before Shabbos!
It sounds very funny now, but before I got used to keeping Shabbos, remembering little things like this (even though it was just one thing) was a big challenge and therefore, a big accomplishment.
Anyway, I went to go light candles and for some reason Atalia kept pleasantly pushing it off.
I felt very uncomfortable about being an assertive guest (assertive seemed like bad manners), but I was afraid of either transgressing Shabbos or not getting to light candles at all.
Very hesitantly & uncomfortably, I pressed the issue as politely & accommodatingly as possible, and finally got to light.
I was very confused because she'd given the impression that she was very open to hosting a Shabbos-observer, but now seemed like she'd been intentionally blocking me to either violate Shabbat or not light at all.
But she seemed so pleasant & unassuming about it all, so I was confused. (At that time, I didn't really know about what's called "covert aggression" or "passive aggression.")
It was also confusing because Atalia had always been so nice to me & I liked her so much.
If we like each other so much, then why was she treating me this way?
Then I went back to my room and to my horror, I saw that the light was on.
How can I sleep with the light on all night??!! (It seems funny to me now that the thought of sleeping under a bright light all night was so end-of-the-world. But I was at a very different stage back then.)
And now I was also even more confused.
I knew I'd turned off the light. And it seemed to me that in the brief moments between the time I'd left the room and lit candles, then returned to the room, someone had turned on the light. But why? There wasn't anything in there that they needed; it was an empty room designated only for guests.
Also, why would Atalia have done that? She knew the laws of Shabbos and knew that I couldn't turn off the lights.
And she'd invited me to her home with the express reassurance that she knew how to host a shomer Shabbos person.
So what gives?
The Shape-Shifting Sabbath Hostess
Finally, I worked up the guts to timidly say, "Um, excuse me?"
She whipped around to look at me in pleasant & obviously fake surprise and said, "Yes! Is everything okay?"
"Well, um..." I hemmed & hawed, feeling ridiculous.
She perked her head to one side, smiled at me expectantly, and said, "Yes?" in an encouraging manner.
She acted so pleasant & innocent that I didn't immediately register the "Gotcha!" look in her widened eyes.
So I stammered something about the light being on in my room.
I didn't know what to do about it because on one hand, I felt like it would be impossible to sleep with it on; yet on the other hand, Jewish Law forbids turning it off.
And though I didn't know the halacha then, it seemed logical to me that another Jew could not turn it off, even when that Jew is completely non-shomer-Shabbos.
If it's forbidden, then it's forbidden to every Jew regardless of personal observance.
But at that time, I didn't actually know that logical conclusion was true.
Anyway, Atalia kept up her pleasant smile, but her eyes narrowed.
Then in a soft yet ominous voice, she said, "You want me to turn off that light, don't you."
I wasn't sure what to answer, partly because I was pretty sure she wasn't allowed & partly because I didn't understand this sudden melodramatic shift in the conversation.
In reply, I stammered because I felt like I couldn't say either yes or no.
"Okay," she said the same soft yet venomous voice as if we were in some theatrical drama. "I'll turn off your light for you."
Then she moved right into my face, about 2 inches from my nose, gave me a viper-like smile, and said very softly (using my secular name, which is changed here to protect both the guilty & the innocent), "You know what, Lisa? I reeeeeally hate people like you."
Then she went to go turn off the light.
I was left stunned, not sure what had happened.
People like me?
What, a teenage Neturei Karta in jeans and hairspray?
O, Religious Fanatical Zealot that I was!
Clearly, the whole scenario was a set-up. She perceived that I was too weak & ignorant at that point to resist telling her it needed to be turned off.
Either way, she knew she would win because either I'd at least hint to her to turn off the light, or I'd suffer it on all night (which would & still does ruin my sleep for that night).
So she'd get to torment me no matter what.
And just for knowing, I was too gobsmacked to be hurt or insulted by her telling me that she "reeeeeeally" hates me.
It's like if your Sabbath hostess suddenly shape-shifted into a reptilian alien 2 inches from your nose, would you be hurt or insulted?
No, of course not.
You'd be thinking "Whoa, this is so bizarre & unexpected!" and "Bummer, I'm stuck for the rest of Shabbos with this reptilian alien shape-shifter!"
But you wouldn't be hurt or insulted. Just weirded-out & dismayed.
I Sense a Feminist Dictatorship Here...
I told them how much I appreciated them showing me the way & tried engaging them in conversation.
They let their guard down a bit & when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, the 13-year-old girl said, "My mother wants me to be a Reform rabbi when I grow up, but I don't want to be."
She seemed hopelessly resigned to the fact.
Then the younger girl said mournfully, "And Mom wants me to be a professional basketball player, but I HATE basketball." Then her solid little body started sagging so much, I thought she'd fall over on her face.
I thought both were bizarre goals for one's daughter.
It also seemed strange that their mother imposed future careers on them, which included forcing them — especially the youngest — to continuously engage in activities they hated.
For the younger girl, I wondered how it felt to have to participate daily in something you hated so much, something you weren't good at and would never be good at.
Also, knowing how kids were with sports, I wondered how it felt to have a coach needing to sweetly encourage or guide you (constantly, because you were always messing up) and to deal with the resentment of teammates who couldn't relate to your lack of enthusiasm and skill, which ruined the game for them.
Forcing your child onto a future path was something I thought only happened in the olden days — you know, before the end of the Victorian caste system.
I also couldn't understand why the girls felt they were doomed to follow their mother's dictates as adults, when they'd be free to leave home and live their own lives.
(Welcome to Feminist Totalitarianism.)
So I reassured them that they'd be able to leave the minute they were 18 and do whatever they wanted & and live as far from home as they wanted for the rest of their lives.
That cheered them a bit, but they still remained unhappy & resigned. I don't think they really believed they'd ever be free.
Flatbush-Jew Validation is Better Than Therapy
My mom looked scandalized and understandably speechless. She herself would never be so confrontational, even with a guest she did not like. (She also never would've gone out of her way to invite a guest just to torture them.)
My dad looked startled for a moment, then shifted in to "Flatbush Jewish Guy" mode.
With a sarcastic snort and a grunt, he scoffed, "Yeah, Atalia gets like that sometimes."
"Like what?" I said. "She's always been so nice!"
"Naaah," he said, smirking more (not at me, but about Atalia) by the moment in good ol'-fashioned Flatbush style. "Atalia sometimes goes into melodrama-mode. I wouldn't take her seriously at all. It's not worth it." He looked right at me with a knowing smirk (against Atalia in validation of me). "Really. Don't take her seriously."
It felt really good knowing that my dad believed me over an adult and a friend of theirs, and that he was so disdainful of her behavior. I felt like that meant I was okay after all.
(My mom still couldn't find anything to say about such discourteous behavior, and her response was validating too.)
Unconditional Support Means Unconditional Blamelessness for All!
At first, Atalia tried to cover it up, but the truth came out anyway.
Of course, Atalia's friends from their synagogue for Conservative-which-is-actually-very-liberal "Judaism" were very supportive.
Mainstream Americans love to rally around and offer non-judgmental support for their peers because if a verbally abusive tyrant who drove her sweet submissive daughter to suicide doesn't need to take responsibility for her behavior, then nobody does.
And life is much more palatable that way.
(Note: A suicide attempt doesn't always indicate abusive parenting, but in this case it did.)
And We All Lived Happily Ever After...Kind of
I believe the older girl finally got the relief she needed (at least somewhat), after all the bullying she endured from her mother and her Hebrew school.
I'm not sure if Atalia truly changed, or whether she adjusted her behavior out of fear of being exposed again as the really dysfunctional mother she was.
If I remember correctly, the older girl later went to college (majoring in something she liked, and not Reform rabbinate studies), and married a nice boy.
I don't know what happened with the younger girl, but I'm positive she never became a basketball player.
And by the way, I still HATE sleeping with the light on, but have been in that situation since & just dealt with it, and never again even hinted to anyone to turn it on.
Note: Upon hearing the above story, someone mentioned that it could be that it wasn't yet Shabbat when she turned on the light; maybe it wasn't actually shkiyah yet. Hopefully, that's true. But I don't know.
Nice, Open-Minded, Progressive, Liberal Abuse
For example, Yerushalayim mayor Moshe Lion recently blocked a Reform attempt at encroachment of the Kotel (source).
(UPDATE: Rav Yitzchak Yosef has also taken a strong stand against the incredibly destructive Reform movement. h/t Neshama)
GOOD FOR THEM!!!
The anti-Torah movements & leaders (whether they're specifically feminist or any of type of liberalization) always present themselves as compassionate & open-minded with good intentions. For example, the Wall Womyn describe themselves as "liberators" looking to "secure rights" for women at the Kotel.
Women already have rights at the Kotel — like the right to sincere heartfelt prayer & basking in the holiness of the Shechinah.
The Wall Womyn destroy that right.
Ironically, many frum people give the benefit of the doubt to the participants (though not necessarily the leaders) because "they don't know any better."
However, I remember Atalia was very into the liberalization of authentic Torah Judaism and very anti-Orthodox (as I discovered that Shabbat).
She was very pro-feminism, and the Wall Womyn would've been right up her alley.
But despite Atalia's pleasant, engaging, and liberal exterior, she was actually an extremely abusive, hate-filled, controlling person — as a lot of these people are.
I grew up in the movements for Reform & Conservative-which-is-actually-very-liberal "Judaism" and yes, there are nice people who are simply misled by the propaganda.
But there are also a lot of people who are dysfunctional.
Yet they portray themselves very differently than they actually are.
For example, one successful radiologist, upon hearing that I'd started keeping Torah & mitzvot, sneered at me and said, "Oh yeah? My daughter also started up with that, but I crushed that out of her right away. Would not tolerate it. Your parents apparently didn't manage to do that with you, did they. Oh well. Their loss."
Another father kept up constant harassment of his newly frum son for as long as the son lived at home. The son couldn't even eat from a plastic plate in peace (though you'd think it would be his mother who'd have a harder time with that, but she handled it better than the father) because the fact that the son wouldn't eat off the family dishes was too big a criticism for the father.
And this son was very, very respectful to his parents. Despite his son's constant pleasantness, the father refused to stop with all the confrontations & harassment.
Ultimately, the son managed to leave and get into a yeshivah in a frum community, where he was finally free.
All these people support liberal, "progressive" values and "rights," but they're actually very controlling & will behave abusively to anyone who behaves differently.
Baruch Hashem, my own parents were nice & accommodating about things and it helped that they had positive experiences with the local frum community (which is huge praise for all the frum people who behave with such courtesy & pleasantness to non-frum people).
But the anti-Torah leaders & many of the participants are not like that.
They utilize appealing language, but beneath the surface, they can be extremely controlling, manipulative, and abusive.
They can be the type of person who drives a 9-year-old into depression and a 15-year-old into suicide.
Focus on Healing the Core, But Don't Give Way to the Attacks Coming from Outside
There is also a place for being nice to these people, particularly some of the misled participants, if they are indeed decent people who are simply misguided. (Not all of the participants are simply "lost little lambs;" Atalia was not a leader in any of these movements, but she was a firm supporter.)
We should also focus on strengthening & improving our own frum communities more than fighting back against the anti-Torah elements.
We should be so good & spiritually healthy that we create a strong barrier against both anti-Torah forces & Jew-hatred.
"Clean up your own backyard first" is always good advice.
But at the same time, we should definitely not be afraid to stand up to these "progressive" anti-Torah movements and to hold on to what we know is right, despite all the rage & accusations they heap upon us — accusations which apply much more to them than to us. (Only you'll probably never see it unless you're firmly within their community, like I was.)
They don't really care about anyone else's "rights" or anything spiritual or even Judaism (which is why so many of them marry non-Jews with fake "conversions").
And they aren't as niiiiiiice & open-minded as they like to appear.
After all, isn't it really weird to get in the face of a vulnerable teenage girl and tell her that you really hate people like her?
Can we all agree that's not very nice or open-minded?
They just crave permission to behave however they want for themselves, and they enjoy being in control & abusing others.
They know that the frum community is a minority and also has the world media against them, so they strike at the heart of Torah because they feel they can get away with it.
(And as shown above, they have a deep-seated hatred for the fundamentals of Torah, like Shabbos, which is the core sign between Hashem & the Jewish people. A lot of them have issues with kashrut too.)
And as we face these onslaughts from anti-Torah leaders & movements who portray themselves as oh-so much more caring & fair-minded & progressive, a lot of them are probably like the people mentioned in this post.
Not all of them. But a lot of them.
So it's important to keep the above story in mind.
We don't need to fear or accommodate or "dialogue" with them.
Ultimately, for many of them, it's not that they don't understand.
It's that they have really bad middot that blind them to any kind of Truth.