Online discussions grew especially heated after the most recent case of erasing women from ultra-Orthodox publications.
In last week’s issue of Mishpacha, a charedi magazine, part of a photo of Holocaust victims was pixelated to hide a woman’s face, prompting JOFA (Jewish Feminist Orthodox Alliance) to condemn the decision in the strongest of terms.
Encouraging JOFA supporters to email Mishpacha with their complaints, Sharon Weiss-Greenberg, the group’s executive director, asserted that “any sort of intuition that victims of the Holocaust would be in any way arousing to any individual on this planet is horrifying.”
The magazine also featured a cover story about the last surviving victims of Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor who performed experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz. The survivors featured were twins, but the cover photo featured a picture of the male twin while excluding his sister, in keeping with the magazine’s policy of not printing women’s faces.
JOFA has taken on this issue in the past, organizing a #FrumWomenHaveFaces social media campaign over the summer as a result of an issue with the Flatbush Jewish Journal. Weiss-Greenberg said the pixelated photo merited renewed attention.
Sruli Besser, an editor of Mishpacha, responding to the criticism in a Facebook post, noted that the photo originally came from the Hebrew version of Mishpacha, which tends to follow stricter modesty guidelines.
“The picture was not pixelated by us: we wouldn’t have done so — in fact, in the very same article on the same page, you clearly see a picture of a girl,” wrote Besser.
He followed up with a second post on Monday night, saying the conversation about women’s pictures in Mishpacha is “not for everyone.”
“The problem is that every time we open a door and show a willingness to engage in dialogue, a whole horde of angry agenda-driven people who — while well-meaning and sincere — aren’t part of our conversation, see a chance to grandstand and they seize it,” wrote Besser. “But we aren’t a People [magazine] who changes things because of a hashtag campaign or Facebook ambush. That’s not how it will work, not what’s going to dictate the process.”
Critics of Mishpacha defended their right to call out the magazine’s policies. Shoshanna Keats-Jaskoll, who recently penned an op-ed calling out this practice and has been one of a number a number of activists working on this issue, responded to Besser in her own Facebook post.
“The idea that because I am not charedi, I cannot/should not speak out against erasing women is ridiculous. I am a Jew.”