Monday, February 02, 2009

Beautiful Jewish Women

I am sure that most people reading Chabad sites have been made aware of the racist and sexist comments made on a US TV show called The View. These remarks - made by a Jewish actor, Susie Essman - insulted Orthodox (and specifically Lubavitch) Jewish women and was only refuted by one person on the panel.

Rebbitzen Dini Freundlich of Chabad of Beijing has written a lovely piece expressing her thoughts on the subject of Jewish women in general and Chabad women in particular. I saw it on Shmais and feel that it is worth publishing in full.

Thank you Susie Essman!
By Dini Freundlich, Beijing China
11:10:PM Sunday, Feb 01, 2009

Although living in Beijing, China, which would seem far from the US and its TV programs, being the Chabad Lubavitch Shlucha here makes me the one that people turn to when they have a Jewish, Chassidic or “Torah perspective Women’s” question. Last week was no different and the big buzz was about the comments made on “The View” by Susie Essman, who plays the role of a Lubavitcher woman in a movie titled “Loving Leah”.

The comments and questions were the talk of my Friday kitchen as I prepared for Shabbat with some University students and the young Shluchot who help us in the Chabad House. I silently listed to them discuss this with a mix of anger, shock, outrage and confusion and a disbelief that in today’s modern and “open” world comments such as hers could be publicly heard and not refuted! They were further more infuriated that no one on the show stopped her or challenged her comments. They turned to me for my thoughts on boycotts, websites and angry emails in response to this outrage.

With Shabbat soon upon and so much to do I did not have the chance to respond to them and hoped to catch up at the Shabbat table. As the day progressed my thoughts progressed as well. At first my thoughts were ones of anger, how could someone believe and say that a group of tens of 1000’s of woman were all ugly and dressed funny! How rude and insulting! However as the day continued and shabbat came into our home, a completely different thought process and feeling came over me. As I stood by my Shabbat candles with my 4 beautiful and unique daughters, and welcomed Shabbat into our home and Chabad House, I prayed as I do each week, for each of my children. I always spend a few minutes reflecting on the week gone by and praying for the week ahead.

As I davened for each of my unique and different children yet all raised in a Lubavitch home, it struck me.

Susie Essman’s comment was not an insult at all, but a compliment to me and all my Chassidic sisters worldwide. Yes, at first glace it does seem like an insult but if you look at what she said it was in essence a complement.

Being a Jewish Woman herself, this role obviously hit a raw nerve and an insecure spot in her, and her observances and affiliations with Judaism. Playing a Chassidic woman made her soul feel uncomfortable and disconnected, and the only way she could cover up this discomfort was to try and insult the woman she plays. She did not say we are unintelligent, uneducated, bad mothers, not entrepreneurs or world leaders, bad educators and not co-directors in one of the world’s largest organizations, not dedicated wives or un-artistic, uncreative or lack talent. Instead she spoke of our faces and clothing.

It’s naive to say all Chassidic women are ugly or they ALL dress funny! How is it possible to insult such a large group of people on two things that are clearly in the eyes of the beholder? That’s right she could not.

In her shallow reaction to her role all she saw was external and all she valued was the external. I on the other hand stand proud to have been raised to look beyond the outside and see what lies within.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe ZTL, my Rebbe, always made a point of helping and reaching out to those less fortunate, he pushed and inspired his followers to do the same. It did not matter what a person looked like on the outside or how they spoke or dressed. He always looked straight inside to the core of the person and saw the value that they had internally. This is the lesson he taught us all and the lesson that leads us daily in our lives. In our Chabad Houses and Lubavitch homes around the world, we welcome people that may be different from us in their dress, looks and language, but as soon as we do as we have been taught, and look beyond the exterior, we see another person just like us!

So I’d like to thank you Susie Essman for making me appreciate the wonderful and truly beautiful woman around me, and the amazing accomplishments and talents they each uniquely have. But most of all, I want to personally thank you for reminding me how lucky I am to be a Lubavitcher Woman.

Susie, I’d like to personally invite you and the hosts of “The View” to join me and over 2000 of my fellow Lubavitcher women on Sunday night, February 15th at the Hilton Hotel in NYC, at our annual Lubavitcher conference of Women from across the globe, to see for yourself a room filled with the most beautiful woman inside and out, and get a small glimpse into their rich, fulfilled and meaningful lives.

Dini Freundlich