Everybody wants the best for their children, especially when it comes to marriage. The choice of a spouse by a son or daughter is a validation of a life lived and a child’s upbringing. Moreover, it is an endorsement of the future of the family. Little wonder then that parents pay special attention to the future partner that their son or daughter chooses for themselves.
So much of what Rabbi Steven Pruzansky (an Orthodox rabbi in Teaneck, New Jersey, who has a history of making controversial statements) actually says is disturbing and offensive. But the more troubling part of his arguments, for me, lies in what goes unsaid. His assumptions — the way that he presents complete untruths as fact — are so much more damaging to us as a community.
This past week I came across the most recent post on Rabbi Pruzansky’s blog about date rape culture on college campuses. Normally, words come rather easily to me when I feel passionate about something; but this time I found myself simultaneously overflowing with words while also at a loss for words. While I definitely believe that this post was about a man in power trying to assert moral superiority, I think this was not his entire motive. I see him as a man presenting an inability to acknowledge, learn about, and respect women.
Steven Pruzansky, an Orthodox rabbi in New Jersey who has made numerous problematic statements in the past, recently posted a highly controversial blog about rape. This is a response:
Gentlemen, as Passover approaches, I thought you would appreciate the following advice:
This past weekend, I was involved in an incredibly exhilarating and spiritually uplifting event: Nashir, the intercollegiate Jewish women’s arts festival. Each year, Nashir consists of a Shabbat experience, followed by a visual arts gallery and performance on Saturday night; this year Nashir took place at the University of Pennsylvania.
I came to Denver for the sunshine, really. I came to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, to escape the New York buzz and breathe some fresh air. But I never imagined that the noise of traffic would be replaced with the perfectly harmonious sounds of nature. I never imagined that the lights of the billboards would be traded in for the brightest stars I have ever seen.
As I lay in bed, after talking to an international committee of organizations that advocate on behalf of agunot (Jewish women who are trapped in marriages because their husbands will not provide a get, or Jewish divorce), I started to reminisce about the past year… So much has happened in such a short time that it hardly seems real. Just over a year ago, I was a normal guy, working as a mashgiach (kosher supervisor) for a nursing home and now I’m a world famous agunah advocate. How does something like that happen?!?
In January of 2013 I came across an article in the Jewish Daily Forward that read: “The strongest girl in the world is an Orthodox Jewish 10-year-old from Fair Lawn, N.J.” As a documentary filmmaker, I’m always on the lookout for good stories but this immediately grabbed my attention and intrigued me. After further research, I learned that this 10-year-old girl, Naomi Kutin, had beat out adult woman four times her age to set an all-time powerlifting world record in the 97 lbs weight class by squatting 215 pounds. I’m not a weightlifter myself but I can do simple arithmetic and I know that lifting more than double your bodyweight is no joke.
In the context of Jewish divorce, there are no chained men.