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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Celebrity Tour

Get this:
Rabbis get woman-free flight

Two leading rabbis buy all first class tickets, ask El Al to only post male stewards on flight so they do not have to see women on way to America
Two leading rabbis set to fly to the United States concluded an agreement with El Al that would see them enjoy a woman-free and movie-free flight.

The Gerrer Rebbe, a Hassidic leader who will fly abroad on Sunday, asked El Al that no air stewardesses be aboard the flight.

El Al complied with the rabbi's request and on Sunday's flight to the United States only males will look after passengers.

The Gerrer Rebbe and Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, 93, another leading rabbi, will fly in a historic journey to visit American Jewish communities.

The journey has been exciting the ultra-Orthodox public for six months as it involves the rare cooperation of the two spiritual leaders.

During the visit the rabbis will seek to raise funds for married yeshiva students attending advanced Judaic studies programs.

I'm not even being critical of the fact Rav Steinman and the Gerrer Rebbe want to travel with as little contact with certain factors as possible. They live lives that allow them to avoid any contact with anything that they consider spiritually impure, be it movies, television, or women in various stages of dress that they deem inappropriate. Obviously, this was the only way to transport them to America without putting them through the discomfort of having to endure the in-flight movie, or watching women sleep in their chairs across the cabin. And it's certainly their right to purchase all of the tickets in the first class cabin towards that goal.

And though my first instinct was to to take issue with the seeming waste of so much money to clear the cabin when they could be putting that money towards the charities for which they are actually traveling, on second thought, I am not quite as bothered by it. If these are the only parameters under which these Rabbis are able to travel to America - where I'm sure their stature will recoup the expense many times over in their fundraising efforts, then it really isn't any different than the expenditures that go towards other types of charity fundraisers.

It's also not really different from the lists of demands that celebrities in the music or film world make daily, such as renting out whole floors of their hotels in order to ensure their privacy, or specifying only certain foods be cooked around-the-clock by a personal chef.

I guess these Rabbanim are the Orthodox world's version of celebrities.

83 Comments:

Anonymous babyrabbi said...

This flight was most likely sponsored by wealthy donors from abroad, and therefore is likely not an operating expense that needs to be recovered. Regardless, this begs the question of the propriety of lionizing individuals who are frum "af yenem's cheshbon" and whose demands are essentially indistinguishable from those of celebrities.

11:39 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

This flight was most likely sponsored by wealthy donors from abroad, and therefore is likely not an operating expense that needs to be recovered.

Absolutely correct, but one could argue that regardless of where it came from, that is still money spent on something that could have been given directly to the needy.

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would one respect someone who can't function in the real world?

12:03 PM  
Anonymous midwestern_gal said...

Anon - I think lots of chareidim respect these gedolim for precisely that reason. Although I'm sure they wouldn't put it that way. I don't think it's an issue of being unable to function in the "real world," but their choosing not to. And to many that's admirable.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"I guess these guys are the Orthodox world's version of celebrities."

What ever happened to humility, or are these people holier than Moshe Rabbeinu?

What a load of self-righteous shit!

12:18 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Anonymous said...

Why would one respect someone who can't function in the real world?


Well, it obviously depends how you calibrate your level of respect for your fellow human. Who says that human interaction with the "real world" is an objective criteria for being worthy of respect? There are many criteria, and I think Torah knowledge is certainly one, regardless of whether you feel there are problems with how a person chooses to deal with the "real world".

12:18 PM  
Anonymous R Tzvi Mayer Zilberberg said...

This is nothing new. They have always traveled this way. Many other less-well-known individuals travel this way also. The benefactors feel that so much is gained by these visits that it's worth it. Let's not judge the way other people decide to spend their money.

12:22 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...


What ever happened to humility, or are these people holier than Moshe Rabbeinu?


First of all, who says this is about humility? If anything, if they can't handle exposure to outside influences, I think it actually sends a message that they are human, and as susceptible to those influences as you and me.

I also don't like the attitude where people who are very happy to show their tolerance for those who are further to the left of them in observance, but get all up in arms when others choose to be "too strict" in observance.

Why the double standard? Who cares? Live and let live, right?

12:24 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"There are many criteria, and I think Torah knowledge is certainly one, regardless of whether you feel there are problems with how a person chooses to deal with the "real world"."

This is total crap. No one, except the so-called leaders of so-called chassidish dynasties or whatever planet these guys are from, could afford to accommodate this level of piety.

This is a total affront to anyone who has to struggle to better themselves and smacks of a religious order attempting to emulate Catholic puritanism which places its leaders on unattainable pedestals.

As far as I'm concern this spectacle of public geiyva is an act of mass spiritual abuse perpetrated by a gaggle of highly-irresponsible, completely clueless, completely arrogant figureheads who are stage managing an event to raise money and get attention. I want to puke!!!!!!!!

12:45 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"First of all, who says this is about humility? If anything, if they can't handle exposure to outside influences, I think it actually sends a message that they are human, and as susceptible to those influences as you and me.

Let me guess.....you're hosting these freaks at a parlor meting. Is this why your promoting the bullshit agenda of these misogynistic phonies?

12:46 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...


Let me guess.....you're hosting these freaks at a parlor meting. Is this why your promoting the bullshit agenda of these misogynistic phonies?


Yes. How did you guess.

But seriously, I'm not sure why you're so riled up.

Why does this affect you? As I said above, why can't you live and let live?

12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone think these gedolim who live in a completely insular enviornment can relate to American Orthodox Jewry outside the very narrow few who maintain a similarly insular lifestyle? Do you think these gedolim have any clue what Jewish life in a place like 5T is like?

12:53 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"Why does this affect you? As I said above, why can't you live and let live?"

It affects me because every day I wake to discover that more and more, my religion, at best, resembles Catholicism, and at worst Islam.

And, thanks to our so-called "leaders," I'm buying it less and less.

12:54 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Do you think these gedolim have any clue what Jewish life in a place like 5T is like?

Probably not, but who says they do?

My point here is, again, that just like I can respect the rights of people who live a lifestyle that is less strictly observant than mine, I can respect the rights of those who choose to be more strict.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are all the first class seats being left unoccupied, or are the 2 rabbis travelling with an entourage, which means the seats will be filled, at least partially? In addition, is anyone faulting a 93 yr old man who is about to embark on a "whirlwind tour" of Jewish communities for needing the comfort of a first-class seat on a long flight?

1:03 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

In addition, is anyone faulting a 93 yr old man who is about to embark on a "whirlwind tour" of Jewish communities for needing the comfort of a first-class seat on a long flight?

Well, no one's doing that. The question is whether it is reasonable to spend obscene amounts of money to purchase every seat in the cabin.

1:06 PM  
Blogger MUST Gum Addict said...

Why don't they do what everyone else does -- pop a few ambien or xanax pills and they're out for the entire flight -- they won't see a thing...

Seriously though, this is no different than someone who buys all the tickets to a movie so that they can throw their own private screening party. Next you'll argue that people with medical conditions shouldn't buy extra seats for needed equipment or nurses?

As for whether such extravagant sums of money should be spent on this behavior, that is obviously up to the people who decide to give money to the cause.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Y.W. Editor said...

"I guess these guys"

Guys? I don't think that wording is appropiate.

YW Editor.

1:11 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...



"I guess these guys"

Guys? I don't think that wording is appropiate.

YW Editor.



I agree, and corrected.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, does anyone know the way things work in that world? They certainly do have the money at their disposal to spend on traveling first class. There are thousand of people in the UO world who would consider it a privilege to pay for Rav Shteinman and the Gerer Rebbe's travel acomodations, no matter how wasteful you think renting out the whole first class cabin is.

Om's right.

Get over it. The president uses money that is not his own to fly everywhere by private plane. Actually, he uses you money.

Even a YU grad like me thinks these guys are as important as the prez.

1:27 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Nice points, but that doesn't take away from the message it sends: Women are not to be looked at, ever. Seeing a woman will likely give you terrible thoughts. Etc.

It's really sickening and leads to larger and larger problems down the line. Sure, we can understand and say they're choosing to avoid the issue, blah blah blah - but when it comes down to it, many charedim will see this and think "It is absolutely assur to even see women, let alone talk to them, treat them with respect, etc."

1:29 PM  
Blogger Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

The President flies his own plane for security reasons.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

CWY - He doesn't fly his own plane, he has a pilot. He just likes wearing jumpsuits. :) [Okay, couldn't resist]

1:37 PM  
Blogger DovBear said...

It affects me because every day I wake to discover that more and more, my religion, at best, resembles Catholicism, and at worst Islam.


I agree. They are taking Judaism into a place where it does not need to go, indeed, arguably where it should not go, and they don't care who they leave behind.

Additionally, it can't be denied that this was a waste of money, and a waste of Ger resources, and though they are certainly free to spend their money as they see fit, we're free to call foul -especially, if we're being asked to help support the people who may have gotten that money instead.

Fianlly, I posted this myself, before I knew you had it up, too. Appy-polly-logies.

1:40 PM  
Blogger DovBear said...

It affects me because every day I wake to discover that more and more, my religion, at best, resembles Catholicism, and at worst Islam.


I agree. They are taking Judaism into a place where it does not need to go, indeed, arguably where it should not go, and they don't care who they leave behind.

Additionally, it can't be denied that this was a waste of money, and a waste of Ger resources, and though they are certainly free to spend their money as they see fit, we're free to call foul -especially, if we're being asked to help support the people who may have gotten that money instead.

Fianlly, I posted this myself, before I knew you had it up, too. Appy-polly-logies.

1:40 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

we're free to call foul -especially, if we're being asked to help support the people who may have gotten that money instead.

Of course we are. That's what blogging is all about. But still, from a libertarian perspective, I just feel they are entitled to set their own parameters for travel.

I'm having trouble getting riled up over this.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

OM - It's not the actions themselves, just the message it sends about women - the lengths they'll go to avoid even seeing them. It's out of hand.

1:48 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

the lengths they'll go to avoid even seeing them.

I'm sure this is just an issue of comfort. If they can avoid seeing women dressed in a way that makes them uncomfortable, who am I to judge?

1:51 PM  
Blogger DovBear said...

I'm having trouble getting riled up over this.

Did the behavior of the Burbon Kings of France rile you up? Howis this different?

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The question I have is this: Why do they have to do what R' Scheinberg, R' Birnbaum etc. - and even going bakc to last generations leaders i.e. R' Moshe, R' Levenstein etc.- didn't?

1:59 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Did the behavior of the Burbon Kings of France rile you up? Howis this different?

Like I said, no harm, no foul.

Live and let live.

1:59 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

I'm sure this is just an issue of comfort. If they can avoid seeing women dressed in a way that makes them uncomfortable, who am I to judge?

Again - to them, yes. To the people who hear about the story, no. Many people will understand this to mean you should not even be near women. That's irresponsible leadership.

2:02 PM  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Orthomom

That the gedolim, or any executive working for a charity has a right to do this is, in my mind, beyond question. However, the values implied are such that it convinces me that despite how worthy sounding the cause is, I will do better giving my tzedakah money to an organization with less overhead.

The fact that there are people who will cheerfully pay for this service to gedolim is a teaching moment. The gedolim should encourage them to give the same amount of money directly to the charity, where it can be used to further the cause of those who need to be helped.

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Sam said...

If these guys (yes, they are male humans), want to spend their own money to buy all the first class tickets, who am I to argue. And if donors willingly come forth to sponsor it, more power to them.

But seriously, how can they be considered leaders of our community, infallible according to many (see: Gedolim worship), when they closet themselves away from all contact with the world we live in? They can't relate to the realities of the Five Towns, of Israel, of even their impoverished followers in Bnei Brak.

Their Torah knowledge is to be respected, but I couldn't imagine taking their advice on anything - except for which airlines are most amenable to self-obsessed celebrities.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

What sam said.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Nephtuli said...

OM,

You're post contains a very shaky if-then argument: "If these are the only parameters under which these Rabbis are able to travel to America...."

I'd agree that if the only possible way they could travel to America and A: raise money and B: improve the spiritual welfare of American Jewry is by buying up all the seats, then it might be justified (unless the unintended benefits, such as the message that woman are to be kept away, are too high).

But I highly doubt that they couldn't have flown with women in the cabin. It's been done before, and while perhaps optimally, in their opinion, it's better to kept away from women, it's hard to believe that interest is stronger than the interest in giving thousands of dollars to poor people. While the Rebbeim themselves were not paying the bill and therefore do not have discretion on how the money would be spent otherwise, they probably should have told the benefactor that the money would be better spent on charity.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Just Passing Through said...

Mom, you beat me to this one! I posted and then checked you. You too DB. Sorry guys.

Mom, I'm surprised you're going so easy on them. I figured this would rile you up at least a little bit. They can spend the money whatever way they see fit but then I'm more hesitant to contribute to them. Another issue I have is that while you don't have a problem with people being more strict, I do because then thier actions are then deemed to be what all should aspire to. It just fuels the continued stupid trend that Still Wonderin elucidated better than I ever could.

3:05 PM  
Blogger MDmom said...

i think their message is extremely mysogynistic, it's very insulting. and it's not like your average celeb. buying an entire cabin for an entourage or avoid paparazzi (who could conceivably be life threatening). it's sending an extremely negative message vis a vis women. there is a world out there, and if they are going to interact with it they need to know that women are a part of it... i don't think they'd turn down a check with a woman's name on it though...

and if any other non-profit/charity organization was discovered spending funds in this manner there would be quite an uproar... as it is, so many get into trouble for spending say $.60 of every dollar on administrative or overhead costs. this is not what a donor gives money for. having never flown first class, i would not be happy knowing that charity seekers at my door were flying first in a cabin all to themselves.

and buy the way, the uniforms of elal flight attendants are pretty tzanuah, even those in trousers (i know, the whole begged ish thing -- still, they're not gym clothing or sexy micro-minis we're talking about)

3:08 PM  
Blogger bluke said...

I can tell you from personal experience (being in his house) that R' Steinman is a very humble and modest person. He lives in what can only be charitably called a "dump" in Bnei Brak. A tiny old apartment with no furniture other then a table chairs a bed and bookshelves full of Sefarim. He is completely divorced from this world and all it's comforts.

3:23 PM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

OM: I wonder if the Gerer Rebbe knows that his pilot is female...

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read on another blog that the whole story is nothing but BS.
I think what's more important is the KOLKO YTT story and the fact that the AGUdAH is fighting legislation geared toward protecting our children from abuse in yeshivos.
By the way SCHEINBERG the tzitzis nut is coming to the FIVE TOWNS this week to sell brochos.

4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They live lives that allow them to avoid any contact with anything that they consider spiritually impure, be it movies, television, or women in various stages of dress that they deem inappropriate.

Which is why they don't have much credibility as spiritual leaders, as far as I'm concerned.

4:38 PM  
Blogger MDmom said...

what happened to it being a point of honor that a godol was also educated at a secular institution, say the sorbonne, for example? in order to lead, a leader needs to be in touch with the world, even if his or her followers aren't. i'm sorry but a true leader can't be divorced from the world.

4:47 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

i'm sorry but a true leader can't be divorced from the world.

But I'm not sure that that's so. Different communities have different criteria for what constitutes a leader. You may feel that what you would look for in a leader is someone who has a secular degree, but that just may not be important to someone else. These kinds of values are not objective.

4:57 PM  
Blogger MDmom said...

sorry, i disagree. many gadolim of previous generations, of hareidi sects were educated at fine secular institutions. how is a rebbe supposed to help a child who is has gone "off the derech", or a BT who still has questions, or an FFB who is having a crisis if he has no relevant practical understanding of what the personal struggle is about or with? how does he deal with this with true sensitivity and understanding? otherwise how can his opinions be taken seriously by someone with a thinking mind?

5:12 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

sorry, i disagree

You disagree that a value such as a secular degree is a subjective criteria for what constitutes a Jewish spiritual leader? I don't see how. I can understand that you feel that it is necessary for your personal criteria - but as an objective one? I cant agree to that.

5:18 PM  
Blogger MDmom said...

we live in a secular world. i'm not saying that members of a sect need the secular degrees also, if htey get along fine in their daily lives without it but a leader needs to know with authority what is "out there" in order to help guide and direct his followers.

5:26 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

MDmom said...

we live in a secular world. i'm not saying that members of a sect need the secular degrees also, if htey get along fine in their daily lives without it but a leader needs to know with authority what is "out there" in order to help guide and direct his followers.


We'll have to agree to disagree on this one. I'm not even sure that a secular degree is important as an attribute in a spiritual leader for myself. I can think of criteria I put way ahead of a degree, like compassion, intelligence, great interpersoanl skills, a high level of Torah knowledge, but a degree just doesn't seem that important to me.

5:41 PM  
Blogger MDmom said...

fine, then let's call it knowledge of the "outside world." if someone is going to carry the mantle of "godol hador" which implies that he will pasken beyond his sect and community on things that may eventually filter down to my personal rabbi and how my community lives it's life, then in order not to alienate those orthodox jews who do interact with the secular world on a daily basis, he has to know what the challenges are for the dor. being completely divorced from the world is not a virtue to be lauded. as anon 4:38 said, "which is why they don't have much credibility as spiritual leaders, as far as i'm concerned."

i gotta turn in, it's past midnight over here. 'night!

5:54 PM  
Blogger David said...

It's one thing to buy all the first class seats. It's another to request that the airline not have female flight attendants.

A US Airline which complied with that request would be violating the law.

That these two Rabbis would make such a request (and not be greeted with hoots of indignation) does not say anthing good about the current state of Judaism, and it saddens me tremendously. I hope that the earlier poster is correct, and that this turns out to be a hoax.

7:52 PM  
Blogger Rivka said...

David finally brought up the point I was about to make. How can El Al grant such a request? Celebs might be able to get away with a lot, but only with what's legal, or they get busted like the rest of us. Isn't this against the law in Israel? If the Rabbis wanted women-only stewards, why didn't El Al tell them to hire a private plane?

I also have a problem with someone comparing these Rabbis to celebrities. I only value celebrities on their value of entertainment, nothing else. I don't think the Rabbis were on their way to America to put on a magic show.

8:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely respect these gedolim for trying to avoid impropriety. But the overblown nature of this particular avoidance is indicative of a larger problem. One that Sarah Schneirer could relate to. When you avoid women at all costs, because of the possibility of "tumah", then you hurt everyone involved. Men and women. The jewish family.

I have no doubt that these are great gedolim that are coming to America. But in a world of turmoil, where there are plenty of women that are in dire need of support and advice, where can these women turn? I can speak from experience after trying to talk to many different gedolim. Unless you are coming to ask for a general bracha , you can have no part in their kedushah.

Where can we turn? Who helps US with our questions? With our sha'alos? What if we don't have a man to send along our requests with?

Orthomom - you said: "My point here is, again, that just like I can respect the rights of people who live a lifestyle that is less strictly observant than mine, I can respect the rights of those who choose to be more strict. "

Agreed. But when the "stricter" road requires one to shame another, I cannot respect those rights.

There's a respectful way to treat women, and this just isn't it. What happened to derech eretz? Why do we always have to go to extremes to make a point?

8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh. And one more thing:
I don't understand how these gedolim get away with "selling brachos". I've seen it happen. My husband and I tried to get into seeing a famous Rav who had come to town to raise money. We were not allowed in the door, because we weren't able to donate enough.

Don't the non-wealthy have problems too? And how much of a gadol are you if this is your agenda?

8:08 PM  
Blogger DAG said...

Im presuming they post men stewards in first class, not nec the entire flight, OR the Rebbe would have to lease the entire plane to be sure to avoid all women...so if there are women flight attendents on plane, an emergency with the male Steward going down, does the Rebbe refuse life saving aid from female stewardess?

8:54 PM  
Anonymous the original sam said...

"still Wonderin' said...
"I guess these guys are the Orthodox world's version of celebrities."

What ever happened to humility, or are these people holier than Moshe Rabbeinu?

What a load of self-righteous shit! "


Moshe rabbenu? You mean the same person who separated from his wife when he was mekabel the schechina? (and whose detractor for this was punished with dermatitis?)

I think using moshe might have been a bad example (both in terms of his own actions and those of his detractors (and diy lechakima beremiza).

In all honesty, while I certainly dont have any issues with sharing my first class cabin (if only!) with women, and dont think there's a particular religious virtue in not doing so, I have to agree with OM's point that ours is not to ridicule the religious beliefs of others. If you dont like it, dont give to their mosdos. Vote with your purse strings.
But the idea that a godol (especially an admor, within the hasidic system) is the equivalent of a rock star and thus entitled to certain privileges, as well as the fact that there is an ancient (if thankfully limited) jewish position on minimizing contact to the extent possible with members of the opposite sex make this kind of an unassailable position, if nonetheless one that I dont share.

To criticize them undermines the very foundation of moral relativism that undergirds most left wingers' structure of thought. If you dont like it, find your own rabbis. But dont mess with those of other people, unless they mess with you first.

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Fox said...

I heard Reb Steinman speak during his last trip to the U.S. several years ago, and I can honestly say that his level of kedosha and focus on ruchnius is much, much higher than most of us have ever witnessed. And I say that as someone who has met a number of Chassidishe admorim as well as Litvishe gedolim.

Had I read about the "no women flight" without having seen Reb Steinman myself, I, too, would have silently rolled my eyes. But I can honestly say that for him, this is not a holier-than-thou chumra.

FYI, his previous trip to the U.S. was made on a private plane owned by one of his supporters, and it is said that he was so immersed in learning, davening, and Tehillim that he didn't notice that it wasn't a commercial flight.

There's also a very powerful message to us in the U.S. about the role of sexuality. Our focus tends to be on gender equity; these gedolim are reminding us that intermingling of men and women can lead to very serious aveiros.

Most of us, myself included, probably consider ourselves too sophisticated to be seriously compromised by a flight attendant of the opposite sex. Reb Steinman and the Gerrer Rebbe are reminding us that not only are *we* not above potential problems, but neither are they.

10:56 PM  
Blogger David said...

Fox:

What's this "we," kimosabe? Authorities far greater than either the Gerrer Rebbe or Rabbi Steinman believed that men can have a certain amount of casual interaction with women and not have any danger of hirhur (c.f. the Arukh haShulhan's discussion about hair covering for women, and wether men can davven nearby).

Rabbi Yehudah haHasid warned against excessive stringency (specifically on the subject of interaction between men and women while the man was wearing tefilin) as something which will prevent people from accepting mitzvot and a Torah lifestyle upon themselves.

No, this action sends exactly the wrong message, and by being so excessively strict on hirhur, the rabbis are being very lenient on Lo titgodedu and B'al tosif.

It is unfortunate that they are doing this, and I hope that the hillul Hashem is limited.

11:21 PM  
Anonymous Fox said...

The "we", Tonto, are all of us who can take away something of value from this even if our own rabbonim don't agree with the interpretations that led to the "no women flight".

Truthfully, I'm not sure why someone would be more offended by this than by the fact that not all Jews rely on the same hechsharim for their food. It's not necessarily making a statement about the food; it's making a statement about the rabbonim on which one relies.

The real test is not whether an individual engages in stringencies that are "excessive", but rather, whether those stringencies are in consonance with his/her character. Although I've never had the privilege of meeting the Gerrer Rebbe, I don't think this stringency is inconsistent with Reb Steinman's general avodas Hashem.

So, yes, everyone who has cited sources that condemn excessive stringency is correct. However, I think I can fairly deduce that none of us posting here are in any danger of toppling either Reb Steinman or the Gerrer Rebbe in our learning. That said, it's not a matter of our opinion; nor is it something we should imitate. It *is* something from which we can draw positive, important messages about how we view gender relationships, regardless of how our own authorities might behave in such a circumstance.

12:04 AM  
Anonymous onionsoupmix said...

Nice post and good discussion. Orthomom, I am wondering if you would feel the same way if a group of Cardinals or Islamic Mullahs requested that their flight was Jew-free.

2:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orthomom, I am wondering if you would feel the same way if a group of Cardinals or Islamic Mullahs requested that their flight was Jew-free.

And bingo was his name-o!

3:29 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Orthomom, I am wondering if you would feel the same way if a group of Cardinals or Islamic Mullahs requested that their flight was Jew-free.

I can't imagine that I would care if they made their flight woman-free. Their hypothetical request to have the cabin jew-free is not relevant to this discussion.

I am an Orthodox Jew. Though I personally do not live in a world that espouses the requirement for men and women to be in separate rooms, I have enough sensitivity
towards the mentality that I certainly don't view it in the same light as wanting a plane to be Judenrein. I don't really feel like getting into the discussion of whether these Rabbanim wanting to separate themselves from being in the same room as women is demeaning to women. These men are on a spiritual level that is so beyond these inane discussions that I don't even know where to begin.

But as I said above, it amuses me when people who are the first to be sensitive to the causes of gay marriage or women's tefilla groups are unwilling to be nearly as understanding when they encounter a situation such as this one.

Live and let live, people.

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"SCHEINBERG the tzitzis nut"

Mom, why don't you use your deleting capabilities!!! Your silence is deafening!!

10:23 AM  
Blogger Pragmatician said...

Well in my opinion Rabbonim should certainly be above celebrities’s caprices, but I like the way you looked at this differently than I was inclined to and other bloggers have looked at it.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"Moshe rabbenu? You mean the same person who separated from his wife when he was mekabel the schechina? (and whose detractor for this was punished with dermatitis?)"

I'm referring on the spectacle this is making. Such displays of excess and expensive piety is an affront to the Jewish characteristic of humility; a characteristic for which Moshe Rabbeinu is renowned.

10:56 AM  
Blogger glen roth said...

The supporters that are paying the $$$ to fly in these great Rabbi's obviously can afford to fly their entire family to Israel. But by bringing in these Rabbi's they are doing a wonderful thing for all those that can't. During their trip there will be thousands of children as well as adults that other wise may not have the opportunity to visit with these gadolim. And if this was the condition under which they would travel to America then I think it is money well spent. I am also sure the rabbi's don't know all the details only that there requirements are being taken care of.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous norm depalma said...

you people are all nuts...
1) why is a 93 year old man flying across an ocean? he should be benching gomel every second he remains breathing.
2) is there a chance a 93 year old rav will have an erection because he is being served by a stewardess? an el al stewardess?!
3) why are rabbanim deified? are we still a nation of am haratzim like the 18th century polish shtetl dwellers who needed a Rebbe to do their thinking for them?
4) does the gerer rebbe have a blog?

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norm,

The chofetz Chaim, at the time in his late 80s or early 90s, once berated his Shamash for getting him a female nurse. When the Shamash said, "but rebbe your so old" The Chofet Chaim replied "I may be old, but I'm not dead"

Don't hate...appreciate.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous norm depalma said...

anon:
funny story...
not so analagous though: el al stewardesses don't give sponge baths.
anyway, the important factor is sustaining the myth that these rebbeim are other-worldly figures...otherwise, the kahal/olam would have to follow their lead and also not fly with women stewardesses etc...
wait, there's an idea!!! maybe the begininnings of another minhag shtuth...

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norm,

I hear you, but technically we should be following their lead - just not regarding this until we are ready - we should start by following their lead with regards to learning, midos etc. etc. etc.
Otherwise, why follow this lead, lets go for broke and just live in caves like R' Shimon Bar Yochai

11:54 AM  
Blogger MDmom said...

"an el al stewardess?!"

hey! a former administrative assistant of mine was an elal flight attendant and was also a catwalk model. in other words, drop dead gorgeous (she probably would be a reason a rav would want a woman-free cabin ;-) )

and, btw, israeli women are some of the most beautiful, fit and healthy that i've seen.

1:06 PM  
Anonymous norm depalma said...

i find they don't use enough henna or have enough attitude

2:15 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Does anyone know how Rav Steinman flew approximately 2 years ago when he came to the United States? I can't imagine that he is flying in a different manner now as then.

I am not so comfortable with the stories and the concessions that El Al is making. I can't imagine that they are cancelling movies/tv for the entire plane, but think it is fair to make that concession for 1st class since the entire section was purchased by one party traveling together. I also can't imagine that they have put their female employees out of work, by not allowing them to clock the hours they need to earn their paychecks.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Flying in Coach said...

"hey! a former administrative assistant of mine was an elal flight attendant and was also a catwalk model. in other words, drop dead gorgeous"

Hey Mom- maybe they are beatiful in first class where you 5 towns folk do your flying, but those of us at the back of the bus- er I mean plane- literaly "drop dead" from this supposed beauty.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous TzviNoach said...

In all likelihood, these requests for special treatment are made by the handlers of the Rebbe and Rav Steinman, without the direct knowledge of the rabbanim themselves. It is quite common for handlers and/or hosts to be much more demanding on behalf of their guests than the individuals themselves. So let's not get on their case for being so full of themselves, etc.

I think it's fair to assume that if there were female flight attendants, these rabbanim probably wouldn't notice, and in any event would be perfectly polite and gracious toward those who serve them, regardless of gender. If there were movies in their cabin, they would be too engrossed in learning to notice.

So, in a nutshell, Rav Steinman and the Gerrer Rebbe probably couldn't care less, but those arranging the trip, out of respect for the rabbonim, are going to great lengths to ensure they are comfortable. What's the big deal?

3:40 PM  
Blogger MDmom said...

coach -- i happen to not live in the 5 towns, never have lived there (though i was educated there, in more ways than one) have no desire to live in the 5 towns and actually do live some 6,000 miles from there on the other side of the world. come join me!

4:03 PM  
Blogger David said...

tzvinoach - good point, and one which, if true, removes the basis for defending the action.

The Gerrer Rebbe and Rabbi Steinman are noted rabbinic figures and are highly respected. Their handlers are not.

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey primitive monkeys:

The correct term now is "flight attendant" not stewardess.

11:21 PM  
Anonymous AR said...

I have read through some of the above posts and would like to make these comments:

Those people who can nto present a coherent argument without resorting to inflammatory language (e.g. This is a Bulls--t) are obviously pushing a personal agenda. If they are getting that worked up about this flight and can not discuss it objectively, they are just using this as an excuse to discredit Rabbanim and thereby promote their own ideals.

In response to teh comment about being holier than Moshe Rabbeinu, may I remind you that Moshe moved his tent outside of the Machane and did not mix with everyone.

In terms of the money being spent: I happen to be somewhat involved in the preparations for one leg of this trip. As such I am privy to some of the financial arrangements. First of all, those people who are paying to conver some of the costs are wealthy indviduals who give huge sums of Tzedaka. The fact that they would also like to ensure their leaders travel in the most comfortable way possible (both spiritually and physically) is something that should be commended. It has nothing to do with teh amount of money they give to Tzedaka.

As an aside, I have not heard form even one person who is actually involved in this trip who has said this has anything to do with raising money. It was a trip meant to promote achdus, by having one of the Gedolei Yisrael from the CHassidish world and one from teh Litvish world come together. They just want to lend spiritual strength to those people who are seeking the same.

2:49 PM  
Anonymous norm depalma said...

re. 'ar said'- on promoting achdus:

there is nothing like a world tour among erstwhile, putative rivals to promote achdus!!! (see George Bush the Father and Bill Clinton raising bipartisan money for tsunami etc..)

but in that spirit, couldn't they add some other leaders to the trip?

why not
Rav Lichenstein?
Rav Ovadia Yosef?
Rabbi Lau?
the Lubavitcher rebbe?

wouldn't that be the ultimate support?
but it raises some questions like:

would the rebbe's body allow female stewardesses to serve him?

would kohanim be allowed to fly on the flight?

4:22 PM  
Anonymous me said...

Norm it very sad that you are so far removed from Judaism you don't even realize it. Your attacks on Judaism (not chumra, self righteous, chad b'doro things) but Judaism, shows how lost modern orthodoxy is. If you would learn from these two leaders what Judaism is supposed to be instead of your goyisha celebrities, sports idols, and corrupt politicians, your outlook on life might be different. It seems criticizing chareidim is part parcel of the Modern orthodox lifestyle. It somehow makes you feel much holier than those backwards chareidim that follow antiquated laws like shulchan orech. Why grow a beard and pais and look like a Jew when when you be "clean cut" like a goy?

7:51 AM  
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3:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gotta tell you, the refusal to have women on the flight bugs me, but what REALLY strikes me as over-the-top is the need to cover over the seat-back screens despite the fact they will be off and unusable for the duration of the flight.

Is looking at a black piece of plastic sooooooooo destructive of the soul? Isn't it enough to turn it off?

3:32 PM  
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1:39 PM  

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