I’ll decide how much light you need

Noga pointed out two more articles, and I’m feeling slightly peeved at being told not to ‘blame the Jews, for Chrissakes,’ as if I had, so I’ll say a little more. The articles are interesting. From The Canadian Jewish News, which says the Canadian Jewish Congress doesn’t agree that the synagogue should have asked the Y to frost its windows.

[C]ommunications director Leyla Di Cori…said CJC is trying to get the message out to the public that the entire chassidic population represents only five to 10 per cent of the Montreal Jewish community and “does not reflect the community as a whole.”

Well of course it doesn’t, and neither does anyone else, because there is no such thing as ‘the community as a whole’ except in the case of a town or neighborhood, in which case there is still no one who can ‘reflect the community as a whole’ because that doesn’t mean anything, because people don’t think in a bloc. Why would anybody think that the people at the synagogue did ‘reflect the community as a whole’? I suppose because people keep talking about ‘communities’ that way, just as Leyla Di Cori does.

What the people at the synagogue may ‘reflect’ is a growing tendency for religious zealots to think they can tell everyone else what to do, but that’s not the same thing as reflecting a ‘community.’

Di Cori said she thinks this seemingly minor incident has been played up in the media because it fits into the “reasonable accommodation” debate going on in Quebec today about how far a society that prides itself on being secular and progressive should go to tolerate practices of religious and cultural minorities that are at odds with the majority.

I’ll tell you how far. Zero far. Unless of course there’s no issue, which is no help, because when there’s no issue there’s no debate about how far anyone should go. If there’s no harm and nothing at stake, no problem; if there is harm, the society should go zero far.

B’nai Brith Canada legal counsel Steven Slimovitch “commended” the Y administration for good neighbourliness and finding a “compromise” that poses little or no inconvenience to the institution or its members. In fact, it appears to have been a plus for the Y, because the congregation paid for the change to the windows.

Why is that a plus? The congregation paid to make the windows opaque so that there is less light inside. Why is that a plus? Many of us like natural light.

“Was the space rendered any less comfortable? Can they not work out there any more? No. If it had been, for example, a sewing class that was held there that required a lot of natural light, it would be a different story.”

Ah – so it’s up to him to decide how much light the people at the Y get to have in a situation where the people at the synagogue want them to have less. It’s up to him, not up to them. I see.

He deplored what he regards as the visceral “us versus them” mentality among some Y members. In an increasingly diverse society, he said, it’s necessary more than ever to co-operate and show respect and understanding.

Respect and understanding for the religious zealots who want women to hide, not respect and understanding for people who don’t share their religion and don’t want it telling them what to do and how much light they’re allowed to have in a public gym. No, it’s not necessary to show that, it’s necessary to refuse to show that.

Slimovitch said he doesn’t see this case as a status of women issue in any way, or one that endorses a view that women are somehow shameful and must be kept out of sight.

Well he would say that, wouldn’t he. And he’s not the one who’s being told to cover up, is he, so I really don’t think his opinion is interesting or relevant.

And here’s an ugly little finale:

Alex Werzberg, president of the Coalition of Outremont Chassidic Organizations and a Satmar community member, called “the whole thing a big joke…Everything was fine for months, and then somebody came in and made a big deal out of it – an agent provocateur – who says, ‘Those Jews are not going to tell us what to do,’ called the media and made a hullabaloo.”

Did she? Did she say that? Did she? Or did he just say she did? I know what I think.

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