Saturday, January 24, 2009


Ban the Magazine?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Three weeks ago, we complained about Mishpacha magazine following the extreme chumra (super duper not required religious stringency) of avoiding female images in the magazine by Photoshopping out a picture of First Lady Laura Bush with 3 Chabad kosher supervisors in the Whitehouse kitchen for the Chanukah party.

Our complaint was not so much about the stringency, but rather that they modified a news photo and presented the modification as if it was the original, a lie of obfuscation.

This is an all too common error among some segments of religious society, where the stringency becomes the focus over the halacha (the basic religious law).

While Mishpacha Magazine chose not to print a retraction or my letter to the editor, they did print an "editorial clarification" which stated they following the rulings of religious leaders (that statement wasn't relevant because this had nothing to do with such rulings) and don't publish even modest pictures of women due to the sensitives of some readers who wish to avoid looking at pictures of women (so they can enjoy the magazine without lowering their religious observance). As not only I stated, they missed the point by focusing on the stringency at the cost of the halacha (veering into lies to avoid publishing the picture of a modestly dressed famous older woman).

But in this week's Misphacha (issue 243), we find they don't even keep to their own chumra (stringency)...

Page 16: This first photo is a demonstration. Naturally, the crowd contains, oh my, females. On the right side of the photo, a female child is clearly seen, as well as a woman with a black coat and white scarf.

One assumes the Mishpacha photo adjuster was off this day. But, we'll give them a pass as it's a large crowd photo. After all, any magazine can make one mistake...

Page 35: This photo is a historical picture of Jewish life in Gaza. The caption says "Jewish family in Gaza...". Note the two small humans at the bottom of the picture - being this is a religious Jewish family and they have no head coverings and long hair, they clearly appear to be the family daughters. Unless I'm mistaken, that makes them, gasp, female.

Two female photos have graced page 35 of Mishpacha, this could be a serious issue. But again, we'll give it a pass as it's an OLD photo, maybe that makes it ok...

Page 40: Mishpacha reporter and photograher in Gaza. Reporter meets with IDF soldiers, who have been in the field for 3 weeks. They're dirty and grungy, no showers in the field. No showers, no shaving, all the guys in the photo series have beards...

Oh wait, what's that face in the background with no beard, silky smooth skin, chest bumps, and carefully plucked eyebrows. Oh no, could it be, yes I think it is, it's a chayelet, a female IDF support soldier.

Clearly I'm holding Mishpacha to a ridiculous standard. However, they set a standard that has them deleting the First Lady of the United States out of a photo where she asked the rabbaim to come in and kosher the national Whitehouse kitchen due to concerns of ANY female image - regardless of level of modesty or newsworthiness, or whether it turns the resulting photo into a lie.

If that's their standard of kosher, then this week they're treif 3 times over.

Will they be printing an URGENT RECALL of all copies of this issue, will they be printing a SERIOUS APOLOGY to all of their readers who hold the chuma?

Should Mishpacha be declared treif for violation of the chumra?

Consultation with rabbinic authority may be appropriate.


  1. Please sit and learn more, perhaps this will end this unhealthy desire to look for reasons to "pasken without a license", voice yeshus, etc.

    Sorry to say, but this blog keeps going down and down and down, rachmona litzlan.

  2. I don't think people get it. If you look at the very early editions of Mishpacha Magazine, you will see much more batampte reading material, with definite chein. As the months have progressed, and the extremists became more adept at using the pen (or is it the phone/email or burning trash-cans) the progression of censorship has been increasing to the point that the (past) President's Wife had to be photoshoped out of a photo, well ... it's just sad, very sad that they have been forced to acquiesce to trimming their editorial excellence down to gashmiut fluff for women, with once in a while a quality article, and all masculine reading material, while the shidduch-haggling over dira malei is so embarrassing to the truly religious neshoma.

    This is not just happening to the Mishpacha. The increase in cloudy-chumra eyeglasses is rampant, erotic-extremism and just miserable oppressive arm-twisting, oh, let me stop here!!!

  3. All of the this a result of a lack of faith and unwillingness to do repentence how long are you going to fall and cause other to stumble? wake up people!

  4. Anon 1 & 3 - Ahh, the standard "you pointed out a flaw in the community, therefore you must be at fault" response.

    Defend the facts! Explain why my argument is bunk, why the chumra is appropriate, why photoshopping without informing (a form of lying d'orisa) is ok, and why violating the chumra is ok this time but not last time.

    Lack of faith? Yes, IN A MAGAZINE.

  5. Akiva, yashar coah' !

    despite anon 1 and 3 reactions, you're 100% right to point out such a thing.
    I think their main claim would be that in the pictures you can't see the pictures of the women from close. Nevertheless, it's really... well you know...

  6. There seems to me to be a little too much energy being spent on something that doesnt appear worthy of so much upset. This could be an indication that the Yetzer has jumped on the bandwagon a little here.

    I think there may be a mix-up between two quite separate matters. One which is worthy of attack, ie "journalistic integrity / lying", and one which isnt perhaps such an outrageous matter, ie the decision of a Haredi magazine not to print pictures of women.

    I would suggest that Mishpacha does have some justification in not showing "obvious" or "eye-catching" pictures of women. Personally, I think that's fair enough. If they want to decide on that policy for their magazine (you dont have to buy it). Its a Haredi magazine, and I assume its readers arent largely upset by the lack of female photos.

    Separately, we have the issue of not telling the whole truth (ie by not telling its readers that it had taken out a person from the picture).

    This is a separate issue and I dont think its correct to look at these as one and the same issue.

    I think its worthwhile asking, if it hadnt been a lie regarding a woman in the picture, would I have got so upset about this (eg if they photoshopped out a guy, and didnt mention it), would I have been equally as outraged? Probably not.

    If so, then this is really a disagreement with Mischpacha about not printing pictures of women, which is a fair point, but its separate and not so outraegeous really.

  7. First Akiva attacks Hareidi Jews, then he blames Ishmael for our own problems. Now he's back to stirring up hatred within the Jews. Annonymous #1 is right, this blog has slowly slipped into the deep mire of the Yetzer HaRah.

  8. Great article Akiva. Kol hakavod. Shavua tov.

  9. While I agree that chumros do occasionally get out of hand and they do seem to come on the same level as the standard halacha - to the point where people who do not follow the chumra appear non religeous - nevertheless, I feel that any magazine has the right to publish what they want and the reader can decide if they are interested in reading it (provided that they do not go the other way i.e. against halacha). Personally, I do have a problem with changing pictures and would suggest that if they had a problem with an element in the picture, they should leave it out altogether.

  10. There are those that don't want to read a magazine with pics of woman. What is wrong if the magazine wants it to be accessable to all? Stop making ridiculous arguments for nothing, You are ruining a once great blog.

  11. Ok, I am confused. What is wrong with looking at a magazine that has photos of women in it? Hmm......


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