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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A follow up to the whole blurred image post

Rather than bury new information at the bottom of the page, I decided this update deserved its own post.

First of all, as some of you have pointed out in the comments of my previous post on the topic, Machon Meir did, in fact, post an apology on their Hebrew language website stating:

"מכון מאיר מביע בזאת את התנצלותו הכנה על פרסום בלתי ראוי של תמונתה של רותי פוגל הי"ד"

[Machon Meir offers this apology for publishing an inappropriate photograph of Ruth Fogel (may her blood be avenged)]

As other comments have pointed out, that leaves some ambiguity as to whether they are apologizing for blurring out her face... or if publishing a photo of her at all was 'inapropriate', and thus required an apology.

So I called up Machon Meir and spoke with a gentleman there who agreed to forward written questions to their management.  Here is exactly what was contained in the email (my questions are in black and his responses are in blue)  He pasted the management's responses onto my emailed questions:

Dear Mr. Listman,

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me a few moments ago.

 My questions are as follows:

Dear Mr. Bogner,

The replies to your queries are below.

Thank you,

Question 1.  The published apology that is on the Hebrew language website of Machon Meir seems to be apologizing for publishing an inappropriate picture of Ruth Fogel, rather than for having blurred out her face.  I would like to know if Machon Meir's current policy would allow the publication of a woman's photo (assuming she is dressed modestly) without having her image blurred out?

Response:  No, it does not allow publication of a woman's photo.

Question 2.  Rav Aviner has gone on record defending the blurring out of Ruth Fogel's face when he was asked specifically about last Shabbat's alon. He says that by blurring her image it was honoring her, not insulting her.  As Rav Aviner is associated with Machon Meir, I am confused as to what your institute's formal policy is regarding publishing photographs of Women. Please clarify this for me.

Response:  The policy is to publish articles that woman write but not pictures. If we would be obligated to publicize a picture of a woman then we do so.

Question 3.  I have not gone back to check older issues of the Alon, but have there been photographs of other women in past issues that were not blurred out, and is there a policy in place whereby Machon Meir tries not to publish photographs of women at all?

Response:  No, there have not been pictures of such.


R' Menachem Listman

Machon Meir English Department Director


I think those responses speak volumes as to exactly what they were apologizing for. 

Posted by David Bogner on January 24, 2012 | Permalink


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I'm so sad.

Perhaps this goes to show how "Dati Leumi" and "Modern Orthodox" do not completely overlap.

Or perhaps it goes to show that not all institutions that are hailed as "Modern Orthodox" really are so.

Or perhaps it goes to show that I need to stop calling myself Modern Orthodox, if this is what it is. (On the other hand, I don't like the idea of letting Machon Meir define Modern Orthodoxy for me).


Posted by: Sarah Bronson | Jan 24, 2012 2:08:53 PM

David, now that you have laid the siege, can you please send him another email and ask for an explanation behind the decision, with the reasons as to why it is wrong to show a woman's face, with halachic sources. Why beat around the bush, just go for it.

Posted by: yonah | Jan 24, 2012 2:11:59 PM

David, now that you have laid the siege, can you please send him another email and ask for an explanation behind the decision, with the reasons as to why it is wrong to show a woman's face, with halachic sources.
Do we really want to know?
I mean the answer is bound to be depressing.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Jan 24, 2012 2:23:46 PM

wow. i am surprised, and not in a good way.
i still dont get something. why isnt the blurring issue a question for the family -- how does the family want the woman portreayed?

Posted by: fred | Jan 24, 2012 3:33:55 PM

Considering that the family submitted the ad with an unblurred photo, I think we can safely say they wanted her picture published.

Posted by: Nachum | Jan 24, 2012 3:43:22 PM

Is there a gradual move to ban all photos including men? In which case the term "moderate" would certainly cease to be applicable.

Posted by: ED | Jan 24, 2012 5:09:58 PM

I'm going to say what I refrained from saying on Jammeel's blog.
Their words may say HY"D but their actions say Y"S

Posted by: Rich | Jan 24, 2012 5:18:01 PM


I had given MM the benefit of the doubt (as you can see from my comments on your previous post), but I see now that I was wrong, and I stand corrected.

Thank you for taking the time to contact MM and thus clarifying the plain (and depressing) truth about their actual position.

It's pretty sad...

Posted by: Lurker | Jan 25, 2012 12:47:31 AM

It would be interesting to see where they get the source for this. normally they make up their own chumrahs to be more religious then the rest of us.

Posted by: dave | Jan 25, 2012 1:38:45 AM

i suppose the blurring can be defended since it is inappropriate to have a pictures of a woman floating around a beit knesset. so the best idea would be not to have any picture at all...

Posted by: fred | Jan 25, 2012 4:20:58 AM

Congratulations to R Listman for standing up to anti-chareidi coercion.

Posted by: Chareidi Chutznik | Jan 25, 2012 5:00:08 AM

I have been a small but consistent contributor to Machon Meir since shortly after we came to Israel 27 years ago. Nowadays I'm too much a Cynicist (cynic) to be a Zionist or perhaps just cautious but back then they were one of the first organizations to ask me for a standing order (horaat keva) to donate money on a monthly basis. My bank records show that I opened the horaat keva in 1989. and I haven't touched it since. I sort of liked MM's tag line "אוהב את הבריאות ומקרבן לתורה"ץ

This issue of blurring out women burns me up. I'm thinking of cancelling. MM should have refused the ad or refused the picture rather than blur.

Posted by: Gee a Moron | Jan 25, 2012 9:43:49 AM

Well, I don't understand what he means when he says that their policy is not to print pictures of women but that they would do so if obligated. It's really impossible to tell from this whether what's happening on his side of this conversation is willful obfuscation or insufficient language skills. I think it's unfortunate that they have someone in charge of the "English department" who is so clearly unqualified for that. I'll happily stipulate here that his English is orders of magnitude better than my Hebrew, but then again I'm not calling myself the director of the Hebrew department of anything.

I'd love to lock him in a room with R. Linzer of YCT...

Posted by: bratschegirl | Jan 25, 2012 8:47:50 PM

R' Menachem Listman is really just in charge of admin at the English speaker's dept.

Machon Meir has an English speaking Public Relations Officer.
His name is Yisrael Ruchman.
His e-mail address is [email protected]

Posted by: Machon student | Jan 25, 2012 9:10:36 PM

Considering that the family submitted the ad with an unblurred photo, I think we can safely say they wanted her picture published.

Posted by: Check home insurance | Jan 26, 2012 1:42:07 PM

This is so disturbing on so many levels. The very thing that makes (used to make?) Modern Orthodoxy an attractive option to potential BTs seems to be sliding into extreme. I hate the idea of Judaism polarized to the point that it's either totally secular or espousing medievalism.

Posted by: Irina | Jan 27, 2012 3:47:53 AM

There's a good thread on this topic over at Rabbi Harry Maryles' blog.


One interesting point that I as a non-Israeli didn't initially pick up on. The school may be Dati Leumi,but they apparently are not Modern Orthodox as understood in an American context. They are what is known as "Chardali" (Charedi/Dati Leumi) - meaning that they are basically of Charedi sentiment except that they are also pro-Zionist, send their kids to Tzahal, etc. This doesn't exist in America. When Chardalis make it to the States, they usually either lose the Zionism and become full-fledged Charedim, or lose the Charedism and become full-fledged MO.

So there is no seismic shift in MO/Dati Leumi ground here. Machon Meir is simply being true to its Chardali roots. Doesn't make what they did any less reprehensible, but it's kind of a relief to the rest of us.

Posted by: psachya | Jan 27, 2012 8:01:50 PM

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