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November 23, 1979 - Image 11

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1979-11-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, November 23, 1919 11

'Daughters of Jerusalem': City's Pious, Unknown Orthodox Group

By LYNN SHARON

From Israel Digest

Black scarves tightly
sheath their shaven heads;
apple-faced children cling to
their mothers' long, shape-
less dresses; self-effacing,
open faces — the faces of the
Bnos Yerushalayim
(Daughters of Jerusalem),
Jerusalem's most pious and
least-known Orthodox
group of women.
Visitors to Jerusalem's
Mea Shearim neighbor-
hood, where the Bnos (as
ey are popularly called in
rusalem) live, often stare
at these women, and are
consumed with curiosity
about women who appear to
be so removed from the 20th
Century and its feminine
revolution.
Who are these women,
and what makes them tick?
In a rare interview, Frau
Poppenheim, an active sep-
tuagenarian and founder of
the Bnos Yerushalayim
school system, agreed to
share some insights about
their little-known, shel-
tered world.
"When I came to
Jerusalem from my na-
tive Germany, I was
asked by the Bais Din of
the Aida Haredis (ultra-
Orthodox rabbinical
court) to organize a
school for their daugh-
ters.
They had heard of my
work in education in Ger-
many and felt that I could
establish a school that
would adhere to their
guidelines and be under
their supervision. I agreed
to undertake this task for
them, and so, a little over 30
years ago, the Bnos
Yerushalayim Schools were
founded."
Frau Poppenheim, a
stern, forbidding looking
woman, was straightfor-
ward in her description of
the school system's objec-
tives.
"Our schools are oriented
toward preparing students
to become dutiful wives of
the young men who attend
our yeshivas. We do not aim
for academic excellence nor
are we concerned with intel-
lectual achievement.
"On the other hand, prior
to the establishment of our
schools, many of our parents
did not send their daughters
to school at all. The reason

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for this was that most
schools in Israel use Hebrew
as the language of instruc-
tion. Since we consider He-
brew to be lashon kadosh,
(the holy tongue), we be-
lieve that Hebrew should
only be used for prayer or for
the study of the holy texts,
and Yiddish used for daily
communication and secular
studies."
Frau Poppenhime
spoke with pride of the
schools' rather limited
curriculum, which in-
cludes study of Yiddish,
arithmetic, Jewish his-
tory, and geography of
Israel. Religious studies
naturally occupy a major
part of the curriculum,
with emphasis on Psalms
since according to Frau
Popp enhiem, "Tehillim
(Psalms) are very com-
forting for women in
times of difficulties."
Frau
Poppenheim
stressed that the Bnos are
not permitted to read news-
papers or listen to the radio,
therefore it is not surprising
to learn that they publish
their own textbooks, and
even the Bible is edited so
that the girls not be exposed
to "unextirpated Bibles not
suited for them."
Most of the Bnos marry by
their 18th birthday and, of
course, all marriages are
arranged by their parents.
Frau Poppenheim made it
clear that there is no social
contact between the sexes
prior to marriage.
"When the shidduch
(match) has been arranged,
the young couple then may
meet and chat for about 20
minutes. After this meeting
both must give their con-
sent. But I must admit that
it is rare for either of the
young people to reject their
parents' choice. They
realize that their parents
are looking out for their best
interests.
"Of course, on occasion
a girl will come to see me
and ask how she could
possibly choose her
partner for life after only
20 minutes. But I assure
her that she can depend
on her parents' judg-
ment.
"However, we are not un-
feeling, and I do suggest to
the young woman that she
should ask herself if she has

a certain "sympathy" for the
man. And I also tell her to
ask herself if she would
enjoy his company at the
Shabbos tish (the Sabbath
meal)."
"Most mothers permit
their daughter to peek out
the window, or even stand
on the balcony on a Sabbath
morning when the young
man is on his way to
synagogue. She will then
point out the young man to
her daughter, since in some
instances the future bride
may have forgotten what
her future groom looks
like," she- said.
Marriage for the Bnos is
not predicated on the
romantic Western concept
of "living happily ever after
being smothered in raptur-
ous passion." On the con-
trary, marriage is a serious
step beset with grave re-
sponsibilities. In the major-
ity of cases it is the wife who
must shoulder the total fi-
nancial burden while hus-
bands pursue their studies.
When one adds the re-
sponsibility of rearing a
large family (15 children
is not unusual), one can
fully appreciate the
enormity of the responsi-
bility. Frau Poppenheim
conceded that survival is
sometimes the result of
"miraculous interven-
tion."
Moreover, the types of
jobs that the Bnos can find
are very limited. None of

the women are permitted to
work outside of the
neighborhood, which
further limits their oppor-
tunities to earn a livelihood.
Frau Poppenheim was
quick to admit that life is
very difficult for the Bnos,

and sometimes even harsh.
"But our women do not
complain," she said. "They
consider it their great
privilege to suffer and sac-
rifice in the name of Torah.
"You must understand
that our women encourage

their husbands to continue
their studies. They believe
that without Torah, Eretz
Yisrael will not survive.
And our women have taken
this additional yoke upon
themselves for the sake of
the Jewish people."

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dren's book stall during Hebrew Book Week in Tel
Aviv.

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