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"In very general terms, the role of
the Jewish woman is akeret habayit
(the housewife)," says Debbie. "I can
facilitate everyone in this family to
reach their highest values by insur-
ing our physical, financial, spiritual
and emotional health!'
"Jewish tradition is very sensitive
to the honor of women," Shraga says, .
adding, "This is not a feminist con-
cept. In any public role, a woman will
either be forbidden to do it or will be
discouraged from doing it. Feminists
view this as an insult to a woman's in-
telligence, but man was created in
such a way that he is attracted to
women. Women become objects:'
Judaism, he says, aims in prac-
tical ways to remove the stigma of
women being treated as an object.
"Ideally, it would be great if man
could look (at women) and not have
this one-dimensional image. So the
feminists will tell you that men have
to change. It's not happening."
The Rothbarts assert that their
way of life, far from being
anachronistic and rigid, is a challeng-
ing and viable one that rejects the
isolation and alienation common to
"Judaism is a dynamic," Debbie
explains, "because anyone who is in-
volved in spiritual growth is struggl-
ing. If you're not struggling, you're
not growing. And if you're not grow-
ing, you're stagnating!'
They think of themselves as the
Orthodox silent majority, the segMent
of Detroit's community neither as
free-thinking as the modern Orthodox
nor as rejecting of the material world
Debbie and Shraga Rothbart shop with their children: Kollel life is not a renunciation of the
as the ultra-Orthodox. They consider
outside world, they say.
themselves eclectics who combine the
The Rothbarts, like many Kollel best of the religious right and left.
I wanted to be a part of the growth in
The differences between the Or-
a marriage when someone is learn- families, do not own a television, the
most powerful symbol of the secular thodox poles are narrow in a small
Debbie, who has a Ph.D. in culture they reject. "Kollel life is a community like Detroit, but they are
psychology, works to supplement the conscious • rejection of material growing as the community grows.
$225-per-week-stipend that her hus- values:' Shraga explains. "This is the "Right and left reject everything
that's going on on the other side," ex-
band receives from the Kollel. They lifestyle we consider to be correct?'
have been married four years and are
Adds Debbie: "The more sensitiz- plains Dr. Hershel Gardin as his
expecting their third child.
ed you are spiritually, the more you reason for sticking to the middle
The Rothbarts' full schedule reject (materially)?'
A group of the "eclectic camp"
leaves them little time for family ac-
The Kollel life is not a renuncia-
tivities. Some wonder whether tion of the outside world, Shraga em- gather in Hershel and Joy Gardin's
children might suffer with a working phasizes. "The Kollel is not a home to describe the view from the
mother and a father who is away from monastery."
The modern Orthodox have had a
home until late into the night. "The
The Rothbarts are ambivalent generally less rigorous Jewish educa-
time we're not spending with the kids,
we're not indulging ourselves," says about the value of the secular educa- tion and may have learned about
tion they received."The Torah is a Jewish law and ritual only at home,
Three-year-old Chana Leah guide on how a person can reach a rather than in a Jewish day school,
understands her father's vocation, her level of spirituality," Shraga explains. Hershel says.
Compared to the ultra-Orthodox,
parents say, and doesn't feel neglected "There is never a reason for a person
because of the limited time the fami- who wants to reach a level of says Chavie Weingarden, "We're just
as strict in the following of the law.
ly is together. "This is what she's us- spirituality to go outside of Torah.
"I . like Hume. I like Kant. I But we're more `worldly."
ed to;' Shraga says, adding that many
"We're interested in our children
of his daughter's friends are from wouldn't want to lose this;' he says of
his studies prior to becoming getting a good secular education as
Kollel families as well.
Still, says Shraga, Chana Leah is religious. "But I don't know if I'd want well as a good Thrah education," Her-
shel emphasizes, adding that he and
a child and is capable of making the my son to learn it!"
The Rothbarts' asceticism is his friends have fought off attempts
demands of a child. "When she wants
to play, she says, 'Why do you learn reflected in their strict beliefs on the from the religious right to squeeze out
the secular subjects taught at the
role of women.
so much Tbrah? No more Torah! "
Beth Yehudah schools their children
What distinguishes one Orthodox
Jew from another, they say, is the
place of religion in his life. The more
right wing one is, the more "religion
is their primary focal point in their
lives and everything else is secon-
dary," explains Dr. Saul Weingarden,
a physician. For Weingarden, his pro-
fession is a means which allows him
to fulfill the tenets of Judaism. "We
consider ourselves religious Jews
While the women gathered in the
Gardins' home believe their most im-
portant functions relate to home and
family, they say the roles of Orthodox
men and women are evolving. The
"Orthodoxy mirrors what's going
on in the outside society;' says Maury
Ellenberg. "The contact we have with
our children is tons more than in our
parents' generation. I feel very much
a role in the home?'
The eclectic group seems to draw
the line at certain practices which,
although halachically permissible,
are not common in Detroit. Several
large Orthodox communities
elsewhere boast women's prayer
groups, for instance. Such a group
would be "looked upon strangely" in
Detroit, in the opinion of David Wayn-
traub, secular studies principal of
In fact, a women's prayer group
does exist in the Detroit area. It
gathers once a year, and its activities
are described in almost a whisper.
Every Simchat Torah, Orthodox
women meet at Akiva Hebrew Day
School to dance with the Sefer Torah.
The eclectic Jews are secure in
their Othodoxy, are university
educated and convinced that a Jew's
place is in the outside world as well
as in the synagogue. Yet many say
they are fearful about opening up the
secular world to their children.
Chavie Weingarden, who grew up
in the midst of the social turmoil and
sexual revolution of the 1960s, is
nevertheless concerned that her
children may not survive the "drugs,
immorality and violence" of the
1980s. She is not sure she wants her
children on a college campus. "There
are times to isolate and times to ex-
pose to the world," she says.
"The classic line is everyone to
the right of me is an extremist and
everyone to the left is non-religious,"
quips Saul Weingarden.
But the shift to the right among
Orthodox Detroiters is a topic which
they take seriously.
Mark Schlussel says he was
described by a long-time acquain-
tance as less religious than he used to
be. "But I've stayed the same,"
Schlussel responds. "He moved to the