Quick! Close your eyes and picture a Jew.
For close to 100% of us, the mental image we have will be of a Jewish man. This despite the dramatic historical advances Jewish women have made in Jewish education, community service and other roles outside the home in the past 100 years.
Back in the Old Country, when I had both discretionary income and wall space, I collected images of Jewish women doing Jewish things. It was an interesting hobby. I was able to afford to buy almost everything I saw, because the artwork was so rare. At the height of my collection, I had maybe a dozen pieces. They included women baking challah, an old woman with a heavily-lined face, deep in private prayer, women lighting Shabbat candles (the most iconic image of Jewish women) and an unusual painting of a woman, her young son and teenage daughter making havdalah.
I should have held on to more of them, because, if the current trend continues, it may become a crime to produce such works.
There is a trend, certainly in Israel, and possibly in other Jewish communities as well, to eradicate the presence of women, or images of women, from the public eye.
ITEM: Mea She'arim to ban women from certain Jerusalem streets during Sukkot
Out of a self-proclaimed desire to avoid mingling of the genders during public ceremonies related to Sukkot, the men of Mea She'arim have declared that certain streets in their neighborhood, most notably the main drag of Mea She'arim Street, will be off-limits to women. Though blatantly illegal, Shmuel Poppenheim, an unofficial spokesman for the community recently told the Jerusalem Post, "It's not an extreme measure, it's a moderate way of ensuring that the spiritual nature of the Simhat Bet Hashoeva is maintained. There is no need to make a big drama out of it."
ITEM: Last year, a mechitzah was constructed in a public street in Jerusalem to prevent men and women from walking near one another on public streets.
ITEM: The Jerusalem Light Rail produced print ads for certain neighborhoods that explicitly eliminated any images of women.
The Jerusalem Light Rail was trying to be sensitive to the values in certain neighborhoods which prohibit any images of women in ads and other printed materials, so they replaced the image of two women's faces in their safety ads with an image of two men's faces.
ITEM: A major Jewish book publisher had their graphic design team airbrush all the faces of women in their book catalog before it could be inserted in certain Jewish newspapers.
ITEM: Certain Jewish publications, as a matter of editorial policy, will not publish pictures of women, even to the point of digitally-editing news photos.
ITEM: I recently read an ad for a publication looking for a writer which explicitly said that a woman could write the article, but it had to be published in her husband's name.
ITEM: The issue of Israeli buses which require women to sit in the back of the bus rages on in the courts.
ITEM: Video and print images of Jews in Israel invariably include exclusively, or at least in the greatest preponderance, images of men - men at the Kotel, men building sukkot, men examining lulavim in the marketplace, men dancing in the streets, men lighting Chanukiot, male soliders, etc.
Of course I recognize that these things men do are captivating, iconic Jewish images. And yes, I am aware that some women would rather not be pictured, out of a sense of maintaining their own privacy or for fear that men might have a sexually inappropriate reaction to their image.
However, what I see on a regular basis convinces me that this has all gone way beyond reasonable and proceeded deep into extremism. I am a religious woman who dresses modestly and covers my hair AND it is my strong personal feeling that this trend of making Jewish women invisible has already reached a stage of pathological avoidance.
There is no way I will ever agree that this sort of behavior brings kedusha. One simply cannot attain holiness at the expense of kavod habriot (the requirement to treat all human beings with dignity).