I have this problem – I believe in equal rights for all people.
In the case of the Syrian government, I really can’t let their civil rights violations be my problem. I wish it weren’t so, but what could we really do about it that wouldn’t have hundreds of unintended consequences?
But when it’s a violation in my own community – that I have an obligation to do something about.
I wrestle with the fact that “separate but equal” in the Orthodox world doesn’t cut if for me. Judaism gets into all these minutia of “rights” vs. “obligations” and I really don’t care how you spin it. Can women and men do the same things? No. And that’s my problem.
Equal rights are so important to me that this problem interferes with my ability to be warm towards Orthodox people. I would have the same problem with someone whom I knew to be homophobic or racist, so why should I just accept sexism in Orthodox Judaism? Is it possible for it to not bother me, and is there any justification for finding peace with it?
I’m finding that the answer must lie in a shade of gray. I can have my opinion, but there is no excuse for anything but a warm welcoming to people who disagree with me – even when I find such a disagreement to be a moral issue. All these “isms” and phobias are quite nuanced, and it’s unfair to the person in question to reduce their beliefs to a simple hatred of a group of individuals.*
I welcome them with open arms, and while I don’t respect this particular component of their worldview, I trust that their worldview works for them. Above all, I respect self-determination, and I am in no position to dictate the way someone else leads their life when it’s not affecting mine.
It really comes down to how deep I can let the friendship go. Is it a greater evil to fraternize with “the enemy,” or to shut people out of your life? Is maintaining a moral high ground admirable or pompously closed-minded? It’s hard to know to what extent allowing someone in your life makes you complicit in something you are so opposed to.
*To set the record straight, the role of women in Orthodox Judaism does not come from a place of hatred. Among other complex legal nuances, women are generally seen as equals, if not “spiritually greater.” Some argue that women are actually naturally more spiritual and so they don’t have to do all these rituals in order to make up for it, like men have to. As if that’s somehow better…equality goes both ways and it’s not fair to either sex to say one is born more spiritually-inclined. However, despite what they actually believe, in practice each gender has it’s permissions and limitations, and that I have a problem with.