When it comes to writing, I don’t usually get stumped on what to write about. Writing for a magazine that will reach Jewish women of all backgrounds has had me stumped for weeks. What do I write about? What topics are okay to discuss? Do I stay within my comfort zone or actually use my voice?
Because I am an “Instagram Blogger” (whatever that actually means), people might think addressing a large crowd is easy for me. However, Instagram storying is very different than writing for a published magazine, and I’ll tell you why. I can’t see who reads this, I don’t get direct feedback, and I can’t delete it once it’s published. It’s terrifying to think that people will have proof of what I say!
I was told to speak about what I am passionate about—which is hard, considering I’m passionate about many different subjects. The subject I chose to discuss here, (for all the people who will have proof,) is acceptance within our communities. Rather, the lack of acceptance within our communities.
Ever since I graduated from high school, I have had these hopes and dreams now that school is finally over. I was so happy to leave all the cliques, judgmental students, and vicious rumors behind me. But I was naïve to think that when I walked off that stage, girls and women would suddenly be nicer, more mature and grown up.
Being a fashion blogger, I get multiple messages daily, asking for my advice. To my surprise, the majority of these messages have nothing to do with modest fashion. Instead, girls in high school, seminary and college ask me if it ever gets better. Does the bullying stop? Will people start accepting me? Am I normal if I don’t go with the flow?
Seeing these messages breaks my heart. Parents are sending their children to school so they can be molded, educated, and protected. They are not sending their kids to school saying, “Judge my child, exclude my child, shame my child and then send her home.”
The scary thing is, bullying was confined to the school yard and classroom when I was in elementary school. Once I got into middle school and kids were making Facebook pages, cyber-bullying then became a concern. And it has only gotten worse from middle school until now.
I am a 22-year-old, Modern Orthodox, modest fashion blogger. After putting myself out there on social media, and openly discussing my personal beliefs, I have learned a lot about people and cyber-bullying. Behind a screen, people can be the most terrible versions of themselves. I see people commenting on others’ photos, saying they don’t deserve to call themselves Jewish because they wear pants or don’t cover their hair. People have messaged me telling me I have no right to call myself modest when my skirt and sleeve length varies.
I was raised to include everybody. “Rachel, don’t leave people out. Play with everybody.” “Rachel, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” “Rachel, don’t hurt anybody. That’s not how we act. We aren’t animals.” “Rachel, how would you like it if someone said that to you?” I can’t say I have an incredible filter; I am very outspoken. However, I was taught to accept everybody. I was raised to love someone for who they are—not for how long their skirt is or how they cover their hair. I grew up in a family with members of all different religious levels. Our policy was always that we love and accept everyone—Just don’t force your views upon me and everything will be okay.
Today, there is so much hate and tension between the people in our communities. Why do we belittle others for being more or less frum than us? Why do we call other women vulgar names if they dress differently than we do? Why is a woman with a long sheitel less modest than someone with a short sheitel? Why is someone shunned for wearing longer or shorter skirts than you?
What happened to the preschool thought process of: You like cookies, I like cookies, let’s play? What happened to that innocent and easy acceptance we all once felt? Where did all of these walls and boundaries come from?
We see children suffering in school from bullying, and it kills us. In reality, they are only mimicking us. Nothing makes my blood boil more than when I see someone unnecessarily belittling another. There is no reason why we can’t treat each other better and actually graduate high school.
Jewish people have never been the most popular; we really never feel the love from others. I think it’s time we started loving and accepting each other. We keep waiting for everyone else to do it for us, and we’ll be waiting until Moshiach comes for that to happen. We need to start treating each other better, start breaking down the walls we built, and set better examples for the impressionable minds around us. Our people have overcome a tremendous amount of obstacles, and I passionately believe we can overcome this one too.