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Monday, October 03, 2011

Not Everything Should Go on Record

Hat Tip: VIN

Not everything should be aired out in public. . . especially one's sheitel. Or, at least that is how I felt after reading the NY Post article on pre-Rosh Hashana sheitel styling with upscale Manhattan stylist that runs into the 4 figures, that on top of the 4 figure wig.

While VIN commenters chat away regarding the halachic permission of wigs, esp. larger than life wigs, the prudence of spending this type of money, and the consumption issues, I'm going to steer clear of that and address a different aspect of the article. While I am of the opinion that you can't hide dirty laundry and it is better to admit that there are issues, rather than putting up an often hollow defense, I'd prefer the dirty laundy vis a vis what a minority are spending on their hair (and presumably the rest of the wardrobe . . certainly these wigs aren't topping off clothing from the [insert your favorite discount department store] clearance rack?) be kept hush-hush for the sake of the rest of us.

Being an Orthodox Jewess who regularly applies/interviews for accounts and positions which entail great trust and great potential for abuse, this article is cringe-worthy! Perhaps I'm just paranoid because I had professors that focused on fraud risk factors! But, I've also seen up close and personal what happens when an employee with an all too expensive life to support vis a vis their station losses their bearings. By biting when a reporter wants to write an article on pricey sheitel care, the costly lifestyle that is a rarity becomes the normal in the eye of the beholder (I still haven't forgotten about the other sheitel case of recent memory). I don't blame any newspaper for wanting to do a human interest story like this, but there will be no balance where the frugal, corner cutting, second hand sheitel wearer is subsequently featured.

Therefore, the interviewer can now think: Orthodox Jew = terribly expensive lifestyle = risk to employer. This on top of whatever other issues the employer may worry about (I had one interview that crossed into awkward territory where I had to explain that the previous employee who left him burned wasn't representative of Orthodox Jews vis a vis the laws of yichud).

I think that the majority of younger sheitel wearers do want their wig to go undetected on the job. The best solution to that, whether you are spending $500 or $5000 is to zip the lips.


Commenter Abbi said...

I think you're being a bit paranoid. This is a sensational article on whacky women who spend way too much money on their wigs (why is it any more sane to spend 1600 dollars on your hair and but a wig is just totally crazy?), but how is this "dirty laundry"? They aren't threatening the stylist at gunpoint to do their sheitels and they aren't embezzling money to cover this expense yet.

There's no story in normal sheitel wearers taking having their sheitels done by normal sheital machers, that's why they weren't covered.

Mr. Cohen said...

More than ten years ago, an Orthodox Rabbi who I respect greatly and is also an MD who works in a hospital told the members of his congregation: DO NOT talk to newspaper reporters!

If all Jews would follow this wise advice, then all Jews would certainly benefit.

Newspapers and reporters often thrive on making people look bad.

Newspapers and reporters are not friends of Jews; they often seek to present the Jewish people and the Jewish faith and the Jewish state in the most negative light possible (as if we don’t already have enough problems).

Even information that seems to be innocent and harmless can be to our disadvantage if presented in a certain way or if publicized to enough people.

Like they say in the Navy: “Loose lips sink ships.”

nmf #7 said...

I agree that it shouldn't be talked about- but truthfully, it is no different than reporting on a fabulous new hair salon anywhere else, on normal hair, and their prices.
And, I know second hand shaitels are cheaper, but for those of us who are wearing sheitals we got for our weddings still- a new cut several years down the line, even a VERY expensive one, can save money.

Orthonomics said...

nmf #7--It wouldn't be a good idea for a cashier to go on record by name that she spends $1600 on hair care either! But no one would draw the conclusion that having nice hair = multi thousand dollar expense. An employer should certainly be aware if he finds out an employee spends too much.

Here sheitel wearing (even without the pricey Manhattan treatments and cuts) is shown to be very expensive. That is concerning to me.

Bottom line, if you are spending lots of money, don't advertise it.

tesyaa said...

People are interested in lifestyles of the rich and famous, not so much about the poor and/or frugal (though I vividly remember the article about the coupon-clipping woman who feeds her family of 5, including 3 teenage boys, on $25 per week or so).

I have a non-Jewish co-worker, of a distinct ethnic/national group, who clearly spends a tremendous amount on herself: clothing, personal care, luxury car. Even our boss noticed it and commented on it. It has absolutely no bearing on her work (she's extremely competent, a very hard worker, and recently got promoted).

Some people are major spenders, some are not. I would not say my co-worker's spending habits reflect on her nationality, just that she has expensive tastes that some might find gaudy, but do not imply fraud or lack of intelligence, or even poor judgment.

Miami Al said...

I think you are misreading how this is construed. This isn't "Orthodox Jews burn money" -- there are PLENTY of those -- this is, how the Orthodox Socialites prepare for their social season. This is no more of a problem for Jews than an article on how "INSERT SOCIALITE'S NAME" is wearing "INSERT DESIGNER'S NAME" custom made hair pin that sells for $15,000.

This is simply Town and Country: Orthodox Jewish Edition, NOT "Out of Control Welfare Queens Exposed."

Re: Yichud: it would be extremely nice if somehow during $250,000 of private schooling, one managed to teach children the actual laws and that in the "Yeshiva World" being stringent is a sign of piety, especially if you can inconvenience others in your stringency so they participate in the mitzvah, in the "real world" being publicly machmir isn't a sign of piety, it's a MAJOR Chillul Hashem AND jeopardizes the Parnassah of other Orthodox Jews, and is therefore a HUGE stumbling block.

concernedjewgirl said...

I happen to be of the opinion that you do not need to spend lots of money you don't have in order to look good! Nobody HAS to have a wig for $5000 if they cannot afford it. I work outside of the frum community and do believe that some sort of a wig is necessary for corporate America (this comment is based on my personal experience, if you disagree..ok.)With that said, my first year at my company I wore a wig that cost $35 and I had compliments on it all the time. After one years time, it started to fall apart, I could have bought another $35 wig to replace that one, nobody was holding a gun to my head to spend $700 on a fall. Both my husband and I are frugal and see no point in overspending. At this point I'm hoping to wear this $700 fall for at least another 5 years...I'm already 2 years in with minimal maintenance I do my own washes for work fall. IF however you can afford a very expensive wig with a very expensive style more power to you and thanks for stimulating the economy :-)

AztecQueen2000 said...

The irony is that she is spending thousands of dollars (and bragging about it to the media) for an item that is supposed to be about "modesty."

Reader said...

Could you elaborate on how this previous employee "burned" the employer re: yichud?

Miami Al- you're on the money, except with the yichud issue. It's a very real halacha and there's little way around it. And you know what? It actually is quite necessary in today's work environment.

JS said...

I don't really see how this phenomenon implicates a risk to employers, but maybe I'm missing something. I think, if anything, it paints Orthodox Jews as spendthrifts and overly materialistic, which I don't think is such a great thing to be portrayed as in such miserable economic times. That's really my only concern with respect to the non-Jewish world. It's just a reality that human beings view the world as consisting of groups and tend to think the views and actions of individual members of that group are reflective of the group as a whole. So, yet another association of Jews (here, Orthodox Jews) and money and extravagant wealth.

With respect to the Orthodox Jewish world, I just find this so incredibly funny. It just goes to show you can restrict people in every which way possible and they'll still find ways to "act out" and be themselves. You can legislate as many modesty rules as you want, people will find ways to indulge themselves. If the only place you let people express their individuality is through wigs, people will go overboard in that area. If you can only show how much wealth you have by spending on religious items, people will overspend on lulav and etrog and call it hiddur mitzvah. It's just human nature. You can legislate as much modesty as you want, people will find acceptable means to do what they'd do anyways if they were completely secular.

If they can afford it, it's their business. Anyone who gets jealous and spends money they don't have to experience the same luxuries is a fool. I think it's dishonest to say it's done in the name of piety and modesty, but it's not the first time someone has been delusional or hypocritical.

I'd love to hear more about that yichud story. To Miami Al's point, it's all well and good to be frum on your own dime and at your own inconvenience, but it's wrong to do it on someone else's dime and at their inconvenience. I heard a nice speech before Rosh Hashana about this point. There was a very poor and pious rabbi (can't remember his name) who was so poor he didn't have food regularly for his family. One day he saw a gold coin on the street that fell from a non-Jew's pocket. He ran over and picked it up so excited that his family would now be able to eat. A nearby Jew saw this and chided the rabbi saying how he should go and return it and make a kiddush Hashem. The poor rabbi said he wasn't required by halacha to give it back given the factual situation that led to the loss. The man persisted that it's a kiddush Hashem and how we need to act lifnim mishurat hadin (beyond the letter of the law). The poor rabbi said fine, I'll loan you the coin, you go after the man and return it, the mitzvah will be yours, and then when you get back here you'll repay me. The man hemmed and hawed and left.

The point is if you want to be strict for yourself fine, but it's wrong to force others to abide by your stringencies (it's even worse to force it on others when you wouldn't do it yourself). The speech ended with modern day examples of this such as going to an extra shiur instead of helping out your wife at home. Funnily, the rabbi noted this only has to do with chumras and not halacha and therefore people should be quiet during davening and not be concerned that by not talking to their friends they're being frum at their friend's expense.

Moriah said...

Isn't it a problem that these women are letting a MAN touch them?

Dave said...

Employees who are in a position to steal significant funds or assets and whose lifestyle costs exceed their income are a risk.

It doesn't matter if the lifestyle costs are because they love to gamble, travel, buy jewelry, or other people's hair.

I think you're over-reacting to this one.

Anonymous said...

JS- without more info on the particular yichud issue, how can we decide it's being frum at someone's expense? Are we talking about yichud stringencies to the nth degree in which case you're right, or are we talking about the basic halacha which is "black letter" Shulchan Aruch? And if it's the latter, why is that wrong, but leaving early on a Friday isn't (presumably this is also at the expense of others)? I once left a job because the boss kept having me and only me stay late with just him around. It was a blatant yichud situation, and frankly, it gave me the creeps anyway. I didn't want to make waves over nothing other than a creepy feeling, so I just left rather making a stink about it. But please don't make light of yichud- it is real halacha and it exists for a reason.

Anonymous said...

I'm so tired of people picking on women who want a nice wig that they feel comfortable in. It is so important to looking well-groomed and making sure one doesn't stand out like a sore thumb in a work environment and its something you use every day. Even if you buy a $3,000 wig, if you keep it for a few years, its still less of a per day expenditure than a smoking or coffee habit or buying lunch instead of brown bagging it. Would you say that someone who gets a weekly manicure is at risk for committing fraud? What about someone who eats out once a week? Someone who buys an expensive lulav? Someone who send his kid to private school (i.e. yeshiva)?

JS said...

Anon 6:16,

I assumed it was a stringency based on the way SephardiLady portrayed the story. She said that the person's practice of yichud wasn't the mainstream way of practicing the laws (wasn't representative were her words). I'd like to hear more about the story, if possible.

Leaving early on a Friday is not being frum at someone else's expense since it's done with the other person's consent and isn't forced upon that person. After all, they're the employer, you're the employee. If they don't like it they don't hire you or just fire you. The control is theirs. I would just put a caveat that I assume you mean leaving early so one can arrive home before shabbat and thereby avoid violation of shabbat, not heading out at noon so you can relax and enjoy your Friday afternoon. I also assume you're being honest with the employer in terms of when you need to leave. There are too many variables here, but I think common sense reveals whether someone is being frum at another's expense.

As for yichud, I'm not sure what you mean by there's a reason for the halacha. It's meant to head off forbidden relationships and avoid the assumption that would arise from people spending time alone. Would people really think you're sleeping around with your boss? I don't know. It seems unlikely to me. Beyond that, I don't know the work setting, but aren't you subject to intrusion from cleaning staff or other employees? I would think in most work environments it would be tough to get a real yichud situation. But look, a lot of this comes down to how strict you want to be. You could say yichud applies for a cousin that is a boy above the age of 9 or a girl above he age of 3 for even 5 seconds. Personally, I find that a bit odd given the actual intent involved.

Devorah said...

I read the original article and cringed... At a time when people are protesting on the streets due to lack of resources the article reminded me of how Marie Antoinette was quoted saying " let them it cake" .... IMO bragging to the media about lavish andunreasonable expenditures. Only serves as fuel to portray Jewish women as spoiled and overindulged .I think is crass to discuss how much you spend period.

Anonymous said...

JS- I don't think it's about the assumption, I think it's about what can potentially happen, and plenty of people who thought they were above that have messed up in that regard. The former boss I mentioned was seriously creeping me out, so there was more to it than that, but yes, the yichud part added to the creep factor in that situation.

Like you, I would really like to know more about the story SL referred to- I'm just having a hard time imagining how far the person could have taken it that it actually left the boss with a bad taste.

You are so right about the Friday thing! My husband and I both work full days on summer Fridays and at this time of year, we're leaving around 4 or so (and might I add, my husband's boss is frum!)People in our community wonder why we don't leave earlier since "the boss knows about Shabbos", and it boggles my mind that they really think it can be acceptable to leave at 2 when Shabbos starts at 8...

10 days of repentance said...

Re:Yichud. If we start trying to determine "intent" on every halacha we know a little about, we end up like Shlomo Halmelech, marrying all those women since he felt the Torah's prohibition did not apply to him.
{Furthermore, while this is not the tome or place, if you think there are no 9 year olds who haven't 'played doctor' with their younger cousins (or siblings) I suggest you speak to some mental health care professionals.

JS said...

10 days,

There are two types of investigating intent behind mitzvot. I would say one type should be avoided while the other should be (and is) embraced in halacha. The first type would be investigating the intent of the law and choosing to follow the intent without the commandment. As an example, the intent behind tzitzit is that looking at them will remind one of the mitzvot and prevent one from straying. A mistake in this regard would be to say, "I don't like wearing tzitzit in the summer since it's too hot, so I'll wear a blue string around my wrist, that will remind me of the mitzvot and I won't stray. Or, the purpose of Shabbat is to remember creation and leaving Egypt, so every Friday night I'll just read some of Breishit and Shmot and then go and drive to a movie to rest and relax. This is the mistake of Shlomo you refer to.

The second type is using the intent to ascertain what one should do when a new question arises. For example, assume the only traffic law relating to traffic lights is "stop on red, go on green." But, the light turns yellow in between. Do I go or stop during yellow? Investigating the intent of the law allows one to figure out what to do. If the intent is safety, I should stop on yellow. If the intent is allowing all drivers at the intersection to travel efficiently, I should go on yellow. Without investigating intent it's impossible to figure out what to do. The rabbis (and lawyers and judges) employ this all the time. The law on Shabbos forbids cooking food directly on fire, so can I put food on smoldering coals? Can I bury it in the sand? Again, look at intent.

Turning to yichud, the law is that a man and a woman cannot be alone together. Can two men and a woman be alone? Can two women and one man be alone? This is how rabbinic prohibitions of yichud arose.

You bring up that cousins may play doctor. I'm not going to get into the halacha. All sorts of sexual deviations exist in this world. We allow a father and his daughter to be alone together, yet we know this form of incest unfortunately exists. So, clearly just because something can happen may not be enough to lead to a prohibition. On the other hand, leaving a door slightly ajar can remove yichud entirely even though it's highly unlikely anyone would ever just barge in. Here, something that may never, ever occur is enough to remove a prohibition. Why the difference? Again, I suspect it has an awful lot to do with the intent behind the laws.

Halacha is tough to navigate because you have centuries of prohibitions added to the core of the law. Concerns from one generation may no longer exist, but the laws do. Should it be the halacha that a man cannot be alone with his adopted daughter once she is three years old? Should it be the halacha that even a second alone is a violation? That it applies to visiting an elderly widow that is all alone? That women cannot be trusted such that a man cannot be alone with a group of women?

I don't have the answer to those questions, but the answer surely relates to the intent behind the law.

Miami Al said...

You have an issue with Yichud, consult a Rav, sources, or both, not a blog.

However, if someone is encountering someone nervous about hiring Orthodox Jews because of Yichud, it means that their prior Orthodox Jewish employee was a lunatic. Seriously, who is ever in a business setting where such an issue ACTUALLY arises?

I'm not saying that the halachic issue of Yichud isn't real, I'm suggesting that for it to create enough of an issue for someone that their employer even knows it exists is someone that doesn't know how to professionally conduct themselves.

The story of the creepy boss is a matter of creepiness and discomfort.

If you are conducting yourself professionally, the concept that you would be in such a circumstance shouldn't occur.

If one is going "above the letter" to be extra stringent, and AS A RESULT is therefore creating a Chillul Hashem and jeopardizing the Parnassah of other Jews, then they aren't being stringent on Yichud, they are being lenient on Chillul Hashem, hence being frum at someone else's expense.

Sadly the chumrah culture of the Yeshiva world is leaving our young (and not so young) Frum adults without the knowledge of how to navigate the professional world.

R Moshe permitted entering a non-kosher restaurant if there was a bar, since the Morat Ayin issue didn't apply because if one saw you enter, they should presume that you are going to the bar (permitted) for a meeting, not the restaurant to eat (forbidden). Conceivably any high end restaurant with premium coffees that one would go for a meeting would have a similar situation.

When one refuses to enter such an establishment to meet with people, one creates potential hardships for future employees, because you create an extra level of high maintenance for Orthodox Jews.

Same with leaving @ 2 PM on Fridays in the summer. If the company has summer hours, because your co-workers hit vacation spots, then it's no big deal. If the rest of your colleagues normally work late on Fridays, than it's an unreasonable accommodation to decide to leave hours earlier so you can have a leisurely Friday afternoon... nothing wrong with negotiating flexible hours, but considering that a "religious accommodation" is abusive.

Orthonomics said...

Of course yichud is a "real" and should be followed. The application of the laws of yichud in the workplace are complicated and if you have a question one should ask their Rav.

The story with the potential employer isn't too exciting, but left me in an awkward position of explaining things. I don't think this workplace was problematic for me given a combination of factors.

The previous employee perhaps did have a few things to deal with, he was even working with a Rabbi who gave him some practical suggestions. The real issue is that he was anxious instead of graceful and each time something came up he put the long time non-Jewish receptionist on edge and the work environment was filled with tension.

I would not have gone for an interview if the environment was inappropriately secluded.

Regarding the "creeps", I once worked in a large office and the head manager have me the creeps. I never could place my finger on the issue, but I remember feeling uncomfortable around him at the interview (you could be seen through glass doors by all the other workers). One day I ran into another worker and sure enough, he was fired for sexual harassment.

I had another employer at my first minimum wage job who simply didn't like certain people and I was in that category. I felt uncomfortable around him, but he didn't give me the creeps.

Bottom line, if you have that creepy feeling, listen to it.