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Op-Ed: We Have to Make Our Daughters Want Tznius

“We need Tznuis role models who look nice, classy and yes ‘with it,'” says a Bnos Menachem mother in this op-ed response after receiving a controversial letter from the school requiring all parents to agree to strict Tznius guidelines, including no long shaitels, dark nail polish, or denim:

Dear Crown Heights Community,

I don’t have a problem with the letter, as I believe a  school has the liberty to make any rules they’d like, and they can and should enforce the rules they come up with so that they have credibility.

However, I believe that some people would enjoy a different perspective on this topic, and it is my hope to bring attention to this urgent problem.

We need Tznuis Role Models who look nice, classy and yes “with it.” I want my daughter to “want” to be like me and her teachers. I want my daughter to feel pretty and confident and not to be embarrassed of her mother who looks like a “nerd.”

So how should I dress? In a sheitel that is both elegant , tznuis and beautiful. That is not defined by the ruler but better by the “look.” My sheitel will be long, but not too long, so it fits nicely with my body frame. It will be nicely styled and not look messy. It will not be “attracting” but rather attractive.

My clothes will fit me; they won’t be to loose/big so I don’t resemble a walking garbage bag, nor will they be so tight that one needs “sunglasses” to walk by me. I will make sure to buy clothes with colors, clothes with style, but most importantly – clothes that are tznius (as defined by the Shulchan Aruch). My elbows will be covered even when I lift my hands up, my knees will be covered even when I sit down (this does not require my skirts to be mid-calf, rather, I buy skirts that are not the “pencil” style to achieve this).

My nail polish will be classy, using light colors only, as that is what I feel is Aidel, dignified, and most importantly – beautiful.

I truly want my daughter to proud of her mother who look beautiful and Tznius, and hope that she will then want to continue that path.

Signed,

A Bnos Menachem Mother

42 Comments

  • 1. tznius wrote:

    I have a sister in law who had a teacher that whatever she said to her students, it had such a beautiful impact on them or at least on my sister in law, that she was left with a very big desire to be tznius. that teacher made them feel that was what was beautiful.
    Now I have grown children I was never a rebellious teenager and I dress tznius. however I like my bright sparkle nail polish does that make me outrageous or un-tznius? our we allowed no self expression? am I going to hell for that? we are not robots I don’t think G-d is going to mind some stuff that is a little out of the box. and if we allow our children that and stop making everything the forbidden fruit then maybe they wont have a need to rebel and go completely off the way. I think everyone one needs to take a chill pill.

    Reply
    • 2. Meir wrote:

      “Are we allowed no self expression?”

      Sure you are. Why does it have to be with chitzoniyus like nail polish, though? Is that how you define your “self”?

      “Am I going to hell for that?”

      Turn the question around. Hashem didn’t put us in the world so we can keep ourselves out of hell, but to make a dirah lo Yisborach batachtonim. Does sparkly nail polish contribute to that goal?

      “We are not robots I don’t think G-d is going to mind some stuff that is a little out of the box.”

      First of all, are you privy to what Hashem does or doesn’t mind? Second, again, is “being a little out of the box” in this way something that enhances your relationship with Him and with your mission in life? How about instead you be “out of the box” in the amount of Chassidus you study, in the amount of tzedakah and chessed you do, in acting lifnim mishuras hadin in interpersonal affairs, etc.? (And if you are already doing so, yasher koach, and keep on striving to be more “out of the box” in those areas and more.)

    • 3. Dovid wrote:

      Great reply Meir. This isn’t a tziyus issue per se. Many things can be looked at by the perspective you expressed in your answer.

  • 4. thank you wrote:

    As a student I’d like to let our teachers know:
    yes, we need a dugma chaya
    yes, we want you to wear refined and pretty clothing
    yes, we want you to wear refined colored nail polish
    yes, we want you in neat shaitlach
    and yes, thank you Rabbi Gurary for requesting that and hopefully encouraging the staff too so we can pay more attention to what is being taught than analyzing the look of our teachers.
    May Hashem grant you the strength to bring this to its fruition.

    Reply
  • 8. Bas Yisroel wrote:

    Finally the community is waking up to what we stand for. Let us be proud and dress like real Chasidishe Bnos Yisroel and this will bring Moshiach with the Rebbe MH”M proudly leading us NOW!

    Reply
  • 9. shg wrote:

    now this is a comment place where alot of positive and input can happen.
    If HaShem gave us Tzius then there surely are beautiful ways to implement.
    I know for certain that tznius can be done in a very lovely and classy way. Waiting to see that happen more.

    Reply
  • 12. Andrea Schonberger wrote:

    A very nice letter and well written too. There is a big difference in being attractive and attracting attention. One can be tznius and yet attractive and up to date with current styles. Seriously, does any girl want her mother dressing like the 1800s with the corset and bustle or like a hippie from the 1960s? I doubt it–she wants her mother to take pride in her appearance and to look attractive for any occasion.

    Reply
  • 13. ATTENTION NUMBER 1 wrote:

    Whilst you claim to dress appropriately etc. your tone in your comment says you resent having to do it. This is what your daughter might revel against, people who keep tznius but with resentment. And yes, certain shades of nail polish absolutely attract attention to you physically! But know this men may look but their respect is for the women are are truly (self respecting) tznius in every way and don’t make deals as to what is really so wrong etc. they realize that that is totally the terser hara. Pulling you down in his very clever gradual way- one level at a time.

    Reply
    • 14. Crazy for colors. wrote:

      Aha.
      I figured out the issue with smartphones,
      Men might look at pictures of colored nail polish.
      Thank you rabbi gurary, I never understood the issue till today.

  • 15. To #1 wrote:

    Your chill pill over the years was the slippery slope that lead to our tznius problem today.

    Reply
    • 16. shg wrote:

      #9, you might be right, but on the other hand, some nail polish which is a little over the top, with tznius clothing, can be pulled off. Not maximum quality, but can pull off.
      I just know that fully 100% tznius can be beautiful. Someone really creative can pull that one off….tznius and lovely. And I don’t like someone’s opinion that only classy is ok, and hippy is not. Any style a person represents can be done in tznius and nice. Theres so much judgement in this…….

  • 17. Well said!! wrote:

    We are different & we should be so PROUD that we dress beautifully but tzniusdikly…..

    Reply
  • 18. Dear author wrote:

    This was tried, maybe 10 years ago. My daughter was approached to join such a committee because she is always tzanua yet is stylish & elegant – on a shoestring, I might add! The women had 1 meeting & that was it. It went nowhere.

    Another point though hasn’t been raised – the moral responsibility of local shopkeepers. They sell beautiful things, but often they are not appropriate. It’s not only the length of the skirt, sleeve or neckline, it’s also the fabric, color and fit. If they would tell customers the truth – that the garment is not suitable – the customers will come back, because they can trust the salesperson’s honesty. I have been told many times that something fits perfectly, the color suits me, but I would always have to sit behind a tablecloth. I KNOW the outfit is totally inappropriate…. at least, on me.

    The problem isn’t going away and it’s not going to be solved soon. But if all the other schools adopt Bnos Menachem’s policy/dress code (& insist the students sign as well) then things will change. It will be interesting to see how many BM girls will apply to Beis Rivka so their mothers don’t have to comply with the standards in BM. That in itself is a huge problem.

    Reply
    • 19. Really? wrote:

      I have to say crown heights local shops carry beautiful, classy and stylish clothing. I enjoy shopping I’m top fashion and are always are honest with the fit. Try one of the crown heights local shops – the clothing are tznius classy and fashionable

  • 20. Beautiful wrote:

    Thank you for your dignified response to the outcry. We need to be living examples of the next generation.

    Reply
  • 21. Anonymous wrote:

    I think shaitels are the height of hypocrisy. If a woman was really sincere about covering her hair she would use a teichel or hat,even if a little hair shows.We also wouldn’t have these problems is defining a “long”shaitel,which seems to be in the picture with this article.

    Reply
    • 22. Meir wrote:

      You think that, but our Rebbe told us otherwise, that sheitels are better. Can you give us any good reason to favor what you, an anonymous commenter, say, over his declared opinion?

    • 23. hair wrote:

      Igros Kodesh [printed in Shulchan Menachem ] “You want to wear a Sheital that will leave two finger-worth’s uncovered! Who are you trying to fool, not the world, but only yourself, and what is the purpose of fooling yourself? The rule is clear in Shulchan Aruch [that all the hair must be covered] and there is no room for question on this matter.”everyone agrees that according to the Zohar[6] it is a complete prohibition to reveal any hair of the head, and one who is not careful in this causes poverty and spiritual challenges for their children, as well as other Tzaros (from shulchanaruchharav.com)

    • 24. If you are Chabad wrote:

      you would know the Rebbe speaks very strongly about women wearing sheitels & not hats/tichels outside. If you are Chabad & you do know this, then you have a problem with hashkafa Chabad. Maybe join the Sefardim .

    • 25. teichels wrote:

      a lot of woman wear teichels and they dont cover all of their hair

  • 26. x33 wrote:

    how about offering some classes in Tznius Design?
    or something similar. get them creating tznius styles with drawing and they will have it in their mind in a more full way

    Reply
  • 27. rcd wrote:

    I want to raise one thought, and question to keep in mind.
    I see that alot of judgement and attitude come with this issue. How do we keep it civil and with Ahavas Yisroel????
    (really)

    Reply
  • 28. Anonymous wrote:

    Hi! I never write comments but because this is something i feel strongly about i want to say afew words. Growing up in crown heights high school there were but afew role models to look up to that were always tznius yet up to date in fashion and lookedreally good and cute! I loved to see those types of people and it gave me hope that i can to look up to date cute instyle while still being tznius according to the shulchan Orach. Now that i am post sem and being tznius because i want to and not because my teacher is tellig me to cover my knees, i feel it is SOOO inportent to show our girls that you can be tznius and still look good!! Thats what our girls need to see that its out there and when they grow up they can do the same thing. To be a role model for the younger generation. You dont need to be some big person in a school faculity but just by walking on the streets of crown heights or anywhere by a high school girl seeing you. Seeing that you look classy and instyle really makes a difference even if you may never know about it.

    Reply
  • 29. The kangeroo wrote:

    No need for grand standing or self praise or great scholarly exhibits.Just follow the Shulhan Oruch.

    Reply
  • 30. Sigh wrote:

    Being as even some of the most chassidish morahs are wearing tight, mid-knee skirts, teaching tznius is an exercise in futility. It’s infuriating. Please Morah’s, take some responsibility. Your mesiras nefesh in looking 23% less “good” will be rewarded!

    Reply
  • 32. money wrote:

    Some of the reasons that teenagers might be dressing not tznius is because there are not enough affordable clothes in stores that are tznius, including the mall stores where they shop.
    Every Jewish husband should be blessed with plenty and give his wife money for elegant, tznius clothes and a nice shaitel.

    Reply
  • 33. RESPONDING TO MEIRS RESPONSE wrote:

    You are making wild assumptions. you are criticizing me based on what? do you know what I do NO. do you know the life I lead NO do you know what I have been through NO. you honestly think I define myself by my nail polish? are you for real? You are exactly what people complain and rebel against. You sit and judge and spout. how old are you? what do you do in your life. you want to compare notes on tzedoka and mitzvah’s do you really want to?? I think you need to do a little self examination and get off your high horse. I have raised my children successfully B”H to fine decent human beings whom I am very proud of. where are you in your life what have you accomplished. go sit and learn your Chassidus pay attention and try to learn something from it.

    Reply
    • 34. Meir wrote:

      I guess you didn’t read my last sentence, then: “(And if you are already doing so, yasher koach, and keep on striving to be more “out of the box” in those areas and more.)”

      All I can go by is what you wrote. You said that (a) you express your self via sparkly nail polish, and (b) you question whether the results of this will affect your own self (“am I going to hell for that?”). So I ask: (a) is your “self” and your body really one and the same? (b) Doing mitzvos, raising your children successfully, etc., is important, but no less important is to consider why you did/are doing these: is it because of what you yourself get out of it (reward, nachas, avoidance of punishment, etc.), or is it to further Hashem’s purpose in creating the world, and you specifically?

  • 36. Channa Leah wrote:

    I wear nail polish of all shades dark, light I don’t care. I’ve noticed that light pinks etc have gotten people’s attention. Dark colors haven’t.
    Personally I don’t see the issue and my Rabbi hasn’t said I shouldn’t wear dark colors he just said if it bothers others don’t wear around them.
    Seems like a logical response to me.

    Reply
  • 37. "Tznius but..." wrote:

    I don’t like the attitude that a woman isn’t respectable unless she’s “tznius, but with it”, “tznius, but stylish”, etc. We are told we have to be these things so our children shouldn’t be embarrassed? The Torah hakedosha doesn’t say you have to follow fashion. It says to be tznius. Why are women looking down on other women, and why are we telling girls they could look down on their mothers, over something that is absolutely nonessential? No, we don’t wear a burka/sheet. But if a woman is covering what she needs to cover, she is just as much a dugma chaya as any other woman who’s doing the same. Yiddishkeit is not a bitter pill and “hiding it in cake” with the belief that children have to be tricked into eating it isn’t chinuch.

    Reply
  • 38. Sarah wrote:

    Wouldnt it just be wonderful if we all stopped pointing fingers judgeing and critisizing those around and instead point our fingers inwards and find the things we need to work on ourselves and not in others .we dont change the world by fixing those around us we make change by fixing ourselves.

    Reply
  • 39. Effective Role Models wrote:

    If anyone is familiar with the book, “All for the Boss,” by Ruchama Shain, there is a passage that I read many decades ago, that I have never forgotten. To me, it is a blueprint for how one should be a dugma chaya, not only in dress but in one’s comportment as well.

    Rabbi Shain, obm, was a principal in a Beis Yaakov High School. The students held him in such high esteem, that if the girls did anything to upset him, just one look of disappointment in his eyes, was enough to make the girls mend their ways.

    Tznius is not just rules and regulations.
    Tznius should not be a rule (r) over a girl’s head.
    For even if a young lady obeys the rule (r) during class time, what is the expectation that she will follow through after she leaves the confines (both literally and figuratively!!!) of the school building, if she has been dealt with a heavy hand during school hours.

    It doesn’t work.

    As a parent and as a teacher, it doesn’t work.

    V’ahavata l’reacha kamocha relates to the kesher that I would hope a teacher or member of hanhala would see as a primary goal of her role in Chinuch as she demonstrates care and LOVE for each one of her students.

    A smile never hurts.

    Penina Metal

    Reply
  • 40. 100% agree w/ article wrote:

    I am a tall girl k”h and live in ch. If ppl wld only know how hard it is for me to dress tsnius and in style, ppl wld be ashamed!!

    Reply
  • 41. to # 12 wrote:

    I do not resent it at all. which is my entire point. in order not to resent it you have to allow yourself somethings that make you happy with it. I am not saying anything outrageous. to allow yourself something. for example i had a friend who wore a butterfly pin in her sheitel and someone came up to her and berated her for it. why? because that person resented that she had allowed herself that luxury and she wouldn’t fogin herself that and it made her angry someone else could or would. someone who truly cares would have asked or pointed it in a gentle private way. l obviously didn’t make my point clear. you have to teach children to love and appreciate tznius for that matter Torah. if you don’t have the foundation then the semantics wont matter and the whole thing will fall. people are getting stuck on the semantics. teach the love and the beauty and the rest will follow. if you keep a tight fist and be judgy and hit kids with a hammer all they will want to do is escape. I don’t know why that is such a hard concept to understand. I don’t know why people don’t get that.

    Reply

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