Jewish Modesty Patrol or Vaad Tznius

Of course I already knew that Orthodox Jews observe a modest dress code, but it was eye-opener to learn that in some ultra-conservative areas a modesty patrol– or vaad tznius– police the streets in a vigilante manner, terrorizing and belittling "immodest" Jewish women.

Imagine that – someone other than a Muslim taking religious law into their own hands! This could be juicy stuff, as interesting and controversial as headlines about the religious police in Iran and Saudi Arabia, or about Taliban-enforced modesty in Afghanistan. Yet, until I read a friend's recent blog post on this topic, I've never chanced across a news story about the underground Jewish modesty patrol in Jerusalem.

Why not?

To be fair, some stories about vaad tznius are out there; they just don't get reported that often or they quietly get swept under the carpet. After all, would Israel want the world talking about how paint, bleach and even acid have been thrown on "immodestly" dressed women and girls in Jerusalem? Or how about the silently sanctioned cases where women have been beaten up for suspected immoral behavior? Obviously it's just more convenient for the West to focus on religious fanaticism in the Muslim world. That way there's no need for a "Terrorism Is Not Judaism" campaign.

Speaking of campaigns, enter Crown Heights, New York – home to a large conservative Jewish population. Recently a tznius poster campaign emerged, encouraging Crown Heights women to observe modest tznius dress. Similar signs and grafitti dot some streets in Jerusalem.

Nuff said. If you want to read more about the Jewish modesty patrol, here are a few quick links:

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About Christine Benlafquih

Christine (Amina) Benlafquih is a freelance writer whose work includes articles, opinion pieces, personal essays and occasional fiction and poetry. A former publications and public relations director, she earned a B.A. in Journalism from Duquesne University in 1987. Originally from Rochester, NY, she has also lived in Pittsburgh, PA, the Washington, DC area, and now resides in Casablanca, Morocco. Her experiences as an American convert to Islam, both in the United States and in Morocco, serve as inspiration to much of her work. She is particularly concerned about the biased portrayal of Arabs and Muslims in the media, and about the division and labeling that occurs among Muslims themselves. Christine is a member of the Islamic Writers Alliance (IWA) and the Muslim American Journalists Association (MAJA). She is married and the mother of six children.

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