Solomon Schechter School of Westchester, middle school girls now have a new way learn about the weekly Torah portion. At the weekly Midrash Manicures club, girls learn how to paint snippets of scenes from the weekly Torah portion on to their fingernails. Though they are currently focusing on the fine motor skills to make anything recognizable on such a small surface, Rabbi Yael Buechler, who teaches the class promises they will eventually get to some deep textual study. As a mother of a daughter who just started middle school at a Jewish day school, I find this very troubling. I try to protect my daughters from the constant barrage of messages they receive from popular culture that tell them that girls must spend hours of their day on their appearance and that a girl’s worth is based on how she looks and what she wears. I look to our day school as a place where they can obtain the spirituality and Jewish worldview to counteract these messages. While the manicure program may get more girls in the door than a regular midrash class, offering this program sends the message that torah study is not a serious occupation for women and that torah is not appealing on its own and needs to be sugar-coated (or Ravishing Red coated) to be made palatable to them. There is no similar class offered for boys which is high on self-adornment and low on textual content or even an equally “fun” one like a gemartia-based video games or something. It tells both girls and boys in the schools that what girls they think or have learned is not as important as what is on their nails.
There is already enough of a message in the popular and Jewish culture that women aren’t serious scholars. Women like Henrietta Szold, Rabbi Sally Priesand , Rabbi Amy Eilberg, Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso and Rabba Sara Hurwitz had to fight hard to get taken seriously as torah scholars, and as spiritual leaders and I don’t think their struggle and sacrifice was to pave the way for the opportunity to teach future generations of girls to paint their nails Jewishly.
Thanks Noa for help with this rant.