Tired of going out in to the streets of Jerusalem, B’nei Brak and Brooklyn seeing those posters admonishing Jewish women to dress modestly plastered on walls and billboards? Well, now you can read one somewhere else — namely, stretched out across the breasts of a woman passing by.
Thanks to the ingenuity of Jerusalem T-shirt shop owner Joanne (Rachal) Ginsberg, Jewish feminists are wearing their protest right on their chests, where it is not only ironic, but also hard to miss. Owner of HebrewTshirts and mother of seven, Ginsberg came up with the idea for the design after being harassed one hot day two summers ago in the city’s ultra-Orthodox Beit Yisrael neighborhood by three women. At the time, she was wearing her usual “Orthodox and sockless” style of dress, which includes a head scarf, long sleeves, a long skirt and sandals.
“The women had head coverings and shawls and what appeared to be wool blankets draped all over themselves accosted me in the street,” Ginsberg told The Times of Israel. “They surrounded me.. and had decided to give me a lesson in modesty.
“They said they could help me become a better Jewish woman. They could help me reach new levels of modesty. My husband would desire me more. My life will miraculously become spiritual if only I listen to them.
“I literally had an anxiety attack in the street and nearly fainted,” she continued. “They handed me some pamphlets and invited me to some secret meeting, but the first garbage bin I passed I dumped everything in.”
Ginsberg, who is a graduate of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, was determined the make and sell her v-neck “Daughter of Israel, Do Not Dress Provocatively” T-shirts, but she was concerned about going too public.
“I thought with that shirt in the window, I am inviting trouble. Some religious man would go crazy and stone my store,” she said. “Wisely I kept the twenty shirts neatly tucked away in a bag. I showed them to progressive Jewish women. My first sale was to a young Israeli bar tender.”
Since then, Ginsberg has printed up many more of the T-shirts and has been selling them at her store and online. She also sells them on Etsy, the e-commerce site for handmade and vintage items. There, she has posted photos of her pregnant daughter sexily modeling the T-shirt.
“There are many Jewesses that need to wear this shirt. Each with their own conversation. That mother in Beit Shemesh also deserves one,” she said referring to Hadassa Margolese, who became a reluctant feminist activist after Haredim attacked her young daughter on the way to school, accusing her of dressing immodestly.
“There are so many Jewish women living authentic Jewish lives that aren’t suffocating in wool blankets in the heat of the summer to prove how holy they are.”