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A Billboard Grows on the BQE

Jewish commuters are warned to shield their eyes.

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Today’s image of the day comes from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, where according to sources, a billboard—sponsored by the Congregation of Yad Moshe— has been erected to warn commuting Jews about the temptations or perils of Manhattan:

The sign on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway reads in Hebrew: “Dear Jew: You are entering a dangerous place. Shield your eyes.” The words “Shield your eyes” are repeated in English.

Now, beyond the natural dangers of taking that message literally while driving a car, a better question would be to ask what dangers does New York City, recently named the safest large city in the country,  hold for Jews that a great of number of religious Jewish enclaves in America not have themselves? A cursory glimpse at some of the biggest stories over the past few years would show a not insignificant number of criminal and social problems exist in communities that are exclusively Jewish. So, what gives?

Looks like we’re gonna need a bigger sign.

Billboard Warns Jewish Commuters against Manhattan’s Ills [JTA]

New York City Remain Safest Big City [Bloomberg]

Related: Sufjan Stevens’ celluloid and musical paean to the BQE


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chayar says:

Shield your eyes is a translation of the Talmudic phrase, Shmiras Einayim
(more commonly translated as “guard your eyes.”) The author is right, it does
sound pretty silly. But that’s only without it’s textual and halachic (religious
legal) context.

To secular ears (and jaded eyes) it’s hard to believe, but multiple
Jewish texts including the Talmud (Shabbat 64b) and Maimonides Laws of Forbidden
Relationships 21:2 state that it is  a man shouldn’t gaze at women for the
purpose of taking pleasure in their beauty. (This doesn’t include one’s  wife.)

That is one of the reasons some religious men might not engage in direct eye-contact when speaking with a woman. (Then again, not everyone interprets this halacha in the same manner).

Traditional Judaism has always emphasized physical (and intellectual)
modesty for men and women and has never offered
a separate, celibate path, (like monkhood or the convent). Each Jew is
encouraged to live with moral and spiritual values in mind and heart and keep
intimacy, well, intimate. 

Do people fail in this and other areas? Sure, and the graphic
and upsetting examples you link to are evidence of failure (although a serious and
persistent mental illness in the the case of Leiby Kletzky’s murder is probably an
important factor). 
But as sad as the abuse story and Leiby Kletzky’s murder are, they aren’t examples of what the billboard is referring to.


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A Billboard Grows on the BQE

Jewish commuters are warned to shield their eyes.

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