“Dear Jew … Shield Your Eyes”

photo from The Forward

A group of Haredi Jews (those typically characterized as “ultra-orthodox” by the media) have placed a giant red billboard beside the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, warning in Hebrew “Dear Jew: You are entering a dangerous place. Shield your eyes.” The words “Shield your eyes” are also written in English.

Considering the kinds of speeds people do on the BQE, I really hope drivers aren’t taking that too literally.

The sign is a reminder for Jews to practice “Shmiras Einayim,” which is similar to what Catholics call “custody of the eyes,” but far more intense.  It’s aimed at orthodox Jews commuting from Brooklyn to Manhattan, and is sponsored by a group called the Congregation of Yad Moshe. The orthodox have little regard for the temptations of Manhattan, and even less for its secular Jews. Depending upon who you read, it’s either a simple warning to help Jews remain pure, or a more pointed social/political message coming from the Haredi, who recently gathered in staggering numbers for a conference on the dangers of the internet. I vote for “both.”

Some will see this as Haredi simply being obnoxious and trying to assert authority over their members, while others will see it as a simple encouragement to piety in a wicked world. There are mixed reactions in various comboxes, even from Haredi. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but as I’ve said before, I’m genuinely sympathetic to people attempting to peacefully practice a traditional faith in the modern world, even when I don’t agree with either their faith or their methods.

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About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • Chris

    It may also be a reference to the American Atheist billboard featuring the name of God, which has appeared at times on the BQE. http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/01/atheist-group-targets-muslims-jews-with-myth-billboards-in-arabic-and-hebrew/

    Obviously shielding one’s eyes does not obviate the fact that the name of God was printed (and will be destroyed when said billboard is removed), but there is a touch of a billboard war on the BQE. I’m certain that you’re right — that the general “debauchery” of Brooklyn is a big part of this billboard — but the fact that American Atheists are placing deliberately offensive billboards on the commute of many Jews has to enter into the discussion.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    I haven’t thought of the billboard-wars angle. You’re right.