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Lyons, France - Jewish school Runs Fashion Show To Demonstrate Modest Clothing In Uniform

Published on: January 15, 2009 11:27 PM
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Lyons, France -  Under sultry beats of café jazz and club electronica, a string of young women strutted down the catwalk, as lithe and stone-faced as contestants on “America’s Next Top Model.” They wore playful confections made of gauzy fabric and delicate trim. The bohemian chic skirts and couture-style gowns they modeled looked well suited to the fashion week tents of New York or Milan.

But this was neither. Rather, it was Ecole Beth Menachem, a Jewish school in the city of Lyon in the south of France where, to demonstrate that women’s clothing can be fashionable but also hew to Jewish standards of modesty, students and teachers banded together last June to host a special fashion show. They solicited garments from French designers that included skirt hems below the knee, sleeves below the elbow and collarbones covered, and hundreds of people from the area crowded in to see the designs.

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There were nods of appreciation for the ankle-length floral skirts, and pictures were snapped of the long banana yellow dress worn over platform heels. But the loudest applause and glee from the audience was for a pair of sleek skirt and jacket sets in denim fabric.

This was to be the school’s new uniform for girls.

The significance of introducing a school uniform in fashion-conscious France, where young women pay acute attention to their clothing and appearance, cannot be underestimated. And as teachers and administrators from Beth Menachem recalled, the road getting there was not a quick and easy one.

Sarah Gurewitz, Chabad representative to Lyons, cofounded the school as a small kindergarten in 1982, and now it has grown to an enrollment of nearly 600 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Still serving as the school’s principal, she had the idea to introduce uniforms several years ago as she noticed that the upper grade girls were becoming increasingly invested in their clothing, to the point of being obsessed with brands and competitive with each other.

Broaching the idea was a delicate endeavor in Lyon, where no other school has uniforms, as explained by Edela Gurewitz, Sarah’s daughter-in-law and a Jewish studies teacher at Beth Menachem.

“For a few years, she was talking about it to the parents and teachers, but in France it’s not part of the culture. Now this year, she ended up doing it. She thought that if the children think less of clothes, they can put more into their studies.”

Knowing that the students would not consent to wearing anything that didn’t conform to their high fashion standards, Mrs. Gurewitz solicited the help of a parent from the school who is also a fashion designer. He came up with a few variations of outfits that were unveiled at the June fashion show, which girls between the ages of 11 and 16 were to begin wearing to school in September.

The uniform the students ultimately chose is a light colored denim fabric skirt with a tiny flare below the knee, and a matching fitted jacket with prominent brass buttons, subtle ribbons over punchy pockets and slightly flared shoulders. The silhouette it strikes is sophisticated and sleek, and by all accounts, the girls have been delighted with it.

“My daughter Rivka is 13, and in the beginning when she heard about the uniform, she was not happy about it,” said Lidia Azoulay, who also works as an administrator at the school. “But when she saw how easy it became to get dressed in the morning, she loved it. There had been problems of competition between the children from rich parents and the children from poor parents, but now there is no problem.”

Another mother from the school, Aida Nemenov, said that both she and her 11-year-old daughter Zelda were thrilled with the new uniform. “Zelda told me that all the girls in the class are very happy. They all feel the same, and at that age that’s very important. They feel good because it’s not old style—it shows you can be modern and modest too. And as a parent, I’m telling you, it’s much better economically. I buy two or three uniforms, and I’m not passing my time buying clothes the whole year.”

The uniform has been such a hit that girls report feeling proud to be seen wearing it in the fashionable shopping districts of Lyon after school, and parents and teachers from other schools in the area have expressed interest in replicating the idea. Mrs. Nemenov said that when her family has guests to their home, they inevitably ask if they can see the famed uniform they have heard so much about.

And far from the initial skepticism around the idea of introducing a school uniform in fashion obsessed Lyon, now everyone in the school seems to want one.

“My eight-year-old girl is asking, ‘Why don’t we have the uniform?’” said Mrs. Azoulay. “And the boys are asking, ‘Why don’t we get a uniform?’”

Soon, in fact. They are in the works.


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1

 Jan 15, 2009 at 11:36 PM Anonymous Says:

Satmar should be next...

2

 Jan 15, 2009 at 11:35 PM Anonymous Says:

Because that is real tznius!!!!

3

 Jan 15, 2009 at 11:56 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Because that is real tznius!!!!

The skirt could be a little looser other wise kol hakovod

4

 Jan 16, 2009 at 12:24 AM tznius Says:

Hey. The skirts are a bit too short. Fit for a Fashion show!

5

 Jan 16, 2009 at 12:51 AM Anonymous Says:

Now that Chabad has initiated this fabulous idea in France let it reach the rest of Chabad's areas as well as the rest of the Yiddishe world.
Tznius is not just the clothing (which for sure is most important) it is also how we talk, walk, and so on.
Let's make it fashionable and trendy to be properly dressed and behaved -
To those whose insecurity and thirst for attention they succeed in getting by their improper dress and actions realize they are simply not respected-
they do succeed in capturing stares and whispers but do they really think they are respected?? It is really a shame they do not allow their true inner G-d given beauty to show.
So I truly welcome this wonderful idea - let's see more of this and let us begin to set the fashion rather than some immoral designer.

6

 Jan 16, 2009 at 05:32 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Because that is real tznius!!!!

Your Right - as a Luabavitcher i am shocked that they think its tzinus to put women on display!

7

 Jan 16, 2009 at 05:20 AM Anonymous Says:

I was told by authoratative Chabad sources that Rebbe said if the girls want to know what tznius means they should go and watch the girls in Williamsburgh.

8

 Jan 16, 2009 at 07:10 AM Big Masmid Says:

It's a good beginning to teach our children what Tznius should look like, hopefully as it continues it will get better and stronger, Kol Hakvod to Chabad. We should all be next to improve our Tznius.

9

 Jan 16, 2009 at 12:28 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

The skirt could be a little looser other wise kol hakovod

Im sure everyone cares about your standards.....not

10

 Jan 16, 2009 at 08:01 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Because that is real tznius!!!!

you sound like the Taliban!

11

 Jan 16, 2009 at 08:04 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Because that is real tznius!!!!

i for one applaud them, let the girls have a little bit of innocent fun. If that's what it took to get them to accept and be excited about a school uniform then i applaud them!

12

 Jan 16, 2009 at 08:26 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
tznius Says:

Hey. The skirts are a bit too short. Fit for a Fashion show!

The writer should have put this in context. THESE ARE NOT FRUM GIRLS
Yet, they were able to convince them to at least have the minimum halachic requirements of tznius. KOL HAKAVOD!

For Lubavitch per se or BP there might be different (chumrah)standards.

13

 Jan 16, 2009 at 08:41 AM Joeflix Says:

Oy Vey. Dont know if I should laugh or cry or what

14

 Jan 16, 2009 at 08:41 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #6  
Anonymous Says:

Your Right - as a Luabavitcher i am shocked that they think its tzinus to put women on display!

obviously this event was for women only. no one put women on display in front of men. i think this is a beautiful idea!

15

 Jan 16, 2009 at 09:04 AM Anonymous Says:

If they want real modesty, the Pusik tells us the right way, and that is "Kul Keviduh Baas Melech Penimuh"!!!!

The only words I have about this display is...........

Ess Shtinkt Fin Zniss! Fin "Kup Biz Fies"......

16

 Jan 16, 2009 at 08:57 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #12  
Anonymous Says:

The writer should have put this in context. THESE ARE NOT FRUM GIRLS
Yet, they were able to convince them to at least have the minimum halachic requirements of tznius. KOL HAKAVOD!

For Lubavitch per se or BP there might be different (chumrah)standards.

Are there different halochos in Tznius, that there are different standards for Crown Heights and for Boro Park?????

17

 Jan 16, 2009 at 09:23 AM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #16  
Anonymous Says:

Are there different halochos in Tznius, that there are different standards for Crown Heights and for Boro Park?????

Yes, of course there are. Tznius is highly situational. What is tzanua in Brazil is not taznua in Williamsburg.

18

 Jan 16, 2009 at 09:27 AM shaff Says:

Reply to #16  
Anonymous Says:

Are there different halochos in Tznius, that there are different standards for Crown Heights and for Boro Park?????

yes in certain aspects of tzinius the customs of the locale/area play a role -- Look it up

19

 Jan 16, 2009 at 09:43 AM Anonymous Says:

France is the center of fashion. Face it, they are not going to dress like people in Williamsburg. It's a major struggle for them to cover their knees. Good for them that they are taking this step. Don't put it down. Maybe this is the first step on the ladder, and from there they can keep growing.

20

 Jan 16, 2009 at 10:39 AM SHMIEL GLASSMAN Says:

PUT THIS IN CONTEXT
this is France /being used as a kiruv tool/ these girls are more tzenua than their mothers... they are on the way up & thats what counts
i humbly believe the rebbe would approve!!

21

 Jan 16, 2009 at 10:36 AM Gefilte Fish Says:

I'm just wondering, was this preformed for a mixed audience? If not, who the bleep cares about "kol kvoda bas melech pnima"?
As long as it's not in front of the ogling eyes of members of the male gender. Well, it can't even lead to mixed dancing!!!

22

 Jan 16, 2009 at 10:33 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #16  
Anonymous Says:

Are there different halochos in Tznius, that there are different standards for Crown Heights and for Boro Park?????

That's not what #12 was saying. Reread. He included bp and lubavitch (frum communities crown heights etc) with chumrah standards and excluded those that are lubavitch run kiruv for girls beginning to climb the ladder towards frumkeit slowly... To the minimum halacha (they would have much less at least its a beginning)

23

 Jan 16, 2009 at 10:41 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #19  
Anonymous Says:

France is the center of fashion. Face it, they are not going to dress like people in Williamsburg. It's a major struggle for them to cover their knees. Good for them that they are taking this step. Don't put it down. Maybe this is the first step on the ladder, and from there they can keep growing.

not that Williamsburg has to be their goal... or anyone's goal. "Live and let live"...

24

 Jan 16, 2009 at 01:18 PM sharfe mottel Says:

with many posts mentioning tzenius in b.p. and w'burg, allow me to mention a point some might find controversial.
While the young girls there dress very tzniusdig and eidel, somehow once they reach marriageable age and even more so once they marry, they suddenly change into tight, figure-hugging clothes that attract far more attention than a skirt just till the knee.
I think that in their innocence they don't realize how provocative and flaunting they're style is.
Am i wrong?

25

 Jan 16, 2009 at 01:52 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #7  
Anonymous Says:

I was told by authoratative Chabad sources that Rebbe said if the girls want to know what tznius means they should go and watch the girls in Williamsburgh.

Highly unlikely.

26

 Jan 16, 2009 at 02:24 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #14  
Anonymous Says:

obviously this event was for women only. no one put women on display in front of men. i think this is a beautiful idea!

I think they meant on display on the INTERNET!!!!!! What a lack of tznius, its cheap and absolutley not the way of a Bas Yisroel!!!

27

 Jan 17, 2009 at 09:21 PM Out of towner Says:

understand that in Lyon France is NOT Boro Park, this is a Chabad outreach school which started in a community with little of anything Kosher, Jewish, never mind Frum.

Fast forward from 1982, the school now has about 600 girls, these are girls with a Frum education, and do face the struggle of balencing fashion of South of France, and Frum.
Now these girls are at this cool woman only fashion show, where they are shown how cool it is to be Tznius, and now understand that you can be Tznius without being Nebby, and creates this energy of wanting to make the Rebbe proud [who sent out Shluchim to Start Jewish Education]

So, my take on this, Frum girls take heed, looks you can be Tznius, and feel fashionable, and confident, that you look good.

Kol Hakavod for France, the rest of the world should follow.


in the meantime, we should encourage fashion designiners to keep designing frum clothing since there is not enough of a selection. [shopping in Boro park for something half nice with devent quality, required me to sell my kiddney on the black market.]


28

 Jan 17, 2009 at 11:00 PM srg Says:

it's nice but the skirts seems to be way too tight and a tad short. it should be an inch below the knee.. unforms are the best thing. i always had to wear aunform and so did all my kids. boys and girls

29

 Jan 18, 2009 at 04:40 PM BRgirl Says:

Reply to #7  
Anonymous Says:

I was told by authoratative Chabad sources that Rebbe said if the girls want to know what tznius means they should go and watch the girls in Williamsburgh.

Actually, when the Rebbe was asked how Lubavitch Girls' Tznius standards should be he said it should be like Beis Yaakov not Williamsburg.

30

 Jan 21, 2009 at 01:07 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #17  
Milhouse Says:

Yes, of course there are. Tznius is highly situational. What is tzanua in Brazil is not taznua in Williamsburg.

You are correct and thanks for posting this insight. In Satmar uniforms were not accepted because the Rebba used to say it was a catholic mandate to wear them .

31

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