Save Israel From Rocket Fire .... by Covering Your Elbows?

Ice cream is also part of the bargain in a bizarre new modesty contest for little girls launched in the Brooklyn ultra-Orthodox Chabad community.

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A flyer for Project EDEN in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
A flyer for Project EDEN in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Dressing modestly in the summer heat, eating ice cream and saving Israel from Hamas rockets sound like utterly unrelated activities to most of us.

But they are all tied together for little girls attending day camp this summer in the Chabad Lubavitch ultra-Orthodox New York neighborhood of Crown Heights, who are being encouraged to cover parts of their bodies in what is being described to them as a form of spiritual warfare - that will also earn them frozen treats.

Their modesty, or, as it’s called in Yiddish, “tznius,” is being billed as the Jewish people’s “surefire protection” against enemies, and as a “weapon” the girls can harness to save their brethren in the Middle East to supplement the traditional Orthodox Jewish method of making things happen - through religious prayer and study.

The girls, aged 3-12, are being encouraged to pay close attention to covering parts of their body with the goal of saving their fellow Jews in a contest called “Project Eden.” The rather awkward initials chosen for the campaign stand for Eat ice cream, while helping Defend Eretz Yisrael Now, according to COL Live, the Chabad community newspaper and web site where the special contest was announced.

The challenge: From July 20-August 4, every girl who comes to the summer day camp modestly dressed “keeping necklines, elbows, knees and feet covered at all times” gets an “Eden” granting them a free ice cream - every girl who ‘earns’ eight modesty cards gets to enter a raffle for $100 worth of ice cream.

The appeal on the ad says “Our brothers and sisters need our help! What can we do? In the words of the Rebbe: This is a critical issue since Tznius is the wall protecting Clal Yisrael (all of Israel).”

While, the effort is utterly fascinating and more than a little disturbing to the outside observer in several respects, it appears that the idea went over well in the online Chabad community - the vast majority of the 54 comments on the piece are supportive and praise the campaign - and many of them have an additional suggestion - that the contest be extended to the mothers of the campers and adult women.

But the most interesting aspect of the effort is that while most of us would be willing to tent ourselves in full burka if we really felt it would stop the fear and bloodshed in the Middle East - it seems that merely saving lives isn’t deemed a sufficient reward in itself to merit dressing modestly.

Apparently, keeping people safe and whole is all well and good - but a delicious ice cream cone is priceless.

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