There has been much controversy among the Hebrew Academy High School students since it has been announced that no boys would be allowed to participate in the school’s upcoming play, High School Musical. The opportunity to act in the musical is only open to female students, as the school has prohibited boys from taking part due to specific religious restrictions. There is a Halacha that forbids men from hearing a woman sing in front of them for entertainment, most commonly known as “Kol Isha.” According to the Gemara in Berachot 24a, a woman’s voice is considered as “erva,” or “nakedness.” It would therefore be inappropriate to sing in front of men, for the activity may hold the same impact as if she were to “expose herself” before him. As a result, the Halacha states that the interaction is forbidden. This explains why the play will be produced and performed by female audiences only.
As a Jewish, orthodox, and religious school, it is our duty to follow this Halacha the same way as is necessary to obey any other rule. It is definitely the school’s responsibility to enforce this regulation, considering the fact that there are Halacha and Gemara classes being taught to the students everyday. Jewish laws such as “Kol Isha” are incorporated into our daily curriculum, providing only more reason to have them strictly enforced in the school. What is taught should be applied to real life scenarios. How would it look for the school to directly go against what it is teaching its students? Not very good. It is also important to understand that High School Musical is not the only production taking place this year; during Second Semester, the drama department will be putting on another show, where boys will indeed have their chance to take the stage. I think that there really is no reason for any boy to become irritated over the fact this play is simply not for them. It is not in their control, for the school simply needs to meet certain requirements.
Aside from being obligated to follow Halachic rulings, I also think that girls find it more comfortable to audition, practice, and perform with a female cast and in front of a female audience. It relieves them of some of the pressure they might have when having to run lines, or rehearse with a boy. In fact, while speaking to some of the girls who planned to audition for the play, many of them expressed how they were much less nervous, knowing there would be an all-girls audience.
Overall, I think that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the standards the school has set for participating in the play. Male participation is not up for discussion, since it only creates unnecessary and foolish arguments against the Halachic ruling. It must be comprehended that certain terms need to be respected without compromise. Whether we understand, agree, or disagree with the law, it needs to be upheld nonetheless.
By: Esther Nahon (9th Grade)
Last year, I was in the school comedy, Class Action. I had never been in a school play before, and the experience was much better than I had expected it to be. In fact, it may have been the highlight of my year. At the end of the year, there was the first ever Hebrew Academy Thespian Society induction ceremony, and it was kind of weird that there were only girls in the committee. Then I vaguely remembered how I had been told by a fellow cast member that I would not be able to participate in the first semester musical of the upcoming year because it would be an all girls production. I, of course, was disappointed. Now I am a senior. That means I will only have one year left to take advantage of this school for all of the knowledge and experiences it has to impart on me. When I think about what I have enjoyed most about my high school career, I immediately picture the play. I think it is a shame that I am not able to partake in, or even watch, the first semester play of my final year at this school. I am sure that if I were to ask an administrator why it is that the school musical is for girls only, I will be told that it is because of “Kol Isha,” the prohibition of hearing a woman sing. However, if that is the case, and it is a matter of modesty, why are the boys of the school allowed to attend girls’ basketball games where the girls dress immodestly.
As illustrated by my latest point, this school is a modern orthodox Jewish school. I would expect that a play starring singing girls would not permit boys to watch it nor participate in it if this school was on the more extreme side of the Jewish orthodoxy scale. But it is not. I know this because until 9th grade, I went to two schools that were more strict religiously, and the Hebrew Academy could not be more different in almost every regard. I do not think that it makes sense why in our school, the Hebrew Academy, a co-ed school (unlike the two aforementioned schools) there should be such a strict rule, which, at least to me, does not align with the rest of the school’s views.
By: David Gilinski (12th Grade)