Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obligatory Purim Post?

Last year for purim I went to my parents, and went to a huge family seudah in brooklyn at my cousin's place. Where my grandmother refused to talk to me the entire time, and on the car ride back I told my parents I was dating B (that was fun).

Today? Well I teach until 7pm, and after that I'm going out drinking...with a jewish friend...not for purim though, but because she broke up with her bf of 4 years last night. Why did they break up? Because she wants to marry someone jewish, and even though she has been dating this guy for 4 years and living with him for 3, she has to go out and see if she can find some jewish guy apparently.

To each their own I guess, but I feel really bad for the guy (who moved here to follow her to grad school a little over a year ago, and has pretty much none of his own friends here, except kinda B is friendly with himm but I don't think B would call him a 'friend' per se. Ack! I'm hoping this guy will go hang out with B tonight while I'm hanging out with my friend).

Other purim plans; tomorrow I'm going to grade a bunch of papers and work on my dissertation! yay!

In other words, no purim plans at all. I wouldn't turn down a hamentashen is someone put one in front of me though...although i wouldn't buy any, since the store bought ones always are so cheap and crappy tasting.


  1. Heh. We seem to have lots in common. I share a similar background to you, complete with religious relatives in Israel (though not the west bank). I also decided to go to yeshiva and worked really hard there. The rabbis weren't happy about it, but agreed to let me go after a year, because they decided i made so much progress it were as if I spent two years there. I actually did work double the time, often being in the beis at unearthly hours. I also asked all those questions I had from previous years.

    I went because I didn't want people to say I don't know enough about Judaism to make that choice, or that my education was cut short, or had I spent a year or three in a yeshiva atmosphere, then that would have changed me.

    It's been a few years since then, and i'm also a student: I'm currently dating a non jewish girl who ive known for 4 years, and was really really close with her for 2 of those years. I basically asked out my best friend, and she said yes. That was 6 months ago.

    We're still together, but my parents don't know anything about it, I dare not tell them.

    I really love this girl so much, but I'm terrified of where it might lead. I'm all for settling down with someone, but I suppose I've been as indoctrinated as your friend to find someone Jewish, even though I don't believe anymore (and have told my parents that I don't. Their reaction was to say "be orthoprax, but in the meantime, arrange theological talks with some rabbis" and then follows a list of people i should see, as if I have some sort of curable case of Philosophy).

    I've almost split up once with my girlfriend over this issue, and she with me once, because she said I was always so negative about it and had no hope.

    I'm also terrified because I look around me each day and I know I wouldn't want my kids to be like them. It may sound snobbish, but there are sound ideas i've been brought up with because of my Orthodox Jewish heritage, such as respect for people, taking care of the body, drinking moderately, striving to be highly educated, and a whole load of other Good Things to do with character. I'm terrified of raising kids who would be deficient in all these areas.

    I realise that parents have input into how their kids turn out, but I see a lot more rests on who kids hang out with. I hung out with Good Boys because I went to a religious school. State schools here (UK) are terrible (English is a minority language in many schools around where I live now). Private schools are far too snobby and expensive.

    I would be very interested in how things turned out for you and B, and though i should probably be working, have been reading and will continue to read this blog.

    It's interesting to find there are quite a few people like me out there, maybe we should all get together and form a little community ourselves!!

    Anyway, thanks for reading this. check out my (new) blog some time. Trying to get some sort of readership going...

  2. I think that if a Jewish girl or guy is planning on marrying a Jew, then s/he should date just Jews because it's not fair to date a non-Jew and then break their heart.

  3. I dated and married a girl who's father was a soldier for Hitler, but she was frum.... a long story!

  4. "there are sound ideas i've been brought up with because of my Orthodox Jewish heritage, such as respect for people, taking care of the body, drinking moderately, striving to be highly educated, and a whole load of other Good Things to do with character. I'm terrified of raising kids who would be deficient in all these areas."

    I think this attitude is very common among jewish communities- that if you don't raise your kids jewish they will somehow have charecter flaws. But it isn't the religion that gave me good charecter; I value high amounts of education, take care of my body, don't drink hardly ever, respect people, etc, and it has nothing at all to do with religion. It has to do with being a decent person, and it's very possible to teach your kid to be a decent person in the absense of religion. In fact, I think an atheist view lends itself to have more decent people- like, you only get one chance at life, and no magical person in the sky is going to improve your life and health if you don't, so you better damn well make the most of it while you have it.

    on the other hand I know quite a few people raised in the jewish community who I would say are terrible people, and who miss all the good charecter parts in the persuit of being holier than thou.

    Anyways, I'll definitely check out your blog, glad you are getting some benefit from mine. :) Good luck figuring out what to do with your gf- I wouldn't presume to advise you there, but I was having the same doubts and misgivings as you about a year ago, and ultimately what decided it for me is that I tried to imagine myself 50 years from now, looking back on life, having made a decision to leave B for my parents...and I couldn't imagine a scenario where I would not be full of regret if I did so.

  5. "But it isn't the religion that gave me good charecter; "

    It isn't necessarily religion that gave you character, but the nature of the Jewish community you grew up in, including the friends you associated with, the school you went to, the values, ideas, ideals you absorbed and the people you associated with, (for good and for bad), which were probably all colored by religious culture to a certain extent, certainly influenced you.

    There's religion and there's religious culture. I agree that living in a religious Jewish community doesn't absolutely guarantee coming out a great, moral educated person. But it certainly seems to up the odds. I'm sure there are people I've gone to school with that ended up on drugs or with pretty crappy lives. But I think I know far fewer than I would have had I grown up non-Jewish or even non-religious.

    This is why many people have no qualms about being Orthoprax despite having little or no belief in God or Torah. They are not being hypocrites. They genuinely value what the Orthodox community has to offer their family and they want to raise their children accordingly.

    One small example: I was driving with a friend who is Reform the other day, while I was madly calling friends I had met at our shul to see if anyone could pick up my daughter because I was going to be a little late. My friend was mesmerized that I had so many people to call, only 6 months after moving into a community. She thought it was so great to have that kind of support network, that seems to come built in when joining an Ortho community.

    Is it possible to build such a community based on secular principles, interests, values? Of course, absolutely. There's certainly nothing inherently religious about helping your neighbor pick up her kid. But it is much, much harder. As you move into the next stage of your life, you'll find this out more and more.

  6. Abbi,

    Certainly it is true that the Orthodox communities tend to have very tight communal support structures.

    It is also true that Mormon communities have very tight communal support structures.

    Your argument that secular Jews should adopt Orthopraxy to benefit from the community would seem to be equivalent to the argument that secular Jews who live in areas with more Mormons than Orthodox Jews should feign conversion to Mormonism(*) to benefit from the community.

    I don't personally find either case persuasive (and I find the notion of pretending a set of beliefs to reap community benefits to be dishonest and repugnant), but I am curious as to what you see as to the difference between the two cases.

    (*) Interestingly enough, the big sin for Mormons is to leave the faith. On the other hand, if you aren't a Mormon and never were, you end up with a decent afterlife, and the ability to upgrade by converting after death. So, while I have no intention of converting, if anyone has to be right, I'm rooting for them. I mean, you can defer your decision until you have more evidence.

  7. On re-reading that, at least part of it is harsher than I had intended.

    I differentiate between Orthopraxy for the benefits, and Orthopraxy because of the costs.

    Someone who feigns a faith because they want something out of it is, at least to me, working a scam.

    Someone who maintains Orthopraxy because of the costs of a public break (loss of children, loss of family, because they are in a position where they cannot survive economically outside of the community) is someone whom I do not feel I can judge, but for whom I have great sympathy.

    In this case, I suppose, the distinction is between adopting Orthopraxy, and maintaining it.

  8. "Your argument that secular Jews should adopt Orthopraxy"

    Whoa Dave, slow down there. I'm not arguing that anybody should be Orthoprax, Mormon, Hari Krishna or a Yankees fan. I'm giving ONE (among many, probably) reason some people remain Orthoprax despite a lack of belief in God or that the Torah was given exactly how the rest of the community believes it was given.

    Social community and cohesion, family relationships can be very powerful. People to whom I'm very close don't necessarily buy into the entire Orthodox belief system, but they do believe in the value of the community and culture.

    Now that I'm past the angst-ridden philosophical naval gazing of my 20's and I have two kids of my own (soon to be three, please Gd) I understand this entirely.

    Raising a child in the general culture is extremely tough. My secular neighbor (I live in Israel) was just asking me if I knew of any traditional but not Orthodox schools because she was not thrilled with the public school her son was attending. She put her foot down and won't allow her son to wear pants that show his underwear and now he's a social outcast. It sounds silly and ridiculous, but these are the issues you deal with when you're a parent. And it helps when you have a community and a culture that backs you up on these things, which is why many people stick with Orthodox or other traditional communities.

    I don't know any Mormons, but it might work similarly for them as well, I really don't know.

    "Someone who feigns a faith because they want something out of it is, at least to me, working a scam."

    Who's feigning? Someone can have a very honest and genuine love for yiddishkeit and Orthodox culture and not believe in God. People like this do exist. It is possible, especially since Orthodoxy really downplays belief and emphasizes actions and lifestyle.

    I'm not saying anyone HAS to be this way. If you don't believe and want out, feel free to leave.

    Believe me, no one is really looking for your approval one way or another. We're all doing the best we can with what we have.


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