Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I'm finding myself in a really weird place lately. My culture is calling.

Perhaps it is the fact that it is the Yamim Nora'im (Days of Awe).

Perhaps it is that I work in the Jewiest neighborhood this side of Crown Heights.

Maybe it is my new niece.

It could be that I'm feeling good and exploring all of the identity I left behind in pursuit of food.

I don't know what it is but I am feeling very...Yiddishkeit (Yiddish, meaning "Jewishness;" a word similar to observance but suggesting perhaps more an emotional attachment, and a feeling of identification with the Jewish People, than full commitment to a lifestyle based on observance of the mitzvot.)

Anyway - very Jewy. I'm sort of experimenting. Not that I'm going to go all Ba'alat teshuva on anyone, but I'm feeling more identified with being a Jewess these days.

Maybe a month ago, Miss Kendra was talking about dressing modestly (tzniut) like Orthodox women do. I've got to admit, I tried it yesterday and it didn't feel bad. In fact, as others become more conscious of my body (because losing a significant amount of weight will do that - didn't you know that you're invisible if you're fat?) I long to cover up more and more skin.

Then along comes this post from Uccellina and I remembered what makes me angry at the extremists of my religion/culture. I think the "overly aggressive" may have been a bit of hyperbole but they are, in fact, extreme. Chasidim do not prosletyze to non-Jews - it is not allowed, but if you are Jewish - you are a target and they will do just about anything in their power, to get you to Shabbat dinner. After that, they will never take "no" for an answer.

This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, my big kosher beef with Chabad or ultra-orthodox. When I was living in Israel, I was spit upon. Really. Also, there was a particular neighborhood that if you drove through on a Friday night, boys would throw rocks at your car. Then there was that one time I was teargassed by a bunch of Haredi at the western wall. I have pictures y'all.

All of the twisting and turning of logic that goes into the definition and role of gender in orthodox Judaism is well and good for those it works for. Unfortunately, if you do not fit into the mold, you are out of luck. Fit or leave. But don't ever leave.

I read Levine's book recently and I loved her prose and what she did, entering the Lubavitch community to research them. I wish I had the chutzpah. She met girls who would grow up to be rabbi's wives (rebbetzin) and she also met girls and women who were so frightfully out of place in their own families.

Reading about these girls, I felt the same as when I first learned that parents kicked out their gay children or FLDS kicked out their boys. Those who don't fit in have to leave and I want to open a home for Chasidic kids who don't fit in so that I can tell them that there is more than Mitzvot - or rather that mitzvot can come in all shapes and sizes.

I love Judaism. I love the symbolism (or the oogedy boogedy as Michael and I call it). I love the tradition of asking questions. It is when some of us are listening to a man, dead for 12 years, treating him, not as a flawed human, as a rabbi who was loved, but as the Messiah, who says:

I have already stated my opinion on many occasions that in present generations covering one's hair with a kerchief will not last, for each and every time the woman is put to the test - whether to cover all her hair, or just part of it, etc., so that she not be embarrassed by those who scoff.
This is not at all the case with a sheitel (wig), for it is impossible to remove the sheitel when one is at a gathering and the like. Especially so, since as you write that she will cut her hair and that both of you agree to this, then this is the best possible way.
As to her going with an uncovered sheitel: For the last several generations already this has not been looked upon unfavorably at all. Understandably, however, it is necessary to ascertain the custom in your place - if this does not constitute breaking a precedent, G-d forbid.

I will go on and on as to how grateful I am that I grew up in a Jewish environment, but modesty is a choice. Prayer is a choice and belief is a choice. If I choose to take some and leave others, and make those decisions on a minute by minute basis, that is my prerogative. It offends me when any sect says "This is how it is, there is no choice."

to be continued....


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Blogger Uccellina said...

See, if the article I was talking about here had cited the sort of violent incidents you mention, it would have been more convincing and less apparently biased. As it was, it seemed specious.

I have felt more and less Jewish at various points in my life. I find that it reasserts itself in the context of family events, like weddings, funerals, and births. My cousin and her husband are actually two of the Ba'alat Teshuva you mention.

Blogger MonkeyGurrrrrl said...

Why is it that I can read, comprehend, and empathize with the issues you discuss, be impressed with your knowledge and spirit, and yet leave this post with Bobby Brown's "It's my perogative" stuck in my head?

I know; I'm an idiot.

Blogger Faith said...

Hey - it could be the Britney version (just fire me for knowing there is one.)!

See y'all tonight!

Blogger miss kendra said...

i'd just like to take a moment to appreciate the title of this post.

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