Thursday, May 10, 2012

Both sides against the middle

I recently linked to an old post of mine, Seeking a Judaism that's good for men*&*women*&*kids, and was reminded of this conversation:

Shira Salamone said...

TOTJS Steve said, "I have come to believe that the gravest injury to American jewry was the rise of denominations. A tolerant orthodoxy would have provided the big tent . . ."

You may have a point. Some among the Sefardi community still have that big-tent attitude--in some Sefardi communities, it's accepted that everyone, observant and non-observant, prays in the same synagogue."

Half the Jewish world believes that Judaism is all about "tikkun olam/repairing the world" (social action) and being a good person.  The other half believes that Judaism is all about wearing a black hat and/or checking one's lettuce for bugs.

What about the third half, you should pardon the expression?  What about us middle-of-the-road Jews, who believe that one can't be a good Jew without respecting both other human beings and Jewish ritual?

This obsession among some of the most right-wing Orthodox Jews with differentiating themselves from non-Orthodox Jews at all costs, to such a point that a completely-observant man who wears a crocheted kippah ("s'rugi") instead of a black hat can have his status as an Orthodox Jew questioned, is tearing the Orthodox community apart.

At the other extreme, an indifference toward traditional practices that distinguish Jews from non-Jews, such as keeping kosher and/or wearing a tallit/prayer shawl, is leaving many less-observant and non-observant Jews with little that's specifically Jewish in their "repaired" world.

A return to sanity, mutual respect, and a willingness to differentiate ourselves in some ways from non-Jews are, in my opinion, essential for preserving Judaism and the Jewish People, which are, I believe, inseparable.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Half the Jewish world believes that Judaism is all about "tikkun olam/repairing the world" (social action) and being a good person. The other half believes that Judaism is all about wearing a black hat and/or checking one's lettuce for bugs."

Hm. Thanks for the gratuitous insult to an entire Jewish community, not one member of which would name that as their highest value except in jest.
I'm sure your post is meant in a positive and constructive way - looking at your last line, it's clear that you care about the Jewish nation, and I can't imagine that you mean everyone-but-the-Orthodox-right-wing - but I'm having difficulty seeing past the bashing.

Fri May 11, 07:51:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Miami Al said...

The amount of the Jewish world that believes " Judaism is all about wearing a black hat and/or checking one's lettuce for bugs" is no where NEAR half of the Jewish world.

The black hat wearing Jews are on the order of 3%-4% of the American Jewish population. Even if you assume that half of MO Jews consider that "ideal Judaism" you're only up to 6%-7%.

I would guess that at least 80% of the Jewish world has no clue that a "black hat" has any significance or that one should check one's lettuce for bugs beyond normal washing of vegetables.

Fri May 11, 09:48:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

" . . . I'm having difficulty seeing past the bashing."

Please pardon my ridiculous exaggeration. I did not expect such hyperbole to be taken so seriously.

" . . . looking at your last line, it's clear that you care about the Jewish nation"

I'm glad that my concern came through.

"The black hat wearing Jews are on the order of 3%-4% of the American Jewish population. Even if you assume that half of MO Jews consider that "ideal Judaism" you're only up to 6%-7%."

Miami Al, maybe the problem is that, as a New York City resident, I'm within commuting distance of a good portion of that 6%-7%. :)

"I would guess that at least 80% of the Jewish world has no clue that a "black hat" has any significance or that one should check one's lettuce for bugs beyond normal washing of vegetables."

That's probably true.

Now that we've gotten all that out of the way, perhaps I should take this opportunity to state that I published this post with the hope that my readers would comment on my main point:

"A return to sanity, mutual respect, and a willingness to differentiate ourselves in some ways from non-Jews are, in my opinion, essential for preserving Judaism and the Jewish People, which are, I believe, inseparable."

I love to read stories of secular and religious Israelis studying Torah together, and I'm delighted that many of the young people who show up at the egalitarian and non-Orthodox Mechon Hadar’s evening shiurim/learning sessions are students at Stern College, an Orthodox school. That's the kind of "meeting in the middle" that I love to see--the more, the merrier.

Fri May 11, 10:56:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Susan B said...

I'm sorry to see people commenting on the obvious exaggerations rather than focussing on the point of the post, which is a good one: Things would be better for us all if we would be more accepting of each other and open to learning from each other.

Fri May 11, 03:56:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Batya said...

History shows that those who established Reform and Conservative and Reconstructionist left mainstream Judaism and invented the new/other ones.

Think about it; you're blaming the wrong end.

Mon May 14, 02:34:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Actually, Batya, I'm trying not to "blame" *anyone.* I'd just like to see more mutual respect, as well as more willingness to be a bit different from our non-Jewish neighbors.

Mon May 14, 02:54:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Rickismom said...

We definately need to work a LOT harder at getting along. Good point.

Tue May 15, 03:43:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Amen, and thanks.

Tue May 15, 04:35:00 PM 2012  
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This piece http://goo.gl/DT6FN of video helped me forgive and let go of my frustration.

Mon Jul 09, 07:09:00 AM 2012  

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