Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Little OJ Girl Who Lives in My Brain

On my way home yesterday, I had a realization:

There's no reason I have to be certain of where I eventually want to be in terms of Judaism, or even exactly where I am right now, to be open about said status with family and/or friends.

I can tell them I'm unsure. I can tell them I don't know if I can be Orthodox, that I'm not really Orthodox now, that I might or might not be Orthodox in the future. That I value our tradition and love so many things about it, but am not sure I believe in a lot of the concepts that undergird them.

But I haven't. And I'm not sure I will.


Well, here's the second realization:

No matter what I've done, what I've learned that has contradicted OJ, etc., deep down there's this insistence somewhere inside of me that being "non-religious" (in the OJ usage of the term) is bad, wrong, and something of which I should be ashamed.

It's almost like I have a much younger, Orthodox version of myself living inside my brain, full of all the contentions she's been taught, and she won't leave me alone.

Basically: I haven't been able to accept myself as non-Orthodox or even questioning Orthodoxy because a part of me is still convinced that such a designation would make me a BAD person.

And how can I ask my parents and friends to accept me as I am if I haven't yet accepted my own thoughts and my own choices as legitimate?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Obama or Not: A Different OJ Approach

I've grown very used to OJs declaring that they will not vote for Obama - even if they agree with most of his stances (even if they are usually liberal, blah, blah, blah) - because they feel that McCain is more pro-Israel.

(I won't go into my whole shpiel on single-issue voting right now -- or my stance on the current election, but perhaps one day...)

So used to it, in fact, that I've come to expect it (as I did in the '04 elections - which was, in my mind, a MUCH sadder example of this).

Therefore, I was completely shocked when my (very frum) friend and her husband declared that they plan to vote for Obama.

(Preface: These particular friends aren't the intellectual type and from my experiences with them, usually just fall in line with what their rabbis say.)

Then, in front of a whole room full of other OJ's, she admitted that she thought McCain might be better for Israel than Obama, but that she wouldn't vote based solely on Israel because (drumroll...)

And I quote:
"Hashem protects Israel no matter what. We don't need to worry about presidents and the US government. What happens in Israel has nothing to do with the US government, only to do with if we are good Jews or not."

This rationale for not voting solely on Israel BLEW MY MIND. I've never heard any other OJ say anything like this.

She's basically taken one part of OJ philosophy and pitted it against the "accepted wisdom" of many contemporary Orthodox rabbis/Jews. Crazy!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The "Everybody Hates Us" Complex

Recently, Six Months posted about how she was taught in school that all non-Jews secretly hate Jews no matter how much they pretend otherwise. She wrote:

"In school, it was drummed into our heads that 'the goyim' are only interested in hating us and killing us as quickly as possible. 'If they could get you alone for a second and weren't afraid of being arrested for it, they'd kill you without even thinking about it,' we were told. 'And don't be fooled by the 'kind' grocer in the store or the 'nice' postman who delivers your mail. They just want to get rid of you too.' Where do they get this nonsense from?"

From my understanding, her upbringing was much more Ultra-Orthodox than mine. The day school I attended was quite modern (co-ed, even in high school), I grew up going to a Young Israel, was brought up in a world where it was completely acceptable to wear pants/shorts and go mixed swimming.

That said, I was completely raised with the same idea - that ALL non-Jews secretly hated me, just because I was a Jew. That should the law change, should they be given the opportunity, they would kill me without thinking about it. This was the ideology spouted by some of my (probably Ultra-Orthodox) teachers at my very Modern Orthodox school!!!

I don't think I ever really believed this. Probably because, in some capacity, I always had non-Jewish friends or contact with non-Jewish people.

Now I understand that there's a ridiculous amount of precedent for serious anti-Semitism, serious amounts of "friendly" non-Jews turning around and hating/hurting/killing their Jewish neighbors when the times allowed for it. My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor and she had some pretty awful stories about these types of situations that were far from unique.

But it's so important not to forget that this doesn't represent ALL non-Jews. That even in the most vile of times - in Nazi Germany - not only were there non-Jews who disapproved of the Nazi agenda, but there were some who even UNNECESSARILY risked their own lives to save Jews.

How many of us would do the same in a world where another ethnic group was being persecuted? Or not just persecuted but murdered? In a world where if we tried to save members of that ethnic group, we and all our family could be killed?

The mere existence of such "righteous gentiles" stands to disprove all of these theories about non-Jews that I was taught as late as the 1990s.

Not only that, but by perpetuating these ideas from generation to generation, we exacerbate the problem. To wit: if we're scared to talk to non-Jews, we don't; thus, they come to see as "other" (in the same way that we see them); ultimately, they come to hate us (or certainly not risk their lives to save us, if such a situation comes to pass).

It's all about honest dialogue and friendship.