Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thing That Makes Me Nauseous #1: Jewish Femininity Books

Especially: Gila Manolson

...but I've read lots of them, mostly for theoretical papers in graduate school.

It's cool if you want to feel that way about being a woman in Judaism. If you want to feel empowered by a "return to femininity" and being modest, etc.. But really?! Why do we need to tell other women that this is how they ARE instrinsically because they are women and to deny it is to deny some essential piece of themselves.

I remember being in seminary and listening to teachers tell the class the exact sentiment I expressed above. And all I remember thinking is: okay, but what if I don't feel that way? Does that mean there's something wrong with me? Maybe there's something wrong with me...

Society does it enough anyway implicitly. We're made to feel somewhat lacking or weird if we don't want to have a pretty white wedding/go shopping a lot/get manicures and pedicures/have babies. OJ society also does it implicitly in its own special way. So why the need for these overt statements in books?

Just tells us why we should be shomer negiah, religious, etc. (not that I will, but for those who are interested in being convinced), without reverting to gender stereotypes, please!!

And you can say, well OnHerOwn, then don't go reading those books... (Well, I'm a compulsive researcher/reader, I'll read anything that comes into my reach, but that aside) But people that I know will read them regardless and then come spewing that same stuff out at me in arguments. And it really makes me sick. I do want to not believe that OJ is dependant upon gender stereotypes to survive and/or thrive.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Non-Traditional Pesach: The Report, A Wee Bit Late

I ended up at two seders this year, instead of the one as I had originally thought.

Neither seder was Orthodox and one was a lot less traditional than what I'm used to. The former was Conservative/Traditional; the latter involved a hike out into a huge, open field (in imitation of the Exodus) and lots of talk about EcoJudaism (which I appreciate, in theory, though I don't really always see as clear a corrolation to traditional Judaism as proponents of the movement seem to espouse).

After that, I didn't keep kosher for Passover. Sure, I ate some matzah, even a macaroon or two. But I also ate bread and bread-related products.

For me, this was almost a test: what does it feel like if I completely my own ties with Orthodoxy?

It was a pretty extreme move for me, because no matter how un-Orthodox I've been in the past, I've always cleaned my house for Passover, almost always at least made the effort to keep kosher for Passover (I think I'd cheated on that front once or twice), and always gone to Orthodox seders.

And that first bite of bread, to be honest, made me feel a little bit weird. As did the fact that when I got to my kitchen initially, there was chametz all over the place. But the weirdness quickly subsided and, after the first day, it didn't even phase me.

Which isn't to say that I forgot it was Passover. On the contrary, I remembered pretty clearly. And the non-Traditional seders were much more memorable and interesting than any Orthodox seder I've ever been to (though I will not presume that there aren't many Orthodox seders that far surpass those I've been to, in terms of being interesting).

The "Eco-Seder," in particular, was truly fascinating for me. I liked the way that it gave new meaning to the same paragraphs I've read over and over again, year after year. The seder felt fresh and new, which was really cool. And there was something particularly awesome about starting the seder out in the outdoors (we moved inside after "Avadim Hayinu").

Plus, the questions, connections, and insights people came up with were really thought-provoking. It felt alive.

This stands in stark contrast to the seders I've had with my family in the past, where my dad/siblings will read the same D'var Torahs written on the bottom of their hagaddot at every seder for years. It never really felt dynamic to me. (Again, this is in no way meant to suggest that all Orthodox seders are similarly boring.)

Pesach has long been one of my least favorite of the Jewish holidays (second only to fast days) - the seders dragging on for hours when it seems even those "expounding upon" the text aren't even interested in what they're saying, the unpleasantness of eating a matzah & potato starch diet for eight days...

This year, non-traditional though it may have been, I actually enjoyed it.