Jews and Civilization

Tonight, the 26th day of Tammuz in the Hebrew year 5771, is my father’s ninth yahrzeit. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t think mournfully of all the questions I would like to ask him and all the conversations I would like to have, remembering so much of what I learned from him and yet thinking that it was pitifully little, considering the genius and great-heartedness of that extraordinary man, R’ Nachman Bulman, of blessed memory. He is to this day so longed-for and so deeply missed by so many people, as I well know from many of his students and former congregants.

I have not written here in a long time, for various reasons. But tonight, in my father’s honor, my heart urges me to talk about some of the beliefs that my father held most dear. My father believed passionately in Torah Im Derech Eretz (TIDE), the very ancient Torah understanding that was given more modern and eloquent expression in the 19th century writings of Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch. TIDE refers to Torah together with civilization or Torah together with secular pursuits or Torah together with courtesy and humanity. It is hard to define exactly in a short essay but let me talk about one aspect of TIDE.

We who believe in TIDE believe that one of the reasons that Hashem scattered us among the nations, in addition to the obvious fact that this is a punishment for our sins (foretold in the Torah), is that we are meant to be an ohr lagoyim, a Light to the Nations. We are also a blessing to the nations, also foretold in multiple places in the Torah. It was we Jews who introduced monotheism and morality to the world and we have indeed blessed the nations among whom we live in ways too numerous even to begin to detail.

Now, there is another school of thought within Orthodoxy which rejects TIDE and which holds that we have no responsibility towards the nations, other than to be basically law-abiding citizens, and that we should have as little to do with them as possible.

In Poland and Russia over the last few centuries, the goyim were mostly drunken, ignorant peasants who regularly slaughtered and robbed Jews. The Jews in those countries were so far above the goyim in every respect that it is no wonder they developed a contempt for the peasants around them. In addition, there was a fundamental lawlessness, with laws purposely designed to destroy Jewish lives and livelihoods and with authorities turning a blind eye to pogroms and depredations conducted by the gentiles against Jews. In such societies, it was inevitable that Jews would learn to live by their wits and would find every possible way around, under, and despite the laws (which were an anti-Semitic farce), simply to survive.

Unfortunately, when the Russian and Polish (and Ukrainian and Romanian, etc) Jews came to America, many transplanted here an attitude of contempt and disdain towards the non-Jews around them, along with an attitude that one has to work the system in any way possible in order to survive.

By contrast, 19th century Germany, where Hirsch lived and wrote, was a highly civilized country in which Jews had gone a long way towards legal and political emancipation and in which most of the surrounding goyim were educated and refined people. Of course we know how that played out, and thus we internalized another lesson: as long as we live as a small minority in foreign lands, we always have to watch our backs.

Nevertheless, there are many righteous gentiles and we owe them our friendship and gratitude. And when we live in such a malchus shel chessed as America is—such a benevolent country—we owe the gentiles around us a great deal. It behooves us to bring blessing to them and not curses, chas vesholom, to the best of our ability. This is the more true because this is a country in which we have the legal right to vote, to speak and to write, to make our voices heard. Continue reading → Jews and Civilization

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Saved from the fires of Ruzhan

And so there we sat, all through the Sabbath, watching as the synagogue in which we had been imprisoned mere hours earlier was claimed by the flames and, along with all the Torah-scrolls and holy books of both Ruzhan and Govrov, burned to the ground…

Rabbi Shafran’s poignant memories of the lost shul in Ruzhan prompted my brother, Rabbi Shabsai Bulman of Jerusalem, to write:

As a young man, my father, Rav Nachman Bulman ZTL, served as the rabbi of the shul in Danville, VA. Around 1952, a business establishment in Danville, VA, had to clear its basement of the library left behind by a former rabbi. My father was asked to see if he might have use for any of the seforim.

To his surprise, he found a copy of the Alshich HaKadosh that bore the stamp of the Rav R.Weiss of Ruzhan. His mother, my grandmother—Mrs. Ettel Zabeldovich Bulman—was a native of Ruzhan.

Excitedly, my father called his father to ask if he knew that Rav. My grandfather replied, “Of course! He was Mesader Kiddushin at our wedding!”

How did a sefer that once belonged to the Rav of Ruzhan end up in … Read More >>

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FULL DISCLOSURE: Reflections on Barack Obama

Guest column by Chava Willig Levy

Full disclosure: I believe that God guides history. The improbable, meteoric rise of Barack Obama offers a case in point.

The facts are common knowledge: In 2000, Obama was a virtual unknown. He had to scrape together the airfare to attend that year’s Democratic National Convention, to which he had not been invited. Three months later, he was trounced in his run for an Illinois congressional seat. But in 2004, not yet a United States senator, he was the Democratic National Convention’s keynote speaker, an honor usually reserved for political icons; he became an overnight sensation. Just two years after he became Illinois’s junior senator, he announced his candidacy for president of the United States.

But here are some less well-known facts:

• Obama’s 2004 victory might never have occurred were it not for an unprecedented financing loophole. Because his opponent in the Democratic primary had financed his campaign with over $28 million of his own money, Obama was permitted to accept as much as $12,000 from each donor, or six times the limit at that time.

• Obama’s opponents for that coveted Senate seat evaporated at every turn like morning … Read More >>

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Hidden messages in Obama ad

An ad has run quite a few times on the radio over the past few days, and it goes something like this. A mother’s voice says, “Eight times a day I have to test my daughter’s blood sugar, because she’s diabetic, and eight times a day I pray [her voice deepens] I pray for a cure. Obama supports stem cell research, but McCain is opposed to the stem cell research that could cure my little girl.”

Wow, so many subliminal messages in one ad! Where do I begin? First of all, the ad is profoundly dishonest. McCain SUPPORTS adult stem cell research, which is very-well funded, and which does indeed offer great medical promise. He opposes embryonic stem cell research. The ad does not make this distinction. (As it happens, embryonic stem cell research has proven unsuccessful — adult stem cells are far more promising.)

Now to identify the hidden messages: #1. Liberals pray too (“Eight times a day I PRAY”) so religious people shouldn’t be afraid of Democrats. #2 Abortion is a GOOD thing — it can save children’s lives. #3 Ergo, pro-lifers do not hold the moral high ground, just the opposite — they are directly harming … Read More >>

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What do BTs have to do to be accepted?

In all the articles and comments about whether Ba’alei Teshuva are fully accepted in Frum from Birth communities, one major factor I haven’t seen mentioned is the character of the individual BT. This applies also to gerim (converts). I know a convert who is a sweet, outgoing, pleasant, talented, easy-going person, and she finds the charedi community to be delightful and wonderful. Everyone is good, warm, intelligent, altogether admirable. I know another convert who is sour, dour, prickly and altogether a difficult person, and she finds the Orthodox community to be cold, unwelcoming, uncaring and exclusionary. And both of these women formed their impressions while living in the same neighborhood! Fancy that.

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If they like him, we’re done for

We are encouraged that President Bush, best known for waging war in Iraq, has finally accepted the challenge of peacemaker. –NY Times editorial

A line like that makes your heart stop. The NY Times has not a kind word for the man in seven years, and suddenly they respect him, they are “encouraged,” he is a “peacemaker”? G-d forbid he should actually turn out to be what they wish and hope. If George Bush gets a favorable editorial in the NY Times, can the Nobel Peace Prize be far behind? G-d forbid. Pray for Israel.

Meanwhile the same issue of the NY Times features a dyspeptic word from the comfortably predictable Maureen Dowd, Bush Hater. She still hates him. Baruch Hashem. Sigh of relief.

He wants to look like he’s taking the problem of an Israeli-Palestinian treaty seriously when his true motivation is more cynical: pacifying the Arab coalition and holding it together so that he can blunt Iran’s sway. –Maureen Dowd, NY Times

I hope to G-d she’s right, and that’s all it is.

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Jews and the Pro-Life movement—must we eat herring?

What a pity that Orthodox Jews have not been active in the Right to Life movement, and have left Christians to speak for us. Yes, we sympathize with them and vote for conservative candidates, and once in a while the Agudah may file an amicus brief. But we have been mainly silent, and as a result, very few people—very few Jews, even—know what the Jewish position actually IS.

In today’s NY Times we have been lumped together with Christians for the umpteenth time, as if there really were one monolithic “Judeo-Christian” view of when life begins. The NY Times thinks that Orthodox Jews share the Catholic view—that life begins at the moment an egg is fertilized by a sperm. The Times says, “In the Judeo-Christian tradition, it is wrong to destroy embryos in the course of research.” And how should they know that there is any difference between the Christian and Jewish views, if we are silent?

If we had been more active and more vocal, we might have had more influence within the pro-life movement, and our actual views might have been better known to the media. In Torah tradition, the soul enters the body forty days … Read More >>

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Nothing nice to say about charedim?

Any attempt at candor about problems within the charedi community seems to open a can of worms. Few indeed — even among Orthodox Jews — are the people who can see how overwhelmingly the good outweighs the bad within the charedi community. The comments to my post about “Charedi hooligans” have been very disheartening and depressing to me, running ten to one against charedim.

I cannot imagine any other group within the Jewish world — not Mizrachi, or MO, or Reform or Conservative or secular Jews or Federation or any other group you can think of — who would be vilified on any website the way charedim are, with no one coming to their defense — and if one person does try to say something nice about charedim, a lot of others turn on him and attack him for daring to defend the indefensible.

If one person attacked and criticized Reform or Modern Orthodoxy on a website, a bunch of other people would quickly pile on to counter-attack and accuse that person of intolerance, bigotry and so on, or at least to say that it’s counterproductive to say mean things about Reform, you catch more flies with … Read More >>

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Charedi hooligans

R’ Rosenblum made a passing reference in his post, “The Choice is Ours,” to the juvenile delinquents who plague some of our beautiful charedi communities. Although I admire his soul-searching candor, I take issue with one sentence of his:”But one thing is not emphasized: the interrelationship of all Jews, and the responsibility of Jews for one another”

Even in the most insular chassidishe communities, little boys didn’t used to throw stones at cars for entertainment. I don’t know when we started having this plague of young hooligans somehow sprouting up from our most charedi communities.

The division between those who emphasize the “hen am levadad yishkon” aspect and those who emphasize the “ohr lagoyim” aspect of Yiddishkeit is a division of long-standing. But the production of young hooligans has never been a goal or byproduct of EITHER emphasis.

I don’t know where we’ve gone wrong, but could it be that maybe something of the Modern Spirit has somehow crept into even the most insular of our charedi ghettoes? I refer to the Modern Spirit of totally spoiling and indulging young children, so that they become uncontrollable brats.

[For those who need translation: Hen am levadad yishkon = “It … Read More >>

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What Jerry Falwell said about Jerusalem

Jerry Falwell died yesterday, and today is Yom Yerushalayim — the day that Jerusalem was reunified in 1967. We Jews live in a dangerous world, beset by enemies, and it behooves us to be grateful to our friends. I have a fascinating and moving book in my library, Jerry Falwell and the Jews – in which a Jew interviews Jerry Falwell. It was published in 1984. Falwell does not hide the fact that he does actually consider his own religion to be true. (Liberals consider all truth-claims to be ipso-facto signs of bigotry and hatred, but that is obviously not a prejudice shared by Orthodox Jews!) At the same time, he speaks very warmly of Jews and of G-d’s special relationship with the Jews. R’ Emanuel Rackman, in a forward to the book, writes, “It is in the interest of the Jews to know precisely where we stand with our friends as with our enemies…..I find his views far from disturbing; indeed, I find them reassuring.” Now, here are some questions of relevance to today’s date, Yom Yerushalayim:

Q. Are the Jews still the chosen people? Jerry Falwell: Yes, very definitely. Israel is yet to play a vital … Read More >>

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Reform and anorexia: two op-ed pieces

Below, two articles juxtaposed. The connection needs no comment.

Jonathan Schorsch in the Jerusalem Post (the writer teaches Jewish studies at Columbia University): “Shafran may think that the Orthodox merely reject ‘a thing, a philosophy, an approach,’ but these philosophies are held by real, living Jews and many non-Orthodox Jews sense all too accurately that they are being rejected…. If Orthodoxy is going strong, “making” so many new Jews, why the constant need to delegitimize other streams of Judaism? ….THE IMPLICATION is clear: non-Orthodox Jews cannot be accepted as they are. This is at best partial love and care, perhaps even the opposite.”

Marie Coyle in a letter to the editor of a student newspaper at the University of New Hampshire (the writer is the feminist outreach coordinator of Women United Against Eating Disorders): “I am, and will continue to be, aggressively and unapologetically anti-eating disorders. I am definitely trying to attack this problem. I want to be supportive of those who are suffering, but I refuse to say that I am anything but opposed to their sickness. I am not in any way blaming people who have eating disorders; this is absurd. When I say … Read More >>

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Proof: no tikkun olam without G-d

In his post, “The Hijacking of Tikkun Olam,” Yitzchok Adlerstein wrote, “Tradition always understood that any human attempt at effectively remedying the world is doomed to failure.” In response, reader Gershon Josephs asked, “I had not heard of this tradition. Do you have a source for this?”

Because so many people, it seems, have never heard of one of the main foundations of Jewish tradition — namely, the principle that we can accomplish nothing without G-d’s help — I hereby supply three Biblical sources in answer to Gershon Josephs’ request. I hope that these will spread through the ether like a good virus.There are many more, scattered throughout the Torah and Talmud, but these will do for a start.

Tehillim 127:1 “If Hashem will not build the house, in vain do its builders labor on it; if Hashem will not guard the city, in vain is the watchman vigilant.” (Psalms)

Devarim 15:11 “For destitute people will not cease to exist in the land; therefore I command you, you shall surely open your hand to your brother, to your poor, and to your destitute in your land.” (Deuteronomy)

Yeshayahu 2:1-4 “It will be in the end of days…they … Read More >>

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Stop the violence! Save the Reform rabbis!

In his post today, Rabbi Menken did not provide the definitive Orthodox statement that Rabbi Ellenson called for, but I will do so. First, here is part of the essay to which Rabbi Menken was responding, an article — written by the head of the Reform HUC — with the inflammatory title “Obscene Orthodox Hatred Demands a Clear Denunciation”:

To be sure, such Orthodox opposition to non-Orthodox rabbis is hardly a novelty in modern Jewish history. Indeed, if one considers an event such as the assassination of Rabbi Abraham Kohn of Lemberg in 1848 by an ultra-Orthodox zealot, the charges of Eliyahu and the protests of the Hod Hasharon Orthodox Sephardic congregation seem mild….These displays of unwarranted contempt and hatred demand a public response of condemnation on the part of my Orthodox colleagues….Citation of another historical precedent helps illustrate why I make this request. In July 1860, a group of zealous Orthodox youth in Amsterdam entered an assembly of the Shochrei Deah, a Reform group, and stoned the liberal rabbi Dr. M. Chronik, almost killing him….Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer — then head of an Orthodox yeshiva in Eisenstadt, Hungary — did not hesitate to condemn these … Read More >>

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A woman’s choice — a chip on her shoulder or a baby snuggling in her arms?

In the current issue of TIME magazine (May 7) there’s a short piece with the headline, “For Women, Equal Pay? No Way.” The graphic shows a map of the US with each state labeled , “79%” or “75%” or “82%” — the earnings of women as compared with men. The headline is intended to leave the false impression that women still don’t get equal pay for equal work. Like one dot in a pointillist painting, this one tiny item by itself is nothing. The problem is that it’s part of a bigger picture, a propaganda war in which feminists never stop trying to change women into men, to arouse anger and resentment against men, to create a utopia that would be hell on earth for most normal women.

This dot in the pointillist painting is intended to convey the following subliminal messages: Women earn less than men for no good reason. The only possible explanation for the pay gap is discrimination. In a just society, women would earn exactly the same amount as men. A woman seeing this graph should feel resentment and righteous indignation. A man seeing this graph should hang his head in contrition.

In actuality, the … Read More >>

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Vanishing Jews

In today’s Miami Herald there are four articles, each one an interview with an elderly Florida couple who survived the Holocaust. Their stories are tragic and also inspiring, but here is the fact that caught my eye: each of these couples — all of them now in their eighties — had exactly two children, and today they have between them very few grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I am not certain whether it is because of the conscious choices that non-Orthodox Jews made, or Divine Providence, but today it is only Orthodox Jews whose numbers are increasing. I don’t remember who made the famous remark about not granting Hitler posthumous victories, but Jews in America are famously reproducing at negative-ZPG rates.

The only non-Orthodox elderly Jews with significant numbers of grandchildren are those fortunate enough to have at least one BT child. It is too late for those elderly survivors, but young Jews today who do not want Jewish numbers to decline any further should 1. marry young and 2. have more than two kids and 3. give their children enough of a Jewish education so that their kids, too, will have more than two kids.

“Marry young” … Read More >>

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Where is the video of the bus incident?

When I first read about the lady on the #2 bus, I was inclined to cheer her on. From the sound of it, the behavior of the men was appalling, and she got some good licks in. Certainly the idea of separate seating on buses is most unappealing to me, but in her place, I would have meekly moved back anyway. Secretly I’m glad there are other, sterner women who aren’t so meek. Well, to be honest, it’s not the separate seating but the sitting in back that bothers me. If the men sat in back and the ladies up front, I really would not mind. My charedi brother in fact says that if looking at women is the real problem, the men should sit at the rear of the bus–facing backwards! :- )

My charedi relatives mostly are opposed to the whole idea of mehadrin buses, although one female relative tells me that many women prefer the separate seating because they are not crushed by pushy men who elbow their way through crowded buses. And they can nurse their babies discreetly under loose blankets without being noticed. But I still find the idea of segregated buses distasteful.

Having … Read More >>

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Look what the wind blew in

Today, Hoshana Raba — the seventh day of Sukkos — is the anniversary of the day all the sukkos in North Miami Beach blew away, exactly one year ago.

Three days earlier, the weather reports started talking about a tropical depression called “Wilma” — so far down in the alphabet, so rare to have so many hurricanes in one season. Would this become a hurricane?

The next day, the warnings became a bit more serious. The day after that, one day before she hit, the radio and TV went to all-Wilma, all the time.

Having lived through a number of hurricanes in my neck of the woods — in fact, the eye of Katrina had passed directly over my house, a few weeks earlier! — I knew what to expect. Or thought I did. A lot of wind and rain, some branches on the road, a day or two without electricity. Katrina was only a Category One when it hit us, en route to New Orleans: it meant one day with no lights and no air conditioning.

So I bought ice, and plenty of non-perishable food and drinks. I had enough ice to keep my fridge cold for two … Read More >>

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Tears

Tonight — Shabbos, the 26th of Tammuz — is the fourth yahrzeit of my father, R’ Nachman Bulman zt’l.

I spoke to my mother today shortly before Shabbos (her time) and she told me that she had gone to my father’s kever earlier in the day, together with my brothers, my sister, and many other relatives and friends who live in Israel.

“The taxi driver cried all the way to the cemetery,” she told me. Why? “He was listening to the news. They were talking about the funerals of three Jewish soldiers. He kept wiping his eyes with a tissue, the whole time.”

When my father was alive, I used to ask him his opinion about everything. If it was a Torah subject then, as far as I was concerned, his opinion was da’as Torah — he saw the world through the eyes of Torah.

These last few weeks there have been so many issues I would have liked to ask him about.

But I know what he would have done with today’s news — a young soldier, married three weeks ago, buried today in Eretz Yisrael. He would have done the same thing the taxi driver … Read More >>

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What really happened to the Valis baby? Story and meta-story.

There is more than one story in the Valis case, and I would like to add my own comments to what R’ Yakov Menken wrote.

Story One, the death of an infant:
The first story is the tragic story of a baby’s death. The young father is accused of having killed his baby in a fit of rage over the baby’s crying, while others say the father was playing with his baby, threw the baby up in the air playfully as fathers do, and then tragically lost his grip, with the baby landing hard on the floor, emergency called, baby rushed to the hospital and dying in the emergency room.

Either this case was one of horrible abuse and murder, or it was a tragic, heartbreaking accident. The case is not clear, not yet proven one way or another. Demonstrations demanding the accused’s release were therefore at best premature.

I consider it unlikely that the young father is guilty, but it is certainly possible. I believe that abuse is extremely uncommon in charedi circles, but it does happen. Statistically, babies are FAR more likely to be killed by unrelated males (with Mommy’s boyfriend being by far the most common culprit) but it is not unknown or impossible for a father to kill his own baby, even a father with long payos.

Story Two, the meta-story
The second story is the meta-story of how the case has been portrayed in the press and how the charedi community responds to news coverage.

Here you have an Alice-through-the-looking-glass world, a Spy vs Spy Mad Magazine routine or a bizarre fun-house mirror world, take your pick of metaphor. Continue reading → What really happened to the Valis baby? Story and meta-story.

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Inspired by a Kiss

In the Spring 2006 issue of Reform Judaism Magazine, there is an article of particular interest to me because it is about my own father, Rabbi Nachman Bulman, of blessed memory.

The article is by David Ellenson, the president of Hebrew Union College–the Reform rabbinical seminary. He is from Newport News, VA — a city I remember with great affection from my own childhood. My father was the rabbi of the Orthodox shul there when I was a little girl.

I am particularly indebted to Menachem Butler and his American Jewish History blog, without which I never would have known about this amazing article. It was featured in his March 28 blog entry, entitled “Growing Up in Newport News,” which was sent to me by several friends.

R’ Bulman was one of the founders of NCSY and won the hearts and minds of many young Jews back to the Torah of their grandparents. But David Ellenson was not one of his success stories. Indeed, my father might well have been distressed by what became of that young boy he once taught. A Reform rabbi? The head of all the Reform rabbis?! No, that was not my father’s dream for his pupil.

Yet that former pupil wrote something that touched me deeply — and I thank him for it. Here it is:

Neuroscientists teach us that the most fundamental elements of our identity are forged in childhood, and I am surely no exception. My own values are inextricably bound up with my early days as a Jewish boy growing up during the 1950s and 1960s in a tightly-knit Jewish community in the largely Christian world of Newport News, Virginia.

One of my earliest lessons as a child was to esteem and emulate individuals who demonstrated knowledge, care, and concern for Judaism. My father instructed me over and over again to show our Rabbi Nathan Bulman–an Orthodox rabbi he revered–the utmost kavod (respect).

One day, as Rabbi Bulman and I were studying the first paragraph of the Amidah prayer, Continue reading → Inspired by a Kiss

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Religious Girls, Thinness, and Social Expectations

As a follow-up to Shira Schmidt’s post about religious girls, weight, and self-esteem:

In one area I think we do a lot better than the non-Jewish world, and that has to do with social expectations in high school. Stephanie Wellen Levine, a non-Orthodox journalist, spent a year studying high school girls in Crown Heights (Lubavitch-town) and found that they had nothing like the cattiness and cliquishness of high school girls she knew in the non-Orthodox or non-Jewish schools. She reported that most of the girls did care about clothes but to a much lesser extent than in the public school she herself had attended. She also found that the heavy girls were just as socially popular and accepted as the thin girls—again, unlike the situation in non-Jewish schools.

What she found in Crown Heights squares with my own experiences teaching in a girls’ high school in Miami—not Lubavitch but of course Orthodox. The girls’ popularity and happiness and confidence do not seem related to how thin or heavy they are. On the other hand, everyone would rather be thin, that’s a fact.

Among girls and women, in my community at least, thinness is not much of a social issue, and Baruch Hashem for that. Most girls do try to look nice and are fashion-conscious, but I’m proud that these external factors count for relatively little socially, and that most of the girls care more about character and higher values. Continue reading → Religious Girls, Thinness, and Social Expectations

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Preparing for Jewish burial — the 7th of Adar

The body lies on a stainless steel table, draped with a sheet. Together with three other women, I cut away the body bag and hospital clothes, remove bandages, pull out IV lines. We wash the body, the water flowing down the table and out of a hole at the foot of the table, into a steel sink. The room is tiled white, brightly lit, antiseptic. We look like doctors, gowned and gloved, and the room looks like an operating room — except that in one corner there is a mikva.

We work quickly and quietly. Conversation is improper, disrespectful, except for the task at hand. If there is a flow of blood anywhere, we stanch the flow and save the bloody cloths, to be buried with the body. Sometimes the work is tedious and dull. Sometimes there are complications that make things more interesting from a medical point of view — I have a medical curiosity about the cause of death — but complications delay us getting out of there, home to our families.

When the body is clean, we take the woman’s body and we place it in the mikva. We have been careful never to leave her exposed while we were washing and cleaning — always uncovering just a little bit at a time. We take pains to preserve her dignity, because her soul is nearby, watching us, in distress until the burial takes place.

For a moment the body is exposed but it is quickly covered by the purifying waters of the mikva. We four women of the chevra kadisha say, as we put her under the water three times, “Tehora hee, tehora hee, tehora hee” — “She is pure, she is pure, she is pure.” Of course “pure” is not the right word for a religious concept that has nothing to do with cleanliness — she was clean already before we put her in the mikva. Her body is ready now for the Resurrection of the Dead when Moshiach comes. Continue reading → Preparing for Jewish burial — the 7th of Adar

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Who is Hollywood’s audience?

Responding to Yitzchok Adlerstein’s post about a movie that’s much in the news, Eliezer Barzilai wrote:

“there are movies in which a spouse comes back as a child (Birth), or as a person of the same gender as the surviving spouse (Ghost) in which physical intimacy with the reincarnated spirit is presented as a thing of beauty. The Greeks also liked the idea, as we find Zeus taking the form of a swan or a bull, and having his way with various maidens. These stories, I believe, implant the idea that one loves the essence of the person, and the physical form is irrelevant. But then you step back and realize, with a feeling of nausea, that they are advocating pedophilia and bestiality.”

…and homosexuality

The beloved spouse coming back as a person of the same sex as the bereaved is obviously Hollywood’s way of pushing the idea that it doesn’t matter, or shouldn’t matter, what sex your spouse is. Everyone — not just gays — should choose mates without regard to the sex of the partner. We should all be people, not men or women. That’s part of the feminist agenda, too. Which may go some way … Read More >>

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Valentine’s Day: Why does the ACLU not sue to keep this religion out of school?

Doing carpool today, taking my kids home from school, we passed by the local public high school. Kids were streaming out of the public school, many of them carrying big heart-shaped helium baloons for Valentine’s Day.

Something struck me then which in fact strikes me every year on Halloween, Santa Claus Day, Kwanzaa, Valentine’s Day and Spring-Color Egg Day, and that is: the public schools DO teach religion, and they DO celebrate religious holidays.

This has been actually infuriating me for years, ever since I first noticed it. The Bible cannot be read in public schools, teachers cannot refer to G-d, the Ten Commandments cannot be posted on the walls, but the teachers openly promote witches and cupids, goblins and Greek gods, pagan rites of spring (the eggs being all that remains of Easter) and orgies of commercialism.

Mind you, I don’t actually want the birth of Chr*st or his supposed resurrection (Easter) to be taught in public schools, but I do think the utter absence of any reference to G-d in even generic terms is a social and moral horror, especially when an alternative religion IS being promoted in public schools.

I was in another public school — to vote — not long after Halloween, and saw goblins and witches taped up all over the walls and bulletin boards. No one protested, no one seemed to think there was anything immoral or unconsitutional about promoting sorcery and witchcraft. The supernatural aspect of Halloween seemed to ruffle no feathers. What are we to make of this?

What to me is most appalling about Halloween is the constant theme of death, the black costumes, the skulls and blood and so on. It gets worse every year, more gruesome and more disgusting. As for Valentine’s Day, there is little mention of marital love but a lot of sexual innuendo and suggestiveness in so many of the Valentine’s Day displays, ads and articles one sees at this time of year. Continue reading → Valentine’s Day: Why does the ACLU not sue to keep this religion out of school?

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Judaism is not racist, and neither am I

In a recent post of mine, titled “Disclaimer” I wrote about the violence of Jewish police against peaceful Jewish protesters in Amona. The gravamen of my post was that Israeli police should not treat fellow-Jews as if they were Arabs.

In comment #5 to my post, Joel Rich wrote:

Interesting is how when one’s own group has elements that act inappropriately, they are often minimized as a fringe element not representative of the greater whole, yet when “the other’s” group has elements that act inappropriatley, that entire group is demonized.

I didn’t realize he was talking about different groups of Jews and thought he was saying that there is little difference between Jews and Moslems/Arabs — that Arabs merely have “elements who act inappropriately.” I thought he was saying that there is little difference between peaceful Jewish protestors and jihadi Islamo-fascist Arabs, that is.

In my outrage at this moral equivalence I wrote in my comment #9

Arabs are brutal insane murderers whose mothers have nachas when their kids grow up to be terrorists, and Jews and Arabs are very, very different.

It was obvious to everyone who read my post that I was talking about the kind of Arabs who more typically find themselves at the wrong end of Israeli police batons. However, several of the louder voices in the blogosphere, making no mention whatsoever of my argument or my context, pretended to misunderstand my point and also pretended that my article was about Arabs — which it was not. I have not yet written an analysis of the Arab world. Continue reading → Judaism is not racist, and neither am I

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