Sunday, September 5, 2010

Conversation I had with my mother this morning

Mommy: I am going to make a brisket for Rosh Hashana.

Me: No.

Mommy: Yes!

Me: No Mommy! No one likes brisket.

Mommy: Yes they do! Everyone loves it.

Me: No they don't!

Mommy: Yes they do!

Me: A bird just pooped on me.

Mommy: See? That's what you get when you malign your mother!

Friday, July 2, 2010

On the outside, looking in

Side note: I had an internal debate over whether the title should read "On the outside, looking in" or "On the outside looking in." I went with the comma, because I believe in commas (as long as they aren't overused) but I wasn't entirely sure. Anyway.

Organized religion is a strange beast. If you are acquainted with it, and practice it, it is familiar and thus, not odd to you. If organized religion is not germane to your life, it can seem cultish, weird, intolerant and closed-off.

I am a product of organized religion. I enjoy the stability it gives me, that my life has structure and meaning, and I derive comfort from my beliefs. So why did I think Jesus Camp was so disturbing?

Jesus Camp (the trailer is below) is a 2006 documentary about Pentecostal children who attend a summer Bible camp and the weeks leading up to it. The three children featured in the movie are fervent in their beliefs, and their Christianity shapes their entire lives - the music they listen to, the schooling they receive, their rituals before they eat, the people they associate with, what they do on the weekend... in short, exactly like Orthodox Jews.

My Orthodoxy affects the way I eat, what I eat, what I do on the weekends, the people I associate with, where I went to school. It affects my schedule during the week and the activities I'm willing to participate in. It affects where I've chosen to live and what I wear. My belief system shapes my attitude toward world events, toward events in my own life, how I perceive my actions, how I treat other people. My religion is everything to me.

These kids in the movie are exactly the same way. Their religion is everything to them. Their belief is everything to them. When one of the girls whispers a prayer before sending a bowling ball down the lane, she reminded me of the girls I went to school with who would roll their eyes upward and say "please, Hashem!" before an exam. Young children think about religion and God and the afterlife and can often feel deeply connected - in a less cynical and more innocent way than adults, sometimes - to spirituality. "Is Hashem above space?" a little girl asked our rabbi once. "Yes and no," he replied.

There are certainly seemingly bizarre practices in Judaism (circumcision, anyone?). We put a piece of parchment on our doorposts and think it will protect us. We build flimsy structures and eat in them for a week. We say that nine men don't have the same significance as ten men. We pray after eating and after using the bathroom. All this should have made me feel more in common with the people featured in Jesus camp, who also believe in ritual. So why didn't it? Why did I feel put off and disturbed?

The negativity in the attitude towards non-Christians worried me. Jews don't believe in proselytizing and we believe that non-Jews can achieve portions in the world to come. We don't preach that we should take back America and restore it to its rightful values. We certainly talk of morality, and a moral society, and of ourselves as a light unto the nations, but we don't aim to take control of America and change all policy to fit our values. Good educators make Judaism a religion of love and service, not a religion of fear and oppression.

Not so with the people in Jesus Camp. To be saved, you must be Christian. To have spiritual potential, it must be through Jesus. "There are two kinds of people in the world," says the mother of one of the children profiled in the movie. "People who love Jesus, and people who don't." As the children's pastor passionately preaches a call to repentance, tears flow down the children's faces and they crowd around her, seeking to be washed with holy water that she pours on their hands from a Nestle brand waterbottle. There is passion, and love -- and also tremendous fear.

But then I think -- what is the difference between these kids and the very religious kids I went to camp with? They also held wide-eyed beliefs that other religions -- and often, other streams of Orthodoxy -- were wrong. We also had camp skits and plays about people who lost religion and then found it -- to the audience's eternal relief. There was little nuance in the lives of many of these girls. For them, religion meant one thing, and it was everything to them.

I learned about repentance and the teshuvah process as a fifth grader. I wasn't being brainwashed, I was being taught an aspect of what it means to be religious and to fear God. I do believe in a God who exacts punishment, before Whom I am meant to tremble and stand in awe. So how do I explain my discomfort? Is it a matter of the familiar and the unfamiliar? Is it a matter of degrees? Or is it that I see more similarity than difference, and the shared intolerant passion scares me?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Guide to living on the wrong side of the tracks

1. Internalize that you live on the wrong side of the tracks. Your side is undesirable. Otherwise, your life will just be a series of disappointments.

2. Never expect anything of anyone who lives on the right side of the tracks.
a) This way, when they cross the tracks, you are pleasantly surprised.
b) Otherwise, see above.

3. Except, secretly, your side is really better.

4. Ignore 1. But keep 2 in mind.

5. Decide that your side is really the right side.
a) Now everyone on the previously right side of the tracks is on the wrong side.
b) Even though they are living under the delusion that their side is the right side.

6. Internalize that you live on the right side of the tracks and be happy. But:

7. Never forget what it was like to be on wrong side of the tracks, and never be like the people on the right side of the tracks.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tea Party in the USA (a parody)

I don't affiliate with the Tea Party per se (though I understand its frustrations), but when a friend suggested a parody of Miley Cyrus's "Party in the USA," it was too awesome to resist.

Here are the original lyrics, and here's the official music video (though if you're like me, you already know the song well enough to skip the music during sefira)


I hopped off the plane at DCA with my trusty Constitution

Welcome to the land of power excess (whoa), where do I begin?
Jumped in a cab, see the Capitol dome
And the place where Obama now calls home
This is all so crazy
Everybody here's so famous
My tummy's turnin' and I'm feelin' kinda stomach-sick
Too much power with the stupids
That's when the taxi man turned on the radio
And the CSPAN voice was on
And the CSPAN voice was on
And the CSPAN voice was on

So I put my hands up
Said you gotta stop
Takin too much power now
Doin' stuff that makes me mad
Sayin' stuff that makes me mad

And I got my hands up
What'll I do?
I know I'm gonna blow a fuse
But wait - Tea Party in the USA
But wait - Tea Party in the USA
Get to the Hill in my taxi cab, everybody's lookin' at me now
Like "who's that guy with the protest sign, he's gotta be from out of town"
So I march to Nancy and Harry
With Michele(s) egging on me
Cause all I see is bad policy
Forcin' healthcare in the country

My tummy's turnin' and I'm feelin' kinda stomach-sick
Too much power with the stupids
That's when Ron Paul turned on the megaphone
And the Tea Party was on
And the Tea Party was on
And the Tea Party was on

So I put my hands up

Chant "You gotta stop"
And the crowd chants with me now
Noddin' our heads like yeah
Shakin' our fists like yeah

And I got my hands up

We're mad as hell
And won't take it anymore
Yeah, Tea Party in the USA
Yeah, Tea Party in the USA

Feel like puttin' up a fight (up a fight)

'Fore they trample all my rights (all my rights)
The taxing gets me every time (every time)
But I muster up the Tea Party and I feel alright!

So I put my hands up

Not your ATM
I'm holding my ground
Noddin' my head like yeah
Shakin' my fist like yeah

And I got my hands up

We the People
Remember us now?
Yeah, Tea Party in the USA
Yeah, Tea Party in the USA

So I put my hands up

What's in your wallet?
That's my wallet, lay off now (lay off now)
Noddin' my head like yeah (noddin' my head like yeah)
Shakin' my fist like yeah (shakin' my fist like yeah)

And I got my hands up
They're playin' my tune
And I hope it's gonna be okay (it's gonna be okay)
Yeah, Tea Party in the USA!
Yeah, Tea Party in the USA!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Top-down Ashkenazi discrimination

Please explain this to me:

The leader of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community, Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv called for protest measures against the Supreme Court following its ruling in the matter of ethnic separation in the Beit Yaakov religious school in Emanuel.

In a meeting with Deputy Education Minister MK Meir Porush on Thursday, the rabbi said, "This is a dreadful ruling. This should prompt a great outcry."

The ultra-Orthodox public is furious with Judges Edmond Levy, Edna Arbel and Hanan Melcer, who fined the school and issued a contempt of court ruling against it and also subpoenaed the parents of Ashkenazi students who stopped sending their children to the school.

Here's some background on what the ruling involved:

Ministry of Education Director-General Shimshon Shoshani issued a closure order Sunday against a temporary institution used as a school for Ashkenazi girls who have refused to study together with Sephardi girls.

The Beit Yaacov school in the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel had separated Sephardi girls from 74 Ashkenazi girls, and the High Court ruled that the Sephardi girls should be incorporated in an equal fashion and without discrimination. However, parents of the Ashkenazi girls opposed the court's decision.

Basically - a Beit Yaakov school in Israel employed various means of separating the Sephardi and Ashkenazi students. The Israeli High Court ordered the school to remove the discriminatory practices, and Ashkenazi parents reacted by keeping their daughters at home rather than send them to school with - G-d forbid! - the Sephardic students. The Ashkenazi students gathered in a "school on the side" arrangement and avoided going to school, but the High Court found this out and issued a contempt of court ruling against the school for failing to compel the Ashkenazi students to attend school. Rav Elyashiv came out against the contempt of court ruling.

Why on earth would Rav Elyashiv oppose the court's ruling? I just don't get it. Here you have a clear case of a school and parents discriminating against students, and the head of the Ashkenazi movement says the court is wrong for acting? What?

This is symptomatic of leaders being unable to acknowledge that rank-and-file members of their groups are doing things wrong (see Church, Catholic, or Union, Orthodox). Okay, so this isn't sexual abuse, but why is it so difficult for a leader to stand up and make an unequivocal statement that certain practices are wrong and need to be stopped? Rav Elyashiv is the person who could most affect the opinions of the chareidi community towards Sephardim, and instead of coming out against discrimination he is enabling it. It saddens and disgusts me.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A girl's thoughts on the first date

I don't really have a set way of getting ready for a first date, especially since as time goes on I get more and more lax about trying to look amazing (for better or worse, I guess).

Anyway, here's how I do it:

The preparation:
The dates that I've been on have ranged from pretty casual to yeshivish lounge dates (ugh hated those), but no matter what the venue, I wear work clothes - nice skirt, sweater, definitely no Shabbos clothes or dresses. I haven't worn denim to a first date (except once, which is a different story because we went somewhere after he and I met in a casual setting). I iron my hair to make it less frizzy and always hope that it will magically become shiny and bouncy so I can wear it down, but 99% of the time I end up just putting it back in a ponytail. Then comes the contacts vs. glasses debate - I don't find contacts very comfortable, but I look better in them, so I will opt for contacts unless I'm feeling particularly lazy or tired. If I put on makeup without remembering to put in contacts first I'll usually just leave my glasses on. Makeup-wise, I try not to wear too much (also, I've been told that guys don't like it when girls wear too much makeup. But I find that hard to believe. Or, maybe we just don't have a mutual idea of what "too much makeup" actually means). The whole process can take about an hour and a half or so because it takes me a while to choose what to wear.

Getting picked up:
This is always awkward. I like for the guy to call and tell me when he's downstairs (I do not date from home). When I was living in a dorm I sometimes liked to have a friend come down with me for moral support on her way to the library or something; when I lived in an apartment building the doorman would pretend not to look. As I head downstairs, I hope hope hope that the guy is relatively cute and nice to look at. Haven't had too much luck in that department unfortunately. At the very least, I hope the guy is at least five or six inches taller than me. It's been like 50-50 with that.

When I do see him, I say his name just to make sure it's the right date and I identify myself. I try to smile, and hope he does as well, because otherwise he comes across as bored and cold. The first few minutes are super awkward -- do you a) ask what he has planned, b) ask how his day went (quite frankly at that point I could give a rat's butt about how his day went), or c) yammer about nothing? I pick a) and c) usually, not necessarily in that order. I like to ask what we're doing because it segues into the next question, which is transportation.

The car (or the cab) (or the subway):
If a guy is driving his own car, I always get very nervous because I'm an anxious backseat driver and guys tend to drive too fast and tailgate. I don't really care what kind of car he has or even if it's all that clean, as long as I'm not sitting in crumbs. Points if the car is cute. I don't like to have the door opened and closed for me. It's just silly, in my opinion. That's a matter of personal preference and I'll usually say so before we get to the car. If he opens the door before I have a chance to say anything, I'll try to gently say so the next time we get in/out of the car. Also, the bad thing about driving on a date is finding a parking space. Annoying as hell in the city. If it's cold out, don't park too far from where you're taking me just because it's cheaper. If I'm cold I'm gonna be pissed and you don't want that.

If we take a cab, it's a HUGE turnoff if the guy doesn't know how to hail one. When we do take a cab, PLEASE DEAR G-D LET ME GET IN AFTER THE GUY. It's really awkward to get in a cab first, because all I think about how the guy is probably staring at my butt. If it's a cute guy, I don't mind as much (yes, I'm shallow). If I am turned off by his looks, thinking about how he's looking at me makes me jittery.

If we take the subway, I prefer for the guy to let me swipe his Metrocard instead of my own. It's not that much; don't be cheap about it, unless I have a monthly pass and it won't cost me extra. I don't particularly like waiting for the subway, because the lighting in subway stations is really unflattering and it's hard to have a conversation with trains roaring past. Also, when we get on the subway, if there are empty seats, I like to sit. For some reason, guys always stand. I understand that he might not want to sit next to me, but particularly if there is an empty bench, just SIT DOWN! Do you think it looks more manly to lean against a germy pole?

The venue:
I'm not a fan of Starbucks as a first date place: the chairs aren't that comfortable, you don't really have any privacy and I don't like coffee or tea all that much. Past that I'm really okay with anything as long as I don't have to walk too long in the cold. I have been to some lounge dates and they aren't that bad -- provided that the company is good. Honestly, going to a lounge isn't that different from going to Starbucks except that the lounge tends to be more pricey. Don't go somewhere where you can't talk, i.e. to a concert or lecture. And when I order water, it's because I honestly hate soda. Not because I'm on a diet.

In terms of the guy getting an alcoholic drink: if you're driving, DON'T! It looks really irresponsible (even if you can supposedly hold your liquor). If you aren't driving, go ahead, but one is enough. Don't get more than one, even if it's just lite beer.

The conversation:
UGHHHHHH. When I get nervous I talk a lot. This means that I usually spend the first five minutes of the date rambling. Or, you know, the entire date. It's really embarrassing and I WISH I could turn it off. Alas. I also tend to talk about me, which isn't so attractive. Whatever. I'm working on it.

Needing to go to the bathroom:
This gets its own entry because it's an issue I have. I really really try not to have to use the bathroom more than once on a date (especially if it's under three hours) but sometimes it's just not in your control. I don't think about it if the other person needs to use the bathroom frequently so I would hope my date would reciprocate. Also, like Bored Jewish Guy, I always work up the nerve to say I have to use the bathroom just as the other person excuses themselves.

The end:
Always the awkward part. I've had first dates that were two hours and first dates that were six hours. It's hard for me to remember who indicates that the date should wind down. Probably 50-50. If I have to be at work the next day, I'll ask to go back before midnight because I do need to get sleep. If not, if the date is going well, I'll let the guy make the first move. I do like for the guy to walk me to the door of my building (not to my apartment), unless he can't find a parking space nearby.

Usually a guy will indicate to me if he wants to go out again, mostly by asking, "Do you want to go out again?" If he doesn't, I generally assume that that means he doesn't want to, but I have been wrong about that. If I feel attracted to the guy I mourn the lack of first-date kiss; if I don't feel attracted I am very happy to be shomer. I go inside, he leaves, joy to the world.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

pity post

Sometimes, I'm really, really lonely here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


You know what I realized recently?

I'm not good at sarcasm.

Problem is, guys seem to have only two "funny modes" -- super-sarcastic or bathroom humor. Neither of which is particularly appealing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

i gotta dance

I thought I was going to be immune from this. I'm independent, I'm decisive, I prefer to shop alone. So I thought I would be immune from the pervasive loneliness that creeps in, mist-like, at first just a small droplet and then a blanket that sighs and settles.

But I'm not.

So I gotta dance. I have to do something that will make me happy, that will bring a happy flush to my cheeks. I have to do something to get out so I see other people. I -- must -- DANCE!

Because otherwise I am going to buckle under the weight of this deceptively heavy mist.

Friday, July 31, 2009

a note

About my other post -- I took it down. I'm too worried about what a Google search would yield. Despite what might be coming across, I do like my current position and would be very sorry if it ended up sour because of an ill-thought-out blogpost.