Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Day 10 - Do I Want My Daughter To Become This?

There are times that I look at frum people and think to myself that they are wonderful, warm, intelligent caring people. And then there are times that I look at them and see them as racist, isolationist bigots. And while I know that there are good and bad in all populations, I still cringe when I hear some of the things that come from people's mouths. Sometimes it's just plain ignorant, sometimes mean and sometimes their comments display a complete disregard to any life except the lives of their own kind.

A while ago, I was on a frum messageboard and followed a discussion that was brought up. Someone had commented something about intermarriage. Now, as a frum Jew, I think that intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews is a bad thing (no, don't ask me to explain it, just take it as a given from Hashem). I think all of us on the board agreed with that sentiment. But what struck me was when one person on the boards commented that in order for a man to have a complete kapparah for the sin of intermarriage, he has to hope that their non-Jewish children
actually die. One poster brought a story where this happened and stated that the person who did teshuva for this sin was estatic when his son died. Estatic! What sick people! Who rejoices over the death of an innocent person?! There were a few people on the forum who argued with her, but she maintained that her position was the only "Torah true" one.

I'm hoping that this person was an extreme example, but there are plenty of other stories that I can quote, both online and in person, where people show absolutely no feeling or empathy for anyone outside their little circle. 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?

I suppose I must be defective. When I was fifteen years old, young and foolish, I stepped off a street corner into a busy two way street into oncoming traffic. I was simply not paying attention. It could have been the end for me, if not for the young black man who actually ran out into the street after me and pulled me to safety. He risked his life to save me. He could have just stood on the corner, or even shouted "hey you, get out of the street." But no, he actually ran out into traffic and grabbed me. He could have been hit by the same cars that were coming my way. It was then that I began to realize that what I had been told could not possibly be true. That little incident broke me, so to say. I was no longer able to listen to everything that was told to me and began to (gasp!) think independently.

Eventually, I was learned to think and explore for myself. And do you know what I found? Most gentiles want the same things out of life that I want -- to live peacefully, to be able to raise a family according to their values, to make some money, and to generally be happy. Most really don't care about Jews one way or the other. Sure there are some out there who hate us, but those are few and far between.

But I don't want my daughter to grow up to be a racist like most of the people I know. Sure I could try to counter the messages that she gets in school, but why should I have to do that? Why should I send her to a school where they lie about others and have to tell her that the school is lying to her?

But it's not even just school... it's the whole atmosphere around here. Some people here just think that gentiles are subhuman. Others think that they're human, but ignorant savages who wouldn't know right from wrong if it bit them in the butt. Others think that they're human but ultimately worthless and insignificant and not worthy of Hashem's love. But you know what? I'm sick and tired of hearing these things. And I'm sick and tired of dealing with people who are bigots. I don't want my daughter to grow up this way.

29 comments:

Another-O-Prax said...

My heart goes out to you. I am in a very similar situation: FFB > learned in a mainstream Brooklyn Yeshiva > shidduchim > married > three wonderful children > involved in the local frum community...and I've reached a point where I am pretty convinced that none of what I've been taught is true. There may or may not be a god of some sort, but certainly not as the frum world describes Him.

I, too, have always been more than a little uncomfortable with many of the untruths / half-truths / delusions of today's frum society, but only over the last few years have really felt myself turn away - in part due to the terrible realities you mention in your first post.

I have found a way to share my feelings with my completely frum wife, and would encourage you to try to do the same with your husband.

I don't really know where to go from here either...I've curtailed my community involvement and observe the bare minimums (shabbos, kosher, shul on shabbos), but don't know how to deal with the issue of raising my children with some truth.

Part of the problem is that I don't really think that other communties / faiths (reform, conservative, christian, muslim, or devoutly secular) have it any more right than the Orthodox...

Larry Lennhoff said...

I share the opinions of those who think you have to open a dialog with your husband and then leave your community for a better one. The kind of toxic education you are speaking of is common in NY, but less so elsewhere. Consider MO communities like Highland Park NJ, Pittsburgh PA, and elsewhere. There are plenty of communities that are observant without being xenophobic.

Rafi G said...

I totally understand the feelings you convey in your first paragraph. I have experienced them as well.

"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?
they get it from the fact that when the goyim do get a chance to kill us, they take it with an evil glee. See the holocaust for the ultimate example of neighbors and friends turning on their jewish freinds as soon as they were able to. Obviously this is not always true, but I think that is where we get the thought from.

G said...

Then don't let her, or at least do your best to prevent it.

I hate to sound like a broken record but this has more to do with you and where/how you choose to live than anything inherent to Judaism.
As others have said, there are plenty of places that are not like what you describe.

If these are your (and your familiy's) "problems" then have good cheer, there are readily available solutions. True, they may not be easy...but they are available.

Works with non-Jews said...

I have the same problem! I'm surrounded by bigots and racists of the worst kind. The worst is when they just assume that I must be one too because I'm frum with a velvet yarmulke. FUCK YOU! But of course I say nothing and just seethe.

Worst of all is that my father is the biggest racist of all. I try to keep my kids from hearing the crap he spews (slurs and all) but how can I completely?

The frum community is shot through and through with racism and bigotry. Disgusted doesn't begin to cover it.

Anonymous said...

I posted this in "Day 1" but then realized it should probably be in the most recent. I hope you don't mind my posting it again?

I went through a similar time shortly after my first son was born 11 years ago. I write the following in the hope that my experience helps you.

I was very disgusted with the system and decided to opt out. I still kept the mitzvos as before, but I cut out the whole social part. I made friends with many non-Orthodox Jews (the playground was a great place). I moved away from anyone who I felt was more interested in shallow things and surrounded myself only with those who were sincere, sweet, bright, and non-judgmental (ok, so I was alone a lot!)

I tried to relax and take care of myself. I stopped inviting guests for shabbos and spent more time with my husband and much more time in my PJs on the weekend. I read novels (which I never did before). I tossed most of my high heeled shoes. I started worrying about the environment, I became vegetarian (which I always wanted to be but didn't want to be so different or "strange"). I read more about parenting and implemented Montessori ideas at home with my son.

I decided that my marriage and family were my prime focus, that I wanted to make my home a place of sanctity, that I wanted to connect to Jewish tradition and not to the current fads. I brought in Jewish music as well as new age instrumental and classical music. I started to sing and play the guitar. I made our place less elegant and more relaxed.

I read a lot of Jewish thought -- not from the middle ages. A lot of Rav Soloveitchik, a lot about biur tefilla. I started learning Halacha properly from the sources for the first time ever. Tefilla meant a lot to me. I learned how to talk to G-d and care about Yiddishkeit while throwing away all the societal garbage that seemed to come along with it.

In retrospect, I realize that what I went through was the need to grow up, to take control of my relationship with HKB"H, and to become more independent in terms of learning and thinking. I needed to build a life I would want my family to share with me.

I wish we could have moved out of town, I even know which community I would love to live in, but this is not an option at this time.


I never did find a Rav who I can connect with and be open about my feelings about "the system", or a rebbitzen either. I did find inner strength to read, listen, and learn, and take away the parts that I felt were essential to Yiddishkeit and throw away the other parts. I also found a deeper friendship with my husband, who always listened, understood, sympathized, and let me express who I needed to be.

My starting point was that I had to break out of the frum community but that I wanted to keep my family intact. My husband is amazing and I would simply do anything to stay with him and make him happy.

My ending point (if such a thing has an ending) is that I developed a deep faith (which I am not sure I ever had, despite what I said/felt when I was younger). I built my own life within the parameters of halacha, a life which others certainly consider different and odd, but which my family and I are happy with. I stopped caring what ppl think, and stopped believing that there is such a thing as "the torah lifestyle" but in fact a great many lifestyles which are within the torah and halacha. It was not easy, but once I identified what I was looking for I found my lifestyle and it is filled with love of G-d, love of family, and much joy.

I wish you the same.

Works with non-Jews said...

Though come to think of it, none of my siblings are racists either. We're all equally chagrined with our father, but it obviously didn't stick with us.

Anonymous said...

BTW, I agree about the racism and simply will not associate with ppl who speak this way. The Rav in the shul we used to go to spoke like this and so we moved to a different shul.

Yes, getting out of NY is a good idea if you can. I wish we could now, but for the next 5 years we're stuck.

yet-another-o-prax said...

another-o-prax! Damn, I thought that was just me. I could have written that same comment, almost word for word (i.e. not the same # of kids, but think OJ is BS, minimized social contact and observance, etc.). How to raise the kids is a BIG issue.

Works with non-Jews said...

"The Rav in the shul we used to go to spoke like this and so we moved to a different shul."

Oh yeah, I forgot about that. The rav in my shul (not to mention a bunch of other shul rabbis I know) is an unashamed racist (and maybe even worse sexist!). The way he talks about goyim is simply SHOCKING. He gives a speech full of the vilest caricatures and slurs to a huge crowd and feels totally unafraid that anyone would object. And not only does no one object, they all seem to agree! The few who have reservations just brush it off and don't care. This rabbi think less of goyim than Nazis did of Jews. He's disgusting and he has a huge following.

Anonymous said...

After reading your blog, I think your issues are the social/cultural ones because of your community.

So first, talk to your husband! Tell him how badly the version of Judaism you live within makes you feel. He will most probably understand and agree, or at least be open to moving somewhere less xenophobic more open-minded.

Second take the advice of many here and move to a community that is more open, accepting, and individualistic.

I feel for you very much. I think that without the stench of what you see to be a disgusting side of Jewish life, you will find yourself open up again to prayer and a moderate, relaxed observance of torah...and you will be happy.

I really am praying that you take the advice being given by so many.

With all the best wishes for you in life.

Daganev said...

How many days till you are done writing out your laudary list of complaints about Jewish life in this ghetto you live in?

Anonymous said...

Your problem is not with judaism, it's with your social circle. So far I read a lot about how everyone around you is so full of faults. They're closed minded, they're biggoted, they're retsrictive, they're male chauvinists. With the possible exception of the last item, not a single attitude you mention is rooted in judaism, not chareidism, not orthodoxy, none. This is your social group, your community, the shul you choose to attend. You're telling us that you are fed up with judaism, while what you're fed up with (if that's really true, and this isn't some collosal narcissistic excersize-"oh! Look at enlightened me stuck among all these backward biggots") is your social group. Grow up!

Anonymous said...

Oh, one more thing, you are in love with your husband, you have a child together, and you don't discuss matters of faith with him?!?! How shallow is your marriage? You mean to tell us that you seriously doubt there is a g-d, have problems with every aspect of your religious life, yet you've never discussed it with the love of your life?!?! You sound like a high school girl.

Anonymous said...

Your story reminds me of my own moment-of-truth. I was a first grader in a fairly right-wing yeshiva ketana. I was in the hall during a break, chatting with the nice janitor who was sweet enough to care what this seven-year-old kid had to say. One of my classmates walked over to me, leaned in and said, "What are you talking to that nigger for?"

You know something? That moment, and dozens like it at that age, did NOT make me change my view of the janitor, or of his race. It didn't make me a bigot. It reminded me that my classmate--for all his father's money, and all the kowtowing he received at the school--was an absolute schmuck who wasn't fit to wipe spit off the janitor's shoes.

Yes, there's an awful lot of racism in Orthodox communities. There's an awful lot of a LOT of awful things in Orthodox communities. But that doesn't mean that your kids will be destroyed by it. It's up to you to build a home where they learn respect for other people--even non-Jews. And it's up to you to make sure they realize that a lot of the stuff they observe in "frum" communities is a load of CRAP that must be avoided or ignored.

It IS possible. Hell, I grew up in a frum home in an EXTREMELY frum NY neighborhood. Yet I grew up to have lots of friends who are not only black, asian, latino, etc . . . I even have some friends who are (shudder) GAY.

Tolerance is something you learn from your family, and from experience. It's not impossible to graduate from a frum environment with decency and sanity (though it's not necessarily easy). But here's the thing: The horrible behavior of so many of your peers does not render the religion or the lifestyle wrong. You'll meet horrible people no matter what lifestyle you decide to lead. The question is, how will you act, and how will you raise your children to act?

toemoe8 said...

Six Months,
My question is - have you considered whether this is worth it? It certainly make sense to live your life the way you want and not for anybody else, but what if that won't actually lead you to happiness but instead lead you in the opposite direction?

Say what you want about the frum "community" (I mostly agree), but you've got to admit, the frum "lifestyle" really seems to lead to happiness.

I'm totally in the same boat as you are, but sometimes I feel I'm being too smart for my own good.

What do you say?

Akiva said...

Narrow view. There is such a range of Jewish communities and Jewish thought within the orthodox world. Chassidus of widely different flavors (Chabad, Breslev, Satmar, Skver, Gur for example), other offshoots (Carebach, Chabakuk), even ranges in the Litvish world (Lakewood, Mir, Ponevitch). Even the Modern Orthodox world has a variety, from YU to Young Israel.

Each one has different flavors and approaches, appeals to different soul needs and tastes, styles of strictness and areas of freedom.

Having had a chance to be involved in a variety of types of communities, living in various areas belonging to different groups, I can say that what you describe seems to be a personal narrow view. G-d forbid, this is not meant to be insulting. I frequently have encountered those who have been raised and lived within their 4 cubits, or rather their parents 4 cubits, of the Torah world, and don't realize the richness of what's available.

Like your davening experience, there is what you were taught, and then there is what you learn and experience. Time to widen your experience and find YOUR place. You don't have to go outside the Torah world to find flavors, excitement, and style that will suit YOU and bring your connection with Hashem alive.

Go try a Friday night Carelbach minyan. Go open sefer Likutei Mohoran from Rabbi Nachman of Breslev. Go daven at the Ohel of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Go to a shiur at Aish Kodesh. So much of the Torah world is alive and burning bright, if your corner is dead, find another!

FinallyMe said...

What your daughter becomes is mainly up to you. You can imbue her with the tools to help her find her path in life, in both the spiritual and physical sense.
As for bigotry, I've been teaching and reinforcing my kids ever since they were young that we are "better" than the goyim but only on a spiritual level, and only if our spirituality is on the level it's supposed to be. Basically I explain to them that we are all human and we have to perfect our humanity. However, neither we nor the goyim had a say in being born Jewish or not, and therefore we cannot look down at them for that just like we can't pride ourselves for being born Jewish. Of course, our religion equips us with the tools to help perfect our bein adam l'chaveyro, but the truth is that we don't really need religion to be better people - and that's an important lesson for all of us to learn.

Zero Calorie Substitute said...

I'm sorry that I'm late to the party, but I agree with every single thing you've written, and it resonates with me, because I'm in the same boat.

How many others have said that?

I wonder whether it's a fairly large minority, and I also wonder whether the blogosphere brought it about, or just gave voice to ideas that were always there?

I am slightly worse-off than you, though, because I'm married 12 years and I have several children already, and I'm watching the system inculcate them with skewed values and closed-mindedness. And I'm watching my wife and my siblings buy into it. And I'm watching all my neighbors buy into it. And it scares me.

What can we do, when our choices affect other people?

FinallyMe said...

By the way, in reading your posts, I get the feeling that you are not unhappy with most of your life, but rather you are seeking the fulfillment and happiness that you instinctively feel ought to come from being part of the "chosen" people in general, and part of the varemkeit of chassidus in particular. From my experiences, I can tell you that what worked for me was to look at the bigger picture and make sacrifices accordingly. Sometimes I had/have to sacrifice my own wants for the greater good, and sometimes I had/have to disregard everyone else for my own sake.
But one thing is not possible in ANY community and it took me a while to make peace with this idea - you cannot do whatever you want without consequences. I used to think that it pertained only to our society, but then I realized that this holds true in every society and about every thing, not only religion. And the truth is, this is how it should be.
So listen to your inner voice and do what is right for you, what you NEED, and if it's the right thing for you then you won't have a problem facing down the opposition (sey the outside and sey your conscience).

Integrator said...

Malkie,

I want to start by saying what a beautiful thing you are doing sharing this experience with us. There are so many people who feel as you do, and it is a comfort to all of them that they are not alone. This discussion in this blog should be saved for people to look at, because this is a crucial snapshot of th difficulties involved with frum living. I hope that you find meaningful results!

I think that a major part issue is not just the Orthodox community per se, but more an in-group/out-group phenomenon. Just as an example, single people in communities where most of the people are married have a harder time developing a social life there. Couples tend to prefer hanging out with other couples. This is also true of Chassidim, Modern Orthodox, and otherwise. In short, birds of a feather flock together.

Your specific situation seems to extend beyond this, however. But, I am not clear on (and you surely do not owe me or anyone else an answer to this) where the root of the issue is. Is it the halachic system that you find problematic? God? Torah? The social structure of the frum community? The fashion in which Judaism is practiced?

Remember the words of Bertrand Russell: "The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution." I submit that you might want to spend time understanding which aspects of your life ARE and ARE NOT the issue. In this way, you may also find some common ground for broaching this with your husband (or anyone else, that matter).

Perhaps you do not know yourself, in which case I wish you all the best in your search and offer to be a pen-pal discussion partner (quantumcognition -/at/- gmail -/dot/- com). It is sorely tempting to throw one's hands up and blame the whole system, but I think it would help you to take stock like this.

Good luck!

Integrator

P.S. Tell your friend in Hatzallah to remind folks that Rambam was a physician!

Anonymous said...

>>Look at enlightened me stuck among all these backward biggots") is your social group. Grow up!

This guy is an example of closedmindedness in the Orthodox world. Not wanting to paint with a wide brush, but here I go: The US east coast is filled with this type of attitude. Chicago also. Wherever there is a very large Jewish population, Jews get too comfortable and start acting to "heimish" in the street. That heimishness is usually rudeness or dressing and talking embarassingly. It's not you Malkie. The Jewish communities, of the east coast especially, forgot Torah and have started to believe in Frumkeit as a religion of its own. I moved to a smaller community in the midwest where people are nice and don't have these attitudes and those who come in with them lose them quickly because no one else here supports that.
As a divorced man Shabbos was horrible. Every Shabbos became all about other peoples' nachas and sitting through their family get togethers. I began staying home making a simple sandwich or something easy to eat and being comfortable in jeans around the apartment and those little things help a lot. Put on some regular clothes for your husband. PJs is so similar to the boro park mamelas that go around in their bathrobes, it's unpleasant to look at - for a husband (who is so amazing).

OrthoPrax said...

I totally sympathize with your situation. I am in the same boat. How do I lie to my children - teaching them things that I don't believe in?

Just this week, I was learning Navi with them, and my eight year old Bais Yakov girl asks me "is that a true story or an allegory". I had spark of joy "Aha, thank God she is thinking!!" But also, I had to toe the party line and say that the (incredible and obivously mythological) story was true as it clearly was not an allegory (but also clearly never happened as it is written.)

But I asked her why she thought it was an allegory? Her answer was that one part of the story didn't make sense. I think that the Rambam would have been proud!

Fyedka said...

Thank you, Malkie, for sharing your thoughts. Clearly this is a painful thing to write about but having decided to do so, you should be complemented on both your writing style and your concern for everyone's feelings.

My story is not similar to yours but I came to my own answers on your core question many years ago. Unfortunately I did not do what you are doing but kept my thoughts to myself and am sorry for that to this day. I am convinced that you will come out of this process stronger and happier WHATEVER you decide to do in the end... stronger for having analyzed a situation and not just blindly followed... and happier because whatever you end up doing, you will be doing will full awareness.

In your first post you wrote
...
"I can’t believe that HaShem wants us to engage in all this nonsense (if, indeed, He exists… but that’s another story for another time)."
...
When I was younger I started to think about this and my anwer was that he (not He) doesn't.

My problem was that I was part of a community and "couldn't" break away. And yet I couldn't see myself marrying anyone within the community as it wouldn't be fair to her. So I find myself today, still outwardly observant, still wanting to "fit into the community" but a single, sad, lonely middle-aged man, almost always refusing invites for Shabbos meals, going home after shul to watch TV (turned down low, so the neighbors don't hear).

I could go on, but the point I'm making isn't about me but rather to assure you that you are right to analyze this now and not to let it fester. That you should discuss this with your husband and with others that you find dear to you and whose opinions you respect. It is a difficult thing to do but you will be better off for it later... WHICHEVER way you decide to go in the end.

Guess who said...

I am almost sure that I know u from a previous life.
es iz dee? yo oder nisht?

Nice Jewish Guy said...

GET. OUT. OF. BROOKLYN.

onionsoupmix said...

It has nothing to do with where you live. It has much more to do with what sect of Orthodoxy you associate with.

Anonymous said...

Malkie, I'm a geress and when I went to NY or to Jerusalem to "study," my class was told on several occasions that gentiles have animal souls. The rabbis had to know that I was a geress! I can't believe they would believe such things, much less say them to my face. I sat there sadly and thought of my beloved sister, who most definitely does not have an animal soul . . .

I have found Modern Orthodox communities in both America and Jerusalem that consist of a lot of ba'al tshuvim and gerim and so I rarely hear that racist or bigoted nonsense anymore. But I know it exists in other quarters.

Thank you for writing this blog. I need it right now. :-)

American Jew

Anonymous said...

I think that alot of you have problems with yourselves and your relationship with hashem.FORGET how OTHERS act.HOW OLD ARE ? HASHEM WILL HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS AND BEHAVIOR.!MOSHE EMES V'SORASO EMES !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!THAT IS WHAT YOU NEED TO LIVE BY AND GUIDE YOU MY FRIEND, AND NOT ! WHAT OTHERS DO ,SAY, ACT ETC.... THERE IS NO REASON FOR ALL THIS GARBAGE ABT. COPPING OUT ON MITZVAH OBSERVANCE. ONLY YOU YOURSLEVES ARE TO BLAME. NEED CHIZUK AND FEEL OTHERS ARE A FALSE /HYPOCRITICAL EXAMPLE , PICK UP ONE OF THE CLASSIC SEFARIM ON BITACHON , EMUNAH , MUSSAR SEFARIM OF OLD AND THE LIKE .
SADLY and unfortunatly IT IS THE MINORITY OF THE FRUM WORLD THAT SET ,LIVE GOOD EXAMPLES, AND NOT THE MAJORITY .I DO NOT THINK THIS ANTI GOYISH ATTITUDE IS TO SUCH A MAJORITYas you say , AND RATHER IT HAS COME ABOUT TO PROTECT OURSELVES FROM INTERMINGLING AND INTER MARRIAGE AND GOING OFF THE DERCH, VERY VALID CONCERNS FOR THIS DAY.I daFka think that there are CERTAIN chasidim that are more normal in their thinking and balanced,(MOSTLY EUROPEAN AND SOME AMERICAN )but know to keep their distance fROM he goyishe velt .BEINI V' BEINEIHEM . DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE YETZER HARAH , AND IT'S PULL ON A PERSON'S NESHAMA AND PSYCHE. MANY OF YOU HAVE ALREAY GIVEN IN BY NOTE OF YOUR WEAKENED STATE/LACK OF MITVAH OBSERVANCE .
WHERE DO U THINK THAT IS GOING TO LEAD YOU , TO BE A STRONGER IN YIDISHKEIT AND BE CLOSER TO THE RIBBONO SHEL OLAM? YOU AKIVA HAD IT RIGHT , FIND YOUR NICK. AND REMEMBER, FOR YOUR CHILDREN TO SEE U LIVING A PROPER TORAH LIFE IS THE BEST EXAMPLE OF ALL. DON'T MESS IT UP AND LIFE A HYPOCRITICAL ONE.WHICH IS WHAT U ARE DOING NOW. YOU CRITICIZE OTHERS, BUT LOOK AT THE WAY YOU ARE ACTING. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE TORAH , IT IS ETERNAL , SO GET A LIFE AND STOP BLAMING OTHERS, YOU AND ONLY YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS AND TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN THE RIGHT WAY TO LIVE DERECH HATORAH.READ THE FIRST AND SECOND PARAGRAPHS OF THE SHEMA!