Monday, December 18, 2006

Know Your Jewish Community: Annie

TR said:

As a non-religious person, I find it fascinating when a child (belonging to any faith) is more observant than his or her parents. It makes me question two assumptions of my assumptions:

1) That children are brainwashed by their parents to conform to a certain religion. The fact that you are more religious than your parents certainly suggests that you chose Judaism to some extent.

2) That religion is becoming increasingly obsolete and will eventually vanish from technologically advanced societies. If enough people maintain or increase the level of observance that their parents had, this will not be the case.

For the record, I was raised in a not-so-strict Episcopalian household. Both of my parents believed in God. If I wanted children (I don't), I would raise them as agnostics and strongly discourage, but not prohibit, them from joining a religion.

Annie, I am very curious as to why you decided to be more observant than your parents. Don't elaborate on this point if you don't want to, but if you did, I'd be very interested.


Now, I know that you all have been wondering about me, so I'll try to address The Rooster's comments, in as non-confrontational a way as possible.

1) I'd like to point out that I am not "more religious" than my parents, just more traditionally observant. I'm not really sure about their beliefs, but I am fairly certain that they line up with mine. My parents are dedicated members of a Conservative synagogue (my Dad is currently serving as president), and have been for many years. That said, my parents definitely instilled me with Jewish values and beliefs, and provided an atmosphere where I could grow Jewishly.

My brother(s) were both exposed to roughly the same atmosphere and made very different choices. The kid is anti-Judaism (as well as anti just about everything else), he just wants to fit in and be like everyone else, while my older brother is rather apathetic (those who know him may disagree with me here) although he has a very strong Jewish identity, and plans to marry Jewish and have Jewish babies. Which, as we know, is the most important thing.

2) If you look at the numbers (a la a recent study by Steven M. Cohen), I am not an anecdotal case, there is a demographic shift towards observance (for those who are affiliated within the Jewish community), and Orthodoxy. I personally believe that it is, in part, because traditionally observant people who have no wish to be clergy feel that they don't have a real place within the Conservative movement, outside particular centers such as Teaneck, NJ and Sharon, Mass.

As for my personal choices: when I was about 11 my family moved out of the US, as you may know in the rest of the world the choices for Judaism are Orthodox, or Orthodox. So we went to an Orthodox synagogue, and made good friends. I saw their lifestyle and really enjoyed it, the spirituality, the fact that there was a code of law which provided moral and ethical guidance for most situations and the sense of community. I liked having an enforced day off for prayer, reflection, study, and family. I liked that even eating was raised from being merely a neccesity to being an expression of faith... you can't just eat anything, you have to think about if it is acceptable, and then thank G-d for it.

As I got older I also began to enjoy the text study and intellectual side of Judaism. I love learning Mishna, and to a lesser extent Talmud. I find it a fascinating window into my people's past, and am often surprised at how sensitive the rabbis were to the needs of individuals; not just economically, but also emotionally. Yes, they were chauvenist, and racist/xenophobic, etc, but they were also of their time. I, like the late, great, Tikvah Frymer-Kensky, believe that Judaism isn't inherently patriarchal or chauvenist, but that it did not develop in a vacuum, and has been affected by its surrounds for thousands of years.

Hope that that answers your question. Anything else?


Anonymous said...

I personally believe that it is, in part, because traditionally observant people who have no wish to be clergy feel that they don't have a real place within the Conservative movement, outside particular centers such as Teaneck, NJ and Sharon, Mass.

Also, Jewishly educated and active people who have no wish to be clergy, in the Reform movement. ARE YOU LISTENING, REFORM MOVEMENT??? Or just sending out more HUC recruiting brochures?

Anonymous said...

Yes. Why do you write G-d? Can't we just get over it? God in English is not "God"'s name. We don't know what His name is, what letters it has, and in any case, it's certanly not in English. The G-d syndrome has now given us the "L-rd" and the "Al-mighty". Let's stop when we're ahead. We can write respectfully about God (capitalizing the G is one of them), but this is taking it too extreme and leaves me wondering why we feel it necessary to butcher the English language.

AnnieGetYour said...

BZ- It is definitely an issue in the Reform movement too, I am just less familiar with the issues therein.

Anon- I understand your issue with my use of G-d instead of spelling out the whole world. And believe me, Harley agrees with you wholeheartedly.

You feel that just using the English translation of His name is sufficiently respectful. I don't. I am not sure about you, but I think in English, when I think about G-d, I think about that name, so for me, it is the name most closely associated with G-d.

For me, the removal of a letter, and the protection of all documents which carry G-d's name, in any form, is not the cause, but the symptom of my respect for G-d. Words and names have power. This is my way of showing that G-d isn't just another word. Plenty of words are capitalized, very few aren't spelled out.

And last, but not least, who is this "we" that you are talking about? I think that everyone has the right to their own practices, regardless of how idiosyncratic they may seem. If you see this as extreme, I wonder how you react to people whose beliefs and practices are actually very different from your own?