I was going to write about Oriental Jews, but the only ones I know of are Orieyenta, Kaguya of Jewpanese Nomad, and of course, Su Fei. However, something else came up.
I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I am in my 20s. I am Modern Orthodox. So I participate in "the scene." As much as I hate to admit it, I kind of love the scene. I like standing around in front of shul on Friday night and catching up with people whom I don't see all week (busy jobs, lives, etc), I like being able to look around and see hundred(s) of young Jews, all participating in the traditions of our ancestors. Whatever, I am lame, but I like it.
You know what I don't like? The sermons given at these shuls. An integral part of the scene is shul-hopping. There is one shul that almost everyone attends Friday night (OZ) and another couple that are big for shabbat morning (The Jewish Center's Young Leadership Minyan, and also Young Israel). I like different things about each of these services, and don't feel the need for an exclusive relationship. Unfortunately, the synagogues don't feel the same way, and each charge dues. As a result, I have paid none of them. One of my friends suggested a sort of "community chest" where each person pays a set fee, checks off the shuls which they attend, and the funds are divided evenly among those congregations. However, it seems unlikely that it will ever happen.
Anyway, Saturday morning I heard a sermon to the effect that "you should pay our dues, and probably come only here, not to other shuls. We need the money because we are rebuilding. PS~ if you are single you should hate your life." That was awesome, but not as awesome as the one I heard on Friday night. Not only did it have a "mussar* moment" which I absolutely HATE, but also a plug that offended me to the core of my being.
You see, Purim is coming up, and as a part of that holiday we give misloach manot, gift baskets of food to friends and family. It was suggested that we (the UWS singles) use this as an occasion for kiruv (outreach). If we have secular Jews living in our buildings we should give them the mishloach manot, along with a little card that the shul has (thoughtfully!) provided with some of the most "beautiful observances of the holiday." Really? You can't just give a gift? It has to be a pushy, judgemental, and patronizing gift? What this says to me is "you poor unenlightened Jews, I will win you over to Orthodoxy with some hamentaschen and peanuts. Clearly you don't know better or you would be Orthodox already. Now I can save you from your benighted state. Also, lets celebrate a massacre of non-Jews by Jews."
Ok, maybe I'm overreacting, but the suggestion that we specifically give mishloach manot to our secular Jewish neighbors just struck me the wrong way. After this weekend there are two shuls that I no longer wish to attend. Shul Shopper here I come.
*Mussar is, for lack of a better word, ethics. A mussar moment is sort of like a fortune cookie saying, somewhat pedantic and simplistic, but meant to give you some guidance about how to live your life. This week's? "It's not who you know, but whom you know." Gotta love it.
*Mishloach manot are gift baskets given out on the day of Purim. The observance is to give baskets to several people, and each basket must contain three different types of food (as delineated by the blessings that each require). Also, one must give charity twice, and hear the megillah read twice. Often the gift baskets contain fruit-filled, three-cornered cookies called "hamantaschen" or "Haman's ear." Basically you should just read up on the holiday, because it is kind of confusing.