When I first started this blog, I simply was looking for a way to express myself, perhaps find a few readers or cause a laugh now and again. As time went on it became important to me to convey my feelings as I underwent a transformation from a religious teen, to a rationally thinking young adult. It was at that point, perhaps after I wrote the post Get With the Program in the summer of 2010, that I began to feel a need to explain my viewpoint. At that point I’d gone from someone confused about what means something to them, to someone who knows what doesn’t and what does. In any argument, the idea is always to convince others of your viewpoint, not to prove them wrong.
We don’t care about his viewpoint, only that he care about ours. I noticed at some point that whenever I spoke to someone religious about religion, unlike that of a typical argument, I’d walk away frustrated. I felt that I was talking to someone, who instead of believing he was right but respecting that I believed in my argument as strongly as he believed in his, I instead felt belittled for my beliefs. Many blog posts after followed, in which I spoke about the normal life, and tried to convey in a broad sense that the life I chose to live was normal, very much fulfilling and in no means foolish.
“And here I begin to feel irrationally angry with her. I believe YU is a vital organ of the Orthodox Jewish community and to publish such a guilt-ridden, neurotic article in one of their publications perpetuates a toxic culture for the whole of it. It’s irresponsible. When she writes about her shame and YU students respond in kind, I see it becoming that much harder for me, and others who have chosen a path other than that of Orthodox Judaism, to be taken seriously in our choices, to be thought of as mature adults making decisions based on well-thought out ideological differences, and thus, it makes it harder for us to maintain healthy relationships with our families and friends, because they think we’re on some kind of Rumspringa-style bender and need to be brought back into the fold.
So I want to make this clear to you, brothers and sisters (in the college-student-camaraderie sense, at the very least) – this is not what it means to leave Orthodox Judaism. This is what happens when we perpetually shut down discussions about alternative paths and alternative lifestyles. We are forced to communicate in these tragic half-truths in anonymous posts. I have lost friends because of my choices and I don’t believe that had to happen. It leaves a terrible taste in my mouth about the Orthodox world that I do not want to be there. Though I experienced some closed mindedness in my Orthodox upbringing, I have no illusions that those kinds of people are exclusive to Orthodox Jewry. I do believe they are not the majority there. I believe that the people who showed me friendship, love, and acceptance all my life did so not because I was a Jew, but because they were good people, good friends, and so was I.”
This article was a response to the original article published in The Beacon, YU’s newpaper, which made waves in the Jewish community. I felt that noone quite expressed so succinctly the ideas and feelings I had in regards to the misunderstanding between myself and many religious people.
I showed someone, a religious relative of mine from LA, and the response was something between a murmur of acknowledgement that the above excerpt isn’t foolish, I disagree with what you’ve showed me. When confronted with something so blatantly saying what they feel, and a perfect response to how we feel as mature adults, what else is there to say? And so I thank the writer of that article, whoever she may be, for enlightening others, and helping clarify myself.