Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Israel Reflections

Posted: January 8, 2012 in Israel
Tags: , , , , ,

Jaffa Gate. I took this photo on one of my many walk through the area.

I sit here now on the F train at 5am. I just finished shooting for 4 days, the last of 9 days of principal photography for a film I played lead in. As is always when completing a large, intense project I feel exhilarated, exhausted and most of all reflective. Listening now to some of the music I listened to often in Israel, my thoughts turn to that time in my life.

Admittedly it was a time of intense change, thought and confusion, but most of all it was the birth place of a dream. A dream so vague, so wonderful, yet so unattainable. I remember going to visit my friend from Venezuela who at the time was learning in Chevron. We’d meet up at his dorm, go catch a movie where I’d learned that if a movie had Deniro or Al Pacino in it yes, we’d go see it. (We saw Righteous Kill.)

I’d watch as he flirted with the cute cashier, experiencing my first taste of freedom. Of something different. We’d go back and chill at his dorm, chain smoking and generally bullshitting the night away.

The walk back to the bus at 7am. I’d be listening to the music that I have on now and I’d realize I just wanted to be somebody. I wanted to express myself.

I had an urge, a desire for something better.

I had a will for life. To really live, for the first time.

It was the time of intense yearning for something I could not have. Or could I? Years later it makes for some pleasant memories. Surprisingly so. While I spent 6 months depressed over a girl chainwatching movies on my iPod touch and was overall highly emo, I became – well I became…me.
And for that, I am thankful.

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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.

There is a Hasidic family in Brooklyn. The father is a member of the Puppa sect. He sells Judaica items in a Synagogue in Boro Park, Bobov. They have many children, one of them with Down’s Syndrome. One daughter got married a while back, had a few children, and unfortunately fell into a coma during childbirth roughly two years ago and died a year later. After a short while, the younger daughter approached her father in regards to a marriage proposal. Her idea?

“My late sister has children. Will her widower husband get married to a random girl who will then be entrusted with the task of raising my sisters children? We know him [late sisters husband]. Let me marry him.”

Her father told her to ask him again in 6 months time. She asked, and the wedding was on.

Sadly, today was the funeral for a different daughter, only 22 years old who just passed away. Noone deserves to lose two children. Ever.

Thoughts on the marriage?

Let’s hope for more positive news in the coming weeks.

A Hasidic guy tries to have an affair over craigslist. WTF? Here’s the post from Gothamist.

It was only a matter of  time before some Rabbi blamed the Tsunami and Nuclear disasters in Japan on someone not eating kosher in Brooklyn….

Here goes:

“Rabbi David Twersky, leader of the Rachmastrivka Hasidic dynasty, says the recent tsunami in Japan, which has left thousands of people dead, was the result of the arrest of two yeshiva students by Japanese authorities after being convicted of smuggling drugs.

“The Japanese don’t understand why they keep on receiving blow after blow, and it never ends. If they want it to stop, they must release the two guys jailed in their prison immediately, and then experience salvation,” the rabbi told his followers last week during a Purim celebration in Jerusalem.

Haredi website Ladaat reported that the Rebbe asked for the names of the two jailed men and said a prayer for their immediate release. “Amen,” the audience responded.

The Purim tish (Photo: Aharon Baruch Leibovitch, Ladaat.net)

The yeshiva students were arrested in an airport in Japan in April 2008, in possession of a suitcase with some 90,000 Ecstasy tablets. The detainees’ lawyers claimed at the time that the young men were victims of a ‘sting’ and were tempted with money, but the two were convicted the following year.

One of the detainees, a minor, was sentenced to eight years in prison, and Israel submitted a request to have him transferred back to the country.

The Rachmastrivka Hasidic dynasty is one of the biggest and most famous Hasidisms, with thousands of followers and many affiliates. It has two centers – one in Jerusalem and one in Borough Park, New York.

Ahead of the Hasidic celebration last week, huge screens were placed near the Torah study house in Jerusalem, and the tish was broadcast live due to the density inside the building.”

My thoughts: Many in the religious world reverted ethically and morally back to the dark ages when we began placing too much trust in rabbis. Immorality isn’t solely based on the length of a woman’s skirt; it’s about respecting other people as equals. Placing value on the heads of two Yeshiva students to the point where he can suggest the death of thousands is punishment…well that Rabbi has issues, and I pity him, and thousands like him.


For those of you who have trouble distinguishing between right and wrong, I offer you a visual representation... Any questions?

What defines something as wrong? Technically is there something wrong with banging a goat? It’s sick, disgusting and if I know anyone who did it I’d never talk to them again. But I think we define wrong as something that is out of our societal norms. let me give a few examples:

Oh, and please don’t leave comments telling me I’m making stereoypes etc. I’m not dumb. I’m well aware that most people in each segment probably don’t conform to those stereotypes, but that’s why they’re called stereotypes. Cuz that’s all it is. A stereoype, not reality.

Someone learning at R’ Avrohom Yehoshua: I know a bochur who’s mamesh messed up.  He learns more than a blatt every half year. He zicher doesn’t have right p’shat. He also has a second cousin that goes to YU.

Someone at R’ Tzvi: walking outside without hat and jacket, or coming to shiur after the door is locked…

Mir: Um…

BJJ girl: Marrying a boy from the other Brisk.

Hadar: Not listening to every word Mrs. Orenstein says.

All the Yeshivas with acronyms: AJ, TJ, OJ etc. : Listening to the Rabbis. A definite no-no.

YU: Disparaging The Rav, or referring to Rav Chaim when saying The Rav.

Upper West Side guy before 23: Having sex. So young to give up on finding a true mate.

Upper West Side guy after 23: Taking off your Yarmulka before walking into a bar. What’s there to be ashamed of. Leaving with a girl just shows your straight, that’s cool.

Chabad Dudes: You can do what you like, sleep with how ever many people you like, go to South America on a road trip and not keep Shabbos, but for God’s sake, don’t forget The Rebbe is big stuff, MaMesh.

Chabad Girls: Not liking hooka. A true chabad girl loves nothing more than to spend an evening with 8 mendys a 10 mushkys and 4 hookas.

Liberals, not necessarily Jewish: Not caring about the environment. Not caring about animals. Not being into art. Being homophobic. All terrible things.

Frat Boys: Being into art. So gay. Environment’s cool, anything resembling pop culture is bad.

Upper East Side Ladies: Most of them have plastic surgery once they hit 40 and are still ugly as sin, so being naturally beautiful is a crime. As is not having been married 3 times, robbing the guy of all his money each time. After all, they deserve SOME peace in their lives. Having a child that didn’t attend an ultra-elite prep school is taboo. Going out Saturday night with their lady friends and drinking martinis or vodka tonics is standard.

Hipsters: When they aren’t smoking up and can coherently think, it’s definitely wrong to not know what real music is. Real music is only something that just about all Americans never heard before. It also must have a vinyl edition somewhere out there. Deodorant is optional.

Hot Chanies: Not going to Miami for pesach is worse than the nail salon being closed when you get there. It’s wrong to be in NY over pesach. Very wrong.

This is the perspective of a modern orthodox friend of mine on the issue.
“The Frummy Who Finagled.”
I have firmly held the belief throughout my life that Judaism allows men and women to be able to be in contact with each other. The Torah, though it is male-dominated due to its writing in a time when the world was male-dominated, still has encounters in which unmarried, single man has spoken to and been attracted to unmarried woman, and, though at times it has had negative connotations, (like Dina- she may have flirted a little much with a prince. Bad idea Dina. You never flirt with an entitled teenager) the fact is that male and female conversation is quite common in the Bible, and in no instances does the Bible ban such encounter.
This disclaimer brings me to a CalmKallahs topic in which a Beis Yaakov girl, KEEP READING THERE’S MOAR!

So there’s this girl who wrote into the forum known as CalmKallahs.com completely freaking out. She posted there the following:

“k-i am your typical frum girl in shidduchim-learning guys… i am freaking out and dont know what to do with myself… to make a long story short- i met a guy who i cannot marry- for a lot of reasons-but we liked each other so much and ended up talking, eventually meeting and got physical and recently we had sex. i am flipping out. i never talked to a guy b4 except on dates and dont no what to do…. will i still be able to marry a frum learning boy? am i ruined forever? in my heart i am still a frum bais yaakov girleven tho i know i messed up big time and have not told anyone about this and cant imagine doing so- no one would ever believe it so dont tell me to tell my parents. please help me!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i feel so lost and hopeless!!!”

Let me preface by saying I completely understand the world in which she comes from. I came from there too. So it’s not her I think is amazingly lost, but her world. (And my past?)

It’s sad that a community exists that has such issues. A girl kKEEP READING THERE’S MOAR!

Secular Music and Its Genius

Posted: December 20, 2010 in Life Musings
Tags: , , ,

Jewish music has always been a few years behind the rest of the world in sound and style. Boy bands had their hayday a decade ago with the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync. The Chevra pulled a poor copycat act as Justin Timberlake finally went solo. When I was growing up my family always listened to the more traditional stuff like Regesh, Dveikus, Mona Rosenblum and such. Only later did Shwekey come in, and even then my dad wasn’t too fond of some of his stuff, calling it too “goyish.” (I HATE that word!)

You see, my dad was an old-timer and always said music was meant to either uplift a person, or cause them to become meditative, thoughtful and repentant. My cousins convinced their dad that music can be just for entertainment, and more “rocky” music, as was called the more contemporary sounding stuff, was okay. No longer were the Chevra, Shloimy Dachs, Gad Elbaz, Chaim Israel and others considered evil by my uncle.

Yet my Dad held his ground. He still would make grossly exaggerated movements to the latest from Nochum Seigel’s station mocking the “animalistic nature” of the songs. His Rabbi told him that all songs with Strings were completely harmless, songs with wind instruments could go either way, and songs that use drums to do anything more than keep the beat were simply animistic and designed to make you move. The Rabbi said and that even the greatest Hassidic Rabbis adopted songs from famous composers known to be immoral people, but because it was all classical, the intention of the composer did not mater. Go figure.

To him music had to move you closer to God. In one way or another you had to walk away from the song feeling uplifted, wistful or the like.

When the day came that I began listening to normal music as a middle aged teen, I obviously noticed a different style of music. The mixing and arrangements were far more complex, and the recording usually far better quality. Obviously there are songs designed to be as sexual in nature as possible, and there are songs that are about life, about love and about anything else that the artist has on their minds.

Every song is different. Some are meant for pleasant listening, others to let out some anger, others to calm you down, to comfort, to celebrate, or to get hormones going.

And some downright suck.

While it’s true that many Jewish songs are beautiful, there are also many normal songs just as moving, if not more. But that’s besides the point. Because being moved by a slow song is not the only artistic value to music. Intrinsic musical genius is not limited to the harmonious symphony of 60 violins. Musical genius can transcend the actual music and can be determined by what the music DOES for you.

Which brings me right back to where my dad was. Except the problem is he didn’t understand that entertainment DOES something for you.

Heavy metal is just as artistic, in the sense that it can fill you with an emotion you may not have been feeling. Club music can hype you up for a night out. Oldies can be perfect for an afternoon working on your car and drinking beer. They all have artistic value in ways that I think my father and many others like him never saw and probably never will see.

I just got off the phone with my cousin from out of town. He’s very bright, intelligent, and all around awesome. And he is religious. There. I said it.

He asked me why I wasn’t religious. I said it started off as “I don’t give a shit”, but gradually transformed into “It’s complete bullox.” Reason being because it can’t be that God cares about trivial things like (more…)