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Faces

Posted in Uncategorized on July 8, 2013 by frumpunk

Our faces reflect who we are and what we’ve experienced. Someone who has never had to struggle for something meaningful will reflect that in an open trusting expression. They can smile easily but it’s a blank smile devoid of purpose, a standard greeting to anyone they see. Someone who’s had to learn to trust people again will have a wary smile, if it’s not genuine it’ll look forced but the upshot is that when they smile you know they mean it with every fiber of their being.

All converts are equal as Jews but not all converts are equal in the struggle to attain that status. A pretty girl with a non-Jewish mother re-discovers her roots. She goes before the Beis Din, she’s young pretty and charming, a valuable asset to the community, especially with so many single young men. She dives head first into it, aided by her wealthy parents suddenly buying a rental property in the heart of the Jewish community for her to live in. With her looks and warmth she’s quickly accepted by the community and within a year they declare her conversion complete. Her smile is happy and genuine but reflects no true understanding of her good fortune, that’s this is not the way it always is.

A Korean girl discovers the beauty of Judaism in her late teens. She makes multiple inquests to the Beis Din. By Halacha they turn her down several times, but she insists and perseveres. Rejected by some more right wing Beis Dins she carves a path for herself and completes an Orthodox conversion in a more liberal community. Having struggled for so long she recognizes the beauty of halacha and it’s ever so much sweeter for the work. She chooses to hold to higher standards of kashrus above most of her peers and continues learning both for the joy and intellectual struggle. Despite her personal accomplishments she’s always aware of the strange looks she’ll get in a new shul and she’ll ignore the whispering gossipers wondering who she is and what she’s doing here. She’ll be polite even to the misguided ones who assume she must be merely there as a shabbos helper to an elderly woman and ask her to serve as a shabbos goy. Her smile is genuine but the pain is there nonetheless. She’s always aware that despite wanting to be as strict as possible in a way she also must as it’s the only way to prove to them that this is her birthright too and she’s claimed it harder than they can comprehend.

A girl from Minnesota with no Jewish background finds something to admire in the Jews she meets. She’s never had to struggle for anything thus far and she couldn’t start now. She doesn’t know how to. Finding the path to Orthodox conversion strenuous she opts for a Conservative one, rationalizing that with that under her belt she can move up the ladder in an easier fashion in the future. After her programs completion she lives as an semi-Orthodox Jew, with her lack of credentials a secret. She wants to marry a Jewish boy and live a Jewish life but that’s on the back-burner while she integrates into the community and joins the struggle of the orthodox egalitarian movement. Her smile is open and open to all, but with nothing behind it she offers nothing with it. She likes to talk about getting stares when she walks into a new shul for being so mid-western and blond. It’s a game to her and she doesn’t recognize the pain this causes her Korean friend who only feels anxiety at the new shul stare. She isn’t mean on purpose, she’s just never had to fight for anything, and therefore can’t recognize the face of someone who has. Her biggest struggles so far are related to ex-boyfriends and looking at the world through this prism she’s confused why some people seem so reserved. She doesn’t understand the idea that a smile is only as good as the meaning behind it.

A girl from an immigrant family discovers Judaism on her own. Fighting her own family and their deep religious faith she struggles to find acceptance in a Beis Din that demands a complete break with her previous life. Instead she shoulders the burden of acquiescing to everyone’s request, unwilling to break off any family ties yet also unwilling to let go of this new beauty she’s discovered. When she walks into a shul she doesn’t have to worry about a questioning stare but she also doesn’t delight in it. For her it isn’t about the thrill of the new or impressing the ladies with naturally blond hair spilling over her siddur. She’s here for the struggle that’s eternal, of studying it and internalizing it. She’s here to struggle because that’s all she’s ever known. Her conversion takes longer than she’d ever dreaded because the demands of the Beis Din must coexist with the demands of her family. She can’t easily live near a shul because her commitments must keep her close to home, so instead she lives amongst strangers from lecha dodi to havdallah but only on the weeks when she doesn’t feel up to the walk from her home to the community. Her smile is shy and reserved because she doesn’t know how to give it easily. All she knows is the struggle and the struggle becomes her. But it’s the brightest of them all.

Election Day

Posted in Me, Politics, Uncategorized on November 10, 2010 by frumpunk

The first time I was old enough to vote was during the 2004 showdown of Bush Vs Kerry. I was in yeshiva at the time and I remember a few weeks before the election the rosh yeshiva giving an address to the entire beis medrash informing us that the gedolim had instructed everyone who was old enough to vote for George Bush. At the time I didn’t question it, mainly because I didn’t really care about politics, but I do remember there was one guy in the entire yeshiva who was planning to vote democrat, and surprisingly, was actually “out of the closet” about it. He would debate anyone who was willing about his reasons to vote for Kerry, which if I remember correctly were based around the idea that he would be good for the economy and had better policies. I remember there was no real reason given for why we were all supposed to vote republican, probably because I suspect it was to do with gay marriage and other issues that were best not talked about. Fact was we didn’t care about politics anyway and if the gedolim told us to vote republican then that’s what we would do, and who was going to question daas torah?

Today I feel qualified to make up my own mind on whom to vote for. I tend to vote Democrat and not just because I’m a filthy socialist who wants to see America brought down from the inside. I can’t front, it’s because I pretty much see Republicans as hippocrites who use the family values platform to gain the votes of the poor and religious and then slash taxes for the rich and big business to get the votes of everyone else, at least everyone else above the wealth line. Though I do think Republicans have their uses. Christine O’Donnell alone filled comedy show scripts for weeks.

One of my teachers in high school was a fantastically wealthy guy who taught school simply because he didn’t have to work anymore. I personally, would have spent that time building a lair under a volcano and investing in pinky rings and cats, but that was his choice. I remember right after Bush was elected for the first time, he came into class, sat in his chair, leaned far back with his hands behind his head and said “Bush… that’s my guy. I’m buying three cars this year because of this tax cut they’re passing.”

I guess the connection between Republicans and wealthy was made for me when I was that young. Or maybe I’m wrong and still have to figure out where I really fit into politics.

Check back with me in ten years.

Curb Your Yichus

Posted in Frum, Me, Uncategorized, Yeshiva on October 19, 2009 by frumpunk

Yichus is a big deal. In shidduchim, it’s up there on the question list, right after what detergent you use to wash the shabbos tablecloth and whether she uses an electric or standard toothbrush. (Electric might indicate she’s careful about hygiene and health and therefore will be a good mother, but then again it might just mean she’s too lazy to move her hand in a circular motion and will be the kind of mother who sits on the couch and makes her infant children cook for her, whipping them with two belts tied together so she doesn’t have to get up from the couch. And you always thought those sort of questions had no value, didn’t you?)

The questions must be asked; is yichus a valid question? Is frum society valid in it’s assumptions that past ancestral performance indicates future decisions and abilities? Or is it just another way to marginalize and divide religious Jews further into social classes and castes? Is the very fact that I would bring it up an indicator of my own lack of worthy yichus? Some would say yes. Most people don’t read my blog (anymore) and therefore are caught between ignorance and apathy. So I’ll answer for those people too: yes.

During the off hours of my yeshiva summer this year I tried to research my genealogy. Armed with a folder full of scanned pictures from my fathers family and a three thousand credit international phone card I annoyed various relatives for hours attempting to put names to faces and put faces in order of marriage and children. Rather than finding a heimish genealogy to boast about in Brooklyn I found the exact opposite – I’m around a sixth to an eighth not even Jewish, ancestrally speaking.

I'm not Jewish. But I married one. Three cheers for matrilineal descent!

I'm not Jewish. But I married one. Three cheers for matrilineal descent!

A few days into my research my dorm-mate from across the hall came to check on my progress. Not yet realizing how shameful it was, I told him the facts of what I’d found. I thought it was interesting, learning about my family so many generations back. Luckily he put me straight. First he ascertained that no, I hadn’t found any great rabbis amongst my ancestors yet, then he explained how his father had hired a professional to go back to the old countries and plot their families illustrious line back hundreds of years, uncovering a great many rabbis and community leaders. I wasn’t jealous, because luckily it proved my point. Your yichus is nice for what it is, but it has no bearing on the type of person you might be. My friend for example, skipped afternoon seder regularly to play video games and find unsecured wi-fi. I’m no saint, but at least I know I don’t have a thousand years of rabbis staring down disapprovingly if I do it.

And I even managed to avoid the shidduch problems because I found a girl who is more interested in who I am than who my ancestors were. Me: 1 Society: 0.

(In fact, greatness is rarely passed down. Most gedolai yisroel of the past didn’t have grandchildren who followed in their footsteps to such great heights. I discussed this with one of my rabbis who theorized that maybe the shadow cast by most fathers was too large for their children to live up to. Our modern day lineages of rabbi fathers to rabbi sons is largely taken from the chassidim who were the first to create royal courts and dynasties.)

You Can Take It With You

Posted in Food, Frum, Funny?, Heimish, Israel, Uncategorized on August 7, 2009 by frumpunk

It’s an odd time of the year to write this, considering now is the time when the fresh crop is heading to Israel, but I’ve just left my summer inspiration tour, so deal with it. In fact, you should probably print this out and tape it up in your dorm room so you know what to do when you get back home. How do you take the holiness and heimishness of your year in Israel back with you? Here’s what to do when you get homesick:

Burn A Trash Can

Thursday night schwarma just isn’t the same without the sweet smell of burning plastic in the air. Bring a little back with you by tossing your lighter into the first dumpster you see. Crowd around, bring the marshmallows. If someone asks you what you’re doing, simply yell “free the yenta!”, give the black power salute, and run away.

Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate

Bring the art of negotiating the price of everything back as a keepsake. Before taking the subway, go up to one of the booths and offer them fifteen cents to take you to Long Island. Go as high as forty if you have to. If you reach a standstill just walk away. They’ll call you back.

Bring Some Penguins

You might get sick of seeing colors other than black, white and cholent everywhere. In fact, a leading cause of post Israel hospitalizations is stress shock brought on by depriving the brain of vivid colors for a year and then going to the village (or wherever it is the kids hang out these days. On that note, gettoff my lawn).

Am I saying you should rob a zoo? No. I’m just suggesting you populate the streets with a life form that walks upright and wears only yeshivish colors. I might also be handing you a map of the best back entrances to a zoo, but if you get caught, you never knew me. You can also try pandas, but since they’re not upright you might find yourself more accurately recreating purim.

Add Some Grease

Lets face it. What you’re eating isn’t really food unless you find that when you wrap it in a laffa you have a puddle of grease on your plate from the residue dripping out the bottom. Otherwise, what you have there might be more appropriately be termed “quasi food. Semi food. The Diet Coke of food.”

Furthermore, Israel is widely considered to be the second most heimish place in the world (right after Brooklyn). As you know, I’m something of a heimishologist and while the subject requires further research, I firmly believe that the addition of grease raises the heimish in your average foodstuff by several thousand percent. And heimish means frum. And don’t we all want to be frummer?

I’m Not Dead

Posted in Uncategorized on July 26, 2009 by frumpunk

…just big boned. Wait, sorry, wrong answer. I just didn’t manage to get to an internet cafe during the past few weeks. I’m back home now (self-imposed exile as my rebbe calls it) so Frum Punk will have new posts this coming week.

Stay tuned.

Some People Have All The Luck

Posted in Uncategorized on December 4, 2008 by frumpunk

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Hey!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 28, 2008 by frumpunk

There are three new posts today, not including this announcement. So when you’re done reading one, keep scrolling down for more. I know most people just assume the first one is new and the rest will be old. Not the case for today.