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livredor
Jewish identity link
Friday, 18 February 2005 at 08:41 am
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So Naomi Chana has been one of my favourite bloggers since before I was on LJ. (Addendum 19.02.05: There's an LJ feed of her blog at baraita; thanks to beckyzoole for pointing that out.) She's incredibly erudite but wears her scholarship lightly and is a joy to read. The other reason I like her is that she talks about an approach to Judaism much like mine (or rather, like the way I would want my Judaism to be if I were a fraction as knowledgeable and dedicated as she is). And there aren't many people who are doing Judaism this way, and even fewer who talk about it.

Her latest post on Tending Towards Orthoclasis is wonderful. I want to print it out and distribute copies across the whole Jewish community and the whole interfaith world. So I'm making a start by linking to it here. Naomi Chana explains succinctly the real relationships between the different Jewish denominations, without the patina of propaganda that distorts the picture from all sides. Some of that post is specific to America but most of it is applicable here too.

The tacit assumption that Orthodox Judaism is the only authentic or "real" Judaism, as Naomi Chana puts it, is an awful meme which is incredibly pervasive. Naomi Chana lists a lot of the people who are subject to this, and she's quite right that Orthodox people being snobby is one thing, but the real problem is Progressive people who also buy into the Orthodox mythos and define themselves negatively.

The one thing I'd like to add to Naomi Chana's post is that this meme is also pervasive in (formal and informal) interfaith circles. I mean, it's totally excusable that people who aren't Jewish in the first place may be a little confused by Jewish community politics, fair enough. But I can't tell you how much it annoys me when well-meaning people say, 'But of course, you're Reform so it's not surprising that you're open to other religions, if you were a real Orthodox Jew you wouldn't be here doing interfaith stuff.' (Christians get this too, this ridiculous idea that the "real" Christians are the fundamentalist Evangelicals who think everybody's hellbound apart from them.)

The trouble with arguing against that misconception is that it's actually two misconceptions. The first one is that Orthodox people are opposed to interfaith and tolerance. It's true that Progressive people are demographically more active in interfaith, but that's a matter of priorities rather than an indication that Orthodox people have a problem with dialogue. So at the same time as defending Orthodox Judaism against the charge of intolerance, I'm also defending Progressive Judaism against the charge of inauthenticity. I don't want to claim that religious tolerance is a genuine Jewish value because Orthodox Judaism happens to share that value; Progressive values are Jewish values, (and not a 'dilution' of 'real' Judaism with secular culture). But it's also important to correct the false assumption that Orthodox Judaism is necessarily intolerant.

Anyway, if you're at all interested in Jewish identity, go read Naomi Chana's post.


Moooood: impressedadmiring
Tuuuuune: Gilbert & Sullivan: 'Ruler of the Queen's Navy' fr Pinafore
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naomichana: default
From:naomichana
Date:February 18th, 2005 08:41 pm (UTC)
11 hours after journal entry, 03:41 pm (naomichana's time)
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*laugh* There was a whole paragraph I chose not to add about how one of my Very Senior Colleagues (Catholic) simply refused to take my word for it about the complexities of women's Torah education in Talmudic and post-Talmudic sources -- because she had an Orthodox Friend and he'd already told her the real truth. (It gets worse when you're dealing with conservative Christians, of course, because they're perfectly capable of mapping the Jewish spectrum onto the Christian spectrum.)
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livredor: teapot
From:livredor
Date:February 19th, 2005 10:53 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 11:53 pm (livredor's time)
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the complexities of women's Torah education in Talmudic and post-Talmudic sources
Mm, even if you think that Orthodox people have all the answers about contemporary Judaism, it doesn't seem advisable to favour the Orthodox point of view when it comes to historical context, since the Orthodox approach is deliberately and explicitly ahistorical. Actually hatam_soferet could probably your Very Senior Catholic Colleague's Orthodox Friend a thing or two about women's Torah education in the 21st century Orthodox community too.

It gets worse when you're dealing with conservative Christians, of course, because they're perfectly capable of mapping the Jewish spectrum onto the Christian spectrum.
Now there's a scary thought. It's a refrain I keep repeating in all the interfaith stuff I do: there is no Jewish equivalent of any of these Christian concepts, because they are Christian concepts. Judaism is not Christianity with the serial numbers changed! But yeah, the community structures are really, really not analogous, wow.
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beckyzoole: default
From:beckyzoole
Date:February 18th, 2005 09:18 pm (UTC)
11 hours after journal entry, 04:18 pm (beckyzoole's time)
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This post is truly excellent. I've bookmarked it. Does her blog have an LJ feed?

My one comment/criticism is the importance she places on congregational worship. My experience with the Orthodox commmunity has been that congregational worship is only one small part of Being Orthodox. Much more important are the way one's week revolves around preparing for and celebrating Shabbat, being careful about how one speaks of others, dress and behavior towards the opposite sex, the entire mindset of living as an eved Hashem.
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beckyzoole: default
From:beckyzoole
Date:February 18th, 2005 09:19 pm (UTC)
11 hours after journal entry, 04:19 pm (beckyzoole's time)
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Ah, I just found baraita. Thank you!
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livredor: words
From:livredor
Date:February 19th, 2005 10:57 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 11:57 pm (livredor's time)
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I agree with you about Orthodox Judaism being more focused on lifestyle than congregational worship, very good point! I think that Naomi Chana is in a similar position to me in this respect though: we're both pretty open-minded about where we daven, but we're not really part of the Orthodox world. And it's absolutely true that simply hanging out in Orthodox synagogues now and then doesn't give you a true impression of Orthodox Judaism. But you could equally well make that argument for the people who claim they're 'becoming more Orthodox' when they actually mean they're using more Hebrew in the liturgy, or taking on some extra mitzvot.
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