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Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Friday, May 25, 2007

A taboo topic: religion

Today's MotherTalk Blog Tour focuses on the topic we've all been taught not to discuss at dinner parties: religion. While I agree that you have to pick your audience, I think religion is a suitable topic for discussion despite the ire it tends to raise in some folks. Yup, it's a touchy subject, especially if, like me, you're the proud adherent of a minority religion. And especially if you live in the USA, where it is consistantly assumed that everyone is Christian with a capital C.
I love being Jewish. I've mentioned this enough times to hopefully convince my readers that I have no interest in changing to any other belief system. I'm really happy with Judaism. The religion embodies, for me, everything that I feel is important in life. Of course, as a "liberal" Jew, which means anyone that isn't traditional Orthodox, I have made life choices that don't necessarily follow all of halacha, Jewish Law. I don't cover my hair, I wear pants, I remain gloriously unmarried and love it, and I am not Shomer Shabbas (honor Shabbat by following halacha). Do I feel guilty about this? No, not really. I do what I can, and what makes my life difficult I tend to leave aside. Life is hard enough. I don't need to be a hard-liner in order to prove that I'm a good Jew.

Just because I love being Jewish does not mean, not for one teeny tiny second, that I love organized Judaism, because I do not. In fact, I'm often very vocal in my outrage at how American liberal Judaism has moved so far beyond the actual tenets of Judaism as to be almost unrecognizable. For example, I do not, or will not ever, accept patrilineal descent. Reform Judaism, the most liberal branch of Judaism that was started in pre-war Germany, has decided that what defines a Jew is different for them than for any other Jews. Nope, you can't just make a determination based on absolutely nothing and decide that the children of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother is Jewish. And there is NO SUCH THING as 'half' Jewish. You are either Jewish, or you are not. You cannot be half-Jewish. If your mother is Jewish, then welcome to the tribe. If she was not, seek conversion. It's just that simple.

But the rulings that liberal Judaism has made over the last century are the least of my distress over organized religion. I don't like how Judaism treats single parents. The gist: very badly. I don't like how everything costs a fortune in Judaism. The assumption that all Jews are wealthy should be wiped off the face of the earth. I'm living proof that all Jews are far from wealthy. Some are, some aren't, just like in every other walk of life. But you don't have to pay $2000/yearly for dues to churches. You do to belong to a synagogue. Then you get to pay for all sorts of fees. Want to attend High Holiday services? You better shell out several hundred bucks or you don't get to go. Jewish camps are much more expensive than secular camps. Jewish day schools are way more expensive than Catholic schools. You want to have a b'nai mitzvah for your kid? You get to pay for the tutoring, the Hebrew school, and that doesn't even include the huge outlay for a party. If you can't afford all this? Tough. Because it is assumed that all Jews are rich, even by other Jews, there is little to no financial aid to help those families that can't afford to participate. Jews are great fundraisers, but the money does not go to poor Jewish families. I don't know where it goes... much to Israel, much to help the elderly, and the Russian immigrants who have great knowledge in how to work the system. But not to people like me.

But what REALLY gets my goat is that if you aren't wealthy and can't afford to celebrate life events within a synagogue, you're judged negatively, like it's all your fault. When people ask me about my kids b'nai mitzvah and I say I couldn't afford a tutor so they didn't have one, it is as if I said that I'm raising my kids Wiccan. Nobody volunteered to help, either. Which is a complete shonda (shameful) in my eyes.

What this does is make Jewish children angry and repulsed at Judaism. While the Girl still likes being Jewish and identifies that way, the Boy has a real hate on Judaism, which has completely and totally let him down. I blame a specific Rabbi for the Boy's feelings, and frankly, I think he's somewhat justified in feeling so negatively about his religion.

Judaism constantly preaches continuity. Keeping the religions going means sending your kids to Jewish schools and Jewish camps and making them a part of the community. But I can say, with absolute certainty, that the Judaism in our community does not practice continuity. They refuse to acknowledge different types of families, different types of economic situations, and different types of people. If you don't fit into the mold that they have determined is the correct way to be Jewish, then you can forget being welcomed into the community.

I have to wonder why people have intermarried out of Judaism and raise their children with no religion at all. As one as continuity is not practiced across the board, the liberal streams of the religion have little chance of remaining strong. The fact that more and more people are becoming ba'al teshuvah (newly religious) and moving towards Orthodoxy strengthens my argument. It is actually easier to be Orthodox when you are financially bereft. They get it. Liberal Jews need to open their eyes and change their expectations if they want to continue to thrive. So far, they have shown no intention of doing so.

MotherTalk is featuring Parenting Beyond Belief, available at Amazon.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Moogie said...

I tend to not talk about politics or religion if I can avoid it...especially at work on my blog. I do mention God from time to time, but it's such a personal belief. I love to talk about it but so many people are so convinced that their way is th only way...and it sparks some nasty debates. This is a great post!

25/5/07 4:29 PM  
Blogger Mr. Althouse said...

My dad is Jewish and my mom is one of the Christian faiths, I don't know which one. I have never been to a day of church (synagogue?) in my life. For whatever reason, neither thought much of their organized religions and decided they could do without. They have done VERY well and just celebrated 45 years of marriage.

I don't have any problem with any religion or the practice thereof as long as it doesn't interfere with the freedoms of others. Unfortunately, far too many people are killed in the name of God.

I hear you complaints and couldn't agree more.

Michele sent me,

Mike

25/5/07 5:40 PM  
Blogger Carmi said...

Nicely put. I have often wondered the same thing, namely why everything seems to revolve around the almighty dollar, and why that seems to have become the be all, end all of organized religion.

In my book, it's a violation of the fundamentals of not just this religion, but all religions. Bummer indeed.

25/5/07 9:07 PM  

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