YOUR OBJECTIONS - THINGS YOU HATE!
Jewish Outreach Media Campaign
P.O. Box 111
Town of Lumberland, NY 12770
Here are some of the complaints we've heard - reasons why people don't "like" their Judaism and are reluctant to get more involved with it.
And here are our answers. [ We cannot answer individual complaints. But if your issues sound familiar and worthy of being addressed here, we will try to do just that. ]
We also want to hear positive answers and suggestions from our visitors to these complaints. We will display the best of them here...
1. From Susan - a 48 year old writer, married to a (non-Jewish) surgeon, mother of 3 children in college:
I was born a Jew and will die a Jew. Nonetheless, I do not approve of organized religions in concept or practice. Of all modern day sects, I think Judaism is the least offensive and oppressive, however ...
As a young child, I was sent briefly to Sunday School. I hated it. I found the Rabbi obnoxious and pompous -- actually, every rabbi I've ever met has struck me as pedantic, supercilious, boring, and full of himself. I got kicked out one Sunday for laughing (even at that age, I didn't suffer fools gladly, and I found the teachings so -- well, sorry to say -- silly. I never went back. In the sixth grade, I was the only girl -- Christian or Jewish -- NOT to be confirmed. I didn't mind.
My father had been raised as an Orthodox Jew. I remember going to schul with him one day. I was appalled -- even as a young girl, I was a feminist. The idea of the women sitting in the hot upstairs, where they were second class citizens in my view, horrified me. Today when I think about it, I recall the scenes in "To Kill a Mockingbird," in the courtroom, where the Black people had to sit upstairs. I also remember a prayer, which began with the men thanking God for not making them women. Not my cup of tea, I decided, even then.
Because my father virtually gave up practicing his religion when he married my mother (who was less religious), we did not belong to a temple. On the high holy days, I would dress to the nines, like the rest of my friends, and go to one or the other of the temples. But I felt so out of place for a variety of reasons -- first, my parents weren't there; second, we did not have a pew, and when the attendants asked about it, I felt even more estranged from my friends and religion. They would make me wait until all the members and people who had bought pews were seated. And then they would find me a seat next to ... whoever. I was embarrassed and felt like an outsider.
I think the reason that my father stopped attending temple is that my mother felt as I did -- she was raised with very little religion, if any, even though her parents were Jewish. And, like me, she didn't read Hebrew, knew none of the prayers or songs or religious ceremonies, and felt very out-of-place. So since she didn't wish to attend (even the Reform temples), my father went only occasionally. I remember that he used to go for the Kol Nidre services for his parents, but after a while he said the prayers at home.
Towards her death, I remember that my mother found a link to Judaism -- we found lots of books about the Jews that she had read while she was battling cancer.
One experience which directly relates to my disappointment in the religion occurred when I was a teenager. My friends and I went to temple for either Rosh Hashonah or Yom Kippur, I forget which. We all dressed to kill -- much too hot in our brand new wool suits on a day that proved to be more summer than fall. We stood around outside the temple, discussing what each person who arrived was wearing and whether or not they had walked or driven. It was all pretty catty and gossipy. Suddenly -- and it was a shock to me -- I realized that the services were over and we had never actually made it into the synagogue. The next day, I went back, determined to get in there and see what was going on. Two things angered me that day. First, they made me sit all the way in the back, by myself, because my parents had not paid for seats. Several of my friends' parents said I could sit with them, but the temple "guards" wouldn't allow it. Second, and most outrageous: it seemed like all they talked about was money and how much they needed it. I remember waiting for the services to start, but they kept going on and on about money. And then -- God, even now my blood boils when I think of it -- they started reading off a list of people who had contributed. But it wasn't just a list of names. They read off AMOUNTS!!! I was livid. I felt that it was a way of trivializing our spirituality and violating privacy, amongst other things. It was like telling those who only had $50 to give that they were inferior to the families who could give $1000 and not feel it -- and chiding the $50 people by making them feel they should just try harder to give more. I walked out of the temple thinking that it was more like big business than religion -- and I never went back. Not ever.
Another thought -- I hate that the doors of churches are left open, so that you can go in and seek comfort any time you want, and the doors of temples are always locked. Many times over the years (especially in New York -- and when we lived in Spain), if I felt blue or lost about something in my life, I would walk into a church (whether some small neighborhood stalwart or St. Patrick's) and just sit for a while. Sometimes, I went and lit a candle. I don't believe in Jesus Christ as a Savior or the Son of God, or anything like that. But those churches offered a sense of peace and serenity that I've never felt in a synagogue.
I do not observe any of the Jewish holidays, except for Yom Kippur. I do not work on that day, and I light candles for all those I've lost -- people and animals. And on my mother's Yuhrzeit and the day she died, I light candles. That's about it. Since my inlaws (we're very close) celebrate Christian days, I take my kids and we join in. And, when invited, I go to Passover celebrations or Hannukah parties with them. BUT ... I'm never comfortable and I never feel at home. And if they ask me to share in the readings at Passover, I decline politely.
All in all, I do not hate Judaism. I just don't feel a part of it. But if you asked me what religion I am, I would not hesitate. If you asked whether I would choose another religion, given the choice, I would say "absolutely not." If you asked whether I'm glad to be a Jew, I would have to say yes. If you asked me to define my personal connection to Judaism, I would tell you what I always tell my kids: I feel that Judaism is ingrained in me as a culture and a heritage and a way of being brought up. But as far as practicing it, I don't. Some people would say that I am not really a Jew if I don't practice. I would say that hundreds of years of heritage and family belie that opinion.
These are my thoughts and feelings...
That's quite a list - and yet, much of it is familiar.
How would you answer Susan? (We're looking for answers that would help her want to explore aspects of Judaism that she might find compatible and enjoyable - perhaps to her surprise!...)
Please E-Mail us your responses to: Kehillah@Earthlink.Net
Here is how Ingrid of New York City, age 35 and mother of two young children, answers Susan:
A response for Susan who was shunted around during the High Holy Days: It's true that in a perfect world, anyone who wants to attend should be able to go and sit where they like regardless of ability to pay or religious commitment.
HOWEVER, real life intrudes. The rabbi and cantor (or cantorial soloist has to be paid), and it's not cheap. A person I know at HUC told me that cantorial students leaving school can expect a minimum of $100,000 for a salary. The rent has to be paid (mortgage has to be paid), electric bills, etc. The High Holy Days are the only time that a synagogue can get a huge turnout and fulfill many of their financial obligations, like Christmas for the non-Jews. And when you get right down to it, doesn't a person who has made the moral and financial commitment to a certain synagogue, doesn't that entitle them to have consideration to reserved seating than to someone who is perhaps only there for two or three days and then are gone? I can assure Susan that at churches at peak times of the year, like Christmas and Easter, there are tickets and donations and all of the other things that they find objectionable.
Susie is right that churches being open all the time for anyone to find comfort there when they need it is admirable and I am sure that synagogues would do the same, but again we live in the real world and especially lately, in Europe in particular, synagogues have to be more security conscious. They
have been literally been burned and bombed before. Unlike churches in Catholic-dominated Spain, Judaism, usually being a minority, has to practice prudence where the others do not. It's the price for being right and being a minority.
Bit truthfully I wonder if synagogues really would want to do that because Judaism believes in prayer three times a day. After that you are supposed to go about your life and that is okay. Judaism is about a balance between the material and the spiritual. I also know for a fact that if a person is truly
in extremis, that they could go to the office and request entry into the synagogue and the rabbi would be happy to pray with you or offer counseling and comfort. It just takes perhaps a little more effort and Judaism has always been about that, a little more effort but in the end just so worth it.
2. "I hate the way Jews call Blacks "Schvatches" and the way they call non-Jews "Schickses", etc."
Yes - We understand. Our answer is this: A. Just because people used to do these reprehensible things - or even still do them - we have found that most Jews we've met don't. We're in a different "time" these days - Jews are in a different place - they've grown up in different neighborhoods and gone to different colleges. We don't hear alot of these pejorative names so much anymore.
B. But bear in mind: Judaism was often surrounded by really AWFUL - HOSTILE - HURTFUL - people in more primitive and even CRUEL cultures. If you read the Torah you will see that even early on, Jews are advised to stick to themselves, to separate themselves - to NOT intermarry or intermingle. Why? Because it was important to distinguish themselves from the uncivilized practices of those who lived nearby - who practiced idolotry and engaged in many other primitive - and sometimes revolting - acts. Judaism insisted on very high standards (which is GOOD of course - it's GREAT - it IS what distinguishes Judaism from so many other religions and cultures) and in order to maintain such high standards, "walls" were created to separate Jews from the "goyim" (the nations - OTHERS) and their lowly practices. This kind of thinking stays with many Jews to this day. You can view it as despicable if you want (but remember, many Jews today DON'T engage in this thinking) - or you can understand how important it's been in helping Jews and the Jewish culture - and Jewish values - to actually SURVIVE to this VERY DAY! In fact, you might even come to see that the reason we don't despise our non-Jewish neighbors is that many of them have become "MORE JEWISH" in their practices - that is, they don't slaughter animals in as cruel a method as they used to - they don't condone incest or sex with animals or child sacrifice - they don't worship idols in quite the way they used to - whereas once upon a time, THEY DID! It's a fact. And Judaism distinguished itself by separating itself from these barbaric ideas and practices.
3. Write us your questions, comments and objections and we'll try to find some answers for you...
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