Monday, September 19, 2005

Perception

Despite the fact that I usually do not discuss Jewish topics around some of my relatives, I am still perceived as being "so religious", and my actions are sometimes mistakenly interpreted to be commentary on their lives.

Many times, I am between a rock and hard place since some of my family members are incredibly uncomfortable about any exterior displays of Jewishness. They subscribe to Yehuda Leib Gordon's philosophy, "Be a Jew inside your home and a man on the street." Judaism to them is something that should only be observed internally. They become uneasy around all things Jewish, sometimes even hesitating to put up a mezuzah on their doorpost since this would only call attention to the fact that their house is a Jewish home.

I do not utter judgmental comments or give disapproving glances at what others do. With less-observant relatives, I strive to build bridges and be as accommodating and considerate as possible while not compromising my beliefs. Sometimes, however, it feels like my efforts are an exercise in futility. Although Gordon's philosophy is the antithesis of how I live my life, I continue to struggle to see things from their point of view and remind myself that we are all Jews and one family.

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(Cross Posted on A Simple Jew)

7 comments:

Stacey said...

How thoughtful and accepting you are of religious observance unequal to your own. Bravo to you, ASJ!

I have 3 first cousins who are ultra-frum, and I always get the feeling that I am "not Jewish enough" in their eyes.

On the other hand, how sad for a Jew to be uneasy around all things Jewish. I live my Jewishness, publicly and privately. I can't imagine ever wanting to downplay or hide this integral piece of who I am.

As you say, we are truly all part of one family.

A Simple Jew said...

Stacey, when you say that you get the feeling that you are "not Jewish enough" in their eyes, what are you basing this on? ...just curious.

Stacey said...

I am talking about my 3 first cousins who are the children of my mother's sister. Two of them live in NY and one lives on the West Bank. They are ultra-frum.

My sisters and I have gone to each of their weddings and other simchas over the years.

They are very stand-offish to us. We do not wear sheitels on our hair, as they do. We do not dress in long skirts and long-sleeved shirts, as they do. We do not bench after meals, as they do. But we have no problem with them, meaning they are free to live as they choose.

But they make little or no effort to keep in touch with us...we make all of the effort. They do not come to our simchas, even when we make sure the food is kosher for them.

We get the feeling through our interactions with them that we are not religious enough for them. What a shame. We are Jews of the same family.

Anshel's Wife said...

Stacey,
I feel for you. Thank G-d, my mother makes every effort to accommodate us when we go to her to visit. She was very upset when we first became frum because she thought it would tear apart the family. True, we can't all go out to dinner anymore. We can't all go to the movies. Shabbos with them can be stressful because they don't want to be disrespectful of us. But what seems to be rude on our part is just the fact that we can't partake in all that they do. We seem standoffish because we won't go to the movies. And we have told my parents, Go, it's not a problem. But then they think we are being magnanimous on their account.

When my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer, my husband ordered all new mezuzahs for my parents' home. Boy, did my father hit the roof with that. But that was our way of dealing with her illness. He was so mad that his mezuzahs weren't good enough. Maybe we made a mistake. Yes, we offended him, but we had to do it for us (and for them)

I know it's hard when your own family won't attend your simchas. We have this problem all the time. It's not that we don't want to go to family functions, but after speaking to a rav, we have often been told that we can't. Even if kosher food is being provided, what if someone thinks we are eating something not kosher? I know it sounds silly, but it's a real issue.

Sorry to get so wordy.

Stacey said...

I appreciate your comments, Yetta. Thanks.

But in my family, this is not new...(meaning the observance level of my cousins). My parents were both raised Orthodox. And in Cleveland (where I was raised), I lived in the frum section (and I got married there), so it would not have been any problem for them to be there. And we had kosher catering.

We know the rules and would never suggest activities that violate their observance.

It is hard to describe feelings and glances and words exchanged, but the underlying current is that we are not religious enough for them. It is obvious. But even so, they are still my family. And even though they make no effort to keep in touch, I always keep them in my thoughts and prayers. I just addressed Rosh Hashanah cards to them with pictures of my daughters. I do it gladly because they are my bllod but I will never receive any in return.

I truly have no problem with their level of observance, so I wish they could feel the same about us, their non-frum relatives, but it's obvious they don't.

Alice (Texas) said...

There are always going to be people in every walk of life who reject others for being different, instead of simply taking the opportunity to inspire by their shining examples- or even taking a more humble attitude, which also works!

I think this issue is both heightened and more imperative in the Jewish community than most other places. And one of the lessons of the disengagements.

elf's DH said...

I've run into this too. It's unfortunate that in a lot of Jews' opinions, the only legitimate way to practice Judaism is exactly their own. They'll snicker at someone more observant for being backwards, and they'll snicker at someone less observant for rejecting Judaism. And, this is true of people of all denominations who haven't internalized the idea of pluralism.