Orthodox Versus Jewry- Or My Blood is More Jewish

There is an ongoing battle in Judaism, a battle for it’s soul and identity, at least that is how things are often portrayed. We have to fight those who wish to assimilate us alongside those who wish to destroy us by murdering us. In some places Jewish blood is still considered to be cheap.

The title of this post is intentional, because part of the aforementioned battle can be phrased as internecine warfare among the various denominations of Judaism. There are groups of people among us who refuse to accept the others practices, our minhagim are downplayed and sneered at, our Yiddishkeit questioned.

So you ask, who is the “our” I refer to and I say to you, the reader that it is all of us or any of us, you make the choice.

I have an ongoing battle with a friend of mine about the intent of Orthodox Judaism and its position on those who are not on the same derech as they are, at least not in practice. The allegation is that Orthodoxy looks down it’s nose at those who are not as “Torah True” as they are, that Conservative and Reform Judaism are viewed as being lesser forms of Judaism. And to a certain extent I am forced to agree with the premise of the argument. There are too many examples that prove that this element exists.

But I like to consider myself a student of Jewish history and I can find examples of this type of thought and behavior throughout history. I remember learning about Hillel and Shammai, our class being divided to argue the positions of the two and the feelings it created.

This is not new behavior, but it doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t help.

I often write about being torn, conflicted about where to stand. My circle of friends includes everyone you can imagine, Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Reform, Conservative, FFBs, BT’s and independents.

My own familial practices probably make this mishmash clear, I feel more comfortable living further to the right than the left, but neither is home now. They may be in the future. I read and consider the experiences of all sides. I’ll pick on David again and reference his post about The Dance. I have a lot of experience with people who are Shomer Negiah and there are things about it that I really like and find very attractive, but I am far too physically affectionate to do completely cut-off my contact with women. I will still kiss and hug my friends, it doesn’t change or impact my feelings for my wife.

But I respect those that engage in the practice and yet I have seen it be the cause of misunderstandings on many occasions.

At my son’s Pidyon Ha-Ben some dear friends were leaving the house and I watched as the wife of one of them became infuriated with the refusal of the host to shake her hand. I walked outside with them and listened briefly as she ranted and raved about his arrogance and intolerance.

I think that in this case both parties were at fault, she could have been more tolerant and respectful herself of his beliefs and he could have been more forthcoming in his explanation of why, or better yet just shook her hand.

To a certain extent the problem here took place because of ignorance but also because of perception because it fed into a perception that some people have of Orthodox Jews as being more arrogant and intolerant. Perception is often more important than reality, it is kind of twisted, but true.

I would very much like to see more outreach and outward, open expression of friendship between the groups. But I am not real sure that we will see it happen any time soon, as long as you can be “Slifkinned” there are going to be fewer people who are willing to stick their necks out.

I don’t expect, need or want for their to be one monolithic perspective, no groupthink for me. But in the end we are all part of one people, one family and it would be nice to see us act more like the Brady Bunch than Joseph’s brothers.

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