Finding My Place

What I didn’t learn as a kid:


Jewish history before 1900 or outside the US

The difference between the Torah and the Talmud

Adon olam

Any prayer other than the sh’ma

What I did learn as a kid:

Other people hate Jews and often try to kill them.

Country clubs and neighborhoods used to be officially restricted, and they say they’re not any more but they still are, really.

Jewish tradition requires us to behave ethically, and our history of persecution makes us allies to those who are persecuted today.

How to make gefilte fish.

The hora.

What happened since:

I found a home in Reconstructionist Judaism, in a congregation that welcomed me even though at first I had no idea what was going on during the service.

I learned to read Hebrew (phonetically and slowly, but hey).

I learned to leyn Torah.

I started wearing a kipah and tallit to services.

I stopped saying I was going to temple and started telling people I was going to shul.

I argued with my husband about kashrut while he was studying for his conversion (he was in favor of it. I was not).

I became president of our congregation. Twice.

I chanted Kol Nidre.

Judaism became part of my daily life.

I’ve written about my personal experience of Judaism on my own blog. If you check out Two Women Blogging, you’ll learn that I’m Jay, a primary care doc, adoptive mother of an eight-year-old daughter, married to a guy who goes by Sam in the blogosphere, and oh, yeah, I’m Jewish, and feminist, and leaning toward Socialist in my politics. I’m honored to be here with Brown Shoes and The Girl Detective (who has teh most awesome blogging name evah) and to have the opportunity to write about Judaism and social justice and whatever else comes to mind.

Ehud Olmert to resign

Good. Riddance.

Hechsher Tzedek and why the wrangling matters

Failed Messiah writes of the feud between the Orthodox (or in this case, Chabad Lubavitch) and Conservative movements over the Hechsher Tzedek in light of the Agriprocessor abuses, and also about the attempts to smear the name of Rabbi Allen.

Why does this matter? If the accounts are to be believed, Agriprocessors operated in a manner that put them among the worst of the slaughterhouse industry, an industry not at all noted for ethical or decent treatment of floor workers. Their behavior has been inexcusably corrupt, and a black mark on Jews because of the way society works – when a Jew does something bad and this act gets publicity, it serves as a told-you-so to everyone who believed these to be true of all Jews in the first place.

And so, the question becomes – why would I highlight, specifically, conflicts between the Orthodox and Conservative movements? To me, the Orthodox objection is very telling – specifically, it’s seen as an attempt to gain control of kashrut certification, specifically, away from the Orthodox. Given the abuses that have become undeniable under the umbrella of these kashrut certification, this speaks to the likelihood that these Orthodox organizations care more about their own power to label meat as slaughter a certain, specific way, than they do about, say, not holding their workers to modern-day indentured servitude and ensnaring them to be tried as criminals on charges they don’t understand.

In short, what the objection amounts to is an idea that having power to define what is and isn’t Jewish, and being able to singly monopolize that power, is more important to these people than any semblance of humanity or concern for the ethical treatment of plant workers. That is what is particularly heinous about the conflict here; it’s about power, pure and simple, and a complete abdication of the human element of Judaism, which advocates paying your workers fairly, not abusing them, and all the other things that should constitute basic decency and respect for humanity.

Italy and the Roma

From Devious Diva, more updates on the situation of the Roma in Italy.

Many people are openly hostile to the Roma, accusing them – especially the newer arrivals – of avoiding work in favour of theft and other crime and shutting themselves off from mainstream Italian society in squalid, illegal camps. Rights groups working with Roma people say they face severe discrimination, some of it tied to more general anti-Romanian and anti-immigrant feeling.

Italy’s legal system has already indicated there is nothing to stop discrimination against Roma. In a ruling handed down earlier this year, but only recently reported, the country’s highest appeal court ruled in the case of six people accused of anti-Gypsy racial propaganda that it was acceptable to single out Roma on the basis that they are thieves.

Now, while it begins to sink in why Jews ought to vehemently oppose this from wherever possible, some attention ought to be paid to pictures that surfaced, pictures of sunbathers just metres away from the bodies of two drowned Roma girls.

Metres away. From bodies of dead girls. Dead human beings. And the beach carried on like nothing had ever happened.
From CNN. (Warning: photos might be disturbing)

The Italian organization EveryOneGroup. (Warning: photos might be disturbing)

This attitude, sadly, is becoming the norm in countries all across the West. At what point is enough enough, and we agree to start treating human beings like human beings?

Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church

Yit’gadal v’yit’kadash sh’mei raba
b’al’ma di v’ra khir’utei
v’yam’likh mal’khutei b’chayeikhon uv’yomeikhon
uv’chayei d’khol beit yis’ra’eil
ba’agala uviz’man kariv v’im’ru

It saddens me endlessly to see violence brought to a sanctuary, a building of peace and community – and it should sadden and anger all of us when radio personalities are allowed to spew venom and then hide behind a “joke” as though suggesting someone die merely for disagreeing politically is the height of humor, and then get to deny any culpability for creating a toxic atmosphere.

Or, as Brad Hicks says,

No, what we’re calling for is for Americans to wake up, and change their attitudes. We want to live in an America where when a prominent spokesperson for a political party “jokes” about sending their audience out to mass-murder their political opponents, it should and must shock our consciences. That person must become the kind of instant social pariah that people quite justly become when they make openly racist remarks. What you talk about in private, with people who know you’re not serious, is one thing; what they broadcast or publish to an eager audience gets innocent people killed by the dozens, and if that doesn’t bother them enough to stop them from continuing to do it, then there is just plain something that malevolently wrong with them, something just that deeply disgusting about them. And no matter what your politics are, if you aren’t just plainly that disgusted about their ongoing eliminationist rhetoric, there’s something wrong with you, too.

Leviticus 19:16

The blogosphere brings us news of an Iranian woman sentenced to death because her husband forced her into prostitution to support his heroin habit. Not much to say here – just a short list of links covering the story which have information on how to help.

The Curvature
Renee at Womanist Musings

Equality Now has more information, it would seem.

More links as they’re found.

Mr. America, to the rescue!

(via La Chola):

I am purposefully not going into any detail about the work she does, because I don’t want anybody to think that this clip is vile and disgusting because the woman does amazing work. I want people to see this for what it is–a white man feeling like he can control, humiliate, and imply sexual violence against a brown woman–all while be recorded for public broadcast.

In other words, these men are demonstrating the intersection of sexism and racism. In keeping with the tone of BFP’s post, I’m not mentioning the work she does either, but for what can be done, for anyone that can do something, go here.