Tuesday, July 03, 2007

My Soap Box and Hope Box

It is a delight for me to report my re-newed great joy and hope for klal Yisrael.

Let me explain.

I (not so) recently went to a shiur a while ago for chinnuch. Sitting nice and snug and waiting for the class to begin, I imagined they'd talk about children, discipline, maybe a kiddie story or two. I even hoped I could interject with a story of my own little ones.

So, the class began. Well and good, but as it progressed, the topic became pride in yiddishkeit. To prove how proud one ought to be, the rabbi began to use words like shiksa, shaygitz, and even the dreaded shvartze!

Much to my consternation, no one batted an eye.

Don't get me wrong. I knew such things were said. It just seemed so much more harsh to actually see someone -someone seemingly so well loved- saying such things. I wasn't sure how to react. So I raised my hand and said as much.

Apparently, they (the rabbi and the class) didn't know how to react to me. So, there we all were. Nobody knowing how to react to the other one. I wished I could torpedo out of the class and land davening / praying at the Kotel and pretend like this never happened. But there it was, and there I was.

**** **** ****

A few days later the rabbi called and apologized. I said no problem. But it did leave a hole in my heart. Truthfully, I had been bother a bit by some of the -I dare say- arrogance or behavior of superiority by certain people in the chareidi circles. It was not just directed at the goyim, but towards other jews as well. But I didn't know what to do with it so I swept it under the rug.

However, it all hit home, so to speak, once I heard the word "shiksa". That could've only meant that all the other "shlurs" were not too far off. Sure enough, it happened.

At first it felt like a slap in the face in a negative way. Then after much crying, contemplating, crying, Torah studying, studying my favorite Likutey Moharan, crying, davening, and crying some more, it became a slap in the face in a positive way.

It help me to see behind the superiority complex into the true insecurities that people had, it help me to repel from wanting to "fit in so badly" to only wanting to do Hashem's will and not worry too much about people, cuz, they's some crazy folks out there!

All in all, baruch Hashem, I think it made me a better, stronger person.
*** **** *** ****

After all this, I started surfing for blogs, religious or Jewish oriented blogs. Much to my joy, I found many other people in the blogoshere who are also tired of the superiority complex and yet they are still trying to be religious and righteous, etc.

This means, not everyone is caught up in that "i'm frummer than you" business. Now the trick is to know who's who....


mother in israel said...

I find this a huge problem. Even rabbis who are supposedly very open have a hard time realizing the impact of their words on others with more secular outlooks.

Miriam said...

That's a very interesting point you bring. "secular outlooks" - I suppose I have become "Americanized" in a way by adopting the 'politically correctness' of speech? But then at the same time, I enjoy reading and laughing about the "Wise Men of Athens" and the foolish (not really so foolish, but relatively foolish) things they use to try to trap the Rabbi with.

Ehav Ever said...

That is one of the reasons I don't get to close to the Heriedi circles. I much prefer the Teimani and Moroccans. But, that's just me though. Besides I like to argue so I would love arguing with Hereidim who talk like that.

Dofan Akuma said...

i am saddened by your story. the amount of racism in our community is so unfortunate. i think it stems from the insular lifestyle that of the frum/chareidi/yeshiva crowd. most of 'us' simply have never had a black acquaintance let alone friend.
quick anecdote: a kiruv rabbi was giving a shiur and used the word 'shvartze'. after the shiur one (white) guy in the audience came up the rabbi crying. the rabbi had no idea what he might have done wrong, but the guy explained 'a shvartze once saved my life'.
to this rabbi this was a major education. he told me the story and i think his basic message was that this rather light brush with the outside world brought home to him the reality that blacks are actually people. i just mention this because i think this rabbi is like many frummies. thinking, caring, trying to do what's right, but pretty much clueless about certain realities and simply in dire need of a drop of experience.

(love the blog, keep it up!)

Miriam said...

Ehav, Thanks so much for stopping by!

Unfortunately, by nature, I seem to like being "shtark" as they call it, but I don't feel I need to impose that value on others or desparage them if they aren't. This view seems to put me in a quandry. On the one hand that would put me in the chareidi circles, but because of the later part, things that some of them do -judging, hating --do not bode so well with me.

all in all, I just have to stick with those who are truly loving and not out to 'make a name for themselves' LOL.

i. e. I don't think those hurtful ones should have the right to close the "chareidi doors" against another who's just as religious, just as tzenius as the next fellow.

Hi Dofan, thanks for stopping by!

That is exactly why I don't like the name calling. It dehumanizes.

Whereas in the stories of the 'Wise men of Athens' you can see the foolishness that they DID. This way is more refined and doesn't categorically dehumanize a group.

Nowadays, with this name calling business, Its like people don't even have to DO anything foolish, they are just labelled and condemned. Its too easy. So easy its like a slippery slope to callous views and behavior on the part of the name caller.

(not to mention that that word is also used by some against sephardim, or anyone w/a drop of color, Jew or not)

Ah well, hopefully, people will meet more and more of people like me and my friends. Hopefully in a positive light LOL.

Isophorone said...

I'm sorry you had to go through this, but congrats on standing up for yourself. I hope the rabbi learned a big lesson in what kind of language is appropriate and/or how to express himself.

I have this friend who uses this kind of language and have warned him to stop it. (Others have too.) My guess is that he would never say such a word to the face of a black person. Guess what? The rabbi may have thought the same thing.

While this friend is not in contact so much because we are separated by distance, he has still used this language on the infrequent occasions that we do talk. One day my warnings will hit home. By the way, I am fairly secular while this friend is sort of "modern orthodox."

My theory is that people who use disparaging language have a problem with themselves, or at least gross insensitivities. Sometimes, when they've realized how wrong they've been, such people can change quickly.

The question is, how willing are you to forgive?

Anonymous said...

Hey Miriam, There is a book called Unchosen by Hella Winston. I am not sure if you can get it in Israel but it's an excellent book. I would love to hear your opinion on it.

rebelwithacause said...

Hey Miriam,

I think you should zoom out and take a look at this from a wider point of view.
I have experienced similar things. I am mixed breed/mutt myself, dad non-Jewish, mom Jewish (I call myself that way cause I make sure people know who I am, so racist people don't talk to me, it is like this, love me or leave me) This whole thing is not a born Jews vs converted Jews issue. This kind of discrimination happens in other communities (also in non Jewish ones) besides the haredi circles. Of course one thinks that the haredi should be flawless in their relationship to fellow Jews.
I stay away from certain circles and people, I am in now way less Jewish and neither are you so no need to listen hate mongers right? I concentrate on those who are dear to me, and keep the toxic people away. I keep my mitzwot and have a healthy relationship to G-d. G-d did not preach racism in the Torah so why should I relate myself to such people? If you are feeling uncomfortable with that rabbi why don't you go to another shiur?

Miriam said...

Hi Rebel,

I have since stopped going to that shiur.

somehow I knew that such things existed, but it was a different feeling altogether to actually be face to face with it.

I guess I always figured the ones saying such things were crossed, bitter people, i never imagined them to be seemingly okay in life, not too much to complain about and yet have this hatred in their heart.

-and on top of that, to be perporting to be so holy that they can teach me a thing or two! --

You are right about this toxic people business. And thankfully, I have been changing who I hang out with, etc.

Baruch Hashem, I think i'm on a better path these days.

Miriam said...

Hi Isophorone,

Thanks for visiting. I'm with you in that I think the name calling is coming from insensitive. I also think its coming from insecurity on their part as well.

As far as forgiving. That's not a problem. Bearing a grudge is too tiresome LOL

Anon: What is that book about?

Juggling Frogs said...


You. are. awesome.

May I join you on your soapbox, or at least pull up a box nearby?

Whether or not you ever decide to go back to that shiur, you have changed that Rabbi with your chutzpa (of the best kind.)

You gave him a gift. You gave him the opportunity to shed ignorance.
What he does with it... who knows?

Miriam said...

Thanks Juggling Frog, that was so positive!

Ayelet said...

I think everyone who was present that day will stop themselves and remember before they use offensive terms - at least I hope that lesson was learned.

Interesting that you use the word goy/im alot. My understanding is that many non-Jews find the term offensive. Of course, we know that it just means "nation" as in, someone from any nation outside of ours. Nevertheless, I teach my kids to say non-Jew and I tell them it's not a bad word and it doesn't really mean anything mean but some people don't know that and they get hurt anyway.

Miriam said...

Ayelet - Thanks for pointing that out. Even though I don't see it as offensive (depending more on the tone) I should also remember that.

(hmm I wonder if its too late to change it....)

Jacob Da Jew said...

Sad sad sad.