Why Do So Many People Hate Orthodox Jews?

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Dear Jew in the City,

Why is there such hatred towards Orthodox and Chasidic Jews? As I pursue becoming observant, I have received many negative comments about the Orthodox, especially the Chasidic, from fellow Jews in particular. Why is this? I don’t understand. Can you shed some light on this.

Thanks,
Shelley

Dear Shelley,

It’s a great question. It’s one of the things that motivated me to start JewintheCity.com and attempt to re-brand the public perception of Orthodox Jews. While I’m neither a sociologist, nor have I conducted any formal studies on the matter, I’ll share with you my best guesses as to the root of these negative feelings.

1) People don’t like what they don’t understand: Orthodox Jews, ultra-Orthodox in particular (which includes Chassidim as well as non-Chassidic “Yeshivish” Jews) live in rather insular communities, wear clothing that makes us look different, eat in our own (kosher) restaurants, and every so often can be seen praying in public spaces (like airports) wrapped in prayer shawls (tallisim) and tefillin, while fervently shuckling (swaying). All in all, to an outsider, we seem weird! The thing is, your average person, if given the chance to hear the meaning behind many of our customs and practices, would probably see a beauty to them. Since most people don’t get the a chance to hear the explanations when they observe us on the street, all they’re left with is the first impressions which are negative.

2) Non-Orthodox Jews think Orthodox Jews are judging them: Nobody likes to be judged, and many non-Orthodox Jews assume that Orthodox Jews look down at them for being less observant. If you’re becoming more observant now, your Jewish friends and family quite likely fear that you becoming “holier” has made you “holier than thou.” Now there certainly are Orthodox Jews who judge non-Orthodox Jews for being less observant, but the perception is far more important than the reality in a case like this. Even if all Orthodox Jews suddenly woke up one day and committed to never judging another non-Orthodox Jew for being less observant, if the non-Orthodox Jews still assumed that they were being judged they would still continue to feel resentful.

3) There are some bad apples in the bunch: Even though Orthodox Jews are supposed to live according to high moral standards, unfortunately not all of us do.  Though most people will never personally meet an Orthodox Jew (as we tend to live in only specific cities and there are entire states and countries that are basically uninhabited by us) people that do have negative experiences will share their stories with others. And because we’re supposed to be living up to higher standards, we’re not only looked down upon as regular wronger-doers but as hypocrites to boot.

4) The media portrays Orthodox Jews very negatively: Negative interactions that occur one by one can only spread so far. The real way that the bad apples hurt the Orthodox community is when their misdeeds make headlines. Our community only seems to get news coverage when one of us does something bad. (Which unfortunately seems to happen all too often.) Maybe it’s because the media loves to hate us, maybe it’s because many of the everyday good acts that most of us are doing aren’t interesting enough to make headlines. Whatever the case, when people read about us in the papers, it’s almost always due to something negative. If the only “religious” Jews that make the news are the liars, cheaters, and molesters, the entire community gets reflected in that light.

In additon to news media, we’re generally portrayed negatively in books, movies, television, and plays. These portrayals could be based on the lack of understanding, the fear that we’re judging, and/or the negative headlines we make. But there’s one other factor that could be causing writers and authors to depict us negatively – the personal experience reason (again). We Jews tend to be a creative bunch and are disproportionately represented in many creative industries including t.v., movie, book, and play writing. I have a feeling that there’s a certain percentage of writers out there that either used to be Orthodox or have had negative encounters with the Orthodox.

When dealing with a creative story telling medium, all you need is one person who grew up with a strict Orthodox father or who got cheated by an Orthodox business partner and suddenly the mistakes of one person can be depicted in some form of entertainment seen or read by many. The majority of viewers/ readers, probably don’t have personal experiences with Orthodox Jews (since we tend to be more insular and live in select cities, as mentioned before) to tell them that what they’re watching/reading does not apply to everyone.

5) People think that our values are old-fashioned: The general moral code for the secular world is that any behavior that doesn’t harm another person is permissible. Orthodox Jews, among other religious groups, believe that God has expectations of people that go beyond the golden rule. Even if most Orthodox Jews don’t try to impose their values on others, the fact that we simply have them is offensive enough to many people.

Solutions to these problems will not come quickly or easily, but I’ll keep doing my part to get the word out to the world about who we really are and what we really believe. Then, maybe one day, people outside of our community will judge us based on reality rather than perception.

 

Sincerely yours,

Allison (aka Jew in the City)

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Comments

  1. I’m a Catholic, myself, but I think I can explain in some way. People who are complacent, that is, spiritually complacent, are timid of Tradition. That “T” word frightens them. It’s something so ancient, so venerable, that it seems to be alien. Those of any God-fearing faith who adhere, genuinely, to Tradition, find themselves in closer union with God. Some people claim that Tradition is elitist – it is not. Some people claim that Tradition is antiquated – it is not. It is an ever-enriching, soul-quenching God-given, and to let ourselves be swayed to apathy because of the heterodoxy of others is a sin beyond many.

    • Thanks for your comment, Gen. This may be true for some people. Someone else emailed me a similar idea and said she thought the hatred came from people feeling guilty about not being observant enough themselves. Both of these reasons may be true for some people, but I didn’t include them in my list is because 1) I never felt this way before I was Orthodox and 2) no one non-Orthodox has ever told me this is a reason for their negative feelings (probably because a person would admit such a thing even if it were true). So I hear you, that this could be a possibility, but unless I know of an actual person or persons who felt/feel this way, I wouldn’t want to assume that they do.

  2. Another reason is many Non Orthodox Jews think that Orthodox Jews will force their opinions on them, forcing them to become strict Orthodox Jews. Their is an organization that takes secular Jews on holiday in order to make them more religious. This organization is seen as brainwashing and forcing non Orthodox Jews to live a strict Orthodox lifestyle.

    You say that non Orthodox Jews think that Orthodox Jews are judging them. Rabbis are role models for the Jewish community and I don’t hear about Orthodox rabbis meeting or speaking to reform rabbis but I have seen Orthodox rabbis speaking to leaders of other religions. This can send out the message to the Orthodox Jewish community to have non or limited contact with reform Jews and many reform Jews think they should have non or limited contact with the Orthodox Jews.

    • Thanks for your comment, Lydia. I want to start off by saying that I know the types of organizations you’re referring to – I’ve been on some of these retreats myself. I find your desciption of them a bit unfair – the notion that they “take secular Jews on holiday in order to make them more religious” is a bit presumptuous in my mind.

      These organizations are around to allow secular Jews to experience the beauty of a traditional Shabbos and to give them a chance to learn Torah in a meaningful way. I’m sure there are individual people in each of these organizations who have pushed participants to take on too much too fast too, but I think to imply that such organization have sneaky, brain washing alterior motives is uncalled for.

      I think the people that particpate in such programs end up having more positive feelings about religious Jews because they get a chance to meet them up close and personally. Does that mean that every person that goes, though, feels that way? Of course not. Of course there are some people who react negatively, but most secular Jews never attend such retreats and in my experience most who do attend them are left with positive feelings. So while this reason might account for a small small minority of people who don’t like Orthodox Jews, I’d hardly say that this is a major reason for the problem.

      In terms of Orthodox rabbis meeting with leaders of other religions but not non-Orthodox rabbis, I know some Orthodox rabbis who have very pleasant relationships with non-Orthodox rabbis. I’m not sure who you’re referring to exactly.

  3. I found this article about not liking the Orthodox interesting, and I agree with #4 somewhat. I am a conservative Jew and live in MI, but when I read about Orthodox or Ultra Orthodox Jews in Israel or New York, the press is very negative. Have you ever read the comment section in the VIN news? They say horrible things about all stories and people who aren’t exactly like them, they talk about non Jews and Jews who aren’t Orthodox in a terrible way. Now yes there may be a few bad apples but sometimes there are upwards of 50 comments. That would certainly make people think negative thoughts about them. Just a thought.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Mona. I don’t read VIN too often, but I’ve seen the comment section before. I’m always disappointed when Orthodox Jews behave in a close minded way. There are a few things to keep in mind, though: # 1 the internet is a very anonymous forum. We don’t know if the 50 comments you see are from 50 separate people, or just 5 annoying people who are writing in a lot.

      # 2 we also don’t know how “Orthodox” these people writing in actually are. The commenters might dress “Orthodox” (not that we can even see them) but not be particularly careful about other areas of their mitzvah observance. That’s not to say that there aren’t just close minded/elitist types of religious Jews in the world who are scrupulous about the major mitzvos – they do unfortunately exist – though I would argue that even these seemingly religious people are still missing the boat.

      That’s because practicing loving-kindness, ahavas Yisrael (loving all Jews), and recognizing that all people are created b’tzelem Elokim (in the image of God) actually ARE major principles that religious Jews are supposed to live by and the stories of our great rabbis show us people who DO live like this.

      The last point I wanted to make is that #3, religious Jews commenting on websites is a fairly new phenomenon. When I was growing up in the early 80′s there were no message boards to influence my family’s and my view of religious Jews and yet we felt pretty negatively about them nonetheless. Such comments, for people that do see them, certainly don’t help things! Please accept my apology on behalf of these people and know that there are plenty of good ones of us out there!

  4. Alison, I think you missed my point. I am not saying or implying that these Jewish holidays brainwash people but I was saying that I know a Jewish organization that many people think brainwash secular Jews by taking them on holidays and I was talking about non Orthodox Jews perception of the Orthodox. There are many non Orthodox Jews who went on these holidays and became more religious and I have heard many secular Jews say it is brainwashing. I was talking about other people’s opinions.

    • I hear what you’re saying, Lydia. I just wanted to preface my comment with a point that though the term “brainwashing” is used some times by people, it’s really not a fair thing to say. Not that you yourself were calling it brainwashing but that we should be careful how we label certain things.

      In terms of secular Jews not liking such organizations because their friends became more religious after participating in their programs, I hear that, though, I don’t think that this is more than a minor reason for the negative feelings as these programs haven’t been around for that long and only have a limited number of participants.

  5. My mom grew up in Liberty N.Y. where there were (and still are) many camps and bungalow colonies for Orthodox Jews not to mention a large, year round population. She tells about how they would spit on her car and throw things at her when she drove on Saturday and they were rude and dirty. My dad spent his summers working at a small gas station and tells about how he hated working on their cars because they always smelled so bad. My cousin still lives in that area and I’ve seen many comments from her (on Facebook) about the Hasidic Jews and why she hates them: smell, rudeness, etc. I don’t know how much of this is accurate but it does seem to be an issue with her and her friends.

    Personally, I have a few friends who are Orthodox and I have not found these negative traits. I don’t know where it comes from. My guess is that it is a two way street. Maybe some, back in the 60s, spit at my mom. Maybe a few had dirty cars. Maybe the rest were on guard because they knew they were not the main stream. Now that the wall is up, it is hard to break down. They are still on guard, because they learned to be and because their guard is up they are percieved as being rude.

    • My father also came home with negative stories about Chasidim when he worked with them and had similar complaints: smelly, arrogant, dirty, etc. I think there is probably some truth to these stories, but these cases do not represent ALL Chasidim and certainly not all Orthodox Jews. I don’t really know what to make of the spitting or the dirtiness — these certainly aren’t Torah ideals, but I think it’s very important to remember that individual encounters or sometimes even trends in certain communities do not represent the community as a whole.

  6. Sandra Greene says:

    I love the way your word your blogs..they are easy to understand and to the point(especially this one)..thx!

  7. There are two important reasons for tension between Jewish and nonJewish people in the US that I don’t see mentioned here:

    The most closed-minded nonJewish people often hang on to racist ideas. Until quite recently, ethnic Jews were not considered “white” and so these predjudices still hang on in the same people that consider all black and Latino people dirty, stupid, criminals.

    The more open-minded nonJewish people have a hard time understanding Zionism and the Israel-Palestine conflict and find it easier to sympathize with the Palestinians. When Zionist Jews get offended or angry with people supporting Palestine, it is hard for a nonJew to think of them as anything other than self-righteous and cruel.

    Now, for the record I am not Jewish and I do not subscribe to the beliefs above (though I don’t understand the Israel thing) but I think these are some typical issues for nonJewish Americans. The reason that Orthodox Jews get the heat is likely because a. you can tell them apart from the nonJews, and b. Americans rarely embrace any group that refuses to integrate into mainstream society.

  8. I was at a Chabad meeting one night and looked around the table and thought: “Look how happy these people are. Look how content and accepting.” Not a one of them was particularly well-off, more than one had a relative that was not doing well health-wise, there were other concerns and problems in the hearts of these people…and yet…here they were. And when the Rabbi began to clap his hands and sing, so did they all clap and sing. The Rabbi reiterates over and over the acceptance of all, the joy of our existence, the doing of good. So why are we hated? Because we are not living with hate. And that frightens some people — a lot of people. It’s so much easier to point a finger and condemn and criticize, than to reach out a hand and welcome and compliment. And even though Jews are made fun of for their “qvetching”, the truth is, they fill the world with love and good feelings. So why shouldn’t we be hated? After all that has happened to us, how can we walk around smiling and feeling good about and toward everyone else? Welcoming and accepting others? How indeed! How indeed! How can we not be hated?

  9. I am a non religious jew and i was verbally assaulted to day because I was talking on the phone.
    I was dressed in dress clothing to day because my grand father is 85 and it is hard for him to walk to shul so i help him walk some times so because I helped an elderly man go to shul i get verbally assaulted on my way home no I respect religious jews who act like it but I truly feel that ones who verbally assault non religious jews on the street are not only turning there own people ageist them but they are also responsible for the holocaust and anti antisemitism
    PS… please think of what you tell people before you say it because I lost allot of respect to day for the people I always respected

    • Allison Allison says:

      Asher – I’m sorry for what happened to you. I completely agree that such behavior in unacceptable. There are unfortunately some Orthodox Jews out there that think verbally assaulting a person will somehow magically make him want to become more observant. If an observant Jew wants to inspire a less observant Jew, he must do so with exemplary behavior that represents Torah values. At the end of the day, not all Jews that dress “religious” act religious.

  10. Whatever says:

    There is the cultural differences as well, Every tight-knit insular community develops a certain way of interacting with each other that comes across as rude or offensive etc.to outsiders. The language barrier doesn’t help either…

  11. Me & a friend were talking the other day & he said I still haven’t figured out what the jews were suppose to of done.That got me to thinking the jews have had everything unbelieveable happen to them through out the centuries & I still don’t know why.Why are they picked on why slaves why horrible terrible deaths why did that insane mad man Hilter think he could wipe out an entire race?Why has the world always used the jews as there scrape goat.I’m catholic please help me to understand what it is the jews were suppose to of done to piss everyone off through the ages?On top of it there GOD’S chosen people that should be something that they should be proud of,now I’m finding out that some jews hate or don’t like other jews.What in the heck is going on with the poor jews?

    • Nacy, the truth is that there are prophecies in the Torah that say that if we Jews stray from God’s ways we will be hated and persecuted and have to fear for our safety (see my post: http://www.jewinthecity.com/2008/06/dirty-money-grabbing-parasitic-vermin/ for more info).

      So while this obviously is not pleasant, we also have a promise from God that if we return and repent, He’ll watch over us in a unique way. I guess the way I see it is that we have extra rewards and extra punishments and it’s up to us to decide what we want.

  12. I am an observant jew (not orthodox) that sometimes get upset with the orthodox groups because they automatically assume that we are less observant than them. Just want to remind them that there are many mitzvot that are not visible to the eye, therefore no one can judge who is more or less observant.
    Because the orthodox are such “perfectionists” they also make other groups “look bad”.

    • Thanks for your comment, Shira. While I agree that no one knows what another person is doing in the privacy of his home (a place where many mitzvos occur) there are some philosophical differences that Orthodox Jews have with non-Orthodox Jews who practice. So while a non-Orthodox Jew may keep kosher or observe Shabbos in the fashion that is normal within her movement, it probably does not meet the Orthodox ideals of how these mitzvos are observed. That doesn’t mean the Orthodox Jews should go around judging other people, but it does mean that they might not agree that a mitzvah is being fully observed if it’s not being done according to a traditional halachic standard.

      In terms of the “perfectionist” thing, I don’t think that people who try to do everything right necessarily have to make others look bad. I think if the perfectionism is coupled with haughtiness (a VERY negative trait the Torah tells us to eradicate) than it could make others look bad, but if the person is striving to be the best person he can be and does so in a humble way (and an Orthodox Jew ought to) it shouldn’t bring anyone else down.

  13. Bryon Szojchet says:

    December 26th, 2010

    I came to Judaism young, I was 12. I was fascinated by the idea of an ancient wisdom and forgotten virtues and ideals. I went to a Yeshiva and ‘sat and learned’ till I was almost 30 years old. I married a girl who was raised orthodox and we had six children. I am now 52. And I will say that my search was successful. The wisdom and the ideals and virtues of the Torah are as real and compelling as any of the great wonders of the world. Their truth is self evident to anyone who takes the time to savor it. It stands on its own merits without need for promoters or defenders.

    That being said, there are some painful realities that took me a lifetime to accept.

    Many orthodox Jews are amoral. Many orthodox Jews are unpleasant at best and down right acrimonious at worst. To some, the Torah is a commodity. To some, the Torah is an opportunity. To some, the Torah is a tool. To some, the Torah is a competition. To some, the Torah is high fashion. To some, the Torah is a science. To some, the Torah is a passport. And to a precious handful, the Torah is their faith, faith in the sense of the highest calling.

    • Bryon – I’m not sure what circles you travel in, but to say that only “a precious handful” of Orthodox Jews you’ve come across view the Torah “as their faith in the sense of the highest calling” as opposed to the rest (and majority) who somehow abuse it – is a very sad statement. I can’t deny that there are some bad apples in the bunch, but coming across the “bad ones” has always been the exception, in my experience, not the rule.

  14. ian Lorenzo says:

    Currently, I live in the area where one of the biggest communities of Ultra Orthodox Jews in London. My expectations with these people are different in real sense. When ever I meet them on the street I would politely greet them, but these people won’t respond no matter how you would say “Hi” to them, what I observe is arrogance. Why is it they act that way?
    However, the young ones or the new generation seems to be friendly but the old ones are rude.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ian. I get very upset when I hear of Orthodox Jews behaving like this. It could be that some of them are doing so out of arrogance, but I think the bigger reason they people in these circles act in such a way is because many of them are raised with a shtetl mentality. Meaning, many of these Jews feel very connected to their Eastern European roots where Jews were treated very badly by their non-Jewish neighbors. As a result, the communities developed a distrust of the outside world and became very insular. I’m not excusing it, I don’t think it’s the right way to behave, but with some background, I think it’s a bit more understandable.

  15. Many secular jews tend to believe orthodox judaism is a sorta ‘cult’ even though the truth is that orthodox judaism is what judaism actually is. If it isn’t for the practice of fulfilling mitzvot then we would be a secular jew living in exactly the same way as a non jew.

    Don’t worry about who’s going to hate you for who you are because that’s not important. What is important is to become closer with Hashem and if you meet people in the orthodox community (by davening and honoring the sabbath…) you’ll only meet people that see the world from the truth Hashem instead of the other way around.

    It’s a bit surprising even in Israel secular jews can get a bit queesy when meeting orthodox jews just because they might think that they’re religious nut jobs. Although from the orthodox p.o.v. you would be a nut job not being observant because you’re cutting off your connection with Hashem and you won’t be rewarded nearly as much in the after life

  16. Hello! I live within the boundaries of an eruv in Los Angeles. I am not a member of any religion, and I have studied both comparative religion and cultural anthropology. You could safely assume my mind is as open to and understanding of different cultures as is possible.

    In my experience, many Orthodox in this neighborhood do act extremely rude. Each time I’m walking on the sidewalk and an Orthodox Jew is coming in the other direction, they will square their shoulders and walk in the middle of the path, forcing me onto the grass or in the street to go around them. The shoulder squaring especially happens when there are 2 or more people walking together. Instead of temporarily moving to the right side, or going into single file–like me and mine do when we’re passing others– they lock shoulders together to bump you off. This familiar situation happened just 2 days ago, and I ended up in a huge mud puddle! Give me a break here!

    Another thing is the ‘death gaze’. Each time I even try to smile at an Orthodox person, they glare at me. I only still try to smile at other women– I’ve learned the Orthodox men will not even recognize that there is another human being on the sidewalk, never mind nod or say hello. I try to smile especially at mothers with children, thinking that there could be some friendly understanding– something universally common and human between two mothers– but greetings are never reciprocated, and are only returned with disdain.

    The baby carriages also ‘gravitate’ to the middle of the sidewalk if one is coming toward me, even if there would be room for both a person and another carriage to pass, if only both would move to their right sides.

    The most disheartening thing to see is the disdain of the young children (and there are many- I live between 2 Jewish schools!!). The effects of such early extreme indoctrination results in these kids regarding anyone outside their circle as different and bad.

    If I smile at the kids when they’re playing near my porch, they give a death glare, like their mothers. The pre-teens have ripped up my garden and broken my terracotta plant pots. I don’t know if they’re pranks, or if there is some ‘message’ there, to get out of their eruv. Its so sad to me. Segregating these kids from society is doing a grave disservice to them, as the world gets smaller and more competitive with more and more globalization. Less understanding and more segregation is moving backward with progression.

    The problem with this group is, of course, not the culture itself or their beliefs- everything is relative to a particular group’s perception. The problem is that these people are a group living within another larger society, whose collective perceptions, values and norms they ignore and refuse to recognize as even valid. This is extremism, and nothing more. Look to the Near East and the American South to see how great extremism has been for societies.

    • Thanks for your comment, Sasha. I’m not sure which exact community you’re referring to, but there’s no excuse for behavior like this which is completely against Jewish philosophy.

      We believe that people should be “mentsches” – which basically means, good guys, with good character traits and we believe that all people were made in the image of God.

      I’d like to apologize on behalf of religious Jews and let you know that there are many of us that are appalled at this story. I hope you come across some Orthodox Jews one day soon who will shock you with how wonderful they are!

      • Allison,
        Sorry for the lateness, but I only came across this article now. Your explanations, tone, attitude, and responses are great and should be emulated. I just wanted to say that I lived in the Los Angelos Orthodox community for 3 months and I came away impressed with all the people I met. It is always awkward to question someone else’s experiences because it implies that they aren’t being completely honest, which I really don’t mean to do, but I confess that I am completely perplexed by Sasha’s report. I have to say that in my three months in LA (and I am ultra-Orthodox), I never saw anything like what Sasha described. The Orthodox Jews were so nice and considerate of everyone! Even the ultra-Orthodox school had special rules and routes for the parents to pick up their kids from school in a way that would not interfere with the general traffic. These rules were strictly enforced purely for the consideration of the non-Jewish community. Also, before Christmas, a notice went out to all parents that they must be totally quiet when dropping off and picking up their kids at school on Christmas — absolutely NO honking or any noise other than the car motor — so as not to disturb non-Jews sleeping or celebrating on Christmas morning. Furthermore, I used to hang out with one of my non-Jewish neighbors when our kids would play outside in the courtyard of our apartment complex and she used tell me about the conversations she’d start with Orthodox women she met standing in line and the like, and she always reported positive, friendly exchanges. I also felt that the Orthodox children were generally well-brought-up and well-behaved.
        Sometimes I’d meet another non-Jewish neighbor being dropped off by a boyfriend early in the morning as I was getting my kids off to school and she’d act nervous around me, maybe thinking I’m judging her for having spent the night with her boyfriend, and I would be extra warm and friendly to her to show her that like her no matter what, and that I understand her.
        In general, I was impressed by the open-mindedness and consideration of the LA Jewish community across the board (from secular to Orthodox), and if you have to live in America (as opposed to Israel, where I live now), LA is a great community.
        Jews certainly aren’t perfect, but I really cannot imagine what Sasha must have seen. Maybe a one-off? Maybe a mother who is in the early stages of pregnancy and is totally naseous to the point of not being able to talk or even smile at that moment? (I know a lot of women to whom that happened.) During one of my pregnancies, my mouth used to suddenly and totally fill up with saliva, and I would desperately need to find a place to spit. (I am really sorry to be so graphic, but there is lots of room for giving the benefit of the doubt.) It was so bizarre and embarrassing, but my non-Jewish neighbor said it happened to her, too. Or sometimes a mother is distracted by keeping track of her children, which can seem rude, but is vitally necessary for the children’s safety and well-being.
        Obviously, I cannot deny someone else’s experience. But at the same time, mine also cannot be discounted. (And also that of my non-Jewish neighbor who seemed to find Orthodox Jewish women a nice, approachable group.)

  17. jessica says:

    I also live in the middle of the Orthodox neighborhood in Antwerp and moved here with a very open mind and respect. We are regularly asked to help turn on or off appliances etc during the sabbath and are happy to assist. Unfortunately we haven’t had a good night’s sleep in 4 years as there are men and boys every night out in the street from 10pm to 1am playing, talking, honking horns, etc. When we asked community leaders for help, they just said “We were here first”. The police have advised us to move as the Orthodox community has too much political power here fir anything to change.

    • Allison Allison says:

      Oy, Jessica. I’m so sorry that they behave like that. Go back and tell them that they’re committing the transgression of “gezel shayna” – it’s a sin to wake someone up and it’s literally called “theft of sleep.” Unfortunately Torah observant Jews don’t always do the best job at observing the Torah and we call behavior like this a “chilul Hashem” – they’re literally desecrating God’s name with their actions. Please know that most of us are not like this and accept my sincere apologies!

  18. A religious Christian friend of mine just asked me this question, and I gave him basically the same answers you did, then found this article and showed it to him.

    But then I realized that there was something more. All those millennia of antisemitism have convinced a lot of non-religious Jews that the solution is assimilation – that the hatred will go away if we can just convince our neighbors that we’re just the same as they are. History shows that such attempts don’t work for us (the Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust happened at times of maximum assimilation), but still it sounds like a good idea.

    And then these non-religious Jews see us dressing differently, eating different food, keeping odd customs, and generally accentuating the fact that we are and always will be different. We’re smashing their hopes of a simple defense. We’re ruining their game. I think that is a big reason for secular Jewish hatred and fear of the Orthodox.

  19. hearing about these unfriendly encounters really makes me sad. i guess intellectually i can certainly understand the mistrust of outsiders.

    i don’t see anything wrong with a rather insular society – after all, humans tend to self-segregate anyway, and practically speaking, intellectual honesty demands the acknowledgement that exposure to other value systems can dilute or compete with one’s own. no parent can be blamed for seeking to shield their children from unwanted influences.

    this doesn’t mean i think one section of society ought to vilify and/or abuse and/or penalize another. OR that believing in shielding children and each other from unwanted influences automatically equals hatred, or bigotry, or close-mindedness.

    unkindness, fear or distrust happens with anyone, anywhere. it is the truly secure that can greet others with confidence.

    i do believe that much of the push for secularism is the reluctance of people to abandon their ‘bad’ behavior, which in their hearts they know to be ‘bad’ or destructive, or unhelpful etc

    it’s easier to profess a disbelief in post-human life accountability; or to deny that there is a judge/jury beyond one’s own self.

  20. My BIGGEST complaint of the people that belong to the hasidic community is their lack of PAYING their own way. They don’t get married in the ‘eyes’ of NY state, just their religious state. This means ALL the children the women have are ‘out of wedlock’. They then turn around to the state and get WIC and charity anyway they can so WE all end up paying for them and their children. If we, gentiles, goyim, whatever you want to use are so inferior we are also the idiots paying for them in MANY ways.
    They are blood suckers on society. They take and take and don’t give anything back to their surrounding communities. They should all MAN UP and pay for what they are supposed and stop raping the system! They don’t pay their fair share of taxes because they all claim their houses are Shuls and under the law it is a religious non-profit and they don’t have to pay town/school taxes. It is a SIN what they do.
    WHAT if we all decided to turn our houses into Shuls or places of worship and decided not to pay! Where would we all be then?
    It is a SIN and they are a blight on society!

    • Thanks for your comment, Karen. I don’t think it’s fair to say that “all” Hasidim do what you describe, but for the ones that do, you’re right, it’s not honest and it’s not permissible by Jewish law. We have a concept of dina d’malchusa dina – that the law of the land is Torah law. I understand your frustrations, but just know that a) we do not all do this and b) those who do are not behaving according to Jewish law.

  21. I am a Christian and I love orthodox Jews.
    Although their behavior is mostly disdaining towards me and others, and although they do really look odd, I see a kind of beauty in that odd attire.

    The meaning behind certain way of dressing or procedures or traditions is also usually very beautiful and inspiring to me.

    Orthodox Jews have shown again and again that they do not appreciate my interest for them, but this does not change my liking them, because I love what they stand for.

    I think it is not okay that some of them cheat the system to have goyims pay for their sustain, still this does not diminish the beauty of their attire and demeanor, it does not affect the meaning behind their procedures and apparel.

    Orthodox people look very healthy to me, their face kind of shines all around.
    I like the joyfulness of their feasts and gatherings with the music and dances, thoughts of hope for the future, high standards of morality and behaviour.

    Many fail to reach those high standars, but this does not change the fact that the high standards are set there for everyone to strive to attain it. This is to me a worthy endeavour and a noble pursuit.

    Many of my friends and colleagues indeed dislike you. Why?
    Honestly, I think it is a combination of being afraid (because that glow on your face makes people afraid, and because it usually goes well with you) and being jealous, because you are blessed and excel at many things.

    Dear orthodox Jews, I like you, I respect you, I Love You, and failures of any of you will not be able to change it, forever and ever.

  22. lynda kaplan says:

    Hi,i’m a jew,but have to say after working for a kosher food store near chicago..i’m sick how i’m treated by rude and nasty jews! I do not take part in shabbos or any of the other holiday’s,but i now see why jews are do hated,my boss tells me i’m a self hating jew,i feel working around rabbi’s etc and seeing how rude& even young kids havre this air about them,i almost feel like changing my last name.

    • Thanks for your comment, Lynda. I’m sorry that there are such people in the religious Jewish community. Torah observance is at its most basic “love your neighbor as yourself.” Please just keep in mind that not all Orthodox Jews are like the people you’ve met. I hope you’ll get a chance to meet some friendlier, non-judgmental ones one day!

  23. Moshe Ben Yechiel says:

    Hello! I am a Modern Lubavitcher Jew. I live in a small, semi-Jewish town and attend a non-Jewish high school because this neighborhood used to be all-Jewish until big businesses moved in a few years ago, and my family runs the only kosher market anywhere near where we live, and other Jews are very hesitant to leave each other behind. The Jews live in one part of the town.

    I have experienced much antisemitism since high school began, and am very saddened because all I want most is to appreciate other faiths and never lose that appreciation.

    I want to thank you for this blog. I’ve showed it to people I know, and it has helped them to understand things a little.

  24. As a proud and strong Conservative Jew, I am very happy that we have an Orthodox sect because I believe it is they, who will keep our religion going when the rest of us will blend, intermarry and lose sight of the importance of being Jewish. My interpersonal dealings with the Orthodox have also been occasionally difficult for me because as a “liberated” female, I have been made to feel excluded and inferior. As with all “extreme” factions, our “extreme” Orthodox feel it is “their way or not at all” and tend to behave exclusionary because the rules demand it. It is a 21st century dilemma- but we were all made “equal” and should respect one another, no matter what the belief system.

    • Thanks for your comment, Sheila. I was also raised as a proud Conservative Jew and I think my family (though we had many reservations about the Orthodox, including sexism) had a similar mentality. I’m sorry that you’ve had unpleasant dealings with more extreme members of the Orthodox world. Even though I’m an Orthodox woman and don’t do everything ritually that a man does, I also believe that I’m a “liberated” woman and I do not feel excluded or inferior. I actually feel respected and exalted.

      I don’t know if you’ve every encountered Orthodox Jews like me, but we’d love to have you for Shabbos if you’re ever in the NY area!

  25. I really enjoyed the article. I just really wish that one day the word “hate” and “Jews” will not be used in the same sentence. It’s sad to live in a world where we can’t love our brethren in our nation. Bezrat Hashem, one day there will be a mutual acceptance of Non-Jews to Jews and even Jews to Jews. It may be a big dream to dream, but I truly do not understand why. I think articles like this will bring us closer to that dream.

  26. Wow! I was very saddened by so many of the comments which talked about the negative behavior of Orthodox Jews which the posters have encountered. I am an Orthodox Jew, and have always tried to be polite and friendly to all those around me, regardless of religious affiliation. What I know is that my task in this world is to work on myself, not to judge anyone else or try to make anyone else “better” (they may be way better than me to begin with). And I do have plenty of friends and acquaintances ranging from Chassidic to Modern Orthodox to traditional Jewish to secular Jewish to Christian to Muslim. I very fervently hope that I’ve never done anything to offend or hurt any of them (or anyone else I’ve met), and yet at the same time do my best not to compromise my own principles and do what is right in my eyes. To me, some of the behaviors described in the comments, e.g., not responding to “hellos,” taking up the whole sidewalk, making noise all night, etc. are incomprehensible and absolutely wrong.

  27. Chris Wallace says:

    I work in retail with many Brooklyn Jews. They are absolutely relentless in the price of the item. No other nationality is so hung up on the price. They do not let up. They are intense and will not back or or ease up. Its always a tug of war,..unlike any other customer. Very very bazaar.

  28. I do not believe that people “hate” Orthodox and Chasidic Jews because of ANY of the reasons you stated. Its not what they wear or what their faiths are. Its not the old fashioned beliefs.. or that they smell. (thats just a silly reason to not like anyone!) Rude, well that is true. I could care less what anyone’s religion is.. I will smile or hold a door for anyone, and move over on the sidewalk! I live in southern NY state .. and I never have seen the media portray the community in a negative way just because of the religion. Everyone does have bad apples. I will not use the word hate either. The sole reason I think most don’t like them is from what Karen posted. I live in sullivan county NY, where most come up from the city for the summer. You should go visit some of these summer camps and see how they are kept..falling down buildings and garbage all over. These are WHOLE communities, not a few bad apples. I believe this community would be more welcomed if they did the right thing.. and paid like everyone else living in America.. Granted their children go to their own schools.. but I have NO children and still have to pay school taxes. They could at least pay property taxes and not use WIC and public assistance. And as Jessica stated.. “Orthodox community has too much political power here for anything to change.” It is the same way in NY. This is the land of the free…. But I am almost bankrupt paying for their freedom. The communities I know of aren’t poor.. they are buying up everything they can… this apartment complex.. or an old hospital.. will now be tax free. So this is why I believe they aren’t liked, in my area/state anyway.

  29. I live in Miami, and even though I was raised Catholic, I don’t practice or observe any religion BUT I am very respectful of the people who have or practice a religion or belief. Sadly, my experience with Jewish people in my city and my own building is FAR from pleasant. In repeated occasions, I have held the door mostly for older Jewish ladies and some men too, these people would never say thank you, acknowledge that I was kind enough to help them, and they would walk in front of me as if I did not exist or as if I had the duty to open the door for them. When I have been in the elevator with them, I would say hi, nod, or make some gesture to let them know that I am being friendly, genuine and respectful, all of which ends in no response from any of them as if I was non-existent, and I always think to myself, how sad! About three months ago, a Jewish young man about my age walked in the elevator as the door was to close, I held it so he could enter, as soon as he walked in without thinking I said Hi! with a smile, this man looked at me with the hardest and coldest eyes I have very few times in my life seen in a human being. He looked at me with such despise and hate that made my soul shake. He gave me a look of repulsion and hate, I truly can’t find any other word but hate. I was shocked, confused and saddened by his attitude. I thought, what is his problem?, in my head I tried to excuse him thinking that maybe he had just had a fight with someone else, but then when I looked at him again, I got the same attitude from him. I thought, haven’t we learned yet??? To be honest, I prefer living my life with no religion, welcoming and respecting all human beings than behaving like most of these people in my city and building behave. I also have to say that I have many liberal Jewish friends that I love and respect, such love and respect is mutual.

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      Oy, Isaac, I’m so sorry for what you experienced with your neighbors! First off – hakaras hatov – or having gratitude is a foundational principle within Judaism and so is being a decent human being and loving your neighbor as yourself. For some of the more insular parts of the Orthodox world, there is a distrust of the “outside” based on experiences that Jews had in Europe a few generations ago. I’m not saying this to excuse the behavior because America is different that Europe. But not so long ago in Europe there was extreme anti-Semistim – the government would organize “pogroms” which would be raids on the Jewish community were people’s homes were trashed, women were raped – it was pretty awful. And for the more insular Orthodox Jews, if they haven’t interacted with secular Americans much, then the memories of their parents and grandparents from Europe stays fresh in their mind. I hope you’ll get a chance to see an Orthodox Jew living up to the ideals we’re meant to live by one day.

      • Allison, I think that what you are doing is a good deed on your behalf, but it would also be great if you get to a point where you stop making excuses for unacceptable behavior. I migrated to the US when I was a kid from a country where the US military caused a LOT of damage and destruction, not only to the the country but also to the people and I don’t hold anything against the people here, I don’t think they are going to harm me, cause me any injure or hurt me in any way. I understand that the government and the people of a country are two complete different situations. I can not blame what happened to me, my family and my country on the people of this country. Most of the world knows how horrendous and unacceptable was what happened to Jewish people in Europe, but there has got to come a time for healing. Perpetuating pain has proven to cause stagnation and resentment. God is nonexistent when compassion is not present. To me I find disheartening to see how secluded and isolated from the rest of humanity these people want to live, and how little or none they want to do with me and the rest even when we are sharing the same building, city and country. Why was it good to accept the hands of anyone who fought against the criminal Germans to liberate Jewish people from such horrendous situation, but now the hands of the sons and daughters of the same people that helped liberate your ancestors are not good enough for even a handshake? That confuses me, affects me directly and have a hard time understanding.
        Peace to you and yours, and thank you for your reply.
        Isaac

        • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

          Did you see the part where I said “I’m not saying this to *excuse* the behavior?” :)

          Military is different from people. In Europe, it was the regular people who tortured the Jews (then again, the government/military did too!). It terms of a “time for healing” I agree. But I’ll tell you something – when my grandfather (who came from the Ukraine) was 9 years old, the local gentiles lined up his family and took bets to see “how many Jews a bullet could go through.”

          Thankfully the Cossacks came riding through just in the nick of time and accidentally broke up what was happening, but my grandfather – even though he left his religious observance behind in Europe – could never shake the feeling that beneath every gentile was a hatred of Jews. Even as he acclimated into America, this experience was so formative to him, he couldn’t get past it. My mom was raised hearing this, but she grew up as an American and didn’t experience the fear firsthand, so she didn’t believe it like my grandfather did. By my generation, when my mom mentioned it, my sister’s and I discounted it even more. Why? Because we were living amongst wonderful non-Jewish people who were our best friends and we never were hurt by non-Jews like my grandfather was.

          So with the insular Jews, although the hurt has not happened to the current generation, they have not acclimated. They have not seen that the stories from Europe don’t apply here so they believe that what they heard about Europe applies to the non-Jews hear. Why don’t they acclimate? They’re afraid of losing their Jewishness if they do. As you can see, I’m not of that mindset! Though I do believe that there is room for their opinion (as Judaism has a concept of more than one way being considered “correct.”_

          I wish the staying insular didn’t include distrusting the outside because the way these people are behaving is *inexcusable.* I’m just explaining this all to put it into some context so you can understand where this comes from. But yes, I wish they behaved as religious Jews are meant to behave which is with exemplary character traits.

          • Allison,
            Thank you for you explanation. Know that I am not trying to be confrontational or judgmental here. I read my previous message and I think that it can be read that way, for that I apologize.
            I think that what you are saying is true and it makes sense. I believe that if the older generation of Jewish would be more to the world and willing to give the non-Jewish a chance, their perspectives would change. I understand that fear and pain are not easy to forget and they can cause a deep trauma in people. The problem may arise when we dwell in it. I also understand that the older generation are more set in their ideals and ways of living and seeing the world and others. I can see it in my grandparents, they are very set in many of their ideas and ideals about people and the world. I believe that in part is because they were not as exposed to the world as we are and because back then it was accepted (to a certain degree) to consider one group of people “better” than others. Sad. Time heals us all. I hope that one day I can be greeted back in the elevator by these older Jewish people that live in my building. Until then, I will keep trying wish a Hello and a smile. :)

  30. I made T’shuva with my family as a little kid. I’ve been bullied because of that, the colors I wear, the music I listen to, my way of doing things. There are many frummies who are so judgmental that they take the joy out of mitzvos. I still do the mitzvos because I truly love Hashem. But often times the joy isn’t there like it was. That could contribute to the bad image.

  31. The reason so many people “hate” orthodox jews is because they, as a sect, are immoral. They deny women and gay people equal rights, they teach their children to support segregation of sexes, they support a misogynistic system wherein men are allowed to preform all mitzvahs (some if a woman isn’t wround to do it) but women are not permitted to perform all mitzvahs (regardless of whether men are around or not). They deny basic education to their children and perpetuate intolerance of anyone outside their sect. The overwhelming majority of people in north america are secular and hate orthodox jews and all other fanatical religious people because they are immoral. Period. When women, gay people and children are given their basic rights back, perhaps you will find your people being more tolerated by modern society. For now, just stay away from all of us and take your cult kiruv efforts out of our streets and schools.

    • Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says:

      You are generalizing Orthodox Jews, who are actually a large and varied tent. Are there intolerant people, misogynistic people, homophobic people, etc. among the Orthodox? Of course. Guess what? They exist in every population. But you paint with too wide a brush. Your negative stereotypes are along the lines of “all Asians are bad drivers.” I imagine some are, and seeing one who is will reinforce that stereotype in the mind of one who believes it, but seeing hundreds who aren’t will go unnoticed.

      I know dozens, if not hundreds, of coreligionists who support gay rights. They may not all support gay marriage but guess what? The majority of Americans don’t support it! It has failed to pass in almost every state that has held a referendum! So we actually reflect the greater population in this area. But when you see one Hasidic Jew saying that gays are going to Hell, in your mind that proves the stereotype is universal.

      And of course we oppress women! Just look at Allison – we’ve certainly kept her down! To say nothing of my daughter, who is enrolled in university to study forensic psychology. I certainly have stifled my children’s education!

      There is definitely intolerance here but it’s not coming from me. I don’t begrudge anyone their lifestyle choices. Can you say the same?

  32. I don’t begrudge you your lifestyle choice. I am explaining that your lifestyle is immoral. You’re welcome to it, just don’t ask why it is viewed negatively by modern, moral society. Go ahead. Everyone should be free to live as they choose. But how can you wonder why the majority of people “hates” what you stand for? You are welcome to be immoral, just be prepared to be viewed as such. And keep it away from anyone who doesn’t choose it for themselves. Allison is not free to do lots of things because she is a woman. And that is her choice! She can allow herself to be a second class citizen and she can believe in a misogynisitic system and I wish her peace in her choices. Your sect does allow women to preach about your lifestyle, just not to participate in mixed prayer. So she can preach from the safety of her computer. That is allowed by men. Don’t make excuses for your immoral choices. Accept them and live freely. Please just don’t question why you are perceived the way you are. It is so obvious to everyone else.

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      Hi Karen – if I could just jump in here for a moment – the men have allowed me to speak to you! ;) It seems like you are doing a whole lot of begrudging, actually. Let’s go back to your original argument about “rights.” A “right” is something a person is owed. I can’t speak for you, but I do not feel that I am “owed” mitzvos. Mitzvos are not about *me* – they are about serving *God.*

      As a former Conservative Jew, my experience of practicing mitzvos or being involved in communal prayers (reading from the Torah) had nothing to do with serving God. It was like having a part in the school play. The mind set that everything has to be the same in order to be equal is simply not a Jewish one! In Proverbs, King Solomon instructs parents to raise their kids according to each kids’ “way.” Meaning different kids might have different needs.

      You are free to believe that men and women are exactly the same spiritually but I believe that men and women are differently physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Not in a better or worse way but rather in a yin yang way – that we can complete each other. That is how I understand the different role of mitzvos for men and women. I am more spiritually fulfilled as an Orthodox Jew than I ever was as a Conservative Jew because I believe that I am tapping into an authentic system. The Conservative movement as they kept changing the rules every time someone decided the Torah was outdated didn’t actually feel like I was connecting back to something real. It felt like what we had (the Torah) was broken and keeps needing us to “fix” it and improve it. Why would I bother to perpetuate a system that started off broken?

      In terms of “gay rights” we also “deny” straight people “rights” too. Straight people can’t have pre-martial sex – heck, a husband and wife can’t even touch each other for half the month! The gay issue is not an easy one. I wrote a long post about it http://jewinthecity.com/2010/04/how-can-you-be-an-orthodox-considering-its-position-on-homosexuality/

      BELIEVE ME – as a compassionate, non-judgmental person – which the Torah requires that I be – the gay issue is incredibly painful. Of course there are sexist and homophobic people within the Orthodox community but I do not believe that they are living up to their basic duties as observant Jews. In terms of education – you are right that some communities are falling short in that area. According to halacha, a parent has to make sure his kid knows enough to be able to support himself when he grows up.

      Education is pretty darn important to be able to do that and in less a parent is passing on a successful business to the kid, education is super important. But many of us are very educated. I went to Columbia University along with hundreds of other Orthodox kids. To assume that most Orthodox people are uneducated would be nothing short of stereotyping!

  33. And, of course, immorality is not limited to orthodox jewish people. I agree that there are plenty of immoral secular people and people of other religions! Of course no one group has the market on bad behavior. And no one group has the market on good behavior either. But secular people don’t govern themselves with group-think in the way you do, so it is a person by person problem as opposed to your sect, which, institutionally and publicly is immoral.

  34. Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says:

    You said Orthodox deny their children an education; I have two kids in university. Do you retract that claim?

    You said Orthodoxy is misogynistic. Allison opts in to Orthodoxy and agrees with its tenets. Is she therefore misogynistic? (I imagine it’s possible but she’d probably disagree with that characterization.)

    You claim that men may perform “all the mitzvos.” I can’t duchen because I’m not a kohein. I can never perform yibum because I don’t have a brother. There are many mitzvos I can’t fulfill. No person of any gender can perform all the mitzvos because the Torah gives every individual a different set. There are a tiny handful of mitzvos in which men are obligated and women aren’t and many, many more in which they are equally obligated.

    Basically, I’m finding your claims rather hard to validate, a preponderance of the evidence pointing to the opposite conclusion.

  35. I do not retract that claim for orthodoxy as a whole. If your children are not at yeshiva but are at a secular university receiving secular education, I would say wonderful for them and you are the exception to the rule. I am so pleased you are!

    Orthodoxy is misogynistic. If Allison agrees with the treatment of men and women within traditional orthodoxy she is most definitely misogynistic and supporting and endorsing a misogynistic institution and lifestyle. 100 percent.

    To be more clear, my claim is that men may perform women’s mitzvot when they are unable (maybe not all, I don’t purport to be an expert on every mitzvah and there are many I’m sure I’m not aware of); but the same is never true in reverse. A man is permitted to do anything a woman can do, but the same is untrue of women.

    Am I wrong?

  36. Sorry, I also wanted to say I think orthodoxy’s treatment of their young boys is also terrible. Poor kids married off with zero knowledge about sex. They barely know their partner before they’re married for goodness sakes. Poor teenage boys not allowed to interact with or touch girls with all those hormones raging. Poor kids forced to study ancient texts all day instead of having their eyes opened to all the wonderful opportunities the modern world has to offer. The institution is misogynistic, but the immorality is spread among the girls and the boys, and the women and gay people and all non-orthodox jews and non-jews.

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      Thanks for your comment, Karen, but once again I’m afraid that you are stereotyping! There ARE communities where the kids don’t learn about sex until right before they get married. I’m not a fan of that! I have already talked to my 5 year old son about the birds and the bees. My daughters got the talk around his age too. They all know and use the appropriate name of their body parts. At my girls yeshiva day school, they just had a special presentation on puberty – much like I had in public school.

      I wouldn’t want you to think that I’m trying to “convert” you, so please don’t take my offer that way. But I believe you do not understand the Orthodox world with enough nuance and if you ever were *interested* in seeing how people in my community live, we’re always happy to open our home to guests. We are much more moderate than I think you realize exists within Orthodoxy.

      • I do take your offer that way. I would never be your guest because I’d never knowingly go to someone’s home and be their guest when I think their lifestyle is immoral. I’d never break bread with someone who believes they are setting a good example for their children by teaching that gay marriage is invalid or that women being segregated in a synaggoge was acceptable. I would never break bread with a man who woke up every day thanking his God that he was not made a woman. Nobody I know would. I’m sure I’ve had dinner with many people with whom I don’t share morals, but I wouldn’t knowingly do so. We will have to live and let live. Again, I think you can choose to live as you wish but it should be limited to those who choose it. And when you are judged for being immoral, you should understand why.

        • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

          Can I ask you a question, Karen? Why do you bother holding onto any of your Jewish traditions if our religion comes from such a bad place? You seem to have much disdain for it, so why is it worth holding on to it if it’s steeped in so much misogyny and homophobia?

          I practice it because I believe that it is from God. I *struggle* with parts of it, just like I struggle with the Holocaust and tons of other bad things which happen in the world. But I practice is and pass it onto my children because I believe that it’s true and meaningful even if I find parts of it tension-wrought and complicated.

          • I don’t take the traditions literally. Any of them. I appreciate the life cycle events, and the holidays, as a chance to bring the family together which I do. I believe in God, and I believe the reason there are 90 percent secular jews and 10 percent religious jews is because that’s how God wants it. I believe men, ancient men, made up what they believe to be “God’s law” in order to give order in an ancient time. It is no more than that, just men writing things down. Can we learn from their perspective – yes – for the good and the bad. But if God wanted everyone to be orthodox, if that was truth, that’s how it would be. The God I believe in wants us to believe in him and to be good people, modern people, moral people, and not follow any mortal (past or present) who purports to know what he wants. The religion of those ancient men has zero influence on me. I know you believe those ancient men are messengers of God and that you think it’s truth. I, obviously, wholeheartedly disagree. But boy I feel better for having gotten a lot of this off my chest!

          • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

            Families could come together for all sorts of reasons couldn’t they? You should obviously feel free to do whatever you are comfortable doing, but I for one, wouldn’t want to learn anything or copy anything from White supremacists, for instance. Even if they had some nice customs, if someone had such an offensive take on so many important issues, I wouldn’t want to do anything they did. But that’s just me! I believe in all people making their own choices.

            In terms of God only wanting 10% of people being Orthodox. I don’t know if you believe in free will since you say you don’t believe in the Torah. But Jewish thought believes in free will which means that it is people – not God – who choose what to believe and how to live.

            I am glad you have gotten off your chest what you needed to get off. I wish you only good things!

  37. Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says:

    There are only a handful of mitzvos that men do and women don’t. For some of these, the practice has evolved that women do them optionally (for example, shaking a lulav and esrog on Succos). For others, the practice has evolved that women do not do them (such as putting on tefillin). The reason women optionally perform some but not others is not arbitrary – one could trace the development of each practice on a case-by-case basis and understand the underlying rationales.

  38. I am asking why a man can “fill in” for a woman’s mitzvah when she is not available (ie, lighting shabbat candles) but the same is NEVER true in reverse?

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      A man can’t go to the mikvah for a woman. So it’s not NEVER. But getting back to that discussion on men and women being spiritually different, this is how I understand it: A mitzvah is not a right or a privilege. It’s a tool used to grow closer to God. The way that we become closer to God in general is by being similar to God. For instance, if God is ultimate kindness and ultimate truth then the more we become kind and honest, the closer we will be to God.

      One of God’s main traits is being a creator and sustainer of life. A woman is a creator and sustainer of life in her ability to carry life and feed it from her own body. There is something that happens to a woman when she gives of herself in carrying and feeding a baby that a man does not go through and CANNOT go through. (And I know what you’ll say – how about women that can’t or don’t have children. The thing, though, is that Jewish law can’t take every last example into account – it has to work for the general population in general. For instance a man missing an arm who can’t put on tefillin doesn’t get “make up” mitzvos either – he just has one less.)

      So anyway, women, because they are creators and sustainers of life need less “connecting to God” tools. PLUS the mitzvos that they’re exempt from are the time bound ones as the Torah recognizes that if a woman is pregnant, postpartum, or nursing, it would be hard for her to get to time bound mitzvos. We live in an age where being a mother is highly devalued but the Torah sees raising the next generation of the world as an incredible job – one that’s more important than all those other time bound mitzvos. Motherhood is a crazy hard job and Orthodox women are allowed to work (many do!) and fathers should be extremely involved (just ask my husband what I expect of him!) but a mother is very hard to replace and so a woman is not obligated in time bound commandments. Once a person is not obligated in something, they cannot fulfill the obligation for someone else. For instance a 12 1/2 year old boy is not obligated in kiddush, so he cannot fulfill someone else’s obligation by making kiddush.

      Can one woman take the obligations herself privately – like for tefillin – for instance? This is a BIG discussion. Some say yes, others say no. There are parts of the Orthodox world which say yes.

      One final thing – more conceptual proof of a woman needing less “getting closer to God tools” (i.e. mitzvos). If you look at the order of Creation (side note – many of us believe in science AND Torah) you’ll see the life is created from simple to complex. And the pinnacle of creation is the woman! We are told that Sarah was a greater prophet that Abraham was – woman have “binah yesirah” – an adding comprehension that men are missing – what we Americans called “women’s intuition.”

      And we’re told in the Talmud that the redemption from Egypt came due to the righteous women and our final redemption will come about due to the righteous women. Let me tell you something – I was expecting to find misogyny in the Orthodox world. In 17 years of being exposed to it – I’ve only seen like 3 junky, sexist men and I was immediately uncomfortable being around them! If there was ANY feeling of women being mistreated or looked down upon I NEVER would have chosen this way of life.

      What attracted me to this lifestyle was seeing so much respect for women. I know you’re not interested in seeing it for yourself, so I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it!

  39. Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says:

    A man can fill in by lighting candles because the house needs candles! And I was trying to say that sometimes a woman can do a “man’s mitzvah.” My wife and I were in different countries this past Shabbos. I lit candles candles because she was in Israel. She said kiddush because I wasn’t!

  40. So if you were unable to be at your home for Shabbat dinner, with a house full of guests, your wife (in her own home) could say kiddush for everyone and not have another man (guest) do it? That is permissable under your rules? The woman can recite the prayer for everyone in front of everyone in orthodoxy?

  41. Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says:

    No, but in that scenario, if I were home and my wife wasn’t, I wouldn’t be the one to light candles, another woman would do it. The two cases are exactly analogous! (Aside: a woman would say Kiddush for a man if he were unable to do so for himself.)

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      Let me just chime in here – it’s less common – but you will see Orthodox homes (on the more left wing end of the spectrum) where the wife makes hamotzi while the husband is standing there. We don’t do that and no one in my community does, but there’s nothing technically wrong with it if a family wants to.

  42. The case is not analogous because you are ALLOWED to be the one to light the candles but she is not ALLOWED to be the one to make the prayer!!!!!

    • Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says:

      I don’t follow your conclusion.

      I’m ONLY allowed to light the candles in the absence of my wife or another woman.

      She’s ONLY allowed to say kiddush in the absence of me or another man.

      If it’s men-only, a man lights the candles.

      If it’s women-only, a woman says the kiddush.

      What difference do you see in these cases? I see none.

      • It is fact that if you wanted to you are ALLOWED to make the blessing over the candles with other women present (whether you personally would or not is not the issue, the rules are the issue) but the woman is not ALLOWED to say kiddush with other men present. True?

        • Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says:

          No. A man does NOT have the option of lighting if a woman is present.

          • Rabbi, with all due respect, I believe you are incorrect. I have been in the situation personally when a man lights the candles with other jewish women present but would not allow a woman to say kiddush. I’ve lived it. Please show me some reference that says otherwise. I think, respectfully, that you are wrong about this one.

          • Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says:

            Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 75:5:

            “The mitzvah of lighting Shabbos candles applies to both men and women but women are the principal participants in this mitzvah because they are the primary caretakers of the home… for this reason, if the woman is at home, she takes precedence over the man in performing this mitzvah.”

  43. Allison, think for yourself. Don’t subscribe to “group think”. It’s so sad. “No one in my community does”… sounds like cult talk. You’re only making the stereotypes worse with sentences like that.

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      Wow, Karen! You have so many assumptions! Is there nothing that your community does in general? Like presents for teachers – does the class get together to chip in for one big gift or do most people give individual presents?

      I DO think for myself, which is why at 8 when I realized that no one in my world was thinking about a greater purpose in life I searched for a new way of living which was imbued with meaning. My community is one in which people do different things all the time. I’m just noting that this particular thing does not seem to be done by most people. Not because they’re not allowed to, simply because no one wants to!!

  44. You don’t think for yourself. You decided to let the thinking of others dictate how you live, what you wear, when you have sex, when/what you eat…. and that’s fine for you. But you are NOT thinking for yourself. You may have made the free choice to let others do the thinking for you, but make no mistake about it, you are NOT the one doing the thinking at the macro level. Orthodoxy controls every aspect of a person’s life. You may “choose” orthodoxy but once you’ve drank the kool-aid, others take the thinking over from there! And as a mother, you must know, that no 8 year old is mentally equipped to make a life-long decision about their faith or religious affiliation. Whatever trauma left you lost and looking for something obviously has worked for you, but no 8 year old understands the universe and religion the way an adult does or goes searching for God. I don’t say things like “my community” because I don’t have group-think. I am an individual and that is MY choice.

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      Karen – I’m not sure why you’re so belligerent. I’m not sure why you feel the need to judge others and make assumptions about people you’ve never met. I offered for you too see what my life looks like and be a guest in my home so you could get to know me personally, but you flat out refused.

      I did not become Orthodox at 8 years old. I started my journey in my late teens. The trauma of this murder didn’t make me nonfunctioning – I was still getting great grades, had tons of friends, excelling in numerous extra-curriculars. I just knew deep down that none of my existence was leading up to anything more than a grave and I didn’t understand how people could be satisfied with a life like that.

      And not only did I become Orthodox in my late teens – my family – who all thought I was NUTS – once they started learning – all became Orthodox too. My father was a super successful doctor – my mom and sisters all have graduate degrees. Once they started learning and experiencing Jewish observance up close they were all moved by it like I was.

      Since you’ve never lived as an observant Jew, it’s kind of hard for you to explain to me what it’s like, don’t you think? For many mitzvos there are numerous opinions on how to observe it. It is a constantly thinking way of life, actually. You could leave you brain at the door and live on autopilot, I suppose, but that’s not how it looks for me and my family.

      The place where I saw the least thinking actually was the world where I came from when I asked person after person after person if they had considered the purpose of their existence and no one had anything useful to share with me.

      I didn’t actually know what “having a community” was like until I became Orthodox. We all live near our shul and people take care of each other, drop in in each others homes on Shabbos for visits, make meals for one another when someone is indisposed. That’s the kind of community that we are. One that *helps* each other – but doesn’t think for each other.

      Again – I wish you could see what I mean up close, but you don’t seem to like other people who are different than you.

      Per

  45. We will need to agree to disagree. I feel that you are wasting your life on rules made up by men that you, mistakenly, attribute to God. You may think my life has less meaning because I am not following those very same rules that you think are divine. Who knows. I think you are trying to live your life honestly and truthfully and with conviction. So am I. I am passionate about my positions because I believe strongly in them – as do you – as evidenced by your career choice of this site. I guess I do “look down” on your lifestyle and your community because I find it offensive. But, truthfully, I should just live my life fully and truthfully and let you do the same. As long as each of us is living by our own code of ethics and morals, and as long as we are both happy and kind, then I guess we are both living successful lives. All the best to you.

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      My philosophy is to worry my own spiritual path and to be a good example for my kids. It is NOT my concern to help others “get to heaven.” However, since I went through a struggle and the beauty of Torah learning and observance was unknown to me (despite the excellent secular education I received) I put this information out there for other people who it might help. I let each and every person take from it as he or she wants. *I* find it meaningful and beautiful and true, but as I said – I believe in free will – so every person must choose (or not choose).

      All the best to you as well!

  46. There are always people who are anti-semites and anti-semitism exists because of prophecy as well as because people can hate anyone and they don’t need a reason. And then there are Jews that make people hate them because they are rude and not considerate. I’m Jewish and sometimes I attend orthodox events, I’m modern orthodox and a lot of times people in these heredi circles are rude to me. A lot of times they are not, a lot of times they welcome me. It’s unfortunate that negative experiences stand out in peoples minds and the reason they do is because they hurt us. We as Jews have a responsibility to try to always be on our best behavior, to show empathy, to treat people with respect and dignity who are different than us. I try to practice this and many Jews that I meet do practice this and are kind and considerate but it’s unfortuante that the bad apples stand out. We need to teach manners in our schools. That is important. Although a lot of Jews are good people and do good, not everyone is… but that’s the same as every culture. We as Jews should try to minimize the bad feelings that people have when we accidently rub them the wrong way and this comes from sensitivity.

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