Yom Kippur

September 27, 2009 at 10:59 pm (Life) (, , , , , , , )

I did manage to find a place to go for Yom Kippur. However, it’s not somewhere I see myself going back to after my obligation for Yom Kippur is over. The congregation is large, impersonal and conservative. The latter wouldn’t bother me too much, but it’s a little . . . restrictive, in a way. It’s the kind of place where you’ll see older people and young families and very little in between.

Not only that, but the rabbi started being a solicitor for various funds in the middle of services, which I thought was incredibly inappropriate. We’re RIGHT smackdab in the middle of Kol Nidre services. And you ask people to put money into Israel Bonds? REALLY? YOU THINK THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA? He also started harping on our need to support Israel and donate and blahblahblah.

I have no issue with charity. I do have an issue when a religious official uses his role to push political agendas; it’s not something I have ever seen a rabbi do and I hope I’ll never have to see it again. It’s not something I associate with Judaism, the begging for money and propagation of political things is more a Christian phenomenon. Or it was until now.

The whole thing just made me incredibly uncomfortable. A religious official is supposed to offer advice, not preach from the pulpit about how I as a Jew am obligated to support Israel in every possible way. That’s like someone telling C. that she has to support the Pope because she’s Catholic despite the fact that dude’s batshit crazy, not to mention assbackwards on basically every matter of social importance. I am in no way obligated to support a country simply because I am part of a religious entity. I will not publicly support a country and a government on the basis of this.

I appreciate Israel’s existence, but I do not agree with a lot of their policies. I believe displacing Palestinians is wrong. The way Israel was founded is very much akin to the Europeans marching into North American and displacing all the American Indians. I don’t believe military action is necessary all the damn time and I am absolutely horrified at the sense of entitlement that many European and American-born Jews have when they make aliyah, and how perfectly acceptable the racism towards Palestinians is within those Jewish communities in Israel.

So, no, Rabbi Whateveryournamemaybe, I am keeping my money out of Israel Bonds and in my damn pocket. This kind of conduct does not leave me feeling spiritually cleansed, forgiven by God or enlightened. It makes me think I ended up an awful place for a very emotional time, and that makes me sad.

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Day Terrors

June 10, 2009 at 10:30 pm (News) (, , , , , , )

I can shrug off many things, but the shooting at the National Holocaust Museum earlier today has left me shaken. Jezebel compiled a bunch of information on the shooter, James von Brunn. It turns out he is a white-supremacist, anti-Semite, pro-Aryan nutjob. The sole person he shot has died. His website includes gems such as:

The “American myth” (created by JEWS) alleging our Founding Fathers intended that all races, from pygmy to Ainu, be invited to our shores, is based on Thomas Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence: “…all men are created equal.” The meaning of this much quoted statement has been distorted by the ILLUMINATI which subjectively is re-writing history and wielding the “HOLOCAUST” like a battle-ax at the heads of those proclaiming genetic certainties: Men and races are NOT created equal. Jefferson’s statement can be understood only in context of his Era. Our Founding Fathers were Aryans, men of good breeding who understood, empirically, the great differences existing between strains of horses; strains of live-stock; races of men; and between individuals: knowledge confirmed today by the natural sciences of Genetics, Eugenics, and Anthropology. Hitler, as American boobs are beginning to learn, was not all wrong.

I am, in all honesty, terrified. The kind of hate-speech he promotes seems to be directed at me. I am Jewish – but do I not look Aryan? What about those who do not have the protection of such genes?

I did nothing wrong. I have never participated in conspiracies against anyone. I believe in social justice. He does not know me or my family, nor does he know any other Jewish family. He does not know our friends. This, however, would mean he had to think and get treatment for his brand of crazy.

So why does he hate us so much?

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Marriage Crisis

May 27, 2009 at 11:02 am (Life) (, , , , , , )

My older sister had her wedding ceremony on Saturday. My mother did not attend.

I have noticed an increasing amount of people being extremely judgmental about this little fact that I do not care for. I don’t think many people understand the circumstances of the situation. It grates. I almost didn’t attend the ceremony either because I somehow, in my gut, just knew it was going to be awful and I would want to kill myself. My gut feeling was right.

My mother does not necessarily approve of interfaith marriage because she herself had bad experiences on that front. My father officially converted so they could get married by a rabbi. HOWEVER, my mother did not insist on him doing this – she told him she would not be leaving him, regardless of their marital status. She was absolutely fine being a domestic partner, but if they were to be married, she’d prefer to do a religious ceremony of her heritage because she had some issues with Catholicism. My father had turned his back on Catholicism by the time he hit college, taking courses in comparative religions and taking a shine to Judaism. So, there is that. Grandma and Grandpa turned out to be horrificly bitchy about it, repeatedly attempting to interfere with the way my parents were raising us by encouraging Christmas and Easter and various other Christian holidays with us. It reached a point where my mother had to threaten they would not be allowed to see us if they did not cut it out.

This may seem harsh, but she has a point. My grandparents had no damn right to interfere with our religious upbringing, if there was to be any. We are their grandchildren, NOT THEIR CHILDREN. Repeatedly making attempts to put Jesus in our life and telling my mother she was an awful horrid Jewish woman who took their beloved Christian angel off the path to righteousness are not appropriate.

On to my sister. S. is not religious at all; she does not identify with Judaism anymore than she does with Christianity, but I think she may inadvertantly be culturally Jewish. A year ago, she married a German Lutheran in a civil ceremony, the way it is done in Europe. She has also had all these fantasies about what her wedding should be like, white dress and flowers and all; she’s had those since she was a child and it dumbfounded and confused my mother and I all the time. S.’s husband, F., is also not at all religious. He’s a could-not-give-a-shit athetist with some leftover guilt from his upbringing.

There was no need for a religious ceremony. Legally, they have already been married for a year. They could have gone with an anniversary party. S. could have worn her goddamn dress to her civil ceremony. But no, she wanted to wear her dress in a big fancy building. Fine. I can deal with this. However, she and F. complied with his parents’ wishes to have a religious ceremony in a church where F.’s mother had worked for twenty years. In Germany, you get whatever asshat runs the majority of the services in that church. The pastor was a total and complete cad.

His idea of interfaith, somehow, meant that he was entitled to make jabs at the Judaism and the fact we do not believe in hanging up a bleeding corpse on a cross for everyone to pray to. He pointedly referred to Judaism as a tradition rather than a faith. He interjected things like, “And now, you have come here to reaffirm your marriage before God, by which, dear bride, I mean JESUS CHRIST.” He gave them a bible as a wedding gift from “the community.” He made the couple kneel before the altar so he could bless them with the crucifix motion despite the couple having said they did not want such a thing.

I was very close to walking out throughout the whole thing. I thought it was rude, inappropriate and does not at all speak of the Christian values I know some of my friends represent. There was no kindness, no love or charity in his sermon, his actions spoke of great disrespect for other human beings who happened to not agree with every word he said. Basically, all he did was ensure stereotypes of interolance within church walls were reaffirmed.

That is why my mother did not go. She had no desire to see her daughter shamed before a congregation for being of a culturally and religiously different group. She had no desire to sit for an hour, staring at a depiction of Jesus Christ bleeding on the cross. She had no desire to have unfriendly encounters with the church servants and the pastor the way I did. This is entirely reasonable, especially since the whole ceremony was completely unnecessary. I wish people would stop talking about how “sad” they were when they heard their “friend did not attend her daughter’s wedding.” It is none of their fucking business to judge when they don’t know the whole story.

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The Idiot Pandemic

May 9, 2009 at 12:26 pm (Life) (, , , , , )

I truly believe that is what we are fighting these days. Not swine flu, not cancer. The idiot pandemic. Idiocy spans the globe and is somehow distilled down to its essence by the time it reaches the internet, making for one gigantic influx of stupid that kills your brain cells by simply looking at it.

A recent development in my Facebook news feed has left me with the distinct feeling of wanting to smack my forehead against a wall. Preferably solid brick wall. The stupid is just insurmountable. Somehow, a lot of my German friends have taken to calling each other “homo.” A lot. Every other status update, its comment section or wall post includes the word “homo” as an insult or greeting.

Now, in theory, it should not bother me. The root of the word is in Latin. Simply, it means “human.” However, I will not accredit them with that much intelligence. What they mean is “homosexual.” Their goal is to insult each other.

I fume at the misuse of said word, turning a simple description of someone’s perfectly acceptable sexual orientation into something bad. This is exactly why we’re having such trouble. So many people are latently homosexophobic and because many homosexuals are afraid of being outed, no one tells them these people are being assholes. The fact people seem to think it’s okay to use this word as an insult or form of greeting is horrid. I know that at least one of these people has an openly homosexual friend. That is what ticks me off most – you have a friend who has entrusted you with the knowledge of them being different from about 97% of the population. And yet you see it fit to use their sexual orientation to throw around carelessly?

I do not like the implications of this ignorance. I have made a point to point it out in my own status update, but I still feel that all of the offenders deserve this:

middle-finger

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The Difference

April 12, 2009 at 11:41 am (Life, Writing) (, , )

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because it’s a recurring word in conversations with certain friends. It is also a word many people seem to mistake for something entirely different. I won’t claim the word does not have certain connotations, but the difference between its real meaning and its implied meaning is an important one.

The word I speak of, my dears, is submission and the act of being submissive.

Especially when you consider yourself a feminist, being submissive seems frowned upon. Aren’t we supposed to spend every hour of our life caterwauling against the patriarchy? Burning bras, not shaving, not wearing make-up and what-have-you? Feminism, these days, is equated with a raging activism that bases itself in hating men – but that’s an entirely different discussion. Fact is, feminists are not, in fact, man-hating harpys. We can be as traditionally feminine or as “butch” as we like, we can have civilized discussions over the state of the world and the position of women therein. Many feminists get offended when you refer to them as bra-burning radicals, and yet I get the impression a lot of them will wrinkle their nose at a fellow feminist saying they are submissive on occasion.

They think doormat. They think coward. That’s where they’re wrong.

Being a doormat is vastly different from having submissive personality traits that you occasionally let out. A doormat is someone who will let you walk all over them, no matter what. A doormat will not resist, a doormat will just bear whatever you fling at them and later cry about it, but not do anything to change their situation. They will rely on the help of others for a long time; being a doormat is not necessarily a permanent state, but it becomes one for women who are never taught that they, indeed, have the ability to take their life into their own hands.

To be submissive requires a level of trust in another person, a level of understanding and hope that someone will not abuse the privilege of seeing the submissive person in that position. Someone who is submissive is a strong person who is – at least to a certain degree – stable in their core so they can handle their situation, but will not be diminished by it. There is the possibility that one can slide into being a doormat, but a submissive person will know how to resist and work it out.

This all came to be at like 01:30 AM as I was trying to sleep, and I’m not sure it makes any sense. But I wanted to get it out there.

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My Beef

April 10, 2009 at 4:12 pm (Life) (, , , , , , )

I am part of a liberal Jewish community back in Germany that is based around the MTV military chapel. We have not had a rabbi in years; to give you an idea, there currently are 1,426,713 active duty service members and another 1,259,000 in the reserves. There are about twelve rabbis in uniform, nine of which are orthodox.

My community hasn’t had a rabbi in years. The community has been pretty self-sufficient; we arranged for services on our own, contracted a non-trained cantor, had a ley leader represent us at the chaplains’ meetings. I invested a lot of my own time into this community, leading services when our cantor was gone, kashering the kitchen, keeping children entertained, clean-up duty, organizing services, going through checklists of what we did and did not need. While we weren’t many, we usually did okay – some people rotated through, but there was always a stable core to the community that was formed, in fact, by local civilians, not by service (wo)men or dependents.

As of last month, we have a rabbi again, an orthodox one. In one fell sweep, he has ripped any and all control over how we conduct services, how we organize situations, has completely changed times on when services are held, etc. According to those who I am in contact with, he is not exactly hostile towards the civilians, but not terribly welcoming either.

So, what inspired this? Well, as you all know, it’s Passover now. Usually our community organizes it and has a pretty grand old time. This year, the rabbi decided he needed to take things into his own hands despite the fact he would not be there. Instead of letting us do our normal thing, he imported a yeshiva student to conduct the service.

Our community has not had a rabbi for about ten years. This means ten Passover seders we managed to conduct on our own. What did he think we do before God sent us this divine message in form of Rabbi Jerkwad? Scratch our ape-like heads and chant “Ugga!” like heathens?

Christ on a cracker. If there is a God, then please, I would like for him to take this jackass back off our hands. I refuse to attend any services this man holds just because he is orthodox and I do not agree with orthodox Judaism. For all I know, he might very likely be segregating the community by gender and because he’s orthodox, he is sure to believe women are not allowed to touch the Torah. Fuck this shit.

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Chag Sameach And All That Jazz

April 9, 2009 at 9:38 pm (Life) (, , )

Passover has begun, we are on the second night of seders. I am skipping out on any kinds of festivities this year, but will be keeping pareve (kosher for Passover). So far, the goyim have been fairly decent about not eating breadstuff and anything containing grains in front of me. Sometime around next Monday, I expect there to be a lusting-for-bread stabbing rage.

As per usual, I will be eating kitniyot (“little things”), meaning I am not an idiot and will not cut rice, corn and legumes out of my diet. I am sorry, but matzah is just not that appetizing and while my vitamin levels may merit celebration after these eight days, I reason like this: You cannot make bread from rice, soy beans, beans or corn. Why should I not eat it? I replaced my goddamn vinegar for apple cider vinegar and that’s the extent to which I will go.

To all non-Jews: I hate you right now.

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Mind and Body: Incompatible?

April 2, 2009 at 5:00 pm (Life) (, , , )

I consider myself lucky to never had any major issues with my weight. I have what I fondly refer to as my father’s German farmer build. I am not tiny, my structure is not meant to be tiny. I had a tendency towards what Germans considered chubby when I was younger, but I was never aware of it and my parents never said a word about it. Even while going through puberty, a lot of my self-hatred was focused on myself, my personality, but never my weight. I was rational about that, or as rational as a young girl with severe clinical depression can be about such a matter.

Germany, being ass-backwards as it is in some regards, has probably engrained certain standards of beauty much more than the US has. They like skinny, they like the exaggeration of a small frame with a gigantic rack. It never bothered me as much as it should have. I felt slighted in other regards that girls received attention from men and I didn’t – were they smarter? Dumber? Was it because they tilted their head just so, or giggled in high pitches? Was it because of the low-cut tops they wore? Was it the make-up or the fact they generally had prettier faces? Never, ever the weight.

I think, over the years, my mother’s comments have gotten to me. She means well, but she has no idea what it’s like to be an unconventional shape that hasn’t been valued since the glamor of 1950s Hollywood brought the hourglass back into style. One day she would call me fat, the next she would say I am perfectly fine, another day she would say I was gorgeous, and then it was back to the disparaging remarks about my weight. Maybe it’s the fact that I lived with extremely image-obsessed girls or became more exposed the culture of skinny as I got older, or became more aware of it. But yesterday, when I was IMing Col, I found myself typing this:

“I need to lose weight.”

Not “I want to lose weight.” Not “I am doing this because I want to tone my body.” I expressed the fact I felt a compulsion to lose weight. The reason is my older sister’s upcoming wedding, which means a shitload of pictures will be taken. I despise pictures of myself because I look bloated, even though, when I look in the mirror, I don’t see how it happens. To make matters worse, my sister has always been incredibly obsessed with her weight because she has a habit of eating when she is upset. She was never fat, but she was almost overweight at one point because of said habit. Since then, she has put herself through grueling diet and exercise regimes. She is down to 130 lbs, extremely toned, and is 5’8” tall. She wears a size four. Her wedding dress is a size too small, meaning she is currently probably on a massive purge diet.

Back when I lived at home, she would often drop by and the most she would do would be nibble on fruit or cereal and complain about how fat she was whenever I was in the kitchen with her. I sincerely hope she never realized how that can dig because, by her definition, I must be obese. I rationally know I am not – I am 5’6” tall and somewhere between 140 – 150 lbs by guesstimate. It’s a big number at first, but I can easily explain it with the fact I carry a lot of that weight around my chest (which, according to sizing charts, would require me to wear a size 16) and my ass.

Like I said, I am not skinny. My body was, however, never designed to be skinny; nor was Shana’s. She’s longer, but she has a somewhat similar bone structure.

My current mindset where exercise is concerned is not healthy. I will not stop, though – my current excuse is that my voice teacher has recommended exercise and she has a point, if only because I am constanly anxious and on edge. Exercise will at least take that edge off, perhaps help my restless sleep a little. I have set myself no weight-loss goal because I am afraid of weighing myself (another sign that society is definitely getting to me). Numbers should remain numbers instead of defining who I am and how I see others.

We all know, though, that it’s easier said than done.

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Your Political Agenda is Uncouth

March 27, 2009 at 9:30 pm (News) (, , , , , )

I logged onto Facebook today to find a post by someone I considered a friend concerning this article. It’s about a freak accident in which two young women were killed in a plane crash; the plane crashed into a “memorial” for all the “babies” that have been “killed” with abortions. These young women are the daughters of a man who runs the largest abortion “business” in California. Innocent people died here in a freak accident. What did she have to say?

“Well I think THAT is a message from God if there ever was one.”

I am still shell-shocked from reading that. Innocent people – most of which had nothing to do with the abortions – die in a freak accident, and that’s what you have to say? You seriously believe your God is a vengeful God, the kind that somehow punishes some who are unrighteous by your standards, but who lets you spew hatred?

What happened to charity? What happened to compassion? What happened to kindness?

Religion is not about selectively adhering to principles. It’s all or none. If you act like a decent human being, do not mix fibers, don’t eat shellfish, do not have premarital sex – maybe then we can discuss the fact these people are not righteous by your standards. But I know you. You had premarital sex. You mix fibers. You eat whatever you want. You are unkind to others. You have no right and no place to claim others deserve to die for providing women with the service of CHOICE where their own body is concerned. What is right for you is not right for everyone else.

I feel like crying, honestly.

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Authority and Disobedience

March 25, 2009 at 11:13 pm (School, Writing) (, , , , )

Several of you may have already read this, as it was an assignment to be written for my English class. However, I need a space filler while I contemplate more interesting things to write about on here. We recently discussed the research study called the Milgram Experiment in less formal places. Officially, the published paper was (pretentiously) called “Some Conditions of Obedience and Disobedience to Authority.” If you follow the link, you will find a more detailed description of what the research was about, but a brief summary is appropriate.

After watching the Nuremburg trials, Stanley Milgram was stunned and somewhat appalled to find many of the Nazis on trial to either be unrepentant or unwilling to take responsibility for the atrocities they had committed. He posed himself the question “How far can a human be pushed until they reach a point at which they will disobey authority?” So he conducted a study with Yale in which he tested male subjects aged 18 to 40 from all types of educational and social backgrounds in the following situation: The subject was placed in a room with an experimenter who functioned as the authority. In another room was an actor – the fact it was an actor was not disclosed to the subject. The subject was to administer electroshocks to the actor when commanded by the experimenter.

Milgram found that it took an astonishingly long time for almost all of the subjects to disobey; many of them showed signs of psychological distress and extreme tension, but it was only at 120 V shocks that the first subjects began disobeying the authority. Many subjects continued administering shocks when absolved of the personal responsibility for hurting another human being or only verbally protested. Milgram was obviously appalled by these findings and raised the question that, if humans are so willing to follow authority, this kind of power in the hand of a government with malicious intent could be fatal. Then he proposed this: “Perhaps our culture does not provide adequate models for disobedience.”

My task was to work with the following assignment: “In paragraph 47, Milgram comments, ‘Perhaps our culture does not provide adequate models for disobedience.’ What do you think of this hypothesis? Are there such models? Ought there to be? Have such models appeared since the experiment was conducted? Explain your stand on Milgram’s statement.” I thought the topic was interesting enough to post here.

Models for Disobedience?

Disobedience is, in itself, an unpredictable form of refusing to conform to certain standards or to blatantly resist an instruction given by a third party or society. For Milgram to state that “Perhaps our culture does not provide adequate models for disobedience”  (467) is nonsensical. A model of for disobedience would imply a rigidly structured set of rules to be followed, therefore defeating the purpose of disobedience. Would a person truly be disobedient if he or she were simply complying with the laws of disobedience? Clearly the answer is “no.”

The act of disobeying is natural to humans, as we are a species gifted with the ability to form critical thoughts and reflect past, present and future. An intrinsic moral compass that allows us to compare reality to our ideological standards guides us. When our perception of what is right and what is wrong collides with what we witness in our lives, we are inclined to demonstrate our ability to disobey so long as we are fully responsible for our actions. This was the catch in both Milgram’s experiment and day-to-day life.

Closely linked to resistance, disobedience comes in many forms. It is possible to violently resist conformity just as it is possible to take a passive, more intellectual path to disobeying a strict set of rules. Depending on the circumstances, it is up to the individual in such a situation to rely on their own judgment. Disobedience can be as simple as not obeying a command or as complex as resisting the general societal consensus on what is right. During the Third Reich, disobedience was not simply disagreeing with what the government dictated, it was actively seeking to save individuals or raise awareness to the government’s inhumane practices. The lack of a model for their disobedience was apparent in the diversity of disobedience, ranging from assassination attempts to intellectual resistance from groups such as the White Rose, which was group of college students eventually executed for writing and circulating flyers condemning the politics of the Nazis.

One could argue that the extreme conditions and the indoctrination into a collective mindset would not be able to offer up a model for resistance in the first place, but at least it is plain as day that disobedience was not accepted as an appropriate phenomenon, which made it a valid act. Various forms of disobedience manifested themselves in pop culture in the last fifty years, all of which became moot once they were accepted as trendy. One such “model for disobedience” is punk. Punk was considered to be a real breakthrough for its time, delivering a message of anti-authoritarianism, anarchy, direction action and non-conformity. It quickly developed into a subculture of its own through which young people could defy the beliefs of the older generation by listening to loud music, protesting the establishment (The Man) with their dress and hair and radical politics. However, over the years, punk became a more mainstream phenomenon that pressured its followers into a pre-made mold of “disobedience,” which defeated the purpose of such actions. With the establishment of rules to be followed in order to disobey, the intentions become muzzy at best.

At the end of the day, disobedience is a matter of personal choice and it shaped by the beliefs and background of the individual. There can be no standardized form of disobedience because there is no standardized form of society.

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