9 Things We Can Learn From the Video of Daniel Radcliffe Wrapping Tefillin

I can think of a few choice people who could use this message, so here goes nothing:

  1. Just because a Jew is lax in his/her observance doesn’t mean s/he isn’t a huge help to the Jewish nation.
  2. If Orthodox Jews shame and ostracize non-Orthodox Jews for their lack of religious observance, then we are no better than the assholes who were behind Kristallnacht.
  3. Any idiot can do a mitzvah, correctly or incorrectly. But, like everything, it’s the intention behind it that really counts.
  4. One Jew is not better than another simply because he’s more frum. That’s bullshit.
  5. It does no good to hide one’s past, for said past may come back to either bite you in the ass or do insane amounts of good.
  6. No one can control whether s/he is a pig-eating, Israeli-flag-burning, sex-having shiksa or a black-crushed-hat, dog-hating, TV-condemning frum from birth, so stop judging right now. Again, it does absolutely no good.
  7. Labeling Jews based on their observance level does absolutely nothing at all but divide us.
  8. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew.
  9. Harry Potter can defeat Voldemort and still be totally, adorably clueless.

What’s Jewish About Downton Abbey?

I started watching this show a few years ago. I’d seen documentaries about its real-life setting, Highclere Castle, and I’d been hearing rave reviews about it, but I’d never actually seen it. But I could not for the life of me get the commercials out of my head. So I checked Season One out from the library.

I was hooked. Wealth, servants’ gossip, and illicit affairs (Yes, I’m talking about you Lady Mary; you didn’t really think I’d forget the whole Mr-Pamuk-died-in-your-bed affair in a hurry, did you?) It was everything that a good story should be.

But the further in I got, the more it began to disturb me. Downton was uncannily similar to biographies I had read about the Hasidic rebbes. A passage in Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman particularly stuck out to me: “Where, I wonder, is the brotherly love that G-d commanded Jews to feel for each other, now, in this community that calls itself holy? Back in Europe, Zeidy says, no one would dream of fighting to be called a rabbi. In fact, they often turned down the position when it was offered to them. A man truly worthy of being a rabbi is a humble one. He is not in search of power or recognition. But in this day and age, rabbis are chauffeured in black Cadillacs and have private ritual baths built into their opulent homes. They are the celebrities of the Hasidic culture.Children trade rabbi cards and boast of having rabbinical connections. On Purim, the holiday of masquerades, they Scotch-tape long beards made of white cotton balls to their chins, drape themselves in faux-fur coats, and walk with the aid of a shiny wooden cane. What more does every child dream of than to grow up to be a rabbi, or at least a rabbi’s wife?”

Deborah is right. Modern-day rabbis have become entirely too damn much like the stuffy, English well-to-do Crawley family portrayed on the show. A man who really is worthy to be a rabbi is humble, modest and doesn’t try to climb up the social ladder.

What do you think?

My Take on the Nazi Bullshit in Virginia

It’s bullshit. It’s scary. It’s fucking WWII all over again. My mother is worried about me wearing my Star of David in broad daylight. I understand where Mom’s coming from, but I’m not going to give in to fear or hate. If I do, then the Nazi asswipes get exactly what they want. I’m not going to give them that satisfaction. I’m Jewish, goddamn it. That’s who I am. I’m not trading the only fucking identity I’ve ever known for anything. Not for the Nazis (yes, that’s what they are), not for Mom, not even for G-d Himself (Herself?) I don’t know any other way to be. I’m not scared for my own safety, but for my grandma’s. She’s just a seventy-something year old woman who’s obsessed with her stupid cat and Wheel of Fortune, yet there are assholes who would wish her harm. She’s everything to me, and I hope to G-d she knows it. Virginia is no place for an old Jewish lady right now.  Learn kung fu, carry mace, do whatever you have to do to stay safe. We live in a scary world right about now.

On Finding My Comfort Level with Jewish Observance

It’s finally fucking happened. After years of alternating between full kosher but no tznius, tznius but no brachos, I’ve finally figured out what I’m comfortable with Jewishly. I’ve been what I call religiously bisexual for a number of years now and it’s confused me to no end. I’ve been pissed off at the Big Man because of it, but I believe that I’ve made my peace with G-d. I used to feel as though He hated my guts. After all, why else would He plague me with an absent birth father, depression, anxiety, and constant unemployment? 

But I realize that maybe these trials were not a punishment, but a test that I damn near failed. My faith has never been strong. I don’t know if this is due to the fact that I was raised with almost no religious education (let alone a Jewish one), but all I know is that I’m happy now. I don’t have the patience to be a full on Hasid. But I’ve found where I belong in the Jewish world. After all, Judaism is who I am. I don’t know any other way to be.

I’ve just made my first bracha in a long time, and it felt damn good. If I forget a blessing, I won’t sweat it. G-d will understand. I’m still learning the ropes after all. It’s strange, feeling like this. But I like it. Thoughts?

A List of Jewish College Backpack Essentials

I will be pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education this fall semester at my local community college. There are almost no lists of backpack essentials for Jews, so here is mine:

  1. Interview folder-If you are unemployed like me, you may want to keep a folder with resumes, paper apps, and cover letters with you. This is a damn lifesaver.
  2. Pens-Self explanatory. You never know when you’ll need to write something down.
  3. Wallet-Again, self explanatory. Keep it in an easily accessible part of your bag so you don’t have to scramble for it when you need it.
  4. Keys-house, mail, car, bus pass, whatever you have. It helps if you keep them on a lanyard, which many booths at street fairs give out free.
  5. iPod/Music player-How else would you listen to kosher music? 🙂
  6. Textbooks-If you’re taking less than four classes like me, you can still put your textbooks in your bag without overcrowding it. The same goes for workbooks.
  7. Pencils-Most math classes won’t accept work written in pen. Why, I have no clue.
  8. Gum-Bad breath is a huge turn off for employers, rabbis, professors…basically everybody.
  9. Water-You would not believe how thirsty I get between classes.
  10. Snacks-See above. I’m bitchy when I’m hungry, which is why I can’t fast on Yom Kippur.
  11. Headphones-For listening to Jewish music, watching Torah classes, and listening to playback recordings of class lectures.
  12. Deodorant- I am constantly forgetting to apply it in the mornings.
  13. Pencil sharpener-So you don’t have to use the loud noisy ones and distract the rest of the class.
  14. Highlighter-Useful for classwork, homework, and Torah study.
  15. Medication-I can’t even count the number of times my medication alarm has gone off and I was nowhere near my pill sorter.
  16. Bus schedules-If you don’t have a car, these are lifesavers, especially when your phone is dead.
  17. Coloring book-Boredom is a bitch. ‘Nuff said.
  18. Notebooks for class-I take so. Many Notes.
  19. Psalm book-For prayer or study. Mine was from Amazon, and is travel size.
  20. Travel size siddur-I don’t want my nicer one to get messed up by all the jostling that goes on in my bag.
  21. Travel size bracha book-You would not believe how many times I’ve forgotte to say brachas for foods or even forgotten which blessings to say. I love the one from Orthodox Union.
  22. Flashlight-In case the lights go out. Mine is LED and I got it from a street fair.
  23. Laptop-For watching Torah classes and working on coursework.
  24. Sunglasses-Can’t study Torah blind, can you?
  25. Something to read-Again, boredom sucks.
  26. Chargers-Lifesavers, these things.
  27. Hair ties-I’m a messy eater. I have ended up with food in my (extremely long!) hair more times than I care to admit.
  28. Something to do-Puzzle book, Angry Birds, whatever goes.
  29. Phone-For obvious reasons.
  30. Hoodie-I’m constantly cold, and since it’s fall semester, It’s very useful.
  31. Mini hairbrush-For neatening up when you need to.
  32. Planner-For homework, interviews, laundry reminders, and other things.

Am I missing anything? If so, leave a comment below!

Song of the Resistance

On November 8, 2016, America elected a racist, xenophobic, selfish, climate change-denying orange faced bigot as its supreme leader. Trump is unfit for the Presidency. He has referred to women as pigs and dogs. He has authorized The Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, both of which are illegal according to the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1851. He has called for a total ban on people from Muslim countries coming into the United States. He has said that he would date his own daughter were she not his daughter. He has several complaints of sexual assault under his belt. He cares nothing for seniors, women, people of color, the LGBT community, veterans, or immigrants. He is in clear violation of the Emoluments Clause. He is a narcissist. He is completely unqualified for the job.

  Fear is the best sort of breeding ground for this regime. Everyone in this country is living in fear right now. They go about their business, doing their thing, and don’t act because no one they care about is safe anymore. And they have every right to be scared. They could be deported or arrested or even killed in a hate crime. The regime is insane.

  That’s what we need to do. We need to educate people about what Trump is really doing. We need to donate to Planned Parenthood or PFLAGG. We need to get in constant contact with our elected officials. We need to march. We need to fight back in any way we can. Trump can’t shut the whole country up. We are the silent majority. I will not be silenced anymore. I’m done sitting on my ass, unable to do anything. I believe in a free America, not a dictatorship. I will fight. Will you?



Asking G-d Why

You may not have seen, but there’s a disturbing video circulating the Internet. No, it’s not uncensored porn or that scene in Christmas Vacation where Clark loses his shit. It’s even more sinister. On Dec. 30, 12-year-old Katelyn Nicole Davis, from Cedartown, Georgia, used the social streaming app Live.Me to broadcast her suicide. I haven’t been brave enough to see the video yet. Her parents took it off her Facebook page, but you can still find it. My question is, who would even want to see that? That poor girl felt she had no other way out, and for people to goggle at her last moments like a monkey in a zoo is just tasteless. This is why we need to destigmatize mental illness in America. It can strike anywhere. Let me put it this way: Depression is caring about nothing. Anxiety is caring about every. Single. Thing. Having them both is hell. Hell isn’t a fiery pit or a Breitbart article. Hell is depression. Hell is being paralyzed with sadness to the point where you can’t breathe. You can’t think. It’s not about anything but crippling, drowning pain. Hell is spending most of your nights in a panic or in tears or both. I’m lucky. I have access to meds. Between my best friend and my boyfriend, I have a good support system. But for Kaitlyn Davis, help didn’t come too late. It didn’t come at all. Ave atque vale, Kaitlyn Davis. Hail and farewell, Kaitlyn Davis.

My Boyfriend and My Faith

I always thought online dating was all bullshit, which is why I was wary when I signed up for okcupid. It’s how my mom met her boyfriend, and those two are as in love now as they were when they met nearly five years ago. So at Mom’s suggestion, I gave it a shot. It was a complete misfire, which is why I now call it okstupid. I even got a dick pic from one guy!

So naturally, it was extremely reluctantly that I signed up for Plenty of Fish. There were a couple of duds, but by about the third or fourth guy I messaged, I began to see the light. His name was Jack* and we hit it off right away. Dating is a lot like jobsearching: you’re going to screw up, but you’ll find the right one eventually.

Jack and I have now been dating two months and things couldn’t be better. He knows damn well I’m Jewish, but what he doesn’t know is that I’m Orthodox. He sometimes jokes that he’s a self-professed heathen, whatever that means. 

I think I know why some people don’t bother with the whole G-d thing. People do some fucked up shit in the name of religion. But the thing is, it’s those people that give us nice Jews such a shitty rap.

Jack and I get along great, and for that I’m grateful. After all, I’m only ever at peace when I’m with him. 

Any thoughts?

*Name has been changed to protect privacy 

Who Am I?

This one’s for all the Jews out there who ever struggled between belonging to the secular world or the Jewish one.

I have a split personality. No, not the kind you take meds for. Most of you know I was young when I became a Baal Teshuva, only seventeen. But who am I, really?

Am I Sam, the girl who cries over the deaths of fictional characters? The girl who has a nerdy fangasm when her OTP finally gets together? The girl who can eat a whole pack of that yummy sushi seaweed? The girl who still thinks there are monsters under the bed? 

Or am I Shira, the girl who says Shema every night before bed? The girl who put up a mezuzah on her bedroom door post?  The girl who goes to public menorah lightings?

Who am I?

Does anyone know who they really are?

Does anyone know how to fit in?

I don’t. 

So who am I, anyway?

Why the Dakota Access Pipeline Needs to Stop Right the Fuck Now

When I first read about the pipeline, I knew right away something was up. I did some digging and according to the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1851, it is illegal. That land belongs to the Lakota, and to the Lakota alone. The Sioux call it the Black Snake, and not without reason. The corporations behind the pipeline are corrupt and unjust. They poison everything they touch. They could give two shit about Standing Rock. All they care about is whether they get their money.

How does this affect us as Jews? In the words of Tevye the famous milkman, I’ll tell you. The Sioux, like countless other groups, have been forced off their land and onto the reservation. It’s all they’ve got left. How many groups have forced the Jews off their land? Jews have been forced to leave homes in Russia, Germany, Persia, and Italy, among countless other places. It would be an outrage if an oil pipeline forced its way through one of our graveyards. That’s exactly how the Lakota see it, and I agree.

Now think about the fact that Bnei Israel were a desert people. They valued water, not gold, to quote the 2000 version of the movie The Mummy. The Standing Rock Sioux are no different. They just want to be left alone, to protect the water and the land that is rightfully and legally theirs. Look me in the eyes and tell me honestly that you think that’s a bad thing.

The Dakota Pipeline would poison the Missouri River, which is the primary source of water for the Sioux. Thousands of people could get sick and possibly die. America has enough problems. Do we really need more blood on our hands?

Why Should it Matter What We Read?

Today at the public library, I saw a shelf of recommended reads for Banned Books Week, and it got me thinking. Why in the name of the Angel Raziel would a book be banned in the first damn place? Censorship is just The Man’s way of saying fuck you to curiosity. I once read a rabbi who was so afraid of his kids going OTD that the only reading material in his house had titles lik How the Rabbi Went to Israel and Kept all the mitzvos! I get not wanting your kids to leave the fold, but there is such a thing as extremism in any religious community. Thoughts?