Monthly Archives: July 2009

Rest of the Best. I Mean, Best of the Rest

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How was everyone’s fast? Mine was yummy. Thanks for asking (Okay, I fasted. I promise).

We’ve had a good week here at MyJewishLearning, meaning I have a couple of cool articles for you to check out that you might not have seen on our homepage.

If you’ve read anything that I’ve ever written, you would know that I really don’t know what I’m talking about. When it comes to Judaism, I’m like a kindergartner, except I don’t take naps in the afternoon. If you’re like me, this could all change. Here is the new index page for all of our Judaism 101 articles. Everything you need to know about everything.

Some people’s names are just very fitting. For example, Brittany. Never met an unattractive Brittany. I dare you to find me one. Same goes for Abigail. Never met an Abigail who wasn’t a total sweetheart. Need proof? Read this article.

Finally, a shout out to the Princess Diana of her time, Bathsheba. You may be gone, but you’re not forgotten.

Posted on July 31, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Secrets of an Orthodox Matchmaker

Chana Rachel Frumin is the director and founder of the Jerusalem Narrative Family Therapy Institute, where she is a marriage counselor and Orthodox matchmaker. With Tu B’Av, the Jewish day for love and matchmaking, coming up soon, I spoke with her about how she started setting people up, the challenges of making connections in the Orthodox world, and helping people get past prejudices and be friendly on dates.
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Tamar Fox: Can you tell me how you got started as a matchmaker?

Chana Rachel Frumin: I’m a marriage and family counselor, and there were a lot of women coming in that were getting very hurt by the dating process. And I decided that I had to try and help them. So I started a group with Rebbetzin Esther Ticho and Rabbi Aaron Mertzel, and I taught them about coaching people to have friendly dating services. We coach people how to stay friendly, how not to get excited, how not to get upset, how to give the person a chance. I told them like, when you ride on an airplane, you kind of, give them a chance, and you just get to know who they are and you don’t make any kind of demands or, you don’t have any confrontations or arguments. So I coach people how to be friendly. A lot of people go on dates and they’re very critical and very judgmental, so I try to teach people to lighten up, lighten up on dates.

How long ago did you start doing that coaching?
I’ve been doing it for six years. I’ve been a marriage counselor for 15.

What are the toughest issues you face when trying to make a match?

Unrealistic expectations. Too many demands. What else? People not being honest. No, I don’t think I want to say people not being honest. I think I want to say, they’re not industrious enough, like they say they’ll call someone and they won’t call someone or they say they’ll date them and they date someone else. So it’s a matter of not being organized. And that really hurts people’s feelings and then nobody wants to go out.

I’ve been reading about the history of matchmaking, and for a really long time shadkhans were all men, and it’s only in the last 150 years or so that it has become common for women to be involved. What do you think a woman brings to the job? Or do you think it doesn’t make a difference if it’s a man or a woman?
I think women are more flexible, and they’re more intuitive, so they can more easily see a potential date, a potential possibility for someone. I mean I once had an experience where I had known somebody really really well over a period of a year, and then when his lady walked in I mamish knew it as soon as I met her. As soon as I met her I said, “Oh my gosh this is her for him!” And I called him up and I said, “I met her!” So women are very intuitive.

Are you married?

Yeah. 30 years.

How did you meet your spouse?
I was working on a moshav, and he lived on the moshav.

There’s a lot of people who basically think now that men are waiting to get married for too long, so there’s Jewish women who are remaining single for too long.
Yeah, I would agree with that.

And there’s just not enough men.
I would agree with that.

Yeah?

Uh-huh. I’ll tell you the other big problem: is that people are extraordinarily prejudiced against short people, heavy people. You know there’s just a whole lot of prejudice, so people don’t even get a chance, which doesn’t make any sense.

What’s the biggest reward of your job?
Well that’s pretty obvious–when a couple finds each other. It’s extraordinary. That’s extraordinary because they don’t have to be lonely anymore. The other reason why I do this is because I’m taking a stand against loneliness. There’s just an incredible amount of loneliness in the world, and some of it’s unwarranted. Because it’s very hard–Israel’s not a dating society, you know you don’t meet people on the streets so much you know there has to be context, and it’s very difficult.

What do you think is the most common mistake people make when they’re dating or looking to get married? To be decisive quickly, much much too quickly. I think there should be four dates. There should be like a common practice of four dates. Even if those four dates are in a two week period, you know, four dates–you could at least know who the person is, give the person a chance just treat them with respect and, you know, decently.

Judaism has this concept of yichus, of coming from good lineage. How does this factor into your matchmaking? So my partners are the ones who work more traditionally. My own experience is I try to set someone up with a complimentary hashkafa, [Halakhic outlook] something that is in the ballpark, but in terms of yichus that’s out of my range.

Posted on July 31, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Judd Apatow Reads Our Blog (Or Slate)

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I mean, who can blame the guy, right?

Judd Apatow, promoting his new film, Funny People (Which I’m so confused by. The previews make the movie look horrible but I just read a fantastic review for it in The New Republic), on The Daily Show last night, the director called out Jon Stewart for not using his real last name.

Of course, I wrote about this very subject last week (after stealing the topic idea from Slate). If you missed it, I question why the Jewish community isn’t bothered by Jon Stewart not going by his real name, Leibowitz, when he is so obviously Jewish.

To dismiss me is one thing. I’m a nobody. But to get it from Apatow? Jon Stewart is really starting to feel the pressure.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Judd Apatow
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Joke of the Day

Posted on July 31, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Gay Jewish Hip-Hop Saturday Night

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Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In hip-hop, Soce the Elemental Wizard is as self-aware as it gets. Not that you could accuse the man of any less. His new album, the inspiringly-titled “Master of Fine Arts,” was released this week, and there’s a launch party Saturday night at the Bowery Poetry Club. (Tickets are $10, which includes a CD, so it’s basically like getting a Saturday night concert for free.)

Soce’s real name is Andrew Singer, and he has a day job as a computer guy on Wall Street. If you think that disqualifies him from hip-hop greatness, you’re so misled — nerd-rap is the very basis of his raison d’etre. His album begins with the warning “I was a renegade/until I started drinking my lemonade/now I’m better-paid” — and the album’s first video, “They Call Me,” starts out with a 7-year-old Soce getting beaten up in a schoolyard, and lays heavy claims, like that he’s got “an edge like matzoh and cheese.”


He’s not afraid to put himself on the line (and, yes, his rhymes are totally {and intentionally} laughable), but Soce also keeps it real — his jams are legitimate hip-hop, his wordplay as smart as it is silly, and his beats are quality, radio-friendly music. There’s the Jewish thing, of course, and the gay thing, but Soce is refreshingly creative in his lyrics. He’s just as likely to rhyme about Dungeons & Dragons as he is about the dude he’s crushing on. Soce keeps it good-natured but chill, and is likely to pull out the crowd of equally-attractive young Jews, so you should probably get there early. And make sure there’s plenty of room around you to dance.

Posted on July 31, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Family Matters

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Israel, Life on by .

A man is unable to marry because the Israeli Rabbinate decides that he is actually an adoptee, although there is no actual evidence of an adoption. (Ynet)

In Israel, alternative families are becoming more and more common, including never-married single mothers, same-sex parents, foreign worker families, interfaith families and civil marriage families. (Jerusalem Post)

Respected kabbalist and renowned Israeli Religious Zionist Rabbi David Batzri says, “a girl who wishes to marry must take upon herself already on the first date an obligation to have no less than 12 children.” (Ynet)

Is denying a man, who in jail for five years for refusing to give his wife a divorce, glatt-kosher food a legitimate tactic? (Ynet)

And a look at “New Family” established in 1998 to advance the legal rights of all forms of “alternative” and “nontraditional” families in Israel. (Jerusalem Post)

Posted on July 31, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

I’d JDate him!

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It’s the time of year when the Jewish calendar turns to love–Tu B’Av (which falls on August 5th this year). The traditional, somewhat obscure day of Jewish matchmaking originated in the time of the Talmud, and it may seem irrelevant today. But there’s no question that matchmaking, in its many forms, is still a common way to meet “the One.”

When I moved to New York, everyone told me it was the perfect place to meet a nice Jewish boy, date for a bit, and get married. I chuckled and quickly shifted the conversation.

Well, I came to New York a few years ago, and I just wasn’t meeting those nice Jewish boys. So I did it…I joined JDate.

Jdate LogoI refused to pay for the service and didn’t really expect to find anyone. (JDate allows you to participate in messaging and view member profiles without paying. In order to initiate conversation or view your “emails” you need to be a paid member.) I just wanted to meet new people. Then, after a bunch of really strange dates (like the one where the guy wouldn’t walk next to me but instead ran ahead and waited for me to catch up, ran ahead, waited, run ahead, waited…well, you get the picture) and a few good ones in between (which didn’t turn into anything), I finally found someone I thought was worth a second, third, and fourth date.

At the beginning of our relationship, when people asked how we had met, we said it was through mutual friends. We figured if people knew we met on JDate, they’d make assumptions about us: we were desperate, we weren’t religiously observant or were willing to date the many non-Jews on JDate, we lacked the social skills to meet people on our own, or the many other stereotypes attached to Internet dating and JDate in particular, all of which, for us, were totally untrue.

Well here I am, almost two years later, sporting a diamond on that all-important finger and planning a wedding with my JDate match. We no longer feel embarrassed to tell people we met online and, in fact, we’re excited to say so. We’re psyched to give all of the Internet daters out there some hope…it can work out! You can find someone! These days online dating may be just about the easiest way to meet new people, and meeting new people is one of the easiest ways to find love.

Finding love might sound so easy, but the truth is, it takes work. Whether it’s with a shadhan, the Millionaire Matchmaker, a mutual friend, or a dating website, Jewish matchmaking is alive and well.

Posted on July 31, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Wise Fridays: Sins and Lizards

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wise fridays: it's all in the eye of the beholder

The rabbis told this story: In a certain place there was a lizard which used to injure people. They came and told Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa. He said to them: Show me its hole. They showed him its hole, and he put his heel over the hole, and the lizard came out and bit him, and it died.

He put it on his shoulder and brought it to the Beth ha-Midrash and said to them: See, my sons, it is not the lizard that kills, it is sin that kills! On that occasion they said: “Woe to the man whom a lizard meets, but woe to the lizard which R. Hanina b. Dosa meets!”

- Gemara Berakhot, 33a

Go here for more Wise Fridays wisdom.

Posted on July 31, 2009

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A Flower of Ashkenazi Frizz

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In her last blogs, Joanna Smith Rakoff wrote about some of her favorite books.

In the months preceding its publication, Jean Hanff Korelitz’s Admission received more than its share of tabloid-style hype, all of which focused on, let’s say, the nonfiction aspect of the novel: the glimpse Korelitz offers of the Ivy League admissions process, a subject of rabid fascination for the American middle class.

joanna smith rakoff, author blogIn fact, while the novel is very much about that process — it follows a Princeton admissions officer through one application season — it’s really a sort of latter-day Victorian novel, a thick, satisfying page-turner in the vein of Eliot or perhaps Hardy, with a lovely, maddening heroine at its center. That heroine, 38-year-old Portia Nathan — the admissions officer in question — finds her carefully constructed life begins to unravel during the very months when she must read through thousands of undergraduate essays.

Portia is Jewish, but her ethnicity (for she is deeply secular and somewhat self-consciously assimilated) doesn’t truly come into play until the novel’s third section, a flashback to her college years at Dartmouth, when she finds herself slightly alienated from her prep school peers. Raised by a radical feminist mother in Northampton, Portia isn’t quite your typical Dartmouth student, and at first she falls in with the campus’ tiny Bohemian fringe. The group is led by Rebecca Marrow, “a flower of Ashkenazi frizz in a sea of limp WASP coiffure,” who runs a salon of sorts in her cinderblock dorm room, serving smoked salmon and French wine to the poets and actors and other refugees from the Greek scene.

a fortunate age and admissionBut Portia has, perversely, been nursing a crush on Tom Stadley, a handsome jock and (of course) member of the school’s most conservative fraternity, whose mother is rumored to be a rabid anti-Semite—and who himself, according to Rebecca, has a “thing for Jewish girls.” Midway through their sophomore year, Tom turns his attention to Portia, asking her at the start of their courtship, “You’re Jewish, right?” Recalling Rebecca’s offhand comment about Tom’s romantic inclinations, lovesick Portia knows that she should simply answer ‘yes,’ for this is, strictly speaking, the truth.

And yet she pauses, “turning [the] question in her addled brain,” thinking over the varying ways in which she could answers, the various truths available to her: that she is an atheist, that she cannot speak Hebrew, that she never knew her father and he actually might not be or have been Jewish. “Her religious upbringing was limited to the brass menorah Susannah had produced one year when she was small, lit two nights running and abandoned…on the mantelpiece, and also to Susannah’s brief flirtation with feminist seders.….”

Her musings, in short, perfectly define the peculiar situation of the secular American Jew, complete with her slight discomfort—a discomfort she can’t quite articulate—that in answering “yes,” as she finally does, she’s somehow admitting to a whole host of stereotypes and clichés, somehow turning herself into an object. And yet this, for the moment, is what she wants—to be the object of Tom’s affection, no matter if he’s drawn to her because of misplaced ideas about sensual, passionate Jewesses.

Joanna Smith Rakoff has been blogging for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning. Her new book, A Fortunate Age, is available now.

Posted on July 31, 2009

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Did Noah Have Cute Galoshes?

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There are so many stories in the Bible that I (among many people) have a hard time believing as truth.

A talking donkey. A sea splitting into two. A 90-year old woman giving birth.

Rain, Summer 2009, New York, Noah, Flood. From New York TimesI take these stories to be allegories.

But I’ve recently changed my mind on one famous biblical story, due to the weather pattern in New York this summer.

Rain for 40 days and 40 nights?

I now believe it. I feel like I’ve seen it.

Posted on July 31, 2009

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Ending Kaddish on Tisha B’Av

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Life, Practices on by .

In a few hours we begin mourning the destruction of the Temple. Tisha B’Av is considered the saddest day of the Jewish year, and this year it also marks exactly eleven months from the day my mother died. Tisha B’Av is the last day I’ll be saying Kaddish.

This is the part where I would like to be writing something about healing and powerful the experience of saying Kaddish has been. I’d love to have something beautiful to say about being embraced by tradition, and finding myself truly invested in it in a way I never had been before. I could say something about moving forward, about treasuring the past while moving towards a life of future happiness… but that would all be complete and utter bullshit.eema_pesach.jpg

So many calamities happened to the Jewish people during the month of Av, that the Mishnah famously warns Jews from conducting any legal trials during this saddest of months, because during Av the verdict is sure to come out against us. This is somewhat enigmatic–one might expect the rabbis to try to paint the day in a more positive light and make some kind of statement about redemption coming eventually. But no, Tisha B’Av is set aside as a day to mourn for the past of the People of Israel–for everything we had that was destroyed or taken away from us. The insistence on sadness is so great that even studying Torah, that greatest of mitzvot, is prohibited (with a few depressing exceptions) on Tisha B’Av, lest we derive too much pleasure from our studies and forget the somber mood of the day.

I find all of this focus on sadness both satisfying and unjust. On the one hand, I fully appreciate the ability to spend tomorrow moping around feeling generally miserable, bitter, and forlorn. I’m pretty sure I have perfected miserable, bitter, and forlorn this year, and as I enter into the final formal stages of mourning for my mother, it is nice to be allowed–required, even–to focus on just how appalling the last two years have been. Conversely, I’m a little peeved that Tisha B’Av has taken the specialness of this moment from me. My last day of saying Kaddish was when I wanted to stand up in my community and have one last chance to show people that there are young people mourning amongst us. Selfishly, I wanted the attention, the hugs, the sympathy that many people get on their final day saying Kaddish. And I won’t get that, because everyone else at minyan will be absorbed in their own thoughts of misery, persecution and pain in Jewish history.

This is all a nice little microcosm for how I’ve felt all year. I appreciate some of what traditional Jewish mourning practices seem to be saying and teaching, but ultimately, I find myself let down by the rituals and communities I had hoped I would find comforting. It has been eleven months of saying Kaddish, and I do not feel healed.

When my mom was sick I remember telling people I felt like I was falling apart, and I used to picture myself literally falling apart, limbs tumbling off of my torso. I was so upset all the time, I remember thinking things could not possibly get worse. On mornings when I held my mother as she writhed in pain, and at one point actually asked me to call my sisters so she could say goodbye to them, I remember thinking–it cannot get any worse than this. This is the hardest thing I will ever do. But I was almost laughably wrong. The days since my mother died have been thousands of times harder than the days that she was dying.

I had this vision of getting into a routine after my mother died. I thought I would find comfort in the day to day things, and that I would slowly begin to feel better. But the horrifying truth is that there was no routine to fall into without my mother. In the months after my mother died I felt as if my life exploded. I was no longer falling apart myself–instead, everything around me seemed to have gone psychotic. People who I loved and who had been supportive were suddenly hurtful, rude, or noticeably absent. Traditions–both religious and family–disappeared, or were transformed into grotesque acts that only demonstrated just how bizarre life could be.

The plain truth is that I have never felt more abandoned than I did this year. By my faith, by my community, by my family and friends. Even by my mother.

Posted on July 29, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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