I had a feeling today of not fitting in anywhere. It’s a feeling I often get, but today I was pulled in a lot of different directions: by the high street (increasingly woke, but still consumerist, somehow), by blogs, by The Jewish Review of Books. Pulled in different directions by different visions of politics and lifestyles and Judaisms most of which I am unable to assent to. Experiencing so many so rapidly was uncomfortable.

I distinctly remember years ago a discussion on Hevria.com where a former ba’al teshuva (person raised secular who became religious — in this case before returning to secularism) argued that ba’alei teshuva (plural of ba’al teshuva) are “sold a bill of goods” by kiruv rabbis (“outreach” rabbis who try to get secular Jews to become religious). If I understand the American idiom correctly, this may well be true, at least in some cases, but it avoids looking at the bill of goods sold to all of us by mainstream society — and, indeed, by its more usual counter-cultures (Orthodox Judaism is a counter-culture, just not a very popular or highly regarded one).

I try not to get upset by people’s political, religious and “lifestyle” choices. We all have blind spots and biases in our worldviews and we all have to get along together somehow. I was a bit shocked today to see someone I regard as level-headed and a critical thinker acting in a less than critical way to assent to a political proposition I regarded as question-begging (not necessarily untrue, just in need of more serious examination). I didn’t say anything, and I don’t know if that was the right decision. I doubtless have my own biases and blind spots, and I worry sometimes about the things I’m unaware that I’m wrong about, as well as my “unknown unknowns.” Ultimately, the mystics and rationalists agree that the only thing that we know is that we do not know.

Possibly, like Groucho Marx, I refuse to belong to a club that will have me as a member. At least with E I can be a misfit club of two now instead of one. It is strange and surprisingly comfortable to find someone who agrees with me on a lot of stuff, big as well as small.


My sister and brother-in-law came for dinner in the garden with me and my parents. It was good, but I tend to drift in and out of the conversation, and also to feel inadequate that my sister and BIL have their own careers and house and other things I work part-time and live with my parents. I think about this every time I see them, which isn’t healthy. I realised after everyone had gone that I forgot to share my news, such as it is, that things are still looking hopeful (although not certain) for my job being made permanent and my friend reviewing my Doctor Who book in a fanzine that may lead to a few more sales.

I also had one of my occasional “can not get filled up” evenings and ended up eating kosher pot noodle in addition to real food, and then eating too much Ben & Jerry’s ice cream with dessert.


I feel pretty shattered now after work and socialising (plus shopping and Torah study), and possibly coming down from an ice cream sugar high (curse you “Ben and Jerry” (OK, Unilever) with your facile politics and your addictive flavours!). I’m going to watch Babylon 5 and then Doctor Who “with” E. To be honest, if “fitting in to a community” means watching Doctor Who with E, then for the first time in my life, I think I can manage it.

8 thoughts on ““Je suis Marxiste, tendence Groucho”

  1. That’s a good point about consumerist, secular culture. It definitely pulls you into various streams of brainwashing, from electronics to dating to clothing, music, TV, etc. Just because we don’t belong to an organized religion doesn’t mean we are free thinkers…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you’re spot on that most people have been sold a bill of goods by some society or other. I’ve always found the assumption so many people hold that mainstream Western secular consumer society (or whatever) is the natural way of things and anything else is a deviation puzzling. That said, I don’t know how tenable my attempt to pick and choose the parts I like from the various social constructs on offer can really be.

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    1. If I was more of a postmodernist, which I am not, I would say that all we can do is construct our own narratives. But I am sufficiently postmodernist to be suspicious of the idea of getting any idea in a “pure” form. I’m not sure what the answer is.

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  3. I consider myself relatively impervious to advertising but my daughter claims I’m not. (she’s probably right) Your last sentence is very hopeful. I too curse Ben and Jerry’s for all their delicious flavors.

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  4. I think there are good and bad actors in kiruv, but even for the good actors who really aren’t trying to be deceptive, the experience of being a participant at a kiruv event to dating, working, and raising a family in the Orthodox world is just wildly different. But yes, secular society also sells a bill of goods, no question.

    Re: critical-thinkers, sometimes, dissent and debate aren’t worth it. I don’t know if I qualify as a true “critical thinker” but there have definitely been times, online and offline. when I don’t agree with something 100% and yet, raising questions and counter-arguments does not feel worth it. I feel like this is the case in most settings, and I wish it were not.

    I give Ben & Jerry’s credit for not caving in to demands to boycott Israel. (And also for making extremely tasty and delicious flavors)

    Liked by 1 person

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