My mood has been somewhat low again.  I’m not entirely sure why.  My religious wedding to E seems as far off as ever, and the fact that we can’t even set a date yet (because of immigration bureaucracy uncertainty) makes it worse.  The civil wedding is getting nearer (less than four weeks away), which is good, but that stokes travel anxiety.  There’s a lot to do to get married (civil and religious) and that’s daunting, but we can’t really start on much of it, which is frustrating in a different way.  Things might be easier next week, once we’re past Tisha B’Av and I can shave and listen to music again – it will just be easier to maintain a positive mood.  As I’ve said before, Tisha B’Av always seems a daunting day in advance because pretty much anything even vaguely fun is forbidden (including Torah study and, ideally, work).  It’s always a relief to get past it. My Dad says he’s struggling with no music too (and he’s shaving).

It doesn’t help that my wisdom tooth is still hurting, but I did eventually manage to get an appointment with the dentist for Friday afternoon, which was earlier than I hoped.  I’m just using clove oil to dull the pain at the moment; thankfully it’s not bad enough to need actual painkillers.

E and I had a call with someone from the United Synagogue about pre-marriage classes.  These will mainly be about the halakhot (laws) of what Orthodox people coyly refer to as “marital relations.”[1]  We can’t really move on with that until we’re further on with booking the chuppah (religious ceremony), which in turn we can’t do until we’ve had the civil ceremony and also got the American bet din (rabbinical court) to certify E as Jewish.  It’s very frustrating.

Other than that, I did some Torah study, went for a walk and worked on my novel a bit, but it was hard to get motivated or to concentrate.

[1] Haredi comedian Ashley Blaker did a joke about Jewish punk rock band The Marital Relations Pistols.

***

I’m not sure if the next bit is 100% accurate, but E said I should post it anyway.

I am still thinking about people on the fringes of the frum (religious Jewish) world.  I feel there ought to be some way to bring people together to support each other, if only virtually.  E thinks a Facebook group would be a good idea. I’m not sure.  You know my mixed feelings about Facebook, plus it’s hard to be anonymous on Facebook.  I feel inadequate to do this, but I don’t know if anyone else will.  I think there are online groups for people who are leaving or have left frumkeit, but few/none for those who want to stay, but need moral or practical support.

Yesterday I was listening to an Orthodox Conundrum episode with an anti-missionary rabbi.  He said that Jews who convert to Christianity are likely to be survivors of some kind of trauma, abuse, addiction etc.  I suspect this is probably true, although I disagreed about the wider conclusions he seemed to draw from this.  The frum community tends to refer to these people as “at risk” (i.e. at risk of “going off the derekh” (path) and stopping being frum), which I find ridiculously offensive and stigmatising in itself (as is the phrase “off the derekh,” actually). Another Orthodox Conundrum podcast reflected that the Haredi community has a lot of support for the poor or sick, but often victim-blames abuse survivors who go to the police instead of supporting them.

It makes sense to me that the community needs to provide some kind of support to these people, rather than trying to deal with the consequences them after they’ve left the frum community/converted to Christianity/had an overdose/attempted suicide/become homeless etc.

There are Jewish organisations offering specific help to groups like the mentally ill or abuse survivors or whatever, but often this is not specifically for people in the frum community, but for all Jews, even though the sociological experience of being (for example) frum and depressed is different to the experience of being depressed outside the frum community; a Jewish agnostic with depression won’t necessarily understand the needs of frum person with depression.  Even where people are offering support, it’s often practical support – which is good, but doesn’t necessarily deal with the loneliness of feeling on the fringes.  I feel there should be some kind of non-judgmental social support for people who just don’t fit in as well as people with specific issues. My hypothesis, based on my own experiences, is that someone on the fringes of the community for one reason will understand someone on the fringes for another reason, at least to some extent.

There probably is more to say about this, but it’s late and I have to go to work tomorrow…

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6 thoughts on “On the Fringes

  1. Unpopular (and admittedly uncharitable) opinion: I don’t think that abuse/trauma/addiction is the only reason people go off the derech or leave Judaism. I think frum leaders want to say that abuse/trauma/addiction is the reason why people leave because it spares them from having to do any introspection and improvement on any number of valid social and philosophical reasons that could drive someone to leave. Certainly people do leave because of abuse/trauma/addiction, but that is not the only reason why people leave.

    I disagree slightly with some of your underlying assumptions about people “on the fringes” vs. “people not on the fringes” (or whatever you’d call them). But that aside, I think it is valid to want more of a social support system and given that the nature of Shabbat observance is such that one is limited to a narrow geographic area, it makes sense to seek it out online. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To clarify, I don’t think abuse/trauma/etc. is the only reason people leave Orthodoxy/Judaism either. I think the rabbi was saying that this specific demographic of Haredi Jews who become Christian is dominated by that group, for reasons due to what I guess you could call psychology of theology.

      Beyond that, I do think people who have experienced abuse/trauma/etc. are much more likely than other people in the frum community to leave, and I think in some measure at least that’s due to things like stigma and feeling isolated and victim-blamed.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fair. The Jew I know (and the Jew my dad knows) who converted to Christianity did so because they were searching for meaning and ultimately found it in Christianity. Neither was frum prior conversion. Tbh, I didn’t know there was a demographic of Haredi Jews who become Christian.

        Yeah, I think abuse/trauma, and resulting stigma/isolation/victim-blaming etc. is a huge factor with respect to leaving. I thought that “Off The Derech” by Faranak Margolese was a great read on this.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You could use a different name on Facebook to preserve some anonymity. There are a few good groups. But yeah, any social media seems to result in some harsh comments from people who wouldn’t normally be so rude in person.

    I wonder if many of those who convert from Judaism to Christianity are looking for psychological support. I got more of a feeling of a personal God who I could talk to and who was with me and inside me as a Christian, whereas Judaism is very much community-oriented and prayer is often as a community. It feels more distanced and formal instead of a personal “gentle Jesus” who is always with you (even if he wasn’t always gentle in the Bible!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s probably against Facebook’s terms of service to use a false name, but I was less worried about my anonymity than that of people in the Haredi world who wanted to reach out.

      Judaism does feel more impersonal.

      Liked by 1 person

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