Today, I had to make a painful decision.
I stopped following Pop Chassid, who I’ve followed pretty much since I started this journey, and Hevria, the Jewish artistic magazine he started sometime this past year, because apparently Elad Nehorai can’t be bothered to consider me Jewish unless I convert Orthodox (which will happen around the same time the sun freezes over).
Oh, he tries. He says. He tries to understand that a person can be Jewish and yet not be Jewish all at the same time. He calls this a “paradox,” that non-Jews (by his estimation) can somehow have Jewish souls. He says he can’t call people like me non-Jewish anymore, but he can’t call us Jewish either. And that somehow he has to do both.
He recognizes that he can’t call people like me non-Jewish. And yet even after that he still retreats back to the same old, same old Orthodox claptrap and says “but I still wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one.”
Despite his attempts to think it through, he still falls back on “My feelings about this haven’t changed.”
So at the end of it he says he will both consider people like me non-Jewish and Jewish at the same time.
Not good enough, Elad. Not good enough.
I’ll just quote Jonathan Byrd: “Admit that your perspective might feel right and be wrong.” Because it is.
It’s not a paradox. It’s a decision Elad has to make, and doesn’t want to, because no matter which way he goes he’s going to hurt someone’s feelings and/or offend someone.
But regardless of his struggle, I’m still Jewish, and I’m still a Jew. Either accept that or don’t, Elad, but don’t twist yourself into a pretzel saying that I both am, and am not, Jewish. Either be honest that you’re accepting a bigoted, closedminded, narrowminded definition of Jewish (“Orthodox only”), or open your mind and accept that I’m a Jew too.
(Oh, and by the way – the Reform movement of Judaism predates Orthodoxy.)
You can call it a paradox, but what it is, is justifying a bigoted mindset. It’s the same thing as the people saying “heritage not hate” about the Confederate flag. That heritage is hate. It’s the same thing as why Christianity has fractured into thousands of different sects – because of this “you have to be exactly like us or you’re not part of us” mindset.
Demanding that Jews must be Orthodox or else not be considered Jewish is no different.
Now, I shouldn’t care what one Orthodox blogger thinks of my Yiddishkeit. And mostly, I don’t care, any more than I care what fundamentalist Christians think of my gayness or atheists think of my religiosity. But when someone says that who I am is not real, because it makes them uncomfortable? Because it creates a “paradox” for them?
Then yes, I’m offended.
She’asani Israel, Elad, even if you don’t like it. She’asani Israel, even if you can’t handle it.
Pop Chassid has been, and is, a popular Judaism blog. He has a lot of followers. But his popularity does not make him right. So:
I categorically reject his questioning of my Jewish authenticity.
I categorically reject his defense of his decision not to consider me a Jew unless I’m Orthodox.
And I categorically reject his blog, his magazine, and his attitude, until he shows some evolution in this mindset and realizes that it’s not a paradox but only an attempt to protect his prejudices.
I have friends who are Orthodox who consider me Jewish. I have corresponded with an Orthodox person on Quora who told me that Orthodoxy isn’t for everyone, and he doesn’t consider me any less Jewish just because I’m Reform.
If they can do it, Elad Nehorai can do it too.
And until he does, I’m not reading his blog or his magazine any more, and I’m going to encourage others not to, either.
7 responses to “Hey, Pop Chassid – it’s not a “paradox.””
I also left this comment on the Hevria Facebook page when he asked me why I’d thought he wouldn’t think of this the way the Orthodox do, since he’s Orthodox. My response is below.
Part of it was the fact that over the past year-plus that I’ve followed your blog, and more recently Hevria, you seemed like you had an open mind about this. Some Orthodox Jews do, you know. Some of them are my friends, and they’ve welcomed me into Judaism with open arms.
So I guess you could say that I expected better of you.
But with this essay, you’ve just demonstrated that when push comes to shove – when the rubber really hits the road – the rules are more important than the people, or the community, to you. As Lee Herman said in this thread, Ruth didn’t undergo an Orthodox conversion. Why are you holding those of us who have Jewish souls – which you admit we have – but are not converting “your way” to a different standard than the one to which she was held?
Because you see, Elad, what you said was this: You would consider me, a convert who is not Orthodox, both a Jew and not a Jew, that you can’t make a choice about whether I’m fish or fowl. Except you then go on to say that wouldn’t let your daughters marry someone like me. That tells me that you’ve made your choice, and your choice is, “He’s not really a Jew unless he converts to my version of Judaism.”
That’s bigoted any way you slice it. That’s no different from a fundamentalist, literalist Christian saying that only their tiny little Foursquare Gospel Church of the Fifth Asshat of the Schism of 1912 is a “real Christian,” and that all the other Christians are just pretending because they’re not doing it the way the Foursquare Gospel Church of the Fifth Asshat of the Schism of 1912 is doing it.
Did you even realize that what you wrote here was divisive, hurtful, and bigoted? Do you know how many good, non-Orthodox Jews you’ve just driven away from this project which was supposed to build Jewish creative community? Do you realize you’ve poisoned that well by your essay? From the comments you’ve made on other people’s responses, it seems you’ve overlooked this simple fact: you made your choice about whether I’m a Jew or not and stated it quite clearly, and it wasn’t one that includes people like me.
Now, if that’s not what you meant, then you need to either do some judicious editing, or apologize, or both. Because that’s the message that you’ve sent today with this essay. The people who have chimed in about how yes, anyone who doesn’t follow Orthodox halacha is not Jewish seem to feel that you’ve confirmed their position on this. Was that your intent? Because that’s the result.
I’m a Member of the Tribe too, even if I came to it by a different path. Orthodoxy does not own Judaism, as much as many of its members want to make that claim. But by making the statements you’ve made here today, you’ve aligned yourself with the haredim who try to block women from praying at the Kotel in Israel, and I won’t support or read anyone who does that. My image of you now is the angry Orthodox man shouting “sefer sheli!” at a woman holding a Torah scroll who only wants to pray at the Kotel. Why? Because she’s a religious and faithful Jew, whether he recognizes that or not.
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To his credit, he’s doing the work, and he’s doing it in public, with input from you and others. You don’t think that counts for much, and I can relate: I feel the same way about Obama’s rate of progress toward ending the War on Drugs (really a war on his people) and toward acceptance of gay marriage (even though he eventually got where he was going). Edad will probably get it right after six more years too, but you’re not obliged to watch the process.
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One can hope. But the thing is, if he was doing this as personal work, shouldn’t it be on his personal blog? He posted it to the magazine, which may be his, but it’s a shared space, not just his space. It was a policy statement, and I’m sure it alienated a lot of people besides me – good people, who might have been his contributors, if he had been more open-minded.
This comment is in response to a comment which I found offensive. In this comment, the author accused me of not knowing what bigotry was, and stated that according to Orthodox Jews, I am not a Jew. My response is here, but this commenter will not be approved for future comments, because frankly? This isn’t a debate board. This is my blog. And I’ll exercise the banhammer whenever I find it necessary to do so.
I have a Ph.D. in sociology. I study this stuff, and I know exactly what bigotry is, having both studied it and experienced it multiple times in my life. But since you think I “literally” don’t know what the word means, let me ease your mind on that point.
Bigot: “a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person; especially : a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group).” There, that’s the dictionary definition, straight from Webster’s. Happy now? Elad is refusing to accept the members of a particular group (non-Orthodox Jews) as Jews. That’s bigotry.
No, he’s not denying me entrance into a store, or trying to murder me. But it’s still bigotry. What Elad is doing is saying “this is the standard I use to define ‘Jewishness’ and if you don’t meet it, then you’re not a Jew.” And that’s bigotry because he’s preferencing his definition above anyone else’s and demanding that it be the only standard used.
You say that he and I are “making different choices,” and to an extent I agree. I’m choosing inclusion, and he’s choosing bigotry and exclusion. See, I don’t define him as “not a Jew” just because he has a different definition than I do. He does define me as “not a Jew,” and that’s unacceptable.
Now, on his own blog, of course he’s free to do what he likes. But he should not be able to expect that people he’s excluding by his narrow-minded definition will be okay with it. I’m not, and I won’t be.
I am becoming Jewish by the standards of the Reform movement, and if you don’t recognize that, then you shouldn’t be reading or commenting on this blog. I don’t care if the Orthodox Jewish community doesn’t recognize me as a Jew. Their standards are bigoted by definition, just as the standards for “who is an American citizen” in the culture of the deep South are bigoted by definition, because those standards exclude anyone who isn’t White and Christian.
I’m Reform, not uninformed. And I am a Jew, whether Elad (or you) likes it or not. Yes, I still have to go through the final halachic requirements of the beit din and the mikveh, but those are scheduled and they will happen before the HHDs.
So don’t defend him or his views on my blog, all right? If you want to go ride on his coattails and kiss up to his bigoted beliefs, his blog is that way. Feel free to comment there.
That would like saying your are not a Christian unless you are Catholic. I am on this journey too haven’t started classes as of yet just reading a lot of books on my own. But if the Orthodox has a problem of us Jews-by-choice then they are not living the Torah!
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