Thursday, June 30, 2011


I was minding my own business the other day, surfin’ the seven seas of the interwebz, when suddenly I was assaulted by an acquaintance of mine (who shall be heretofore referred to as L) who I was only vaguely aware reads this here blog.

“That blog you and your friends set up is very offensive. You guys are snobs… you think you’re better than everyone else. Why do you have to put your elitism on display?”

L went on to say that even though we’ve had bad experiences with the community, we shouldn’t make our issues with the community public. It just isn’t right for us to shame our fellow Jews.

Now, listen here, audience. L was treated like utter garbage by her yeshiva high school because her parents failed to donate money, jewels, and offer sacrifices to Rah, the Sun God. She doesn’t come from a “designer” family, so they have been treated like cellophane by the sad excuse of a community they inhabit. When I first met L, we bonded over being outsiders – we were in the community, but not of the community. Her reaction was completely unexpected.

Why L feels the need to defend the people who have made her life miserable is beyond me. She has ranted against them herself, but now that others have taken a more public stand, she jumps to their defense.

Perhaps if more people vocalized their concerns and complaints instead of passively allowed things to continue just as they are, we might see a bit of change…? Dare I hope for such a thing?

Or are we doomed?


  1. To the person theretofore and, more to the point, thenceforth known as L: Should you read this post, would be interesting if you would comment, s'il vous plait.

    To Joanna: Doom was great but, frankly, Quake was far superior.

  2. I highly doubt she'll be showing up here, but mayhaps she's a stalker.

    What about Tsunami? Avalanche? Cyclone?

  3. u missed the point joanna, and yes, quake was better

  4. Public shaming as a means of getting people to change?

    Please forgive me if I am somewhat skeptical.

  5. I hope it doesnt come across as if we condone the public embarassment or shaming of anyone. I think we've spoken about how to respectfully disagree with people in past posts.

    But when it comes to our opinions, where do we stop talking? When, if ever, does it become appropriate to stop talking about the things that bother and embarrass us?

  6. Aliza-
    I must admit that I am not a frequent reader of Arbitribe, so it's no surprise that I've missed your posts on respectful disagreement without shaming. I apologize; I was just reacting to this post in a vaccuum.

    Personally, I aspire to an approach which might satisfy both L and you - public promotion of "what ought to be", without expressing disdain for "what is".

    Not that I always (ever?) succeed in doing this, but that's my goal.

  7. A few years ago I sat in on a lecture by a rabbi who has since become a mentor as well as close personal friend of mine, and I believe the topic of his lecture outlines our sentiment as a whole quite well.

    Long story short (and please feel free to contact me if you would like to know the content of the lecture in further detail), the conclusion was that the issue with Judaism that everyone in the audience was dealing with had stemmed from the fact that there is such a disconnect in the world between "what is" and "what ought to be," as you put it.

    One of the main reasons we take issue with many things about modern Judaism is because we see such a discrepancy between what Judaism should be and how the Jews behave.

    To that end, we feel that it is extremely important to point out said discrepancy so that maybe someone reading or listening will understand and take it to heart.

    A history professor of mine one told my class that it is impossible to say anything politically significant without offending someone somewhere. While our opinions and how we express them may come across as inflammatory, it is certainly not our intention to offend, shame, or condemn anyone; it is simply an unfortunate consequence of saying something of significance.

  8. As far as I know, it's also a duty of Jews to point out when another Jew is making a mistake... it doesn't have to be in a shaming or offensive way, but nevertheless there is a clearly a duty to evaluate what IS.

  9. Tzvi, Irina-
    I certainly agree that there is a mitzvah (and a need) for helping others to improve. My dispute is with the method for getting there. Being inflammatory and saying, "I didn't mean to offend" seems to me to be less than effective and not in line with the mitzvah.

    For a fuller expression of my thoughts - and, more important, some primary sources - on this rather complex topic, you might look here and here.

  10. I do understand what you're saying and let me thank you for those articles because I did enjoy the read. However, it appears to me that we have a bit of a misunderstanding as to exactly what we're doing here at Arbitribe and why we're doing it.

    Let me make it clear that in no way did we create Arbitribe as a device to rebuke or condemn. Although kol yisrael areivim zeh la'zeh, that is not the express purpose of this blog. It was originally founded so that four twenty-something NY Jews could write about what was on their mind and express some ideas or feelings. In general, a blog isn't the best of tools if you are trying to correct a mistake of a single Jew or a community of them. We simply write what we feel.

    Although I myself tend to get a little...animated, shall we say, during many of my posts, it is only a result of the powerful emotional context from which I am writing. In no way do I view the primary purpose of my posts to correct the highlighted issue, I just write what is on my mind at the time. It's a cathartic experience.

    However, I'm also open to the possibility of a Yeshiva High School menahel reading my 2 page rip on the (in my opinion) misguided efforts of the Judaic studies departments in the modern Yeshiva schooling system, and that it might spur him to change things. To that end, though I may get frustrated and bitterly sarcastic, I do try to remain somewhat respectful.

  11. For my part, I write for Arbitribe as a way to express those things I find funny and/or confusing about my experience as an Orthodox New York Jew. I love being Jewish and I love the religion (hey, else I wouldn't be Orthodox). I try in my posts not to be in "attack mode", which is why a reaction such as L's felt a little bit... ouch.

    But when we do write about things that frustrate us, or when we point out those things we feel need to be fixed, does this really make us "snobs"? I most recently spoke about two levels of my confusion in my post An American Jew in Europe, where I addressed an american quirk of Kashrut certification that confuses me (but does not offend me) as well as respectful disagreement on a social standard between American and European Jews. My point of that post was that while we may all disagree on things, and while some of us (like me) may not always understand some of the standards, in the end, we are one people who mostly have reasons for the things we do, who must look out for each other, because no one else will. If our looking out for one another means also pointing out our social mistakes, well, we'll do that too. I only hope that most of our readers don't see us as L does, and don't feel the need to be defensive.

  12. Gladstone on had a great article about this kind of disconnect and how it applies to American Jewry as a whole. He was trying to explain why so many Jews go into comedy, but it more illustrates the fact that there are a lot of people who are unable to understand a difference of opinion and thought.

    I myself went through a Stockholm Syndrome phase much like L did in my religiosity, and came to accept the difference, as Tzvi put it, to "What Is" and "What Ought to Be". To put it bluntly, I made my own decisions but still respect the religious (to a point-something I will elaborate further on if you wish). This is a tactic used by those not strong nor courageous enough to challenge accepted norms when they are inherently faulty, and once again I wish to reinforce that I am merely speaking from personal experience-I do not speak on behalf of anyone else experiencing this phenomena.

    If there is one takeaway lesson from all this, it is that you can stick with your convictions, but unabated and they will consume you. Zealots end up dead or crazy for their convictions.


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