Monday, May 14, 2007

Classic BT Move

I met a guy recently and upon speaking with him for a few minutes, I realized that I knew somebody that was in his year of graduate schooling. The conversation went something like this:

Him: I'm just finishing my 1st year at such and such a grad school.
Me: Oh, I know a frum girl in your class; she grew up with me in Frederick.
Him: Well....kind of...
Me: What do you mean, "Well, kind of"?
Him: Well, she doesn't cover her hair.

Lets forget the fact, for a second, that this guy grew up in a town where a tiny fraction of women cover their hair. To me, to consider someone "kind of frum" because she doesn't cover her hair is simply ridiculous. If one were to make a list of requisite things one must do in order to fall under the umbrella of "Orthodoxy" in America today, I'd have Kashrus, Shabbos, and Taharas haMishpacha. Having sex with men excludes men from being heterosexual, but not covering of hair doesn't exclude women from being Orthodox.

That said, the whole idea of where people fall on the Jewish spectrum isn't the issue. The bigger problem, I believe, is for Baalei Teshuva to totally turn their backs on their (GASP!) Reform or Conservative upbringing. For me, growing up in a house that would at most be considered Conservative has only made me more sympathetic to the religious struggles of the non-Orthodox who are on their own, personal, path of relgiious growth. It would make sense that someone who is a Ba'al Teshuva and understands how hard it is to "make it" would want to laud someone for their path to Orthodoxy; and not to want to throw someone out of being called "Orthodoxy" for something which doesn't define someone as being Orthodox in today's society to begin with. Unfortunately, many Baalei Teshuva turn off part of their memory when they become frum.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Classic Milner.

12:24 PM, May 14, 2007

Anonymous Greg said...

While I agree this guy is being a douche, I don't see any problem, in fact I would encourage, recognizing a distinction between being "frum" and being religious in a Jewish sense. Being frum is a cultural thing, it includes listening to MDB, wearing certain types of clothes, and judging others who are different than you unfairly. It's wholly different from being religious in a Jewish sense; culture/frumkeit play a large part in the experiential quality of a religion, but there's no reason to presume that one specific culture is a requirement for the religion. So in order to be melamed zchus on this douche, we could say he was making a comment about your friend's frumkeit, not her religiosity.

12:53 PM, May 14, 2007

Blogger AlanLaz said...

Greg, I'm not disagreeing with you, but if being "frum" means judging those who may be different from us UNFAIRLY, then I have no problem saying that I'm not "frum".

I guess the question is what makes this guy different from this girl? To him, her not covering her hair is enough to make her "different." To me, that's not enough for her to be "different."

1:16 PM, May 14, 2007

Anonymous DM said...


What is MDB? I need some of that.

1:36 PM, May 14, 2007

Anonymous greg said...

I can't believe you've never heard of Mordechai Den Bavid?!?!

1:42 PM, May 14, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to point out that yes this guy ia a BT, but knowing him I believe he has real issues. Not playing with a full deck. Most BT's aren't like that.

2:14 PM, May 14, 2007

Anonymous greg said...

Well, whoever this guy's rabbi is should tell him: mental health first, Judaism second.

3:43 PM, May 14, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think if someone doesn't cover their hair that is indicative of a person who may not be religious or frum in the confines of their house even to include kashrus, shabbos and taharas hamishpacha. I'm not saying that it's for sure, but it perhaps "likely." So why not characterize this "someone" as "kinda frum." I'm not sure what the big deal is.

7:36 PM, May 14, 2007

Blogger AlanLaz said...

This guy definitely knows that the girl keeps Shabbos, kosher, etc.

To me, someone's either frum or not frum.

7:59 PM, May 14, 2007

Anonymous peninah said...

Anonymous- what about the guy who cheats on his taxes (and has no problems bragging about it) or the guy who has questionable yet well-known business practices? What would you say about his level of observance and the issues of kashrus, shabbos and taharas hamishpacha? Just curious.

8:38 PM, May 14, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

greg shows an obvious disdain for the yeshiva version of frumkeit. it appears that everyone with a white shirt and MBD CD is a faker.

10:36 AM, May 15, 2007

Blogger Rochel said...


What's with the whole, "Well frummies cheat and lie" comments? Everyone knows that the yeshivish guy who cheats on his taxes is wrong (of course only a yeshivish guy would cheat, a modern orthodox person would NEVER cheat on his taxes.)

The fact that a frummy guy cheats doesn't make it right for a modern orthodox married woman not to cover her hair. I am not at all saying that her not covering her hair takes her out of the "frum" category but you seem to use any excuse to disregard issues in the MO community while bashing the frummy community at the same time.

Peninah, I've seen you respond like this on other blogs when someone questions certain actions of an MO person. Instead of admitting that there may be problems in both the modern-orthodox community and right winged community, you are always quick to start listing the problems in the more right winged community, rationalizing the actions of the MO.

Doesn't sound like an unbiased response.

2:15 PM, May 15, 2007

Blogger AlanLaz said...

Rochel - I'm going to let Peninah respond to you, but just one thing: while everyone knows that the yeshivish guy who cheats on his taxes is wrong, the question is do people continue to think that he's FRUM despite this. This isn't a question of right or wrong; it's a question of FRUM or NOT-FRUM. I think that it's interesting that we consider someone who cheats on his taxes frum DESPITE the fact that he does so, yet we're not willing to give the same slack to someone who's on their continuing path of Yiddishkeit and does not cover her hair (yet).

2:56 PM, May 15, 2007

Blogger Rochel said...

Alanlaz- I personally believe that the woman who doesn't cover her hair can most definitely be frum/orthodox. It is possible that she will make the right decision in time (to cover her hair) but I agree with you completely that it is nobodys business to judge this woman's frumness because of her uncovered hair.

I take issue with Peninah's statement, as well as Greg's, who are often so quick to be judgmental of the entire right-winged community based on something they witnessed in one or two people but will jump up and attack anyone who points out some inconsistency they notice in the MO community.

It has to go both ways. If you don't want people to be judgmental of the MO, don't be judgmental of the yeshivish.

3:05 PM, May 15, 2007

Anonymous peninah said...

Rochel- I am just as "judgemental" (if you will call what I feel judgemental)of the MO as I am of the yeshivish. If someone wants to consider themselves a halachick Jew then they should do their best to follow the halachos and torah guidelines- and yes that means that a woman should cover her hair. But I take umbridge at anyone who automatically looks at the woman who doesn't cover her hair and labels her "not frum" and goes further to say that they can assume that based on that she does not keep shabbos, kashrus, and taharas hamishpacha.

My point in bringing up the guy who cheats on his taxes- and you will notice that NO WHERE in my comment did I even mention the word Yeshivish - (if that was extrapolated from my words sorry but I didn't write it) is that we so often pick and choose who we deem "frum" in our society. It is so much easier to say that the MO woman isn't "frum" as oppoosed to the people who follow halacha based on all outer appearances (and that can include even a guy in a *gasp* kippah srugah!) yet have questionable moral (and many times halachik) practices.

The bottom line is that we shouldn't be judging anyone on thier seeming level of "frumkeit". If you know this girl and based on your personal thoughts wouldn't feel comfortable eating in her house because of what you think her level of observance is, fine. That is your prerogative. But for a third party person who comes out with the statement, "she must not be frum" I have issues with.

4:24 PM, May 15, 2007

Anonymous Greg said...

I was just using that as an example of culture/sociological trappings of "frumkeit." You could just as easily substitute Israel Day Parade or wearing a blue shirt.

That being said, I have disdain and take issue with people who do things that are either wrong or self-harmful for dumb reasons. That is all.

In addition, I will add that perhaps this woman, like many other pious women, spoke to her rav and got a heter to uncover her hair. Some rabbis permit it, there certainly are halachic grounds for it under various circumstances. Likewise, someone may speak to their rav and get a heter to cheat on their taxes. Putting aside the objective rightness or wrongness of either of these actions, surely they are both acting "frum" in talking to a rav.

4:59 PM, May 15, 2007

Anonymous Greg said...

Just to clarify: my comments do not imply a disdain for yeshiva orthodoxy. I was simply pointing out that much of what people consider to be religion is actually culture, and is often conflated as having relevance to one's religiosity when in fact it doesn't. This is neither a good nor bad thing, but an important distinction. I was actually trying to be melamed zchus on this guy. I guess you missed the finer points of my subtlety.

5:06 PM, May 15, 2007

Anonymous Erica said...

I'm entering late to this discussion but your post reminded me of a story, we were once at a random gas station in some random place in NJ that was maybe an hour from Lakewood or something (not in a Jewish area at all) and an obviously (to me) frum woman was having car trouble. My father and cousin were helping her out trying to get her car started again when she was heard on her cell phone screaming at the person "your f&*#ing car got me f*&#ing stuck." At which point my dad turned to me and said "I guess she's not Orthodox"

Maybe this baal teshuva guy really thought that all orthodox married women cover their hair? I used to think that all orthodox women cover their hair, wear skirts, are shomer negiah, don't eat fish and salad at Subway etc. but I came, in time to learn, that Orthodoxy covers a whole range of people and basically goes based on, like you said, the confines of Shabbos, Kashrus, Taharas HaMishpacha.

I mean obviously you know this guy so he could totally have just be judging the woman but maybe he just had that simplistic view of "oh I thought all Orthodox people have to do this and if they don't then they must not be Orthodox"

7:26 AM, May 17, 2007

Anonymous Greg said...

When I was a kid in NCSY I thought all other Orthodox kids loved learning and davening and eating kosher food. Then I switched to Hebrew Academy.

I think in this situation the person in question was well aware of the normal characteristics of frum Jews. He wasn't an outsider with only superficial knowledge of the Orthodox world.

10:57 AM, May 18, 2007

Blogger AlanLaz said...

Similar experiences at Hebrew Academy, Greg.

11:17 AM, May 18, 2007


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