the orthodox jew

anonymous asked:

TBH as a patrilineal Jew. I can't see orthodoxy rejecting patrilineals as anything but intolerant.

Just Orthodoxy, or all of the other denominations and groups which also maintain matrilineal descent only? That’s a rhetorical question, you made it very clear what you meant in your ask. ;-)

You may disagree with others. And you’d not be the first individual to reject the Oral Torah’s matrilineal descent. I do know full well how it feels to be rejected as a Jew — and trust me, patrilineals are much more widely accepted than Anusim. Neither Reform nor Recon. ever had my back, on the contrary. I don’t want to turn this into oppression olympics, just looking to put things into perspective… After all, it’s to this inbox that you sent this ask, knowing that an Orthodox Jew would be the one reading and answering it.

So, instead of going around bashing people, have you considered learning why is that that different Jews will believe and do different things? Why is there Jewish plurality? Because I would recommend you do that, just like I recommend everyone around me who says things about other groups which I think is/are inappropriate. Respect goes both ways.

To be quite honest, I’m tired of non-Orthodox Jews coming into our homes (physical and/or virtual), our synagogues, to say that we do is wrong, that we are just intolerant people… That’s not how you foster healthy dialogue.

Jewish women sing songs of worship as they march arm in arm with male supporters through an ultra-Orthodox area of Jerusalem’s Old City.

They’re from a group called Women of the Wall, which lobbies for women to be allowed to pray, sing and read the Bible aloud at the Western Wall, the most important site for Jewish prayer. They hold these marches about once a month, and they often get heckled. Today is no different.

Ultra-Orthodox men sneer and beseech the women to go silent. Young boys from a nearby Jewish seminary, or yeshiva, taunt the women and blow high-pitched whistles to try to drown out the female voices.

Some ultra-Orthodox object to women singing in public — a subject of theological debate here. In Israel, it’s rare to hear a woman even speaking on ultra-Orthodox radio.

Women’s Rights Become A Battleground For Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Jews

Photo: Lauren Frayer/NPR

theatrix-the-goddess  asked:

hey, if i were to write a jewish character, how should i go about it?

WHOOO BOY

Fair Warning: This is going to be a long post.

Personally, I’m an Orthodox Ashkenazi, so most of my characters are Ashkenazis who are at least Modern Orthodox. HOWEVER, not all Jews are Ashkenazi so…. 

Religiosity:

 **CRASH COURSE IN JUDAISM TIME** 

I’m going to use Christianity as an example because I assume the majority of people who will read this are Christian. In Christianity there are different sects that believe different things (Catholic, Lutherans, Irish Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, etc). 

In Judaism there are also different sects only most of them don’t believe in something different than the others unless they’re an offshoot of Ashkenz (which I will get into in a moment). Each of these sects is mainly based on where you or your family are from geographically. If you’re from Spain you are most likely a Sephardi or Anusim Jew. If you are North African (Moroccan, Libyan, Tunisian) then its likely you are also Sephardi. (For anyone interested, Sephardi means in English “of Sephard” Sephard is Spain in Hebrew). If you are from Ethiopia, you are most likely an Ethiopian Jew. From Iran you are most likely a Persian Jew. Anywhere else in the Middle East you are most likely a Mizrachi Jew. If from Yemen then you are a Temani Jew. These are just usual rules to live by. 

If you are from anywhere in Europe (Mainly France, Germany, or Russia) besides Spain then you are most likely an Ashkenazi Jew. The reason that Ashkenazi Jews are a little different than other sects though is a simple reason. 

***CRASH COURSE IN JEWISH HISTORY TIME*** 

In the 1800s European Jews got Emancipated. This meant that Jews were allowed to leave their gated communities (shtettles, though there were plenty ghettos too) and join in with regular society. Since (and @ jumblr correct me if i’m wrong) this only happened in Europe during modern times (1400s) only the Ashkenazi Jews were really affected. So as Jews began to integrate into society many of them began to lose their religiosity. So the Ashkenazi community freaks out because they have Jews who are suddenly not being religious and they create two communities. Reform and Orthodox. The Reform believed that Emancipation was good and it slowly morphed into what everyone knows as Reform Judaism today. The Orthodox Movement thought that Emancipation was ruining Judaism and they later morphed into what is now called Ultra-Orthodox. Then you had two offshoots of those–Conservative and Neo-Orthodox. I know more about Neo-Orthodoxy so I’ll tell you about that, Neo-Orthodoxy believed that unlike Orthodoxy Emancipation was both good and that mitzvot were good. They ended up becoming the Modern Orthodox Movement (sorta like I am!!). 

The difference between the geographical sects and the Ashkenazi offshoot sects are that the geographical sects don’t necessarily have belief differences (differences in tradition and halacha, sure, but not belief) and the other sects do. Since then there have been other offshoots of Ashkenaz (mainly) that have a slightly different belief system as well (Reconstructionist, Renewal, Hassidic, etc). But each of these are different in tradition and halacha because of their belief not because of their teachers. 

Now, friendly reminder that geography doesn’t always work for identifying a Jew’s denomination. I have friends who are Sephardi and have no relation to Spain. There are Jews who do have Spanish decent and are Ashkenazi. It is a good base, but not a law. 

When creating a character figuring out what denomination of Judaism they are is important, as figuring this out is an added character trait and usually very important to the character themselves. 

After you figure out how religious you want them to be I suggest working on their character and seeing how the religion and the rules or miztvot that they follow merge. Remember, Jews are people too and if you are writing a Jew just write a person only with like… Kosher and Yom Kippur (or not if your character doesn’t keep that… whatever).

Traps Writers Fall Into:

There are two big ones:

  • Christian Influence
    • This one is a lot more prominent if the character is in a non-Jewish majority country–which I assume your characters will be, be it America or Britain. 
      • Why, you ask? Well because Secular countries are actually a lot less secular and a lot more Christian than most Christians think. It’s not necessarily a criticism but it is a thing. 
    • Do not, I repeat, do not write your Jewish character like a wannabe-Christian. We are not Wannabe-Christians. If we were then we wouldn’t be Jewish. Not every Jew grows up wanting a Christmas Tree or dressed up for Halloween. Not every kid secretly wants to eat a cheeseburger or go into a church.
      • Jews complain when they don’t get representation, they may love the twinkle lights during the Holidays but they are annoyed that there are no Hannukah decorations in the stores or that every chocolate in Spring is a bunny. We are not Wannabes.
  • Over using Yiddish
    • NOT!!! EVERY!!! JEW!!! SPEAKS!! YIDDISH!!
    • And certainly not every Jew speaks the amount of Yiddish that non-Jewish writers use. Most Ashkenazi Jews speak a mixture of Hebrew and Yiddish slang with a base of English. We’ll say “shelp,” “spritz,” and “gavult.” We’ll also say “stam,” “davka,” and “baruch hashem.” But our base language is usually English. We don’t all have Yiddish accents, we aren’t all New Yorkers. 
    • Also, Yiddish is not the only Jewish language!
      • There is another one called Ladino which is a mix of Spanish and Hebrew, and while it is dying out there still are some speakers. If you have a Jew of Hispanic decent you might want to use that instead of Yiddish. 

Now Let’s Talk Pet Peeves:

I have many Pet Peeves about Jews in Media so let’s start with the most obvious.

1. Jewish Holidays are ignored when they don’t fall out on Christian Ones

It sucks and it’s true. Most of our holidays when not Hannukah and Rosh Hashana are almost never mentioned. Jews have many more holidays than just those two. Like…

  • Jews have like… six fast days. All of them are important but most Jews ignore some of the shorter ones because they fall out on regular work days and it isn’t good to fast while at work.
    • fasting also means fasting. We do not eat unless necessary for health, we do not drink unless necessary for health. And for two of those fast days we have four other restrictions as well. 
  • We have Purim. Purim is a pretty cool holiday with a backstory like most Jewish holidays, someone tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat. 
    • Which contrary to popular belief is not Halloween only Jews.
  • Sukkot
    • A great holiday in which we eat outside and shake a bunch of leaves and a nice smelling fruit (which the TSA must be informed about every year so they don’t hold Jews in Airport Jail for carrying a bunch of palm leaves. I shit you not, this happens every year and it gets funnier every time). There’s other stuff to but that would take longer to explain. 

etc…

2. Jews almost never marry Jews in Media

This actually happens a lot more than in real life. You have a Jewish character, doesn’t matter if they’re religious or not, they almost never marry Jews. I have only ever watched two shows where two Jewish characters married (or were close to it). These are Will & Grace (Grace and Leo), and a show called Saving Hope where the lesbian Jew gets with a lesbian Jew and moves to Tel Aviv (Doctor Katz). 

3. Women and Jewish Marriage

These two topics are treated very badly in media. People tend not to understand what a K’Tuba (Jewish Marriage licence) is, and what it means to Jewish Women. It means we more or less have all power in the relationship. Where Saving Hope is good on the non-intermarriage issue, it sucks on a heterosexual marriage issue. Women are allowed to say no to sex, they are allowed to incite sex, if they do not want sex with their partner their partner cannot have sex with them

Alternatively if either partner wants a get (a Jewish divorce) then the partner must give them one. Something usually ignored is that if the woman wants a get not only does her husband have to give her one the Jewish community is obligated to alienate him from them, personally and business-wise, and treat him as though he has a contagious disease. A Jew is allowed to do almost anything to the unwilling partner to get them to sign the get (the Torah even says that you can stone him. We don’t obviously because killing is wrong and etc. There is a lovely story that I heard about a man who wouldn’t give his wife a get and her angry brother and a matza factory but I won’t get into that). This is exemplified in an episode of a show called In Plain Sight (Episode Aguna Matatala), I really like this episode and the Rabbi character. Personally I believe this is one of the best ‘Jew Episodes’ out there. 

4. Not knowing a character is Jewish until it must come up because of a holiday or a death in the family

If your character is Jewish they are Jewish all the time. Only bringing it up when it’s suddenly Christmas and you want diversity is stupid and quite frankly annoying. You cannot erase our Judaism because it does not benefit your plot. 

FRIENDLY REMINDER: ALL JEWS ARE DIFFERENT. 

An Israeli Jew acts differently than a Diaspora Jew, and a Hollywood Jew acts differently than a New York Jew. We aren’t just stereotypes we are people, and if you are making a character be realistic you must keep that in mind. 


That’s it for now. I may add on more guidelines in the future, and if anyone reading this has a Pet Peeve about Jews in Media I urge you to add yours. But please keep this thread respectful. The ask was respectful and I actually really appreciate you asking. 

Signs that someone has no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to religion:

  • Refers to “Catholics” and “Christians” as if the former isn’t part of the latter
  • Thinks the Council of Nicaea decided what books are in the Bible
  • Says anything about “bronze age fairy tales”
  • Thinks that there are “tens of thousands” of denominations of Christianity
  • Refers unspecifically to all Orthodox Jews as “Hasidic Jews”
  • Thinks Jews use “loopholes” in the Torah to “trick” God
  • Thinks that Salafism/Wahhabism is an “ancient” or “undiluted” form of Islam that’s “stuck in the seventh century”
  • Says Buddhism is “just a philosophy”
  • Thinks that they can practice Buddhism while unthinkingly discarding the religion’s entire metaphysical/cosmological system
  • Thinks that Hindus “worship cows”
  • Thinks that all religions teach that unbelievers will be damned/punished/sent to hell
Jews Being Allowed To Love Jews - by Natalie

So, I wanted to write a piece about a trope about Jewish characters I’ve seen a lot in the media (and specifically, in original fiction and fanfiction, as well from many asks on here.) that has been leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. The trope in question is: Jews marrying out. The thing is, that I need to put a pretty big disclaimer first.

1. I am an ashki Orthodox Jew-ess. White passing, from London. (My matrilineal side is displaced Lebanese, but being Orthodox, I believe I get my tribe from my patrilineal side, which makes me ashkenazi. I’m happy to talk to people about having displaced mena/Lebanese culture though. Just know that it’s part of my history, but not part of my identity). 

2. Interfaith marriages are totally legit, not at all something that should be looked down on, and in fact need representation! Like, interfaith families are super important. So many Jews - even Orthodox ones - I know are from interfaith backgrounds, and they need representation and need to be made to feel as if they are loved. Nothing here should be taken as an attack on actual interfaith marriages and couples.

-So, you might be asking, what’s the problem?

The problem is that any old representation is not always good representation. There are a number of problems with this trope, but the first & more glaringly obvious one being: it’s super common for gentiles to write about Jews marrying out.

(This may be applicable for other minorities too btw, but I see it for Jews all the time.)

You’ve all seen it. The two star crossed lovers: Julia McEnglish & Aaron Jewson. Aaron’s Jewish parents don’t like that he’s dating a goy, Julia can’t imagine giving up Christmas, but they just love each other anyway. Nearly always the minority character’s (although, sometimes it’s both characters as minorities) entire culture is eroticised and Orientalised. It’s their culture that throws up boundaries and difficulties to the relationship. And the tensions and upheaval of the stories are all found in the Jew’s culture being in the way. 

Now, does Judaism get in the way of interfaith marriages? Well, yes. Sometimes. Definitely in the Orthodox community. Do I think that this needs to be written about ad nausea? No, and definitely not by non-Jews. 

Other reasons why this trope should be put to rest is that it lies close to two other tropes: (1) the Jew marrying their oppressor & (2) Jewish men being repulsed by Jewish women trope.

(1) That first trope is a sliding scale, I’m sure many of these stories aren’t actually about Jews marrying their oppressor. Not every British person represents the dominant Christian society that oppressed Jews, denied them the ability to work, or obtain justice & periodically expelled them. The point is, that when you start putting your stories in vague sort-of history settings (fantasy or not) Jews reading it start feeling a bit uncomfortable. 

“Like sure… that Ottoman-esque empire definitely would be best friends with our Jewish coded minority character, everything looks totally legit here.”

“Hah - like, it’s 15th Century venice, but not. Super romantic, artistic, and beautiful. And the Jews are definitely not living in a ghetto.“ 

Jew’s have a long memory of their relationship with non-Jew’s throughout history, it is very easy to fall into this trope. (If I need to explain to you why this trope is bad, something has gone seriously wrong. Just don’t do it. It’s not even a new idea, it’s been done many times before.)

(2) This is an intra-Jewish issue, and something many Jewish women are speaking about in their own communities, but Jewish misogyny often manifests itself in Jewish men artists (writers, actors, producers, you name it) portraying Jewish women as the negative stereotypes hurled at us by antisemites. There’s a long narrative on this, one that I don’t think is appropriate for this audience. But the point is, even if you’re using what you think are Jewish sources to justify your men-marrying-the-pretty-non-jew story, it probably reeks of sexist antisemitism. 

So what should you be writing?

Well, the first thing is: let Jews fall in love with other Jews! What’s wrong with that? We’re great, we’re multifaceted, we deserve to get happy endings. Romance stories are wonderful, and although there definitely need to be more stories with female leads that don’t involve a romance plot (or even subplot) writing romance can be incredibly fulfilling to read. It’d be super awesome therefore  if you let us Jews actually feel valued and represented in it, and not make us feel like our culture is something to be fetishised for non-Jews. Or worse, that if you’re a Jew that is interesting/pretty/charismatic/worthy of someone falling in love with: then you’re not going to some lowly Jew to marry. “No-no, you’ve been elevated to non-Jew worthy!” (You get the idea?)

You can even have some exciting Jewish based tension: ashkenazi verses sefardi practices over pesach: “You made RICE for my OMA!?” “What? I checked every grain!” Or, “In my family we daven Nusach Ari.” “I didn’t know you were chabadniks, we use the artscroll siddur in shul, but we have koren at home.” “Oh phew, I worried you were going to say you read from the Birnbaum.” “Hey! We may be Baal Teshuvas, but we’re not stupid!”  See, the drama is endless. Jews literally love to crack open their practices and find out how what they do is significantly different. 

But what if you really want some interfaith representation?

Now, maybe you’re Jewish and from an interfaith background. Maybe you’re just itching to use some fun creative interfaith holidays for two communities to celebrate. Well, sure, I’m not banning you from writing it. (Although really, you should check yourself a little bit if you’re a non-Jew. Just why is this so important to you?) There are some one ways you can do it:

Make the interfaith relationship already established, this will work best if it’s instead the parents of the main character, but it can work either way. (Extra kudos is said child of interfaith couple gets to marry a Jew.)

Slice off all that creepy fetishisation, and show a loving & already thriving interfaith relationship, over coming hurdles and hardships from the outside world, succeeding because of the strength of their interfaith relationship.

Try to keep in-law drama to a minimum (especially if it’s only the Jew mother in law who is the problem. Don’t do that, it’s awful) and instead show that Judaism in a beautiful and intricate ethno-religious identity, that can survive and exist in an interfaith relationship.

Maybe write a story where there are other Jews also having adventures, and falling in love, but this time with another Jew! So the interfaith relationship doesn’t dominate the story, or make it seem like this is the only way Jews get to be romantic, or happy, in fiction.

One last thing: people, please write more Orthodox Jews. We love adventures too, and there’s so little Orthodox representation in media, that people don’t even know the difference between Orthodox, Haredi & Hassidic. All Jews are great though, y'all the best. 

-Natalie.

Shira’s note:

It’s not just our women who are supposed to be undesirable, it’s also our men. There are more books out there than I’d like that pair our women with, and I am regrettably not exaggerating, literal Nazi officers. So obviously: don’t do this, but I think at least part of the reason it happens is that gentiles think our men are all Woody Allen or something. They’re not. As I’m fond of pointing out every time this comes up, slash fanfiction became a mass movement in fandom as a result of two of our men, Shatner and Nimoy, being too conventionally attractive to ignore. Natalie seems to have run into more of the other way around than I have, whereas I’ve see more of Jewish women with gentile men, but either way, the point stands.

Again, none of this is meant to say interfaith relationships shouldn’t be represented–heck, I’m in one since mine never went through with conversion and is a "Jewish-adjacent atheist” now–but when they’re all over the place to the point where we start feeling like gentile authors think all our genders are racing as fast as they can to avoid partnering up with another Jew, something is off kilter.

Remember, there are many scenarios that there is nothing wrong with in a vacuum because they exist IRL but when they’re overrepresented in writing by outsiders, they start to twist.

–Shira

3

DJERBA, Tunisia — On a recent Sabbath morning, just five men sat reciting prayers in the sanctuary of the Ghriba synagogue, the oldest synagogue in North Africa and the holiest place for the Orthodox Jews who live here on the resort island of Djerba.

It was the weekend of the annual Ghriba pilgrimage, when hundreds of Jewish visitors from Israel, France and the United States visit the synagogue to celebrate the feast of Lag b’Omer. Yet on the Sabbath, when only those within walking distance attended, the true state of affairs was revealed: The village beside the synagogue had dwindled to just five Jewish families, barely 40 people. (via Buffeted by Tumult, Jewish Population in Tunisia Dwindles). 

Photos by Samuel Aranda for The New York Times.

Okay, so it’s JKR confirmed that Tina and Queenie Goldstein are related somehow to Anthony Goldstein, a Ravenclaw from Hogwarts. Who is the only confirmed Jew in all of Hogwarts. Because that makes sense for London population. (I’m not bitter what are you talking about)

So. Jewish wizards. Let’s talk Jewish wizards. 

Orthodox/Chasidic Jews not practicing magic on the Sabbath because no work is technically allowed. People questioning why they’re walking everywhere instead of Disapparating and then having to sigh and roll their eyes and explain.

 Having separate spells specifically for different types of Kosher plates if they do that for washing them. Spells to make sure that meats and dairy never touch. Charms that alert them at restaurants or school if there’s pork or shellfish in a dish. The house elves learn about this and purposefully mark food Pereve or not and start to list ingredients for all the dishes. (Hey as somebody with food allergies, this would just make my day anyway)

 Magical menorahs that light themselves, enchantments on the Torah so it will never accidentally touch the ground or get smeared by hand oils (which is why Yads are used anyway, but it would be more out of tradition), the eternal light magically not being able to go out. OR BETTER YET wands being used with a spell as Yads

 WIZARDING BAT MITZVAHS AND WEDDINGS OH MY GODDD The chair holding the bar or bat mitzvah or the married couple magically being held up. The chuppah with magical lighting. Voices magically amplified so no microphones are needed.

 A fucking giant Menorah in the Great Hall and not just a stupid Christmas tree because we seriously don’t need more of those (sorry I’m just very sick of holiday season meaning only Christmas. There are like four other religions I know of that have holidays around this time)

 Days off for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and Passover, etc. and leaving sections of the tables empty for those fasting to be able to chill away from temptation but still with friends in the common social environment. Matzos alternatives during Passover. A signified Seder table and a Jewish member of the faculty as the head of the table and the youngest little first year reading the four questions. Or a group of first years.

 A Sukkah outside for Sukkot and enchanted lulav and etrog. A small sanctuary for High Holy Days and Shabbat services. (There should also be a safe place or several for Muslim students to pray throughout the day, just FYI)

And in Fantastic Beasts? Queenie teaching Jacob old family recipes for challah and bagels that he starts making for his bakery…Just…ugh, I want this all so badly.

 And don’t get me started on WWII and the Holocaust! Wizarding Nazis? Very probably. Using Muggles and wizards alike for their “experimentation”? Yeah. And Jewish wizards using concealment charms all over the place and trying to take care of their friends and family. Muggle born wizards and witches being hunted even more…Just think about it….

That’s all I got for now please FEEL FREE TO ADD YOUR HEADCANONS

2

The first photo is from this summer, before I came out as a trans guy.

The second is from last week.

Honestly? I love myself so much more now. A good haircut does wonders - I’m the same person, but the femininity isn’t there anymore. I’m still soft, but seriously; does the picture on the right look like a picture of a girl to you?

The perfect response..

On her radio show, Dr. Laura said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Schlesinger, written by a US man, and posted on the Internet. It’s funny, as well as quite informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I’m confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,

James M. Kauffman,

Ed.D. Professor Emeritus,

Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University of Virginia

P.S. (It would be a damn shame if we couldn’t own a Canadian.)

What was the relationship between Sephardim and Ashkenazim on the West Coast?

By Leora Singer, Former Research Intern

This is my second blog post in a series of three posts in which I discuss the theme of Sephardim in the West Coast in the 19th-20th century. You can see my first post here. In this post, I compare and contrast the relationship between Ashkenazim and Sephardim in Seattle and San Francisco.

Seattle:

When Calvo and Policar (the first two Sephardim in Seattle) first encountered the Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews living in the city, they weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms. These observant Jews didn’t believe that Policar and Calvo were “real Jews” because they spoke Greek instead of Yiddish (Adatto, 56), and their names didn’t “sound Jewish” (Angel, 553). Because they felt ostracized by the Jewish community, Calvo and Policar spent a lot of time with Greek non-Jews living in Seattle (Adatto, 58). Fortunately, the rabbi of Bikur Holim, an Orthodox synagogue, convinced the Orthodox Ashkenazim that the Sephardim were just as observant as they were. The Ashkenazim accepted Calvo and Policar as members of the Jewish people.

The Seattle Sephardic community kept growing as Calvo and Policar brought family members over, and these family members spread the word about the opportunities available in Seattle (Adatto, 60). In 1904, the first Rhodesli Sephardic immigrant came to Seattle (FitzMorris, 29). As the number of Sephardim in Seattle grew, their ties to the overall Jewish community of Seattle grew. Many Sephardim prayed at Bikur Holim. They felt somewhat connected to the Orthodox Ashkenazim because they, like the Sephardim, upheld high religious standards (Adatto, 116). However, the perception was that their cultures were just too different to mix together, so the Sephardim and Orthodox Ashkenazim remained fairly separate. For example, intermarriage between the two groups was highly rare (Adatto, 117).

Despite its rocky nature, the beginning of the relationship between Orthodox Sephardim and Orthodox Ashkenazim was still stronger than the beginning of the relationship between Sephardim and Reform Ashkenazim. The Sephardim distrusted the Reform Ashkenazim because they believed that the Reform Ashkenazim were not following enough of the Jewish traditions. Fortunately, Aubrey Levy from the Reform Temple de Hirsch helped to change this negative view of Reform Judaism by forming a friendship with the Sephardic Jews. As a lawyer, he helped Sephardim with legal work, free of charge. For example, in 1914, he assisted them with the legal logistics in the purchase of the (previously Ashkenazi-owned) Bikur Holim synagogue (Adatto, 118-119). Levy was highly regarded by the Sephardim. By association, his synagogue became highly regarded as well. In fact, many Sephardic children got their Jewish education at the Hebrew School of Temple de Hirsch. However, even after many years, there was still very little intermarriage. The Sephardim still did not feel like a part of Ashkenazi culture.

San Francisco:

There was a temporary Sephardic congregation in the early 1850s (Zerin, 30). The congregation was called Shaar Hashamayim. It was so temporary that it never even had a building because the congregation stopped meeting only a few months after its creation (Zerin, 47). This is likely because the construction of new buildings for two Ashkenazi-run synagogues, Temple Emanu-El and Temple Sherith- Israel, was underway. Since the Sephardim and Ashkenazim in San Francisco were united, (especially in comparison to these sects in other West Coast cities) the Sephardim didn’t want to divide it by having their own synagogue. Also, some members of the Sephardic congregation had been leaders in the other synagogues, because they were so prominent and respected by the Ashkenazim (Stern and Kramer, 47).

Sephardim from San Francisco are sometimes difficult to identify because intermarriage with Ashkenazim and even non-Jews was common (Stern and Kramer, 45). This practice showed a stark difference between the Jews of San Francisco and in other West Coast cities. In the other cities, intermarriage between pretty much anyone that was not a Jew from your home country was frowned upon.

Bibliography:

Adatto, Albert. Sephardim and the Seattle Sephardic Community. Seattle: U of Washington, 1939. Print.

Angel, Marc D., Hasson, Aron, Kramer, William M., Maimon, Isaac, Samuels, Beth, Sidell, Loraine, Stern, Norton B. Sephardic Jews in the West Coast States : An Anthology. 1st ed. Los Angeles: Published for the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles by the Western States Jewish History Association, 1996. Print. Western States Jewish History ; v. 28, No. 1-3.

Stern, Stephen. The Sephardic Jewish Community of Los Angeles. New York: Arno, 1980. Print. Folklore of the World (New York).

Zerin, Edward. Jewish San Francisco. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2006. Print. Images of America

grandenchanterfiona  asked:

That anon who doesn't know Jewish Italians exist reminds me of this one person on a post I made about Stanley Yelnats and his family, from Holes, being coded Jewish, using the amount of Jews in modern Latvia to prove they probably weren't.

It always sort of surprises me what lengths people will go to to erase Jewishness from non-villains. 

It really shouldn’t, but it does. Especially when the excuses are things like:

“but they are also (race and ethnicity that Jewish people can and do belong to)” 

or:

“they’re not Jewish enough to my standards (but I’m raising the standards so high to the point where they’d have to basically walk out dressed like a Hasid in every episode before I acknowledge their Jewishness)”

Of course, I’m not implying very obvious orthodox Jews shouldn’t be shown and have lots of roles but I hope you understand my point.

- Mod K