Saturday, March 28, 2009

Better Know a Kofer - Sara

The first kofer we're meeting in our new series, Better Know a Kofer, is Sara, a third year law student who lives in Michigan with her husband of five years, together with their young daughter and two pets. Sara is a former Bais Yaakov girl from a moderate yeshivish family who stopped being frum in her early twenties. She currently practices Elder Law in a free clinic and has worked in the past as a middle and high school teacher at Bais Yaakov.

Here is my interview with Sara.

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Hello, Sara. I'd like to thank you for allowing me to perform this interview. To start off, can you describe the religious environment that you came from?

Yeshivish. A smaller community, not the mega-jumble of New York/New Jersey. I had classmates who were somewhat modern, lubavitch, and yeshivish. I definitely came from the yeshivish neighborhood though, and tended to spend the most time with girls from yeshivish families. My own family did have a few more modern tendencies, like limited tv/computer use, and I was encouraged to read some secular books.

Is there any experience that you can relate which captures the religious tone of your upbringing?

It's a tough question to answer. I can't really think of one experience or incident that expresses the atmosphere of my parents' home. I did always value that my parents didn't just do things the way everyone else did them. For example, instead of using a succah kit or building a flimsy one out of particle board, they bought heavy duty tarps and used metal tubing for a frame, with custom-welded corner pieces. It was a very nice succah, and much more durable than most. Yet, they applied the desire to do things well to a pretty conservative approach to halacha.

My mother is well known in the community for her skills in checking vegetables for bugs. Instead of taking the more typical yeshivish approach and simply not using bug-prone or difficult to check vegetable, she learned the different kinds of bugs and their life cycles and habits. She will get out a microscope from time to time in checking lettuce. She often teaches other women how to check vegetables better. I remember astonishing the wife of my halacha teacher in seminary by pointing out to her the the small worms that had bored into her carrots. She thought that carrots couldn't get buggy.

My mother never cooked only typical ashkenazi food. She learned to cook sephardi dishes and she also incorporated world cuisine into her shabbos menus. A special shabbos treat was ground-nut stew, an african dish that she made with chicken, beef, vegetables, and peanuts. Another was a southern-style beef stew served over grits. Most frum kids don't even know what grits are--for us they were a special shabbos treat.

There were some conflicts. My parents often chafed against the common frum attitude of "why bother figuring out the halacha, we don't really need that anyway." My mother threw herself into a fight to get updated textbooks for her students, even excising the "inappropriate" illustrations and chapters by hand. My parents kept an extensive secular library, and my parents refused to discourage their kids from getting an education, even when that meant using university libraries and then going to secular colleges. My parents also had a hard time from time to time with people who had a problem with BTs and geirim (they themselves were BTs). Sometimes it seemed like they didn't have much good to say of "FFBs"--which sure felt awkward for me, an FFB. A major point of guilt when I left was that I was now somewhat corroborating so many of the off-hand comments they'd endured over the years from people who criticized non-FFBs.

My parents also refused to keep their affection for each other hidden, especially in their own home. Unlike a lot of frum kids, I witnessed my parents being openly affectionate. They were not shy about talking about the ways in which they thought the frum community tended towards foolishness, and the wariness of open marital affection was one of those things, as well as the reluctance to eat anything that wasn't from Poland by way of New York, and the insistence that an ever-growing number of vegetables really aren't kosher enough, and other bits of foolishness. They didn't have much use for things like chalav yisrael, and they regarded chumrahs as mostly useless things. My parents found their own chumrahs, and they never coincided with the chumrah-of-the-month. It is a little funny that some people will find their spiritual solace in banning delicious, nutritious fruits, but my mother learned how to ensure that it was completely kosher. Which is the more beneficial chumrah, refusing to partake of a food, or learning how, and then teaching others how, to partake of both additional knowledge and the fruit in question?

So, I have a lot admiration for the religious atmosphere in my parents' home. I do think though, that their thoughtfulness is in small part one of the contributing factors to my having left. My upbringing gave me permission to think. And so, I thought.

I'm glad at the conclusions I came to. My parents aren't. I think that that is a risk one assumes when one has children. My parents and their community disagree.

Can you highlight an example of an idea you encountered that made you question your upbringing?

I was once working on a paper having to do with the history of Jewish communities in fifteenth century Italy. In doing that work, I came across a shailah/tshuvah about mixed-gender dancing. I was shocked that in a fairly orthodox setting of several hundred years ago, mixed social dancing was widely accepted, for the purposes of encouraging suitable matches. This led me to other reading and eventually to question the system of halacha.

Was the impetus for your transition primarily intellectual, emotional, social, cultural, or some other factor?

I think it was all of the above. Intellectual issues were a huge part of it. My early concerns about halacha led into learning more about legal systems and ultimately the realization that halacha is simply not a workable system of law. People manage to live within it, but the system of denying that change exists has led to a law that is more burdensome than I can believe God intended it to be.

Emotionally, the community was mostly good for me, and I deliberately recreated some of that community structure in my life. I did leave the community in a time of extreme emotional turmoil, as is to be expected when someone makes a major life decision that she does not take lightly. I find that the emotional benefits of being able to live as I choose outweigh even the very strong positives of living within a tight and (mostly) supportive community.

Hmmm, speaking of supportiveness, there’s also the control issue. I guess that might fall under an emotional reason for leaving. I didn’t fit very well into the community and I never really was able to come up with a life plan that would garner the full support of the community. It’s important to me to not be constantly apologizing for, or facing people who expect me to apologize for, my life’s work.

Socially? Well, it seemed like in the community, everyone had someplace they fit--except me. Partly, that may have been my erroneous perceptions of the modern orthodox community. I was never very impressed with the more modern girls in my class, but I had too many outside interests to fit in well with the yeshivish girls.

Culturally? I think God has chosen everyone, or at least offered an invitation. I don’t like the approach to non-Jews in Jewish law, in Jewish culture, in daily interactions. No, I more than don’t like it. I disapprove of it and I think it is wrong. All people have an equal opportunity to do good, that opportunity is pretty what makes us human. National, racial or cultural boundaries have nothing to do with it.

Can you highlight one of the very first ways you crossed the halachic line?

I was on my way for a long Sunday afternoon somewhere, perhaps visiting my grandparents, or maybe going to another university to use the library. I was hungry, and so I stopped at the kosher pizza shop to get a couple of slices. As I took the first bite, I remembered that I had eaten some shabbos leftovers earlier in the day and was fleishig for several more hours. I ate the pizza anyway.

How did you feel at the time about violating that halacha?

It didn't feel like anything. No, that isn't accurate. It felt like I was no longer hungry, and I no longer needed to feel hungry all afternoon. One of the ways in which I dislike halacha is the heavy reliance on clocks--do we really, really think that two or three or seven hundred years ago people counted 18 minutes before sundown, and 45 or 52 or 72 or 90 minutes after? Do we really think that people counted six hours after eating meat or poultry? That's just implausible. Historically, people did not become nit-picky about time until the Industrial Revolution, when factory schedules and shifts that run counter to normal human cycles intruded on people's lives on a vast scale. This is one of the reasons why people from areas like the Northeast US tend to condemn people from many other cultures as lazy--other cultures tend to care less about clocks. Even less than chassidim, in some cases. :-)

And so, it was easy for me to first break a time-related rule. Frum Jews are too quick to confuse culture with objective reality, and time is one of the first ways I noticed this.

So, I cared a lot less than my upbringing suggested I should.

In retrospect, it felt very good. At the time, the good and the guilt pretty much canceled each other out, and it didn't feel like much of anything.

How did you family react to your leaving? What is your relationship like with them now?

I was no longer a part of the family. I was allowed to talk to them, but would receive no financial support. I would also receive little emotional support. We have had periods where there was very little contact, once for nearly a year. For a long time I tolerated slights and subtle insults. I figured that I was the one who chose to leave, and so it was their prerogative.

Then I had a child. Suddenly, insulting my marriage was a slight to my daughter’s parentage. I also became stronger in my own life and newly-formed identity, and realized that I am as worthy of respect as anyone else. That resulted in simply having no contact for a while. Eventually, we slowly reached a partial reconciliation, with much help from my brother. I have two other siblings who have nothing to do with me, and that is acutely painful. It is, however, their choice, and I can’t do much about it. We make do with the family that is willing and happy to have us.

So, my relationship with my family is limited to my parents, one brother, and his wife and child. We visit my parents every couple of weeks for a couple of hours, and are planning more contact for the future.

What connection do you currently have to Jewish identity, religion, or culture?

A few books. Christianity, which some may consider a connection, and others may not. (I don’t, incidentally.) Contemporary frum Orthodoxy bears little resemblance to the common ancestor of modern Catholicism and modern Judaism.

I don’t feel much kinship with the more modern movements in Judaism, like Reform or Conservative. I experimented for a bit, but they had some of the same problems that I felt about Orthodoxy, and I wasn’t really comfortable. I do however, tend to feel a kinship with Jews, especially Jews who are Reform or Conservative, because they have a strong sense of Jewish identity but don’t seem to feel obligated to pass harsh judgment on me.

What is something from your religious past that you miss in your life now?

The songs! I do miss the community as well, but I am more ambivalent about that. I think everyone who has ever lived in a close community realizes that there are some drawbacks, and I tended to feel those rather keenly, but on the whole I liked belonging. But I definitely miss the singing—on shabbos and yom tov, in shul, etc. Of course, now I am actually allowed to participate in the singing, whereas before it was mostly a vicarious pleasure.

Are there any behaviors or perspectives from your past religious life that are still dominant in your life now?

Well, at some point my analytical thinking started being more the product of law school than anything else, but it is definitely still there, and it got started learning halacha.

I do still often say brachos over food, although I am deliberately less than punctilious about all the laws of doing so. I still tend to sing or say psalm 39 (aka Mizmor L’Dovid) on all kinds of occasions, including when an ambulance passes by—a habit I picked up in seminary.

I often prefer to wear skirts, and tend to dress pretty modestly. It did take me a while to get comfortable dressing appropriately for running, and I still prefer to run indoors or after dark.

Most importantly, I still usually remember to judge people favorably. I’ve had to learn to look at all possibilities frankly when working with clients or legal issues, but I still remember the importance of judging favorably or not at all. It makes life more pleasant, and it makes the world a better place.

One of my current religious observances is to enjoy any food that is good. I try to appreciate the bounty of the earth, both in the foods themselves and in the innumerable ways of preparing them. These are gifts. To shun them based on a few amorphous words blown up into tomes full of nit-picky details is just silly. That's my current chumrah. Of course, another of my current chumrahs is to touch anyone when the situation warrants; there are inevitable commonalities between people and the occasional light touch on the hand or shoulder helps people relax and realize those commonalities. When one works in law and dispute resolution, putting people at ease and comforting them in tough situations is important. Touch is another gift from God with incredible powers. It would be foolish and mean of me to not use it.

How do you currently view the religious community you came from? Is there hostility? Fondness? Indifference?

All of the above. I am mostly very cautious. I taught in Bais Yaakov for a few years, and so for a long time maintained a distance from the community for that reason. I felt that even though I had left, that couldn’t destroy the obligation I’d taken on to lead those girls in a certain direction. Once I could no longer do that in good conscience, I felt obligated to stay away. I was pretty wary of running into anyone. However, now that my students are all pretty close to adulthood and my own life is more firmly established, I am getting more comfortable being around the community. I don’t really enjoy it though.

One thing the community doesn’t seem to get is that it is entirely possible for me to be happy, fulfilled, busy, successful, etc. I don’t hate the community and I certainly don’t hate myself. It’s difficult to be around someone who operates from a position of assuming certain very negative things about my personality. It just wastes some time. I had one friend who tried to stay in touch, but every other message was about kiruv. Seriously now, I studied kiruv training methods. I didn’t instantly drop forty IQ points and forget where I came from when I picked up that first cheeseburger. It’s just frustrating trying to deal with those preconceptions. They get in the way of maintaining meaningful, positive relationships.

Do you still believe in some form of God or in some version of Judaism?

Yes, I still believe in God. I have chosen a somewhat unusual path: I’ve become a Roman Catholic. That was mostly an intellectual decision. I felt that I wanted to belong to a structured religion, a religion with some sense of tradition, but I wanted a religion that accepted that change happens. And so, I ended up in a religion where the concept of time and laws and their interactions is more closely aligned with my own. Those ideas go beyond time, too. I like that Christianity is inclusive. I was never comfortable with the idea of being a race apart, it seems inherently unjust to me.

It was also an emotional decision, but I’m not really comfortable talking about that.

What are some of the drawbacks of your decision to leave? Do you regret it at all? Is there any guilt?

I regret how much it hurt my family. At the time, I was very worried about how it would affect my brother’s chances of a good shidduch. Since then, he has married a wonderful woman and they’ve had their first child, and they have been enormously helpful in helping rebuild some bridges with my parents.

Are there any particular struggles or challenges that you find especially difficult in the transition?

Everything. Leaving frumkeit was hands down the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I include four years of law school in that tally. It took me a year to get comfortable ordering fast food. Learning how pants fit was a whole ‘nother adventure. Learning how to build in spiritual and personal renewal time when it is less strongly mandated is a challenge I am still working on, as is building a community for myself and my family.

I still have not found a way to pray that I am comfortable with. Often, I revert to a few Hebrew prayers of specific meaning to me, ones that aren’t anti-Christian. Praying in the vernacular is not comfortable for me and Latin is a foreign language.

When I left the community, I lost most of my family. I lost my job, and I lost my career expectations (I had planned on teaching long term in Bais Yaakov). Cut adrift with unpaid debts to the university, I had to leave and take an apartment and a job. I had a very hard time learning to make it in the world. It took me about three years to get reasonably stable and another year to get ready for the next step: moving forward with my dreams. Now, eight years out, I’m pretty happy where I am, although a closer community would sure be a comfort as I face a difficult job market ahead.

Can you name something significant which you are currently doing in your life, or that you've experienced, or which you hope to achieve in the future, which would have been difficult, if not impossible, in your former life?

Well, I’m about to participate in an American Bar Association-sponsored competition in client interviewing and counseling. The competition is on a Saturday.

In the larger sense, I’ve married someone who fits me and my personality and my goals, and we are very happy. I had little chance of finding someone like him in the community. I’ve been able to take on more responsibilities and obligations within school and the local legal community than would be possible for someone keeping shabbos. I’ve been able to channel my financial resources where I choose. I was able to move closer to the school of my choice, and out of the large metro area that I never liked. Large urban centers are not for me. I love living in a smaller city, something not really feasible for most yeshivish families.

I also love to run, several times a week, and hope to run a marathon within the next few years. I love camping and backpacking (I fantasize about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail), but would not be able to find time to fit those pursuits into the work-week. I did try for a while, but it’s certainly pleasant to have weekends.

Oh, and then there’s law school. Sure, a frum girl can go to law school. But it would not be encouraged or condoned.

As for the future, I am on the cusp of a promising career in which I have ambitions of promoting and expanding the use of certain alternative dispute resolution techniques into various legal areas where they are underused or could be used more effectively. Part of my ambition includes expanding into small towns.

Above all though, the thing I treasure most about my life that wasn’t possible in the frum community is that the schemes and plans and ambitions I formulate are not viewed with suspicion. I don’t have to worry about balancing everything against religion. My religion recognizes a greater diversity of human activity than frumkeit allows itself to recognize. So does my community of friends and associates. My uniqueness in these ways is treasured.

What surprised you most about the world outside ultra-orthodoxy?

They are totally clueless about Judaism. It is kind of humbling to say “I used to be an Orthodox Jew” and they neither know nor care what that means. It was a big shock how much the world is unaware of Judaism.

What is one misconception or stereotype about ex-frum people that you'd like to correct?

That we have unstable relationships. I have worked steadily for eight years at finding a happy medium between respect for my parents and respect for my husband and our family. I’ve been in a total of two relationships, one of which broke up quickly after several dates and the other one is with my husband. I also went on one shidduch date. That gives me a grand total of three dating experiences, the last of which resulted in a very happy marriage. My husband and I have had a lot of stresses placed on our relationship-family, cultural differences, illnesses, miscarriages, law school, lack of money, etc.—we’ve had a few difficulties in our marriage as a result, but those we have had we settled lovingly and with understanding. I don’t have very much time for lots of outside friends, but I have close collegial relationships and one very close friend that I’ve known for a decade now. My life is all about stable relationships. We’ve been married five years now, and together for a couple more.

It's ludicrous for the frum world to condemn us as being unable to sustain relationships and then use our broken relationships with family and friends as evidence. It is they who will not permit those relationships to continue normally, not us. I can and I do sustain relationships—when they are not toxic to me and my family. I chose to leave frumkeit. My family chose to let that impede our relationship. I’m very thankful that things with some of them are better, but it didn’t happen without a lot of dedication and love from all of us.

Are there any stereotypes about general society that you found to be true?

There is a dearth of community generally, and there is a lot of hypersexuality. However, that is generally speaking. When it comes to individuals, there are always ways to build community and maintain decency in sexual matters. It is even possible to be restrained and decent in sexual matters without keeping them totally hidden in virtually every way. I enjoy being able to choose my own comfort level with these things. Oh, and most people are hugely stressed out by Christmas. Many enjoy it, but most are also quite stressed out by it. Me too, by the way.

Can you give an example of something that has completely changed in your way of thinking since you left?

Gender. The nature of gender, the nature of relationship between people of the same and of different genders. Mostly, I have learned that stereotypes and generalizations almost never apply, at least not totally, and often don’t apply at all.

Are there any societal and/or cultural experiences which have significantly shaped your worldview?

Did I mention law school?

What's the best thing about not being frum?

Just one? Probably, I would have to sum it up as having options. There are so many things I can do without worrying about halacha, from martial arts to riding horses to law school to shaking hands to dressing however I want—which is generally pretty restrained, by the way. As for the best thing, I’d have to go with my marriage.

What's the best thing that you recall about being frum?

Succos and Pesach. Oops, that’s two things. Seriously, the seasons of holidays, especially the longer holidays. It's awesome having a physical, spiritual and emotional retreat from the world for a week a couple of times a year.

If you could change one thing about the community you left, what would it be?

Well, I don’t really see the community as having traits. I do wish the quality of education was better. My mother is an educator and sometimes it seemed that she faced an impossible task. The students, and all too often, the parents, have the attitude that Jews are smarter, and so they don’t need to work as hard, and why bother anyway? It’s only English! Of course, this actually goes for limudei kodesh too, because not much is demanded in terms of teacher qualifications other than decent grades and a decent seminary. Teaching ability doesn’t seem to matter, and I recall some really great and some really not so great teachers from middle and high school. Mostly though, they were just young women supremely unqualified for what they were doing. One or two stumbled into a great talent, but most did not. I include myself in this, by the way. I taught for almost two years and was not, to be honest, very good at it.

Perhaps a strange choice of criticism, but I can’t really think of anything else that is a feature of the community as a whole. Certainly, as in every community, there are some individuals’ behaviors I found off-putting or upsetting, but not much that’s really systemic.

Is there anything else about your life you'd like to elaborate on?

Yes. I have experienced mental illness. I have this in common with a huge proportion of the population of the world. It’s neither a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just a fact. It doesn’t mean that I’m an “at risk youth”--I’m thirty, for goodness’ sake. In fact, I wasn’t an at-risk youth when I left. I was a Bais Yaakov teacher, a remarkably good girl with an odd insistence on attending a secular university.

Now, this is the part where frum people tend to say “Aha! See, normal people don’t go off the derech! There’s something wrong with her!” The thing is that occasional mental illness is about as normal as it gets. That makes about as much sense as saying “Aha! She’s a diabetic! No wonder she left!”. Sure, people can do rash things unthinkingly, but leaving frumkeit is rarely one of them. Mental illness rarely removes one’s ability to think.

To the rest of the world, I’m an intelligent woman in a happy marriage with one kiddo and another on the way, with a good record in law school and a good career ahead of me. To the frum world, I’ll always be “that crazy kid who left, who's got something wrong with her”.

Now, we all have myths we gotta cling to, but that particular one—that everyone who leaves is too crazy to make up her own mind, that we somehow need help to see the light—is more worthy of the Soviet Union than of Orthodox Jewry. I remember hearing stories of how the Soviets would label people who wanted to leave as crazy. It seemed horrifying. I never dreamed it would happen to me, but from the frum community. That’s just wrong.

Are there any parting words you'd like to tell the frum world?

You gave me a good start, too bad it didn’t work out. I’ve moved on, you’ve moved on. Truce?

170 comments:

onionsoupmix said...

oh, that was really great! Sarah, I'm at OSU law and I wish I did my life the smart way. Now I have to deal with finals and pesach cleaning for a holiday I don't really believe in :)

frumheretic said...

Very interesting interview; there is much to comment upon. I was quite taken aback, however, when she said that she is now a Roman Catholic because she likes that "Christianity is inclusive." Is she on drugs? Inclusive? They teach that salvation is only achieve through Jesus and mediated via Church sacraments!

And then she says "Contemporary frum Orthodoxy bears little resemblance to the common ancestor of modern Catholicism and modern Judaism." Does she think that Contemporary frum Catholicism has any resemblance to this common ancestor (the beliefs of the Jewish Christians, who were probably more like Lubavitch!)

But most of all, it is beyond me how any Jew - with even an inkling of knowledge of history - can convert to a religion that was responsible directly or indirectly for the atrocities that were committed against the Jewish people over the last 1000 years. (Of course, all of those good Catholics were saved, but their victims are eternally damned...)

Anonymous said...

Someone who converts to Roman Catholic is not a kofer. she's just mixed up, switching from one nutso fundie religion to another. Not a very impressive start to your series.

Anonymous said...

I hate to agree with the anonymous above me, but s/he's got a point.

Mark said...

She sounds like a smart girl, but Catholicism? I echo Frum Heretic's sentiments on the issue. Granted we live in a free country, but how much research of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular did she do before converting. May I state the obvious, could it have been the husband, after which she rationalized her decision.
I think that unless she really researched the religion, she knew about it as much as a typical Bais Yaakov girl, which is diddly squat. And just getting a sense of it from your average Anerican Catholic only increases you knowledge to a little more than zero. From her words, I don't get the sense she delved into the issue at length.

Just my observations, if I'm wrong, I apologize in advance.

Anonymous said...

I too am confused by the switch to catholicism. That's asking you to believe everything in the old testament PLUS the whole idea of g-d having a human son through a virgin birth whose brutal death and resurrection somehow brings atonement and eternal life for those who accept him, not to mention believing in a g-d who goes to all the trouble of getting his chosen to Egypt and enslaving them and then parting the sea and leading them to a mountain to give a book and then a milleneum or so later saying forget half of the book I gave you.

Nonetheless I don't mean to be critical of Sarah. She was brought up to believe in g-d and to see the advantages of being part of a close knit religious community. Whatever works for her is fine with me. However, if she wanted a more inclusive religion, I would recommend unitarian universalists.

Sara said...

I figured I would get attacked because of the Christian thing. Full disclosure, though, seemed the best plan.

A few comments:

1) I'm not a frum Catholic. I'm a minimally observant Catholic who strongly disagrees with the Church on several issues, most notably issues of gender and sexuality. I have this in common with a couple million other Catholics. The system is set up to allow change to happen, and eventually it will.

2) I did not convert to marry my husband. He didn't, and doesn't, care what religion I am. For some of the emotional reasons why I chose Catholicism as the religion to keep some kind of tie with, see the second half of _My Name is Asher Lev_ by Chaim Potok. You probably won't get it. That's fine. My path is a little odd and I'm the first to admit that to the extent it reflects a plan, it is not a flawless one.

3: One of the reasons I volunteered for this project was to make the point that there is incredible diversity among those who leave frumkeit. We aren't all atheists. I have nothing against atheists, but I'm not one. Although theology was one the reasons frumkeit was intolerable, the existence of God was not one of the points of theology I had a problem with. The frum world would like to tar us all with the same brush. Please don't help them. I don't ask or expect anyone to agree with my religious choices, merely not to make incorrect assumptions on the basis of them, and to not judge me on the basis of those incorrect assumptions.

4) No, I don't think that original Christian religion bore any resemblance to Catholicism. I didn't say that I do. My words suggested that I do not.

5) I have very little sense of pride in belonging to the Jewish "race", or any other race for that matter, other than the human one. I shouldn't reject Christianity because of past wrongs based on distorted theology any more than atheists should reject evolution because it has been distorted into philosophies that have done great harm to people.

6) I'm thirty years old, married with kid(s), and a professional. I'm no one's "girl." Mark, you are wrong, but it is not your incorrect assumptions that are most offensive. It is your belittling tone. I'm happy to talk about these issues with anyone who is interested, but by using belittling terms, one succeeds only in perpetuating the myths espoused by the frum community. I'm neither ignorant nor a girl.

7) Tolerance is a fine thing. It makes the world a better place. Let's try engaging in a little bit of it, 'mkay?

Sara said...

anon: looks like we cross-posted. Yes, I do have a lot more in common philosophically with the UU than with the Catholic Church. The only reason I did not embrace UU-ism is its youth. I enjoy belonging to a culture with a history, however negative that history may be.

There's a great scene in an episode of "The West Wing," where a White House staffer asks a gay Republican congressman how he can possibly belong to a party that hates him so much. His answer is that he agrees with some of their positions and as for the rest, he will work to change them.

I didn't join the Church because I love everything about it. I joined the Church because I like some things about it. This is different from being frum because I can live as I want and say what I think and work for change. My biggest problem with frumkeit continues to be the denial of change--that it can and should occur, that is has occurred, and that it is inevitable. The Church does not have this problem.

Nice Jewish Guy said...

I'm also bewildered by the switch to Roman Catholicism, and Sara, I'm sorry, but your saying that you're not such an "observant" Catholic doesn't do much for your case. If you're not so observant, why convert at all? Why R.C. Christianity- why not a form of Protestantism? Why not have remained a "minimally observant" Jew (I'm sure you know you're still Jew, BTW)?

For the record, I don't judge you or your leaving observance. I don't think being frum is for everyone. I'm a very tolerant person, and I have my own problems with Orthodoxy. But some of the things you say don't add up. Maybe your mind works in a very black-and-white way (not unusual for many who choose the legal profession). But your eating pizza within a few hours of having had meat wasn't necessarily a halachic violation, and therefore the first slide down the slippery slope to OTD-dom. The whole waiting-after-meat thing is very relative and culture-dependent (Germans wait 3 hours, Dutch wait one, etc.)-- it's symbolic. Also, you say that you now have options you wouldn't have had while frum- studying martial arts, etc. Well, frum girls do study martial arts. Maybe not Bais Yaakov girls, though certainly some do. Frum girls also go to law school, medical school, and other high professions. Usually more 'modern' orthodox than BY, but if your parents were as intellectually liberated as you claim, then that shouldn't have been a problem for them.

I guess I could have totally understood your story if you had left Orthodoxy for a life of non- or minimally observant Judasim, agnosticism, or even atheism. But you left for another religion, and at that a brand of religion that has a history of rabid antagonism toward Jews; on top of that, you don't even adhere to it much. It leads me to believe that you understand even less about RCsim than you did about Judaism. I'm sorry, but I just don't get it. I do regret that your family has not taken it well, but I understand their side, too.

DYS said...

I have far more respect for someone who abandons Judaism, because they feel they don't fit, for a secular lifestyle than someone who switches to another religion. I doubt her family would have been nearly as pained had she just become a secular Jew. But she converted to Catholicism. What's left out of her narrative is why she picked Catholicism. I suspect she married a Catholic and that was reason.

Mark said...

Sara,

I apologize again for my assumptions.
I do share the bewilderment of the other commenters as to your choice of Catholicism. From your words I don't get the sense that you found something in Catholicism that can not be found in another religion. You seem to disagree with the main distinguishing characteristics of the religion. As to your desire to change it, I don't understand that either. You had nothing invested in it to make you want to be part of it on the one hand, but dissatisfied on the other, giving you the desire to change it. If you wanted religion, there is plenty to choose from, given you didn't go for the particular dogmas of Catholicism.

As to my tone, it's twofold. One is my dislike for religion in general, but that's something I tried not to have interfere with my judgment, I understand that many find value in it, and that's their prerogative. The other thing is my being a Jew. I admit to this bias, and can't do much about it. I m not a believer at all, but Catholicism? One thing is if you thought it to be THE religion, quite another if you're just looking for some religion and hit upon Catholicism. It's just hard to wrap my mind around it as a fellow Jew. Even here I admit that this is a personal sentiment (albeit shared by many Jews, religious and otherwise).

Again I didn't mean to insult you, I hope you understand where I'm coming from.

Jake said...

Sara -
Did you go straight from Orthodox Judaism to Catholicism? Because if not, the motivations for each are two totally different things to discuss. I know frummies like to avoid focusing on their own issues, but if the conversion to Christianity happened years after she left Orthodoxy, then there really is no point in focusing on it in regards to the issue of why she left Orthodoxy.

Sara said...

NJG asks why not become a Protestant. My only answer to that is why become a Protestant?

You comment that my approach to Catholicism doesn't do much for my case. What case is that? What do you presume I am trying to prove?

I do not think that my becoming a modern orthodox Jew would have been a problem for my parents. It was a problem for me.

Thank you for making sure we know how tolerant you are. Now that I know you are a very tolerant person, I realize you must have correctly divined that if I understood life and religion correctly, I would live my life in a way much more agreeable to you.

Anonymous said...

Sara: I especially loved the last lines "You gave me a good start, too bad it didn’t work out. I’ve moved on, you’ve moved on. Truce?" It sounds like you've managed not to be bitter about any limitations in your upbringing, recognizing that no parents are perfect and try to do the best for their kids, including teaching the religion that they loved. I'm glad you have been able to maintain or re-establish a relationship with your parents, especially for your children's sake as there is something so special and unique about the bond between grandparent and grandchild.

I too am puzzled by the choice of catholicism, but the commenters who think it is trading one fundy religion for another are not quite right. I have many Catholic friends. In Catholicism you can get some ritual, weekly services (or daily if you chose), but you can still wear jeans or shorts in public, eat what you want, shake hands with men, and even use birth control (although frowned on by the church) and advocate for gay marriage, and not be shunned by your community or have to hide or fake many of your beliefs, at least at times other than during mass on Sundays. As for your hopes of changing the church's attitudes toward sexuality, women in the priesthood, etc. -- not in my lifetime. It's too fundamental to the basic teachings of the church. Married priests might become a possibility out of sheer necessity, but I don't see movement on other issues.

Sara said...

Jake,
No, I did not. I spent some time simply being non-religious. During that time I met a lot of people and considered a lot of possible futures. I entered into a romantic relationship with a pagan woman, and I attended several kinds of Jewish services. I spend a lot of time with a young woman who was a humanistic Jew. I attended one mass. Mostly I hung out with atheists, reform Jews of some variety or another, pagans, non-fundy Protestant Christians, and a few Catholics.

I started drifting away from frumkeit in a coherent way in 1999. I was actively planning to leave by the summer of 2000. I informed my family that I had left in the summer of 2001.

I was baptized and confirmed at Easter vigil of 2004.

Certainly, I had independent reasons for leaving frumkeit and for joining the Church.

The Hedyot said...

I appreciate all the comments coming in here, but focusing on the Catholicism part is really not the point here. This interview was intended (among other things) to spark a discussion about people leaving Orthodoxy, not about entering another one. That Sara took this route is of course of great interest, but since it is a totally separate part of her journey from the part where she left Orthodoxy, focusing on it does nothing to further our understanding of the experience of those who leave Orthodoxy.

Off the Derech said...

Sara: I loved it. Thanks.
To all the commenters giving you a hard time about your religious beliefs, I say they should get over their damn hangups about Christianity already.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

there are inevitable commonalities between people and the occasional light touch on the hand or shoulder helps people relax and realize those commonalities.

Unless the person you're touching has some kind of sensory sensitivity, in which case unexpected light touches will make them tense up, feel very uncomfortable and sometimes even freak out at you.

Am Yisreol Chai said...

Yeah, I wish this girl lots of luck, and sure you can do what you want, America land of the free and all, but for a Jew to embrace Catholism after what Catholics and their Church have done to us and our people over the last 2000 years? The historical obliviousness is offensive.

As for you hedyot, a Jew who becomes a Catholic is a still a fundy who embraces superstitious nonsense, and is thus not what any of us on the blogs mean when we use the word kofer.

The Hedyot said...

Yeah, I think we should get caught up in what exactly constitutes the term 'kofer'. Because that's what is really important here!

Am Yisroel Chai said...

say psalm 39 (aka Mizmor L’Dovid)

That is Pslam 23, not 39,

...and I don't want to overdo this, but given what Catholics have doen to Jews and Judaism, you almost might as well have become a nazi.

Baal Habos said...

Sara,

>I was once working on a paper having to do with the history of Jewish communities in fifteenth century Italy. In doing that work, I came across a shailah/tshuvah about mixed-gender dancing. I was shocked that in a fairly orthodox setting of several hundred years ago, mixed social dancing was widely accepted, for the purposes of encouraging suitable matches. This led me to other reading and eventually to question the system of halacha.


What I'm astounded at, is that once you began questioning, you did not go back and fully question the foundations of Judaism. Had you done that, and come to the conclusion of many of the skeptics here, you'd probably agree that Christianity, Catholic or not, is just an unbelievable as Orthodox Judaism.

> focusing on it does nothing to further our understanding of the experience of those who leave Orthodoxy.

I don't quite agree, because as some other commenter stated, "it doesn't quite add up". Sara's leaving Orthodoxy is way different than anything else we've seen on the Jblogosphere and is very important. In other words, there might be a very strong emotional issue (not that there's anything wrong with that) that hasn't been fully explored.

Sara said...

Ain't no one done nuthin' to me over the past 2000 years. I'm pretty sure I've only been around for a couple of those.

I find it amusing that so many people rush to abandon the religion of Judaism but cling to the national/racial identity of Judaism.

History has little to do with your argument, AYC. Your argument is based on using national and racial identity to justify clinging to hatred. History is merely the excuse, and not a very good one at that.

Summing up the history of Jewish-Catholic relations as a series of horrific persecutions for 2000 years is somewhere between flat-out false and idiotically over-simplistic.

Also, not a girl. Thanks!

Sara said...

W00t! Way to godwin the discussion AYC!

Jewish Atheist said...

Great interview. I identified with a lot of it. Very interesting to see one from someone who became a Catholic. Like the others, I think Catholicism is just as false as Orthodox Judaism or Mormonism, and probably more evil, but hey, it's her life.

Sara said...

Baal Habos-

You are correct, if I had taken that small finding in halacha to explore the foundations of Judaism and its rationality, I would like have abandoned religion altogether.

I didn't though. The problem that it raised for me was with the nature of halacha as a legal system. I don't have a problem with Judaism, or any other religion not being rational. The problem I have is that halacha is unworkable and unsustainable.

And you are correct, there are other emotional issues, having to do with family and history. My mother was raised a Christian (not Catholic), and I have Christian (not Catholic) family. Christianity never seemed to me to be the seething pit of evil that most here seem to perceive. As for Catholicism rather than another form of Christianity, again, those reasons are mostly about history. No, not Jewish history, but Catholic history. As in there is some.

I just wasn't up for joining some new variant or other.

The Hedyot said...

> Unlike a lot of frum kids, I witnessed my parents being openly affectionate.

I've always felt this to be a very pernicious problem in frum families. When kids don't see their parents be affectionate at all, it reinforces the idea that any kind of male-female affection is illicit and inappropriate.

NK said...

Great article. I found the comment by Nice Jewish Guy to be especially indicative of typical Jewish thought. Quote: "(I'm sure you know you're still Jew, BTW)." Nice to know that he's tolerant. Being happy is the only way to go and it's nice to see Sara doing just that.

Baal Habos said...

>I just wasn't up for joining some new variant or other.

Sara, OK. I think your Christian background explains it very well, it can be seen as a return to your roots. Anyhow, this is fascinating and I wish you the best of luck. Hedyot, we sure won't get articles like this in Mishpacha magazine!!!

Normal Guy said...

To Sara,

If you became\Converted to a Catholic you must believe that every Jew who rejects Jesus is going to burn in Hell Fire, and then you say you are not judgmental?!!!

PS. I think most of your answers were cool, were expect change the wording to Modern Orthodox and there is no difference besides the cheese burgers.

Hasidic Rebel said...

This was a wonderful interview! Very thoughtful and articulate. I think a lot of us can relate to the frustrations Sara expressed about the frum world.

It's sad, however, that so many commenter's chose to focus on the Catholicism part. There was so much more in the interview that was fascinating and illuminating. From the comments one would think the whole interview was about her Catholicism.

I specifically took note where Sara wrote, "It was also an emotional decision, but I’m not really comfortable talking about that."

The decisions we make in life are complex, engendered by a a whole host of thoughts and feelings. Even the most rational beings make decisions driven at least in part by emotion. But some people just don't feel able, nor do they have a burning desire, to explain decisions that are very personal and emotionally-driven. That doesn't mean their decisions don't make sense. It just means they're facing a world that sees things in black and white and doesn't care to understand the complexities of human drives, nor the different shades of meaning involved in any given life choice.

I hate to say this, but I think the comments here might be equally as illuminating as the interview itself. To me it shows how many Jews, even so-called open-minded ones, cannot move on from their cultural taboos, and make sweeping personal assumptions about a person they know next to nothing about.

Methinks that is just as sad as ultra-Orthodox narrow-mindedness.

להבל וריק said...

I admire your courage to leave the community, to discuss it at length, and above all for getting baptized.

It's remarkable the amount of intolerance even open-minded jews can have towards other faiths - as though there really is a difference.

I believe in Catholicism as much as I believe in Judaism, yet I would love to get baptized one day - just for the thrill of it.

Besides, as the teshuvangelists argue, if there's even the smallest chance that the Lord is Catholic we're all in trouble. By getting baptized I cover both sides: Jesus will save me because I accepted him, and Reb Nachman will save me because 'A Jew always remains a Jew'.

Thanks for sharing your story with us.

et said...

Very interesting interview. Sarah, I'm very glad for you. My mom is jewish and my father is gentile (both are christians by faith) and extremely happy. I'm messianic jewish and Love the inclusiveness of my faith.

Just to comment on Frumheretic's statement, the teaching of salvation doesn't make Christianity exclusive. In Christianity, and Messianic Judaism, anyone is welcome into Church, Cathedral or Temple at any time, regardless of what race, ethnicity, culture, etc., the individual may be. "Salvation," in Judaism (achieved through animal sacrifice to atone sin) and Christianity (belief Yeshua is the messiah who was the final atonement for sin- Isaiah 52:13-53), is a gift for everyone- some take it, others don't, but all are openly invited.

Finally, coming from a background where my grandmother survived the holocaust - I can understand why most jews might dislike catholicism or christianity.

This disliking, however, is purely "emotional." You have to understand Politics to understand those events.

Religion in the early centuries was a Means used for a Political End. (It was the game of Power-Politics) You can read Hans J. Morgenthau's "Politics Among Nations." Christianity teaches "though shalt not murder or kill" ... so when a Crusader screamed "murder" ..you know it had nothing to do with true christianity.

Also, I wouldn't be so fast to forget that messianic jews in the first century a Great number of jews were persecuted and murdered by pious Jews (like Saul of Tarsus).

- you can read Acts 7: "When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen (a messianic jew), full of the holy spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of G-d, and Yeshua standing at the right hand of G-d. "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of G-d." ..At this they (members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen) covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. ..

Chapter 8
"On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. ..

But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison."

Soooo many people- christians in the roman empire, jews, armenians, chechnyans, religious people living under Stalin- were persecuted for their faith or their ethnicity. It's wrong to go blaming christians for the Spanish Inquisition and Crusades when those atrocious and horrific acts were not even chrisitian.

- The loving acts of kindness, love, and care of Mother Teresa is a true manifestation of christianity in action. It's never forceful, it's loving and welcoming.

Revelation 3:9 said...

Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. (Revelation 3:9).

Mark said...

>My mother was raised a Christian (not Catholic), and I have Christian (not Catholic) family. Christianity never seemed to me to be the seething pit of evil that most here seem to perceive.

That explains it. You would have saved us a lot of time if we got that information right away.

As some commenters pointed out, mine and others' indignation (if that's the right word) is emotionally based. I admit to it, and before you disclosed more of your background I just couldn't fathom how a Jew could convert to Catholicism of all religions when she isn't even convinced by its specific tenets.

Mark said...

DH,

I do think it's important to define what we mean by Kofer. To most of us that includes a anti-religious or at least a neutral attitude towards all religions. I think though we have a few options for defining Kofer in our context:

1) Someone who isn't Frum anymore, whatever the reason. Technically this isn't Kfira, because sometimes people of this ilk continue to believe.

2) The usual definition we meet in the skeptic blogsphere, someone who renounces theism of all kind, and is at the very least a deist, or usually an atheist or agnostic.

3) Just anyone who isn't convinced by all the dogmas they grew up with, but not necessarily rejecting religion or not being Frum anymore.

Is there anymore?

The Hedyot said...

> I do think it's important to define what we mean by Kofer.

Why? What difference does it make?

Mark said...

Well, what are you talking about then?
Some of the commenters noted that since Sara is still religious, she isn't the type of person they were expecting to meet in your series. I happen to think that anyone who leaves Orthodoxy is a good study, but it would clarify the situation if you defined the term in this context.

Anonymous said...

Normal Guy: Many Catholics don't truly believe that. I think there are a lot of cafeteria catholics, at least in the u.s. It's probably a lot easier to be a cafeteria catholic than a cafeteria OJ.

Anonymous said...

I can understand the emotional response to catholicism. I had no family (that I know of) in the holocaust, but 65 years later I can't bring myself to buy a German car. Curiously, I have no problems buying a Japanese car notwithstanding pearl harbor, but PH didn't single out jews, gypsys and homosexuals.

The Hedyot said...

> Well, what are you talking about then?

This series is about people who left Orthodox Judaism. Call them kofrim, apikorsim, shkotzim, bums, traitors, idiots, self-hating Jews, or whatever you want. I don't think what they're called makes any difference in the importance of trying to better get to know them and their experiences.

Normal Guy said...

To Hedyot,

Mark is correct no one is calling any of the people who you are interviewing any of the following names you have mentioned:
kofrim, apikorsim, shkotzim, bums, traitors, idiots, self-hating Jews

However your title should have been such as this. "Interview with a women that left Orthodox Judiasim for Catholicism."

Baal Habos said...

>It just means they're facing a world that sees things in black and white and doesn't care to understand the complexities of human drives, nor the different shades of meaning involved in any given life choice.

HR, you've got to be kidding. That was a classic case of Ikkar Chasar min hasefer (The most important thing left out).

Now that it's cleared up, her story makes sense.

We all have a tale to tell. Imagine if you'd omit that you're Chassidish, or that Jacob Stein would leave out the fact that he was a convert from Christianity, that would be leaving out key to understandning.

Had Sara not been willing to share her Christian ancestry with us, there'd really be no way of making sense of her story? Was she obligated to? Of course not. But then why tell her story in the first place, if we won't understand it?

Sara said...

To further clarify: I did not leave frumkeit for Catholicism. I left frumkeit. Later, I became a Catholic.

I actually gave several reasons for the Catholic thing; one of the them was family background. It was not the most important factor. It was probably why I never hated and feared Catholicism to the degree many Jews seem to, but I don't hate and fear Buddhists either, and never seriously considered Buddhism as a religious or philosophical option.

Ba'al Habos, that piece of information was the bit that was important for you to be able to grasp who I am, but for me it is far from the most important.

I'm confused though, that some commenters seem to equate Catholics with Nazis. The third reich was a secular phenomenon, where the primary object of worship was the state.

Hasidic Rebel said...

BHB -- I have to disagree for a very simple reason: even without her family background hers should not be such a taboo course of action. You may not completely understand it, but it doesn't beg any obvious questions other than those driven by wholesale condemnation of all things Christian for historical reasons. And as Sara pointed out, shadowy history is not the be-all-and-end-all of how we judge a particular lifestyle or ideology.

I guess what bothers me are the judgements people seem to be making in response to a personal story. While it's perfectly legitimate to try to understand someone's motivations, what we see here are knee-jerk reactions and broad assumptions (Catholicism is categorically evil; she must've done very little research before she joined; etc.)

I do think there would be a legitimate question of where Sara saw Catholicism as more rational than Judaism -- if Sara made the claim that it is, which she didn't. Ultimately, Sara seemed to follow her heart towards what she sees as a meaningful mode of living, and I can't for the life of me understand where one can take issue with that.

Nice Jewish Guy said...

Sara,

Temper, temper. "help your case" is merely a figure of speech. Of course, I should remember I'm addressing a lawyer.

Again, let me be clear: I don't care that you left frumkeit. I don't believe everyone has to be frum, I have plenty of issues with what passes for frummy bullshit,and I have one foot in agnosticism myself. But we're not talking about me here.

What I don't understand (although it makes a bit more sense now that you've disclosed your family ties to Catholicism) is both your core objections to Judaism, and your trading one restrictive, irrational system for another.

You state that you found halacha as a legal system to be unworkable and unsustainable. But you have yet to offer any explanation why. Also, I'm not particularly knowledgeable about Canon law, but I can't imagine how it is 'workable and sustainable' in the ways that halacha is not.

Also, you stated that in Catholicism, you found leniencies within the structured religion that you didn't have in Orthodoxy, which made being Catholic more palatable- studying martial arts, wearing pants, and pursuing higher education. Well, maybe in a Bais Yakov yeshiva world you couldn't have done any of those things, but in a Modern Orthodox world you absolutely could have. You said that "Modern Orthodoxy wasn't a problem for your parents, but it was a problem for me.". Well, if those things wouldn't have been problems, then what was the problem for you with MO? You could have watched TV, met boys at events and not via a shidduch, gone to karate class in your jeans with a law book under your arm eating pizza three hours after meat. So your leaving must have come from some other, more emotional place. And that's OK. I'm not judging. I don't care if you're a Buddhist or Bahai. it just didn't add up. It makes a bit more sense now.

Doesn't the history of Christian persecution of Jews trouble you? Are you denying that history? Spanish inquisition, anyone? Blood libels? Pius IX? Surely you don't think the Catholic Church's hands are clean of Jewish blood? I know, no one did anything to you. Doesn't it trouble you in the least that Benedict gave a wink and a nod to an avowed Holocaust revisionist? Doesn't it disturb you that Benedict doesn't think condoms will curb the spread of AIDS in Africa?

All I'm saying is that considering what you left and the reasons you gave, your current choices seem strange. It reminds me a bit of a situation I know of (and please pardon the analogy) where a man had a sex change to become a woman, and then decided to be a lesbian (true situation). It just doesn't make much sense.

Baal Habos said...

>I have to disagree for a very simple reason: even without her family background hers should not be such a taboo course of action. You may not completely understand it, but it doesn't beg any obvious questions other than those driven by wholesale condemnation of all things Christian for historical reasons.

HR, Not true. I'd have the same basic reaction had Sara opted for any but a skeptical belief system. Of course, the Christian angle has an extra emotional tug because of all the anti-semitisim thru the ages.

>I guess what bothers me are the judgements people seem to be making in response to a personal story...... and I can't for the life of me understand where one can take issue with that.

The answer is simple. What would Hitchens say? Add to that the emotional angle of historical persecution and that explains it. But once she explained herself, that put things into persepctive, at least for me.

This does bring up an issue here though. Are we as a group, anti-Christian?
I don't think so. But in reality, despite our non-belief, we all have strong Jewish feelings, if not we wouldn't be hanging out together. And as Jews, we still percieve Christianity as an enemy.

Food for thought.

Sara said...

Thank you again for making sure we know how tolerant you are. Clearly, you are so tolerant of others' differences that you understand most clearly what people should do and why.

"It reminds me a bit of a situation I know of (and please pardon the analogy) where a man had a sex change to become a woman, and then decided to be a lesbian (true situation). It just doesn't make much sense."

Makes sense to me.

A sexual relationship between two women is very different from a sexual relationship between a man and a woman. Sounds like she knew what she wanted. That is doesn't make sense to you does not mean that it doesn't make sense.

Also, read again. No family ties to Catholicism.

Sara said...

Bhb--wait a sec. Not anti-Christian, just that you perceive Christianity as an enemy?

Huh?

And you all say *I* don't make sense? WTF?

Baal Habos said...

>And as Jews, we still percieve Christianity as an enemy.

I need to clarify that. It's not that we are looking to eradicate them or anything like that. We perceive that Christianity still has an anmity to us. We still are concerned with anti-semitism and for good cause. I'm really pissed at that NYT Oliphant cartoon.

Off the Derech said...

>And as Jews, we still percieve Christianity as an enemy.<

And Moslems. And atheists. And virtually everyone who is different from us. (I don't mean you in particular, BHB, but lots of your co-religionists.)

Maybe it's time we all stopped with the vitim mentality and just learned to chill.

Baal Habos said...

>I need to clarify that

Sara, I started typing in my clarification even before reading your valid objection :)

Sara said...

OTD FTW

Ariella said...

Seeing these replies here, I find Sara really brave for expressing what she has. I would love to do the interview myself, but I know because of the situations I was in, it would "out" me, and i am scared of the reactions I would get.

Sara, My father in law is catholic. For a year there my "inner frummie" could not get over it, but i put on my big girl undies and got over myself.

More power to you!

evanstonjew said...

I think Sarah never left frumkeit, vead hayom is in more ways than she or we would like to admit a frum bais yaakov graduate, maybe even frumer in her own idiosyncratic way than many of her childhood peers.

The Hedyot said...

I really don't understand why people have such a hard time understanding that someone would leave one religion for another. Not everyone is the super skeptic that Hitchens would like them to be. People pursue a life path that works for them; it's not always about absolute rational choice. If Orthodoxy doesn't work for someone, it doesn't mean that some other religion won't provide what they're looking for.

When people ask me if I'll ever be frum again, I never reject it out of hand. Right now, it has no appeal for me whatsoever, but maybe down the line I'll change enough that it will. (Although I do find it extremely unlikely.)

Sara said...

evanston, I guess that depends on what you mean by frum.

The Hedyot said...

In case you missed it, XGH has summed up the interview in his typically snarky way.

I have to admit, XGH's analysis is pretty funny, but it misses the point (as it seems, so many other people have too). He thinks that I'm doing this project because it bothers me that people are looking down on us. That's now what I care about. (I mean, I do to some extent, but that's not really anything I can do anything about, so I'm not going to let that bother me too much.) What I'm trying to do with this series is not to have anyone respect us more, but to highlight that the distortions and misconceptions that they say about us are not true. Maybe that will cause people to respect us, maybe it won't. But that's not my primary goal. The goal here is to counter falsehood with truth.

Sara's story clearly does turn those stereotypes on their head. She was a teacher in a bais yaakov so she obviously was stable and respected by her peers. She is intelligent, inquisitive, and articulate. She has a healthy family relationship, a promising career, and a fulfilling and satisfying life. She clearly has done very well for herself, by any measure other than an Orthodox one, and that is what I wanted to highlight.

The interview was 99% about her experience with OJ, and 1% about her life as a Catholic. That everyone has chosen to focus on that tiny aspect is unfortunate, although not entirely unexpected.

In fact, I think the responses actually highlight some of the very prejudices that I was hoping to overcome. That so much of this thread has devolved into attacking Sara and her lifestyle is truly disappointing to me, but it also demonstrates just how pervasive the desire to delegitimize people who leave Orthodoxy is, even it seems, from people who themselves have left that world, if the motivations for the person leaving don't fit their notion of why people should leave.

Leap After You Look said...

Actually, Hedyot, the fact that she was baptized as a Roman Catholic is NOT a "tiny aspect" of her story and says much about her. I find it interesting that you call her intelligent and inquisitive when her own writing clearly indicates that she is neither. Also, there is much in her story that indicates that she is unstable and yet you seem to read into her tale that she was quite stable and respected by her peers. You published her interview and it was quite interesting....you don't, however, have to drink Sara's Kool Aide.

The Hedyot said...

> Actually, Hedyot, the fact that she was baptized as a Roman Catholic is NOT a "tiny aspect" of her story

Yes, I know it's not an insignificant part. But in an interview of over 4,500 words, it is mentioned in just one paragraph. There is so much more to focus on here. Plus, for the trillionth time, her conversion had nothing to do with her leaving Orthodoxy.

Anonymous said...

>Plus, for the trillionth time, her conversion had nothing to do with her leaving Orthodoxy.

Pullease. As Baalabus said she was going back to her roots

Nice Jewish Guy said...

No one's attacking Sara-- I certainly wasn't, and I apologize if it appeared that way. Blogs and text mediums are a poor way to convey tone.

Sara, maybe that explains my analogy of sexual orientation. But it still doesn't explain your choices. I'm sure your choices makes sense to you. But you've been trying to explain why you left OJ, and whether you admit it or not, the religion you chose post OJ speaks volumes about why you may have left. I don't judge anyone's beliefs, and if someone says they left OJ because of intellectual dishonesty, or theodicy issues, or because they just didn't want to live with all the restrictions anymore, I can get that very easily. What I don't get is then taking on a different religion that also has an abundance of rigid and absurd doctrines, restrictions, and a body of religious law-- and then hardly adhering to that either. I'm sorry, but I just really don't understand- and apparently I'm not the only one here who doesn't. You've made no attempts to explain the questions I've raised, you've only responded with sarcasm targeting my genuine expressions of nonjudgmentalism.

Off the Derech said...

Sara: don't listen to these nutcases. Frummies are meshuga.

Anonymous said...

I'm on a buggy computer in the home of a Chassidishe Rebbe and within typing distance of his kids so I unfortunately won't be able to sign this but I'd like to add my view here.

I agree with you all.

I could compliment each comment separately for its unique contribution but for a host of reasons (not least of which is rachmonas on my readers) I'll be far briefer than that.

Hedyot: Yasher Koach on this great effort and you're correct in your view that Sara's story as a Leaver-Of-Frumkeit is a story worthy of telling.

Sara: You seem to be a "girl" ;-) with an excellent discerning head on her shoulders who's experience is of interest to all of us who were raised similarly and can relate to many of your views and experiences.

The Hordes: Hedyot and Sara may indeed have erred by beginning this series with her story rather than including it later on. We Jews are not individuals brought up within a particular tradition but we are also members of the same tiny tribe who have a shared history and, in fact, parentage (practically all Ashkenazim are closer than 30th cousins, while most of us are more distantly related than 1,000th cousins with the majority of the rest of the world - it's more complicated than that but genetically the general relativity of relations is even more discrepant than the above numbers would imply). Furthermore, we koifrim are rather proud of what we might refer to as our "skepticism" and we have more hangups about people joining religions (of any kind) than we might have about people who cling to other unreasonable beliefs (such as that there's an objective "right and wrong", that your average Zimbabwean has equal inherent mathematical ability to your average Jew, that your average Westerner is happier than your average fundamentalist religious individual, etc). It's not entirely proper for us to discriminate against one particular irrational belief (especially one as tepidly believed as Sara's Catholicism) but in general we like to hold ourselves to a higher standard of intellectual accuracy and are thus somewhat peeved by seeing the series on Kofrim opened with someone who believes (ambiguously though she may) in some sort of untenable religious creeds.

That said, I found Sara's non-hagiographical human-interest-story to be a worthy one and I thank her and Hedyot for sharing it -- though I do wish they had done so only after a few more "standard" koifrische stories were shared.

chasimas habadatz kan

Mark said...

Woho!!!

What I wanna know is in which Chassidisheh Rebbe's house you can have access to the Internet, and which Chassidisheh Rebbe has Apikorsim in his house.

I echo your sentiments BTW.

yhakak said...

Hedyot, i'm going to have to disagree with you on the irrelevancy of Catholicism to this discussion...

the usual disclaimers apply: i'm not an evangelical jew, and i don't for one second presume to think that what i think of as truth to myself has any validity whatsoever to anyone other than myself. I also agree with hedyot that rationality is not everything in life (although we modern-ortho types have, if anything a surfeit of it) and that different religions offer different social, communal, and emotional experiences that are better fits for different people.

All true.

However, the problem is that Sara's critique of orthodoxy (or at least Yesivism) is an overtly rational one, based on the (of course i'm generalizing here) over-reliance on ritual, the differing mores of behavior over time, proving that they can't be in any way religiously mandated, etc.

Again, all true.

However, Catholicism (at least as I understand it, and i know my stuff pretty well - i'm modern orthodox, remember) suffers from almost all of the same problems in droves (it's almost inevitable given a strong, dominating eccleciastical establishment) as well as a conception of the approaches to god which makes the "hotline to god through the rebbe" stream of hasidism seem downright quaint. In fact, the only major religions i can think of offhand which are more rigid (certainly in terms of required belief, if not observance) are wa'habism and shia islam.

There is, of course, one thing that balances the other stuff in Catholicism, and that's Grace, which is a concept that we Jews are not so comfortable with, both because we're not used to it, and second, because it's overtly anti-rational (this while orthodox Judaism more or less deludes itself into thinking it is rational). So you'll excuse me if I think it's a little strange that Sara didn't mention that at all. (I am, of course, deliberately avoiding the whole Jesus-of-Nazereth-as-the-son-of-god bit, because there are plenty of orthodox jews who don't believe in the whole god bit at all, mainly because they've never bothered to think about it).

I want to be clear: I am not saying: well, Sara must have wanted the fast track to heaven and decided the grace of God was an easier path than halacha; that is, of course, cheap orthodox apologetics.

After thinking about this for a while, I really do think that it speaks to a certain personal preference towards a certain type of religion rather than any specific critique of specific religious ritual, Jewish or otherwise, and I think painting the picture as Judaism-Catholicsm vs. a more personal approach which happens to manifest itself in different ways is throwing off the discussion.

One last note: Hedyot, i'm not a big fan of this "better know a kofer" concept. It smacks of self-justification towards the "frum" community in a way that is both slightly demeaning to both sides (the subtext in the beginning of Sara's interview is "i'm not Jewish anymore, but it's not because my parents are horrible people who beat me") and fairly irrelevant (really, what's the point? do the frummies really think you're horrible people, or is that just a defense mechanism for them to avoid having to take the criticism seriously? and if so, does a rational, reasonable approach to the problem and an exposition that says "we're fairly notmal people here" stand a chance?).

Off the Derech said...

Can I make a point?

She NEVER:
A) called herself a kofer.
B) criticized judaism
C) argued that christianity is superior to judaism.

She is simply sharing her story.

You people are insane.

Anonymous said...

To Hedyot,

If Sara did not mention about her Catholicism I don't think you would have had more then 3 comments and everyone would be happy for her, it is just that as Jewish people as whole, and Ill try to mention some of the denominations(Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Sefardy, Ashkenazi Athiest, Gay\Lesbian Jews whatever.. SORRY IF I LEFT ANYONE OUT) we have an ugly history with the catholic church, it is almost like saying Sara would be happy in David Dukes group and we should all smile be happy for her.

I won't even bother to mention the high rate of catholic priests child molestation problems, YES and the Orthodox Yeshivahs have child molestation problems as well that must be stopped also.

laura said...

The link to XGH's parody? Hedyot, you've never impressed me more. I didn't realize you had it in you to be able to laugh at yourself.

Off the Derech said...

Anonymous:
Pure BS.

>everyone would be happy for her<

My ass. I could leave yeshiva and go to YU, and you'll already be depressed. You're telling me most frummies are "happy" for OTDers, as long as they don't become Christian? Have you fell on your head recently?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why everyone expects someone who leave OJ to leave religion. Look at all the people who get divorced and remarry. They don't have a problem with the institution of marriage. It's just that life with a particular spouse did not work, and that can happen for a host of different reasons. Likewise, we should not expect all people who leave OJ to have the same story.

Sara said...

Neat analogy, anon.

Sara said...

In case anyone hasn't yet noticed, NJG is very, very, very nonjudgemental. He wouldn't judge anyone, unless they do something other than what he thinks they should do.

NJG--I am not going to respond to your questions about why I left frumkeit because you have repeatedly mistated the reasons why I left. I gave some of the reasons: you responded by addressing other reasons that I had not listed. You then took a reason I did list, stated that you don't know enough about the subject matter I referenced to discern anything useful, and then presumed to do so anyway.

Why should I respond to your assumptions, anyway?

Life is not linear. Not all work on a scale of less relious > more religious. Halacha and canon law are not pracically the same thing. I did not choose a life based on its "leniencies." you seem unable to look beyond some simple linear scale for all things in life.

I don't operate that way, and I'm not offering any apologies for it.

Elo said...

Listen, people, she's a Catholic--so what? I happen to be totally skeptical of and kind of offended by any organized religion, but I also left more recently than Sara did. Maybe my mind will change in five years--who knows?

And anyway, a lot of OTDers are staunch, lifelong atheists, but clearly some aren't. One of things a lot of us spend tons of time complaining about is the lack of tolerance and diversity in the communities we grew up in. Shouldn't we try to be a little more tolerant than that?

Sara--great read! Your clarity and level-headedness are admirable.

Anonymous said...

"a lot of OTDers are staunch, lifelong atheists"

I have ve just checked many of the blogs and no one has this much comments like this post, I guess it has only to do with this catholic thing and I bet if Sara said she was Hindu no one would have made any comments either, cause Jewish people have never had a problem with Hinduism.

And if your happy the way you live that is cool.

The truth about the church said...

I'm confused though, that some commenters seem to equate Catholics with Nazis. The third reich was a secular phenomenon, where the primary object of worship was the state.

This is a common error made by people ignorant of history. The holocaust was carried out on a christian continent, by people who had been raised christian. The soil of Europe was christian soil, made ready for the holocaust by christians and christian teachings. I use the word christian, rather than catholic, because to a small extent lutherans were guilty, too, but the overwhelming contribution to euoropean anti-semtism was made by catholics. for more on the subject I refer you to the Popes Against the Jews by David Kirtzer. You will find that most of the Nazi program -including ghettos, yellow stars, the idea that Jews are less human, and less value - was based on Catholic ideas. The Nazi's went further - the church didn't call for mass murder - but their excesses were built on an old, and firm catholic foundation.

Its no coincidence that the top Nazis - including hitler and goebels - were born and baptized catholics, not is it any coincidence that nazism got its start, and enjoyed most of its initial popularity in the predominately catholic regions of Germany. Also, the Vatican was first foreign state to recognize the Nazis with a treaty, and Catholic prelates ordered a requium sung at Hitler's death. Furthermore, Pius 12 excomunicated every single communist in the world with one letter, but never - even after Rome was in allied hands, or after the war ended - did he excomunicate a single Nazi.

All of this is easily verifiable, and together with countless other facts spprove the lie of your contention that Nazism was a secular phenomenom.

Bruce said...

Thanks DH and Sara for the post. It took a lot of courage for Sara to follow her convictions.

Sara - as I read your story, you seemed to have a lot of objections to traditional halacha (e.g., inflexible, unchanging) and an Orthodox lifestyle (e.g., lots of absurd chumrahs). You left Orthodoxy, and then later (and independently) become a Catholic.

The more liberal branches of Judaism (Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist) don't have the problems you note. In fact, they agree that these are problems and have worked to change them. Conservative Judaism, for example, arose out of the "historical school" which applied traditional historical methods to Judaism, and some really good analysis of the changes in halacha have come out of the JTS.

I was wondering if you had considered becoming Conservative or Reform or Reconstructionist (that is, after you left Orthodoxy and before you became Catholic), and if so, why you decided not to do that.

Pseudonym said...

all you people characterizing Catholics fail to realize that cultures are fluid, perhaps due to your own falshe ideas about the perpetual immutability of Judaism (so eloquently portrayed by the Satmar picture books that display Moshe in a shtreimel).

By Yidden, every innovation must be presented as a return to something ancient and lost. This started when Chizkiyahu 'found' scrolls in the Bais Hamikdosh, continued with Moses DeLeon and the Zohar, and continues with the pashkvilin in Meah Shearim.

The Hedyot said...

> I was wondering if you had considered becoming Conservative or Reform or Reconstructionist.

Sara said in the post - "I don’t feel much kinship with the more modern movements in Judaism, like Reform or Conservative. I experimented for a bit, but they had some of the same problems that I felt about Orthodoxy, and I wasn’t really comfortable."

e-kvetcher said...

but they had some of the same problems that I felt about Orthodoxy, and I wasn’t really comfortable.

You have to admit this is a puzzling statement. What problems do Reform, Conservative and Recon have in common with Orthodoxy?

Mikeskeptic said...

Great interview. Some of the comments on here are so inane that reading this thread reminded me of yeshivaworld.com.

I do think that most frum people (including skeptics) suffer from some misconceptions about what it means to be Roman Catholic in the United States. While the orthodoxy and doctrinal rigidity of that religion bear more than a passing resemblance to Jewish Orthodoxy, one huge difference is that many (most?) professed Roman Catholics in the US are openly skeptical about central aspects of Catholic theology and doctrine. Get it? OPENLY skeptical. So instead of living a closeted life as a secret skeptic you get the chance to live in a community that has the flavor of structure and tradition (and even perhaps community) that Orthodoxy has without the intellectual repression that marks our communities. In addition, the rules and regulations are less stifling and the ones that are really stupid are widely ignored. One could see how a formerly frum person might find such a community attractive.

Bruce said...

but they had some of the same problems that I felt about Orthodoxy, and I wasn’t really comfortable.

E-kvetcher made the same point that I was thinking. The non-Orthodox movements were created specifically to address these exact problems. Of course, they may have generated a new set of problems in the process. And many non-Orthodox synagogues seem like watered down Orthodoxy rather than a movement with a different understanding.

I was curious if Sara really wasn't comfortable for the same reasons or if there were additional reasons that caused her to reject these non-Orthodox movements.

laura said...

Mikeskeptic,

If one is skeptical, albeit openly, why join? Do you know of a single skeptical Jewish ger? Wouldn't you consider a skeptical ger kind of ridiculous?

Regarding community, um, what kind of community do non-practicing Catholics (or non-practicing anything) form?

Sara said...

Psuedonym, that is, in large part, my issue with halacha and Jewish culture. I think I alluded to it vaguely, but wanted to see if it wnet anywhere. I'm glad I'm not the only person to have noticed that lil' phenomenon.

Sara said...

Laura--

One that doesn't constantly pick at and belittle its members for not constantly proving themselves to anyone who cares to set himself up as a judge.

:-)

Sara

laura said...

Sara, my question was actually literal, not figurative as in what *type* of community they form. I'm asking whether a community of non-practicers can be formed at all. What is the basis of such a community? What ties them together? It's not like people come with tags that read "Catholic" or "Jewish" or "Mormon" or "Baseball fan" or anything. So unless they, say, go to church regularly and want to live near a church, or are adamant about living near a sports stadium, what would make these people form a community? What is a Catholic community if none of the people live according to the Catholic tenets?

Margo said...

Sara--
Thank you for the interview, I found it very interesting, and congratulations on the upcoming baby! :)

Daas Hedyot--
I like this new series, please keep it going!

Sara said...

Thanks Margo!

Sara said...

Laura,

The thing with my religion is that if one doesn't focus on the rules 24/7, one is still be considered a decent Catholic. If one publicly openly disagrees with the rules, same thing, in most cases.

People who choose to focus on religion become priests or nuns or deacons or sunday school teachers or RCIA teachers or, if they have some other vocation that precludes heavy participation in the Church, they may join a community such as Opus Dei, which provides an environment where people who choose to focus on their religion can go.

People who choose to focus on religion a little less, but still participate in the religion and community often participate in a myriad of service groups, like committees that organize visits to homebound parishioners--either to bring communion or simply to socialize. They may participate in discussion or study groups of various kinds. There are usually a variety of social groups as well centered around a parish. Sometimes there's a school, and there are always way to become involved in that. Most universities have a student group for Catholics, that is similar in many ways to any other student group based around a common interest.

Some people just go to mass a couple times a year and whatever big social events the parish holds a couple times a year for fund-raising. Most parishes have a fish-fry in lent, or some variant. Most have some kind of summer and/or fall festival.

The important thing about this is that lay people are completely accepted. It is acceptable to not worry overmuch about theology. Some people have commented that I seem ignorant of theology. Not so. However, I choose not to focus on it.

laura said...

Thanks for the explanation. I actually have some acquaintances who've told me they went to a Catholic school. None of them seem to be religious at all. I kind of see where they're coming from now.

Anonymous said...

Question to Sara,

Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?.

Thanks-

Sara said...

Pretty much, yep.

Depends what you mean by Lord and Saviour though.

Hey, can you tell tell I'm a law student?

Anonymous said...

To Sara Again,

So if a Jew rejects Jesus will he\she be going to hell?

PLEASE BE AN HONEST CATHOLIC.

Thanks Again.

Sara said...

Only if s/he really, really annoys me by trying to force me into discussing issues of theology for the express purpose of discrediting me.

Jesus really, really trusts my opinion on these matters, so watch out. :)

Anonymous said...

Sara,

So your NOT Honest I guess.

Are you making fun of Jesus now?

Sara said...

Only if you are Jesus.

Sara said...

Oh c'mon, someone has to drop a Lebowski quote. Puh-leeease? Please?

It would be really, really funny.

Anonymous said...

Sara,


No I am not Jesus, but should I continue my life rejecting Jesus Christ will I go to Hell after I die?.

Whey can't you be Honest?

I am sure the Audience would like to know as well.

Sara said...

Well, I can. Thing is, is your heckling worth the bother?

Also, clue for ya, the first one is always free:

Capital letters have some specific uses. Do yourself a favor and learn them.

Anonymous said...

To Sara.

To Conclude you are Embarrassed & ashamed to say that Jews who reject Jesus Christ will go to Hell.

Nuff Said-

Sara said...

Conclude whatever you like, darlin' It's your conclusion. I've got nothing to do with it.

Sara said...

If it would make you feel better, I can promise you that people who talk in the theatre go to hell. A special hell.

The Hedyot said...

Sara -
Instead of a quote, how about a clip?

e-kvetcher said...

>To Conclude you are Embarrassed & ashamed to say that Jews who reject Jesus Christ will go to Hell.

>Nuff Said-

Actually, you're probably confusing Catholics and Baptists. Certainly, since Vatican 2, the Catholics do not believe this. See the Catechism (part 1, section 2, chapter 3):

The Church and non-Christians

839 "Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways."325

The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People,326 "the first to hear the Word of God."327 The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews "belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ",328 "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable."329

840 And when one considers the future, God's People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.

841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."330

842 The Church's bond with non-Christian religions is in the first place the common origin and end of the human race:

All nations form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city. . .331

843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life."332

Nuff Said-

Anonymous said...

actually, the catechism is carefully noncommital on the topic of heaven/hell while focusing on other postives. Or anyway that's how i read it, and that's how i've seen it read. I find it strange sara that you did not answer that questoin. Did it just annoy you? I'd have thought that you do not believe jews are by definition going to hell for not accepting jesus, if only because a lot of liberal catholics assume as much, but your silence makes me question that conclusion.

Sara said...

Ah, but I wasn't being silent. I was mocking you. There's such a difference, really.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this is only because you gave two brief examples, and didn't flesh the idea out, but I find your critique of halacha and claims of its inability to be a workable system hard to understand. To start with the second example, why assume that people were not careful about time? Sure they didn't have clocks, but they knew when the sun rose and set and when midday was. Why assume they were less careful (I think you assume that?) rather than more careful about waiting times between milk and meat? Sure they did not time minutes after shabbat on a clock, so what? Outside cities, in clear skies, there are still people who go outdoors to peer at the sky and count three stars. At least they did that in the bungalow colony I went to:) They did have sundials. I don't think anyone thinks looking at the clock is not new....I also don't understand why you found the mixed dancing in Italy such a big deal. There is mixed dancing in some circles today. Only a generation ago, when I was a kid, it was not unheard of in Orthodox circles. According to my parents, there was a group that had mixed dancing in the shul I went to sometimes as a kid, that had gone on until a new rabbi put a stop to it around the time my folks moved to the neighborhood! And there is responsa literature complaining about it among ashkenazim. Sure some leniences or stringincies dominate at one point or other and altogther there has been a return to source texts (see Dr C Soloveitchik's article on mimeticism). To give one example, I see a lot of people on blogs complaining that people adopt chumrot like not to eat gebrokst on pesach. I have a theory how that happens from my own experience. My mom's family did not eat gebrokst and my dad's did. But my mom wanted her parents to come for the holiday, so my family adopted the minhag so the grandparents could join us. So stringencies spread. Sometimes leniences sread. Sure there are those with a naive view of halacha who think there is never change, but anyone a little versed in halacha knows and understands there is change. Think of gebrokst a moment. What was Hillel doing when he ate the korban pesach and marror on matzo -eating a gebrokst sandwich!! and all the people who don't make gebrokst sandwiches all pesach make an exception for Korech at the Seder. And what was his matzo like? Some kind of pita or wrap, not the ashkenazi matzo, but probably like the sefardi one. Sure things change. But there is a core that does not change, and we can trace changes from gemara on. I don't understand what you mean when you say halacha is unworkable and unliveable. Decades ago folks said that, and thought therefore that Orthodoxy would die out, it was for the old people. Yet orthodoxy has experienced a resurgance - for now anyway, we don't know with certainty what the future will bring - but clearly people do live workable lives within the halachic framework and seem to thrive. Sure most charedi women aren't lawyers, but I know some. I hear the no running on weekends but dont see the critique of even liberal orthodoxy let alone conservative....I am wondering, were you drawn to Xianity b/c you felt it was loving or less judgemental? What are you refering to in the Asher lev story-becoming an artist or a larger theme? Can you flesh out a little more why you think halacha is unworkable (beyond the black and white anachronistic idea that everyone was always haredi frum, or IMO the anachronistic idea that people didn't measure time at all)..critiquing the history of halacha doesn't equate to unworkable, so I wonder what you do mean, since you must mean something larger? And also what drew you to Xianity- was it just freedom from restrictions, practical and intellectual (is belief in Jesus not a constraing - or did you have some experience tht led you to belief in Jesus?) Or is there something in the larger belief system that draws you to Xianity?

"I shouldn't reject Christianity because of past wrongs based on distorted theology any more than atheists should reject evolution because it has been distorted into philosophies that have done great harm to people"

A lot of xians say that. Sometimes they say they were not "Real Xians" Here's the problem I have- these claims mean that just about everyone, from the Pope on down, got it wrong about the Jews for a thousand years. Can everyone get it so terribly wrong even though the religion is true? The experts and expounders of the religin were all so terribly wrong on such an important point as their reading of the appropriate Xian attitude to the Jews in their midst, when the Jews are much discussed in the Xian bible? It's possible, but why is the religion so subject to distortion that basically everyone was wrong for a thousand years? When you read the Xian bible, do you not see how easily it can be read as antisemitic and encouraging antisemitism - even though it is now being reread, why was the word of God so easily distorted by so many for so long? Point number one is that it seems to me in fact that if there were halacha, there would have been rules - you can do this and can't do that which would have placed limits and made clear what the Xian attitude was to Jews for better or worse. But point two, absent that, it seems to me that while it could be true that a religion is true but easily abused - just as Islam can theoretically be a religion of peace, just easily abused - the place to look for truth is not in a system that was used to promote wrongdoing for so long by so many major experts in the system and only revised when the awful consequences became clear. when i look at monotheistic faiths, I see judiasm as peaceful for thousands of years - admittedly they didnt much have an opportunity to be otherwise, but still. I don't say that Xian history demonstrates conclusively that Xianity is false as some kind of logical theorem. But I can't understand that Xinn history doesn't raise suspicion when the official experts and expounders on Xianity allowed it to be such an antisemitic religion for so long, and it's just casually accepted that all that was a big mistake. It wasn't abused although doctrine was otherwise, the doctrine was the abuse. How did they get it wrong until after WWII? Do you see what i mean? Why should truth be found in a religin that was so wrong till so recently? And can you explain why you see otherwise?

BTW I assume you see Jesus as fundamentally different than the way some lubavitchers see the Rebbe. Why? How can you be sure that jesus was not just someone who entertained ideas of being the messiah, and died, and was then declared by desperate people to have arisen, been god, etc etc?

It seems to be very unclear what Jesus was preaching, if he disagreed with the rabbis at all (there are theories that he didn't) and if so, to what extent and all that. The idea of preaching to the gentiles is Paul's. When you say you are attracted to Xian universalism, is this Jesus' or Pauls' teachings that attract you and how can you be sure Jesus was not a card carrying Pharisee Jew who would have been disappointed at the turn Xianity took with Paul?

How do you relate to a lot of tropes of xian thought, such as that the impure were "Despised" when we know the kohen gadol could be impure etc
Or to the idea that we must have blood for atonement, when we know that the jews were in galut in bavel and returend with atonement, daniel did not have sacrifices, in the story of purim there were no sacrifices and there is repentance and forgiveness, in devarim there is repentance and forgiveness without sacrifice etc

How do you deal with the fact that there are two conflicting geneologies for Jesus, and neither of them are from shlomo, even though the torah says the moshiach must come not just from david but from shlomo?
And if his descent from david via shlomo is from his mother b/c of the virgin birth, why does the Xian bible document his lineage twice, both times differently - and in Jesus' lifetime, in his early preachign, why would knowledgeable people identify him as moshiach. They'd have traced his lineage from his father - presumably why there is the geneology from his father in the Xian bible, b/c that is why people thought he was a messiah candidate - and yet we see that he is not from shlomo and therefore why would knowledgeable people have judged him the moshiach?

I know these are so many questions, but I'd like to understand better what drew you away from judaism to xianity emotionally/spiritally etc (the first set of questions) and also how, knowing about judaism, you accept xian faith claims some of which seem pretty dubious factually etc i thank you in advance if you will care to respond (if not, of course i will understand these are too many questions)

Anonymous said...

"Ah, but I wasn't being silent. I was mocking you. There's such a difference, really."

You weren't mocking *me* different anonymous. I didnt think the question was inherently deserving of mocking. It's hard for people to understand your journey. One reason for that is that there was a time most catholics did believe there was no salvation outside the church (never mind outside xianity). Catholics who think those who reject jesus go to hell still exist. AFAICT mostly not in the uS(but im no expert) and I dont know if its common elsewhere or not. It would be strange to switch from the beleif in judaism to the belief that jews go to hell, but ppl have done it before!Actually if you could give your estimates of how many catholics and where such catholics reside do believe that jews who dont accept jesus are on the path to hell - or if there are no such catholics that you know of and my understanding is wrong -that would be really interesting.

Anonymous said...

"why was the word of God"
i meant what they understand to be the word of god, of course and this
"just as Islam can theoretically be a religion of peace, just easily abused"
is a point against the notion that halacha makes the attitude clear, when we are told that sharia is being abused and really sharia is peaceful.
But i think most americans look at islam today, figure the wahabbis may be distoring the religion, but also say "what a nutty religion" and "why would anyone want to be involved in a religion so eaily turned violent"
Turn back the clock, and I have the same question of xianity

Sara said...

Oh, so you're a *different* person too gutless to use a name. I understand.

Here are my rules of engagement on religious debates:

1) I don't.

Get your kicks elsewhere.

The Hedyot said...

> What's the intention of your series?

The point of this series is definitely not to be a thorough examination of why people leave (and in Sara's case, of why she arrived at Catholicism). If anyone bothered to read the introduction, they'd see that the point of the interview is so that people who only know caricatures of ex-frum people should be able to have a more realistic and genuine picture of them.

> Maybe you just wish to demonstrate that folks who leave OJ can lead stable lives and be nice people

Yes, that is one of the main points. Like I said in the intro, chareidim put out a lot of propaganda about those of us who leave. About why we leave, about how we live now, about how we view Judaism, and about many other areas of our lives. That's the main point of this series, to dispel these stereotypes.

I understand that people have many questions about Sara's journey, and if they were genuinely inquiring about it, I'm sure it would be fascinating to hear about. But Sara (nor anyone else) has no obligation to defend her life choices to anyone here. I'm not interested in having these interviews turn into one more opportunity for trolls to vilify those who disagree with their viewpoints. Sara isn't preaching a gospel here, or saying that everyone should be following her path. She's just trying to tell her story so that anyone who cares to, can better get to know her. If all you want to do is to attack, then please, do it at YeshivaWorld or VIN, but not here.

Anonymous said...

> What's the intention of your series?

To Hedyot,

The reason why no one is asking question about how & why she left and if she lives a normal life after leaving Bais Yakov is cause everyone is happy for her, the only thing that bothers most of us as Jews weather Atheist or followers of the Torah or what ever is that Sara joined a religion that hurt many of our grand parents and great grand parents, etc. and her new religion believes that us a Jews will be going to Hell (Which Sara maybe no different then some in the Charedi world) and she refuses to answer many of our Question which makes one woinder if she is really Roman Catholic or Disney Land Catholic?

I Actually wish you made a book and at the book launch at Barnes and Noble we could ask her up front these questions.

Something does not smell right here and there is always 2 sides to every story!!!

Anonymous said...

" Oh, so you're a *different* person too gutless to use a name. I understand.

Here are my rules of engagement on religious debates:

1) I don't.

Get your kicks elsewhere."

I don't see the call to be so hostile. I asked some questions, I specifically wrote that i understand if you don't want to answer it and you can answer if ou care too. it's not as though you dont' discuss theology in your post at all. You do - you make fairly dramatic statements - but you do not clarify though you give examples that seem to be there for the purpose of clarification. I began by asking questions about these examples and what you intended to convey, not hostile ones, on points you raised in your post. So if your intent was to gloss over even the points you raised and not be clear about them, how should I know this?
do you write this? or do you rather raise theology yourself with no indication that you don't want to discuss in the sort of forum where theology is frequently discussed. Then I asked other questions, about what drew you to Xianty, about faith, about some truth claims in light of what you know from Judaism, and about your own previous response relating to Xian history. No one forces you to answer, but there's no need to be hostile. You wrote this stuff yourself and these are perfectly natural questions. You write in the post that you judge favorably - and yet my first comment here was to defend you from the other anonymous (which makes me gutless?) by saying it's unlikely that you believe Jews are going to hell, and the second was only to defend others for raising the question (Is that my crime) and the third was to follow up and ask questions about the points about halacha in your own post, about what drew you to Xianity and how do you deal with standard-issue questions of theology that are more likely to be news to born Xians than to born OJews. Like i wrote{"i thank you in advance if you will care to respond (if not, of course i will understand these are too many questions)"

so maybe you don't graspo that a) folks here are likely to be interested in theology b) you wrote about theology,and c) questions are not attacks! Look, You say you find halacha unworkable and convert to Catholicism, and you find halacha ahistorical yet catholicism is the answer, people will ask questions. you are 100% free to say you dont want to get more into theology or answer comments at all. But you're being rude and hostile for no reason. I didn't say a negative word about you. who's the one getting kicks. Why are you so angry and defensive. I thought the whole point of this post from Hedyot's perspective was to prove that you and other exOJs dont get angry and defensive for no reason....? Maybe it's the other comments and yo are just fed up or whatever, but I think your respnse is weird. I even think writing about theology and then saying i didnt come to debate is weird. whatever.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, that is one of the main points. Like I said in the intro, chareidim put out a lot of propaganda about those of us who leave. About why we leave, about how we live now, about how we view Judaism, and about many other areas of our lives. That's the main point of this series, to dispel these stereotypes."

Whatever the propaganda is, it's not about OTD who quickly convert to Xianty. There may be other propaganda for that. I think the idea that you think that someone who converts at a pretty young age to Roman Catholicism and doesn't fit any given stereotype about OTDers makes a point about whether the stereotypes fit in general is pretty weird. The stereotypes are not of this particular path in life. I also think that there are not too many haredim with such stereotypes reading these posts, so their pont escapes me. But reading them is interestng in their own right, and it's always interesting to read people's journeys. Maybe too interesting, as one asks questions, which is apparently the wrong thing to do.

"I understand that people have many questions about Sara's journey, and if they were genuinely inquiring about it, I'm sure it would be fascinating to hear about. But Sara (nor anyone else) has no obligation to defend her life choices to anyone here."

Who said she does? Not me. I wrote the opposite.

" I'm not interested in having these interviews turn into one more opportunity for trolls to vilify those who disagree with their viewpoints."

I didn't villify anyone.

" Sara isn't preaching a gospel here, or saying that everyone should be following her path. She's just trying to tell her story so that anyone who cares to, can better get to know her. If all you want to do is to attack, then please, do it at YeshivaWorld or VIN, but not here."

I didn't attack. Sara attacked me for asking her to clarify various points in her posts, to explain some issues better and help me understand if I am missing X, Y, Z; for taking her up to her response to xian history; and for asking how she deals with the standard historical issues. These are perfectly expected questions. They were asked politely. I said they may be ones she wants to skip. That you and she act as though I attacked her is interesting. strange. The best i can think of is that you are all mixing up anonymouses or are generally suprised that people have questions or I dont know.

Anonymous said...

"and her new religion believes that us a Jews will be going to Hell (Which Sara maybe no different then some in the Charedi world) "

You see? Many people really don't know differently and think most US catholics still think Jews are going to hell. As I wrote, I suspect Sara didn't answer b/c she thinks it's obvious that Jews can go to heaven (I could be wrong). But I also wrote that this question is natural, since people are not well versed in what Catholics today think, and I believe that although the Church has changed its official position, it's still ambiguous. But the laity I think mostly believe jews can go to heaven. So why not respond? Encourage people to realize that catholics believe differently than they think today. or whatever. but the refusal to answer just confuses people, on this question and others.

Sara said...

I will not answer question on Catholic theology, my personal theology, or anyone else's theology.

I will not to it in the rain.

I will not do it on a train.

Not in a box,

Not with a fox.

I am not here to take your bait.

Go find someone else to hate.

Bruce said...

I think my earlier question might have gotten lost among the multiple discussions (or non-discussions) with multiple anonymouses.

Sara --- what was your thinking on non-Orthodox forms of Judaism?

Anonymous said...

I want to point out this earlier comment:

"I'm sorry, but I just really don't understand- and apparently I'm not the only one here who doesn't. You've made no attempts to explain the questions I've raised, you've only responded with sarcasm targeting my genuine expressions of nonjudgmentalism."

People thought that you were discussing theology and your theological objections to judaism. Now here are all the things you wrote inthe post - just in the post, not getting to the comments - about theology.

"I was once working on a paper having to do with the history of Jewish communities in fifteenth century Italy. In doing that work, I came across a shailah/tshuvah about mixed-gender dancing. I was shocked that in a fairly orthodox setting of several hundred years ago, mixed social dancing was widely accepted, for the purposes of encouraging suitable matches. This led me to other reading and eventually to question the system of halacha.

Was the impetus for your transition primarily intellectual, emotional, social, cultural, or some other factor?

I think it was all of the above. Intellectual issues were a huge part of it. My early concerns about halacha led into learning more about legal systems and ultimately the realization that halacha is simply not a workable system of law. People manage to live within it, but the system of denying that change exists has led to a law that is more burdensome than I can believe God intended it to be.


Hmmm, speaking of supportiveness, there’s also the control issue. I guess that might fall under an emotional reason for leaving. I didn’t fit very well into the community and I never really was able to come up with a life plan that would garner the full support of the community. It’s important to me to not be constantly apologizing for, or facing people who expect me to apologize for, my life’s work.

Socially? Well, it seemed like in the community, everyone had someplace they fit--except me. Partly, that may have been my erroneous perceptions of the modern orthodox community. I was never very impressed with the more modern girls in my class, but I had too many outside interests to fit in well with the yeshivish girls.
One of the ways in which I dislike halacha is the heavy reliance on clocks--do we really, really think that two or three or seven hundred years ago people counted 18 minutes before sundown, and 45 or 52 or 72 or 90 minutes after? Do we really think that people counted six hours after eating meat or poultry? That's just implausible. Historically, people did not become nit-picky about time until the Industrial Revolution, when factory schedules and shifts that run counter to normal human cycles intruded on people's lives on a vast scale. This is one of the reasons why people from areas like the Northeast US tend to condemn people from many other cultures as lazy--other cultures tend to care less about clocks. Even less than chassidim, in some cases. :-)


Well, at some point my analytical thinking started being more the product of law school than anything else, but it is definitely still there, and it got started learning halacha.

Yes, I still believe in God. I have chosen a somewhat unusual path: I’ve become a Roman Catholic. That was mostly an intellectual decision. I felt that I wanted to belong to a structured religion, a religion with some sense of tradition, but I wanted a religion that accepted that change happens. And so, I ended up in a religion where the concept of time and laws and their interactions is more closely aligned with my own. Those ideas go beyond time, too. I like that Christianity is inclusive. I was never comfortable with the idea of being a race apart, it seems inherently unjust to me.

It was also an emotional decision, but I’m not really comfortable talking about that.


Above all though, the thing I treasure most about my life that wasn’t possible in the frum community is that the schemes and plans and ambitions I formulate are not viewed with suspicion. I don’t have to worry about balancing everything against religion. My religion recognizes a greater diversity of human activity than frumkeit allows itself to recognize. So does my community of friends and associates. My uniqueness in these ways is treasured.

---
that's a lot of theology! a lot about her issues with judaism. Naturally people asked how Catholicism addresse these issues, why liberal forms of Judaism did not satisfy, how to deal with catholic historicity etc these questions flow from the post! These is so much theology discussion and talk of issues with religion in the post - and also jblogs discuss theology normally - that there's little reaosn to expect sara is not discussing theology and expects no questions clarifying what did not do it for her in judaism and did do it in catholicism. it's not that she's preaching' it's that she wrote a lot about theology ,a nd yet there is a lot unexplained. So people are puzzled and ask See this sentence, Sara's one request:

"It was also an emotional decision, but I’m not really comfortable talking about that."

and there were not a lot of questions about emotions! At most, i asked if she had a spirtual experience that led her to faith or some such question.

I think the fact that there is so much talk of issues in religion and Oj in the post, combined with the general jblog format, leads people to be perplexed that there is such a bad reaction to follow up questions. Now I dont know what preises youre operating with, but It's not true teh post is not about theological issues with judaism etc there's a lot of it. so people ask about it, catholicism etc and I dont see how they should have divined not to.

Holy Hyrax said...

Sara

Hi

I am not sure if someone asked, but by chance do you remember this shaila/tsuvah about mixed dancing??

Anonymous said...

"I am not here to take your bait.

Go find someone else to hate."

You think people here hate you? I hate you? This is so strange. I already explained why I fond your reaction puzzling. why you don't have to answer and I 100% agree you don't have to answer questions and don't expect you to any longer. But your bloody post was about theological issues - there was a lot of it. That's why people ask how it follows through, how it led you away from judaism, to catholicism. Why do you take no responsiblity for raisng issues, and act like people hate you for asking natural questions that they agree you dont have to answer?

Is this an advertisement for Xian charity? For the way you try to judge others favorably? You are the one acting with hate. You are not hated. People are perplexed, by the way you present your story - and curious - and also by the way you write and then shut down questions. But I question why act as you do and imply that folks want to bait you, hate you, get kicks from you.

WRT to the one issue of what catholics believe about hell, you again are under no obligation to explain anything, but that issue was the source of questioning you seem to have taken umbrage at, and it's an issue many are confused about, and it's probably a good thing to have clarified (note the passive tense) since it probably will promote postiive ecumenical feeling if it is clarified. Not answering makes people wonder if you really now think your fellow jews (you say you still feel fellowship etc) are going to hell, it confirms the AFAICT mistaken belief about what catholics believe, it contributes to confusion in the thread and in the world - but it's your choice. It seems to me you could clarify and address what people are asking with positive effect not just in this thread but for future jewish-catholic interactions, but maybe you're not interested in that. I find it all a little strange. I still see no cause for hostility.

Esther Hadassah's blog said...

Hi Hedyot,
Thanks for commenting on my blog.
Do you know this "Sara" personally?
I am sorry but I don't believe her story.
Am Yisroel Chai said...
say psalm 39 (aka Mizmor L’Dovid)

That is Pslam 23, not 39,

...and I don't want to overdo this, but given what Catholics have doen to Jews and Judaism, you almost might as well have become a nazi

Any Beis Yakov girl would know which Psalm it is. My 2 cents.

The Hedyot said...

> I think the fact that there is so much talk of issues in religion and Oj in the post, combined with the general jblog format, leads people to be perplexed that there is such a bad reaction to follow up questions.

Anonymous (could you please use a pseudonym?!) -

You're right, there are a lot of genuine inquiries that could be asked. But many people were hostile in their approach, and their questions were clearly intended, not to sincerely learn more about the process, but to delegitimize Sara's choice, by somehow demonstrating that she was irrational and ignorant in her choices.

I know that such tactics are par for the course on the blogs, and I'm personally willing to get into debates with such people all the time, but I don't expect other people to subject themselves to such hostile advances just because they are kind enough to participate in my personal project. Sara did in fact address some of the questions, but it became quite clear that many of those asking were not truly interested in a discussion, but in a chance to demolish someone who they disagreed with.

Anonymous said...

"You're right, there are a lot oI just quoted:f genuine inquiries that could be asked. But many people were hostile in their approach, and their questions were clearly intended, not to sincerely learn more about the process, but to delegitimize Sara's choice, by somehow demonstrating that she was irrational and ignorant in her choices."

I don't see anything clear about that. In particular, my questions were genuine and I was interested to recieve answers, and not hostile. I also wrote that i understood she might not answer such questions. I don't read others' minds, but i know what is in my mind, and in addition, objectively speaking, I wrote nothing hostile. In fact, on the issue of heaven/hell, I wrote what i thought was a clarifying, supprotive comment in Sara's favor, but also one to explain why I thought other commenter asked the question, and I was greeted with hostility. Her response to me was angry and accusative.

Others had the same experience. Here's a quote again:

"I'm sorry, but I just really don't understand- and apparently I'm not the only one here who doesn't. You've made no attempts to explain the questions I've raised, you've only responded with sarcasm targeting my genuine expressions of nonjudgmentalism."

that's more than two of us.

"Sara did in fact address some of the questions, but it became quite clear that many of those asking were not truly interested in a discussion, but in a chance to demolish someone who they disagreed with."

Nonsense. Look, don't raise issues with Judaism and say now i'm catholic and expect no questions. And if you don't want to answer them, OK, but don't get hostile.
similarly, the question asking if she believes those who dont accept Jesus go to hell is a genuine, fair, though maybe ignorant (Of what catholics believe) question. A jew who converts to catholicism and thinks jews are damned is one person relating to fellow jews one way; one who converts and thinks jews go to heaven is another relating differently. She chose not to answer, but in a way that left others thinking she does believe they go to hell. And got mad at me for saying she probably doesn't believe they go to hell, but hey, it's a question worth clarifying. Saying the first was apparently OK, saying that people would benefit from clarification a seems to be a no-no. Her response "Go find someone else to hate." Weird.

Maybe Sara just doesn't like to debate or debate issues with personal ramifications (if so, I can't imagine she would like OJ culture!)

but the response was out of line with many sincere comments.

And IMO strange.

Sara said...

Bruce--

As someone else speculated, in some ways it seemed like a watered-down version Judaism instead of a different approach to Judaism.

I also didn't like the culture. I didn't like the homogeneity, I didn't like the presumptions, and I didn't like the separateness.

This is probably the most fundamental thing: I don't think any one people is any better than any other people, or substantially different. Now, the Reform et al have addressed this to a degree, but those reforms have not really influenced the culture much.

The idea that one can be born into the "chosen people" bothers me. Incidentally, this also ruled out many Protestant sects that preach predestination.

Sara said...

Esther Hadassah--

Please, you think if I was faking you all out, I wouldn't've looked it up? I did this late at night and was tired. It was a typo. Surely you can think of some reasons why the number 39 might be stuck in my head while pondering a childhood in Orthodoxy.

Google "Psalm of David." See what happens.

Sara said...

Holy Hyrax,

I'm sorry, I do not. It was a long time ago. It was in Italy. It was, iirc, written a rabbi of the German community. It dated from the first half of the sixteenth century. I was doing a lot of work on the Mantua community, so it may have been from there, but it could just as easily be from somewhere else in Italy.

It was not an online source; so it is probably buried somewhere in the grad library at UM, although it could've been something I got via ILL--I got a lot of stuff from various rabbinical schools.

Sorry I can't help you more on that. I never used it in the paper I was writing, and those research notes have long since gotten lost through the course of a couple of moves.

Anonymous said...

This is not a question, since we do not get answers anyhow so I will not ask anymore questions.

"The idea that one can be born into the "chosen people" bothers me."

But it does not bother Sara that Jews will go to Hell if they deny Jesus Christ as per only the basics of the Catholic faith as a whole.

Sara said...

Anonymous,

Whichever one you are,

Saying that you are well-meaning is pretty unconvincing in the context of your haranguing.

Again, you can draw whatever conclusions you wish to draw about anything your heart desires.

But I will not debate you.

You can insist that your repeated demands and insinuations are perfectly sweet and non-hostile, but I think that people can smell the bullshit if they have a desire to.

And I still will not debate you.

Perhaps, at some point, you will figure out that I will not debate you.

Sara said...

Anonymous, dear,

I think if you look beyond the end of your nose, you will see that I am happy to discourse with anyone who wants to.

But I will not debate you.

Both debate and you are special in that way.

Whichever one you are.

Bruce said...

Got it, thanks. I agree that that is one of the failings of many Reform and Conservative communities, despite some distant ideology.

BTW,

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable. The differences between a community in Italy a few hundred years ago and an American Yeshivis community upset her? Yet, she adopts Roman Catholicism? and says one reason is that it has a history? Wow. This shows a total ignorance of how halakha has worked for the last two millenia and a total disregard for that long history of the Roman Catholic Church until Vatican II, and even after to a lesser degree. I can understand questioning certain dimensions of Judaism, but Roman Catholicism certainly has just as many, and in my opinion many more. This makes it clear to me that there is no intellectual dimension here. It must be that the Christian prayer for the Jews to convert has caused god's grace to fall upon her. That would have been a rational explanation.

Sara is saved by way of Jesus Christ said...

"And I still will not debate you."

This is not a Debate I was simply asking small little basic questions, based on Daas Hedyot post Interview and I even support your position.

You even got angry at me and cursed me:

"I can promise you that people who talk in the theatre go to hell. A special hell."

The Hedyot said...

People, let me explain how this works: If you don't use a pseudonym, and leave it as 'Anonymous', don't be surprised that your comment might be misconstrued to be from the other 'Anonymous' who acted like a jerk.

Make up a name! It isn't that hard.

The Hedyot said...

> You even got angry at me and cursed me:

"I can promise you that people who talk in the theatre go to hell. A special hell."


This is a curse? Are you a devoutly religious theater talker?

Sara is saved by way of Jesus Christ said...

Yes it was a curse and I wish Sara was not angry at me and wishing me to go to Hell even though her new found religion believes that I am going to Hell.

Sara said...

Clearly not a Firefly fan, either.

No wonder s/he is all bent out of shape.

Sara said...

Oh dear. Whiney too.

yonahred said...

hey sara,

nice to "meet" you and you are a brave person.

having read the new testament i confess the attractiveness of the jesus character, especially if one focuses on most of the things he was reported as saying and not certain of the things he was reported as saying.

certain jews (i prefer the word yehudim) who have been busy in christian-jewish relations have stated that when the messiah comes he will settle the issue and tell us if this is his first time or his second appearance.

the new testament's text is certainly an obstacle to jewish christian relations, because there are verses that are "anti jewish" some in anti pharisee garb and others in quite clear anti jewish in your face language.

hundreds of years ago, jews would undergo the sword or leave a country (rather daunting at the time)rather than undergo the fount, such an experience is part of our collective unconscious. that is the emotional baggage lying right underneath the "logical" hostility on this thread towards christianity and catholicism.

my cousin married out and converted when he was seeking solace and community after nine, eleven and so i have thought about this a fair amount. seeking a believing community is a rather basic and ancient human inclination nigh unto an instinct. i have left the derech but i miss sharing a ritual with a believing community.

again, you are a brave person, i wish you well and as red skelton used to say, "may god bless"

Billy Skeptanon Joel said...

Come out Sara, don't let me wait
You Catholic girls start much too late
aw But sooner or later it comes down to fate
I might as well be the one

well, They showed you a statue, told you to pray
They built you a temple and locked you away
Aw, but they never told you the price that you pay
For things that you might have done.....
Only the good die young
thats what i said
only the good die young x2

You might have heard I run with a dangerous crowd
We ain't too pretty we ain't too proud
We might be laughing a bit too loud
aw But that never hurt no one

So come on Virginia show me a sign
Send up a signal I'll throw you the line
The stained-glass curtain you're hiding behind
Never lets in the sun
Darlin' only the good die young
woah
i tell ya
only the good die young x2

You got a nice white dress and a party on your confirmation
You got a brand new soul
mmmm, And a cross of gold
But Virginia they didn't give you quite enough information
You didn't count on me
When you were counting on your rosary
(oh woah woah)

They say there's a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it's better but I say it ain't
I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
the Sinners are much more fun...

you know that only the good die young
oh woah baby
i tell ya
only the good die young, X2


You say your mother told you all that I could give you was a reputation
Aww She never cared for me
But did she ever say a prayer for me? oh woah woah

Come out come out come out virgina dont let me wait,
You catholic girls start much too late
Sooner or later it comes down to fate
I might as well be the one,
You know that only the good die young

I'm telling you baby
You know that only the good die young
Only the good die young
Only the gooooooooooooooood
Only the good die young
Only the gooooooooooooooood
Only the good die young
Ooooooooooooooooooooooooo ooooooooooo oooooooooo...

laura said...

Does this Billy Joel song remind anyone else of Donne's *The Flea*? Coincidentally, Donne's family was Catholic.

Curious said...

All this talk about Sara's catholicism has me wondering: Do you think its easier for the OTDer's still on the derech family members if the infidel (a) adopts another religion like christianity, thereby still believing in g-d and that the hebrew bible is of divine origin and given to the jews on Mt. Sinai, (b) becomes a g-dless atheist or (c) becomes a reform or humanistic jew ? Do any of these choices make it easier to maintain a relationship with the family?

The Hedyot said...

> Do you think its easier for the OTDer's still on the derech family members if...

Interesting question. Basically asking, which is the lesser evil to them? I think they'd be least upset about the Reform kind of switch, but in some ways they probably could relate to a strongly conservative Christian than a very liberal Jew.

You can see this attitude in the way that the right-wing Jewish media and organizations often tend to side more with conservative Christian policies than liberal Jewish ones.

Anonymous said...

"The idea that one can be born into the "chosen people" bothers me. Incidentally, this also ruled out many Protestant sects that preach predestination."
So how do you understand this part of the Catechism?

"The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews "belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ",328 "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable."329"

what does it mean that to the jews belong the covenants and promises other than that they wree chosen.

Anonymous said...

"I will not answer question on Catholic theology, my personal theology, or anyone else's theology."

Except that you do. On some issues, you discussed them in the interview. On others, you wrote about them or answered in the comments section. And to others you insisted you refuse to discuss theology and got hostile. There may be some dividing line between questions you voluntarily discuss and those you answer and those you don't, but pretty obviously a lot of us have no idea what that line is and what you are prepared to discuss and what not. It looks to me like out of the blue you get testy and sensitive about stuff you already brought up yourself or did discuss. You are not being consistent in any way that i can figure out.

Anonymous said...

"Saying that you are well-meaning is pretty unconvincing in the context of your haranguing."

I didn't harangue. I asked some polite questions about stuff you already discussed and a little stuff you didn't, and said this may be too many questions, I understand if you will not answer.

"Again, you can draw whatever conclusions you wish to draw about anything your heart desires.

But I will not debate you.

You can insist that your repeated demands and insinuations are perfectly sweet and non-hostile, but I think that people can smell the bullshit if they have a desire to."

demands? Insinuations? harangues? You have unique defintions of these words. Very unusual behavior for a lawyer too.

"And I still will not debate you."

do you think writing like Dr Suess is cute?

The Hedyot said...

Dear Readers -
Due to the confusion that arises when multiple people post a comment anonymously, I have turned on comment moderation in order to prevent this. No comments will be censored based on content, but I will not allow any comments that do not have some sort of identifying name, even a fake one.
Thank you for your cooperation.

yonahred said...

it is conceivable that ultra orthodox have more in common with right wing christians, yet to think that parents would prefer their children to convert rather than not convert is a bizarre take on the jewish world that i am familiar with.

gillian said...

Hedyot, you gotta be kidding me. You seriously think becoming a Christian is the lesser evil to OJ parents because at least their child's chosen religion's tenets jive somewhat with Judaism? Firslty, since when do OJ people care more about actual tenets than about how things appear to the neighbors? Of the three listed possibilities, a child's conversion to Christianity is certainly the hardest to explain to one's acquaintances. (Case in point: Nearly everyone commenting on this post, frum or not, intelligent or not, had a hard time swallowing Sara's conversion. The same would not be the case for either of the other two listed options.) And secondly, a parent can possibly understand a child's disillusionment with religion in general or a child's wanting a less restrictive lifestyle, but for a child to throw away a religion the parents hold dear and take an alternate (and equally ridiculous) religion instead, is a real slap in the face.

Heshy Fried said...

Just wanted to thank you for this piece - it was a great read and will be writing a post on it sooner or later.

Keep em coming...

The Hedyot said...

Gillian

You're totally missing what I said. Read what I wrote a bit more carefully.

Hershel said...

DH,

You've got a great post here. However, i think you should consider having another post (or posts) interviewing parents, spouses and siblings of "kofrim" that went OTD !!

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochi said...

WOW what a story!
First off, what kind of Roman Catholic name is SARA. Maybe you should change it to something like SALLY.
Next. Sorry to dissapoint you ,but you are still a Jew. Assuming your mom was, you are, and GD help those kids of yours, so are they.
Which means you must keep all the laws of judaism.

Sara said...

R' Shimon bar Yochi--

Didn't you pass on a while back?

I hate to break the news to you, but if I don't keep Jewish laws, then that includes the law that states that I am Jewish and must keep Jewish laws. Interesting how that works, eh?

However, I concur that according to Jewish law, I am Jewish. Clearly you and I have different ideas of what this means.

Interestingly, I have had frum folks argue at me that I'm not really Jewish anymore because the Israeli Law of Return no longer applies to me. That had to be the first and so far the only time I've heard a yeshivish person cite Israeli law as eve psuedo-halachic authority!

Sara

Sara said...

"do you think writing like Dr Suess is cute?"

Yep. :-)

oldanon said...

sara i just want to say this was interesting, even if i would have preferred more on your theological journey. I wish you all the best in life

Freethinking Upstart said...

Sara,

I wrote a post about your interview. This comment thread was a bit too long and my comment got a little long. If you care to read my thoughts on it, check out my latest post.

Born Again Catholic said...

The holocaust was carried out on a christian continent, by people who had been raised christian. The soil of Europe was christian soil, made ready for the holocaust by christians and christian teachings.

Not quite true.

Medieval Europe was Christian.

But Voltaire, Locke, Robespiere, Rouseau, Napoleon, Marx, Engels, Darwin, Spencer, Sterner, Nietzsche, Einstein, Freud ... and thousands of other Enlightenment, Socialist, Nihilist, Anarchist, Syndicalist, Materialist, and other Modernist leaders and thinkers had done much to de-Christianize and secularize Europe in the 200 years before Lenin, Hitler, and Stalin.

ScoobyDoo said...

I'm going to comment on another aspect, that hasn't yet been addressed.
My feeling after reading the article, (which btw was very interesting to read) was that Sara is selfish. Yes, selfish. Everything is all about her. She conveys her childhood as an open and loving atmosphere, and she abused that.

This comes across as a story of someone, who for very personal reasons decided to leave her religion, and turn her back on her ancestors and the G-d of her religion. Why? Because it didn't fit in exactly with her life, because there were certain restrictions that she felt were suppressing her, because she wanted to be a free spirit and do what the hell she wanted with her life.

So instead of having the courage to stand up and say, I don't want to be a part of any religion because I find it controlling. (Which if followed properly, and 'religion' is in a certain respect.) Instead of researching her own religion properly, and going back to the basics, back to the roots, to find out the truth. She left on the grounds that there was something wrong with Judaism, and now hides behind another religion.

If you're going to be honest, be totally honest. I'm no physcologist, but from reading Sara's responses, it seems that she's not totally comfortable with her new life either.

Who said life was about doing what the hell you wanted anyway?

Sara, do you feel fulfilled?

I'm trying to be open-minded, but anymore and my brain might fall out. I think there's a lot more to your story then what was told.

P.s. Your Christian family background - very important factor.

P.p.s. For someone so open-minded, I sense a lot of judgement and resentment in your responses.

Haliczes said...

ScoobyDoo--

On the selfishness thing, I agree.

In fact, I'll take a leap and assume you're being at least marginally well-meaning and share some details.

When I was nineteen, I had a minor crisis of faith on a point of halacha that I cannot detail. Sorry, I can't. It has to do with private information that is not mine.

A friend of mine pointed out that I had a choice--Orthodox Judaism or something else. I verbally acknowledged that I had a choice and then, after a long silence, I said that I choose frumkeit, because I cannot do that to my family.

Then for about a year, I was resolved to wait until my parents both died before making my move.

At a certain point it simply became impossible to live that way. Eventually, I decided that the purpose of my life was to live my life, not to live the life my parents wanted me to live.

It was essentially a selfish choice. I don't represent it as anything else.

However, I disagree with the proposition that it is somehow more worthy to live a life that is a compromise between one's own beliefs and one's parents beliefs than to live one's own life fully and completely.

And yes, I am unabashedly rude, sarcastic, and downright mean to hecklers and trolls. Why should I give to someone anything other than what their behavior invites? If someone doesn't want to be mocked, he shouldn't be abusive to a stranger online.

Shalom in NJ said...

It doesn't seem useful to me to analyze too deeply the nuances of how Sara could reject halacha and leave frumkeit, then come to join another religion with many laws which she doesn't really believe in. She said that it was an emotional decision, so rational analysis doesn't really apply.

Having said that, if one of my four children became non-religious, I would still love them and accept the unfortunate (IMO) decision. If they formally accepted another religion, I'd still love them but would never have contact again unless they return.

Call me close minded or a bigot if you like, that is the emes.

Greg Says: You MUST see this! said...

What a story!

Reminds me of this great Woody Allen piece on "picking your religion." & Catholicism

A Must See!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJd3MgIcbnA

EN said...

Sara,

I find your entire story entertaining and thought provoking. It is unique to me as I have never heard it before in such detail. Your idea of not debating theology has given me food for thought and is something that as a person has taken it to heart. Your personal journey is a story to me and different than mine. It was enjoyable to read. Part of me wonders why as a human growing up in the OJ setting, maybe different from yours, that I still tend to grasp on the belief of OJ while you do not. Philosphically, I suppose that it is impossible to find that elusive "switch" that makes me believe in OJ and to switch it off. You have found yours, maybe it is impossible to find mine. I wish you luck and thank you for openeing my mind a little bit more with your journey.

jewish philosopher said...

Sara, let's be honest. You're parents were half hearted about Judaism, you wanted to sex with a goy, the rest is history. And a lot of excuses.

A Catholic Blogger said...

While I started reading this post and this thread because of entirely different reasons, I decided to post this post, because I also converted to Christianity but unlike Sara, not from Judaism.
I know I probably shouldn't take the troll bait, but I would feel bad if I didn't stick up for Sara here seeing how she is being flamed so much.

Here's the first one:
"You're parents were half hearted about Judaism, you wanted to sex with a goy, the rest is history. "

Now you are belittling her conversion, I don't think you get it.

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochi said...
"First off, what kind of Roman Catholic name is SARA. Maybe you should change it to something like SALLY."

1) Sara is a perfectly fine Roman Catholic name!
2) Sally is just a modern Anglicization of the name sarah!
3) It doesn't matter. Really, it doesn't matter; her name could be as unCatholic as whatever you imagine catholic names to be like, and it would still be fine.


Now for those who say the Roman Church is anti-jew and need to put down the hate and propaganda and pause for a few minutes to reflect on this.
For everyone, here is the statement from the Catechism on Jews:

839 {sniped some parts that don't apply as they are about people people who haven't been told about God yet]325
The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People,326 "the first to hear the Word of God."327 The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews "belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ",328 "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable."329
__________________________________
Thats official clear, written church doctrine direct from the Catechism.


Jesus also said in Metthew 5:17 ---
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." This means that the original covenant with God still applies to jews who chose to follow it as it was given to them, and God keeps his promises.



As a Christian, I hope that the Jews as well as everyone else come to know Christ as I have, but you miss the point, I am not trying to trample on your religion or beliefs, I am not trying to force my way down your throat, and I don't think Sara is either. I am just sad that you are missing out.


Before you guys speak about things you do not know, as you did earlier about Catholic doctrine, I suggest you actually read up on it. There is a rather large gulf between the perception of Catholicism and actual Catholicism.

Chanan, Baal Teshuva said...

Hi Sara,

I'm a ger. I grew up very Christian. It's been about 6 years since my gerus.

You're rationale for joining catholicism is complete "sheker". It's impossible that you found catholicism by way of intellect since catholicism is void of any intellect. It is the illegitimate child that resulted from the affair between Judaism and Paganism, nothing more. It is classic avodah zarah based on aprochryphal chicannery. Your concept of what and who Hashem is must be incredibly retarded because I don't know how someone could come to such a spiritual conclusion.

You are for sure an apikores. Hopefully you will do teshuva and realize that your choice was a bad deal. You gave up the most beautiful thing in life, that which we're not all priveledged with. The world depends on the spiritual mission of Klal Yisrael. The goyim will ultimately see that we are a beacon of Godliness in this world and they will join us in worship.

I definitely don't envy your olam haba, if Hashem even has one for you. you are an apikores gamur, but nonetheless capable of teshuva. Hopefully your ignorance will dissipate and you will accept your inborn, inevitable spiritual imprint as a Jew, required to do mitzvahs and glorify haKadosh Baruch Hu, the very source of your creation. It's not your choice.

Good luck, apikores.

Chanan
A Ger Tzeddek who is offended by your stupidity

Off the Derech said...

Chanan: you really are a tush. You gave up some of the songs and the beauty of Catholicism for what, an even dumber religion.

Geirim should know more than anyone not to judge.

Shame on you.

SJ said...

Chanan, you really shouldn't be waltzing into our people to call someone names when an individual decides to make different choices.

It's bad taste.

Visionist said...

Dear Sara,

My background:
Raised (like yourself) in a non-central diverse yeshivish/by community.
Left the community & observance to find my own way, destination yet to be determined.

I am too turned-off by the observance of many in Judaism, and can totally relate to your general distaste.

It was Hillel who summarized the Torah as 'Ve'ahavta Lere'acha Kamocha'.

Many misuse halacha as a guide to judge others, when (if I may) Hashem judges the individual in their own merit, not by the halacha guideline who's self-admitted purpose is as a guide for the herd.

It is primarily for the reasons above, that I assume most people are turned away from Judaism, including reform & conservative Jews not seeing the 'non-observant orthodox' option as a favorable choice.

It pains me to think that people won't use Torah against the perpetrators of the communal inflexibility towards the individual's observance or lack thereof, in the orthodox community.

I also recall the attitude in my traditional education towards non-jews, also directly in contrast with Torah itself, and Hillel's summary, demonstrating a total misunderstanding of the very purpose of Jews & the meaning of 'chosen'.

Furthermore, Hashem is more concerned with 'Bein odom lchaveiro' more so than 'Bein odom laMokom', being more concerned with how one treats a simple person, than even Himself.

I'm pained that so many chumrah seekers overlook approaching 'Bein odom lchaveiro' with precedence over anothers 'Ben odom laMokom', how much more so their own. I can't think of a more appropriate desirable chumrah!

I dream of a day when these fundamental principles of Judaism are again reinstated to their rightful priority among the masses, realigning the mission of contemporary orthodox Judaism.
It is time to reinstate love for our fellow person and the education & outlook of our children towards another above all else.

Sarah: To you, and all others who have been so turned-away from Judaism (myself included), YOU are
invaluable in changing the tides to bring about the true life that awaits those who recognize what the highest priority is, and teach others.
We ALL need your help:
Those who are blind to the truth need to be reminded of whats most important, &
Those who are aware need your support and wo/man-power to affect change.

May we, instead of abandoning our broken home (Judaism), reinstate it's ultimate priority, to make a better world for us and our fellow humans!

"And all the world will fill with the knowledge of G-d, like waters covers the sea."

Let's make it happen where it's needed most.

-Be well

Vicky said...

I think this topic can and should be balanced out with my experience (see my blog URL) I will be glad to give a similar interview for this purpose.

Vicky

jughead said...

She said she was from a "moderate" yeshivish family, yet her society wouldnt encourage girls to go to law school? There are plenty of girls from moderate yeshivish families and very yeshivish families who attend law school.

She also hates ny and says Judaism is tied to big cities? There are plenty of Frum communities that are plenty frum and not near a major city.

Her critques of time based mitzvas were poorly done. It appears as if she just didnt understand them so instead of looking for the right answer she just said it was stupid.


I hope you dont use that approach with clients. I can just picture you working in mediation with someone, and instead of trying to understand their point of view or where they are coming from you say "your being silly" and you walk away from the mediation. You would be doing a great disservice to your client