Sep 15 2014
My 8-year-old son Seth and I were out at a baseball game on Saturday when he suddenly turned to me and said, “Mom, I feel like a goy.”
I was horrified. It never, ever occurs to me not to feel like a Jew. I feel like a Jew the same way I feel like a woman–it’s who I am. When I left the Hasidic community three years ago, people called me a shiksa and said that wasn’t Jewish anymore, that I looked like a goy. It had no meaning to me. It was like telling me I’m not a mother. You can’t tell me that. You can’t tell me I’m not who I am. In fact, since I left Orthodoxy, the more I’ve learned and expanded my horizons, the more I identified with the Jewish feminist movement, the Jewish progressive movement, Jewish literature, Jewish humanism, Jewish values, Zionism, and the Jewish yentas at my Jewish gym.
So I nuzzled Seth’s hair and said, “Honey, why would you ever feel like a goy?”
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Jul 1 2014
When my son was nearly 5, he and I moved to a new home. It was only 30 miles away, but those 30 miles changed everything. We left the insular Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel, and settled into a Modern Orthodox community in Rockland County, New York.
Although I was virtually alone, I was determined to remain connected to my past and remain observant. My commitment didn’t come from a particular religious belief, but from the strong resolve to stay connected–and help my son stay connected–to our network of Hasidic relatives. For my son, I believed, it would help nurture a relationship with his Satmar family.
But things didn’t go as I’d hoped. Staying religious as a full-time single parent meant spending Shabbat in our tiny basement apartment, waiting, waiting, waiting for the day to pass. My son also had trouble fitting into the religious community and, despite my best efforts to go to shul and participate in meals in the neighborhood, we felt shut out. It wasn’t from lack of effort on the community’s end. We simply didn’t fit: nothing of my socioeconomic situation as a struggling single mom belonged in middle-class Modern Orthodox suburbia. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 18 2013
Last week when I was at the JCC, I saw a girl I knew from our old Ultra Orthodox community. Not thinking twice about it, I took the boys over to say hi. She saw us coming and walked toward us smiling as she called the boys’ names and they rushed to her, waving hello and with arms flung wide, and gave her a big hug.
“Long time no see!” I said, suddenly remembering that the last time she’d seen me my hair was covered in a scarf and my legs with a skirt. I wondered, not able to do much about it, if she would feel weird about talking to me now. Read the rest of this entry →