Monday, September 19, 2005

Perception

Despite the fact that I usually do not discuss Jewish topics around some of my relatives, I am still perceived as being "so religious", and my actions are sometimes mistakenly interpreted to be commentary on their lives.

Many times, I am between a rock and hard place since some of my family members are incredibly uncomfortable about any exterior displays of Jewishness. They subscribe to Yehuda Leib Gordon's philosophy, "Be a Jew inside your home and a man on the street." Judaism to them is something that should only be observed internally. They become uneasy around all things Jewish, sometimes even hesitating to put up a mezuzah on their doorpost since this would only call attention to the fact that their house is a Jewish home.

I do not utter judgmental comments or give disapproving glances at what others do. With less-observant relatives, I strive to build bridges and be as accommodating and considerate as possible while not compromising my beliefs. Sometimes, however, it feels like my efforts are an exercise in futility. Although Gordon's philosophy is the antithesis of how I live my life, I continue to struggle to see things from their point of view and remind myself that we are all Jews and one family.

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(Cross Posted on The Jewish Connection)

11 Comments:

At September 19, 2005 at 7:21:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

While your discomfort is understandable, it is important to maintain your dignity and self-esteem, which you seem to be doing quite nicely. Indeed, in the very early part of Shulchan Aruch - Orach Chaim, we are bidden "not to be affected by those who would ridicule" us for our seemingly "strange" behavior -prayer and the like.
You also must realize that some of their discomfort is a good sign, it means that some good ole Jewish guilt is still alive in them. Your very presence elicits this response, and this is healthy. Of course on must know what to DO with that reaction...

 
At September 19, 2005 at 7:26:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Yitz: Thank you for the good advice :) I appreciate it!

 
At September 19, 2005 at 11:13:00 AM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

SJ,
Oy, I know what you mean - these situations are a source of considerable stress for me as well.

I hope Yitz is right and the Jewish guilt is a good thing...

Whenever one of these situations arises I remember the anecdote about R' Sholom DovBer, the 5th Lubavitcher Rebbe, when his famous cousin Echad HaAm had scheduled an appointment to meet with him. The Rebbe was seen pacing nervously back and forth, prompting his secretary to ask him what he was so agitated about. He responded, I am soon to be meeting with my secularist cousin Echad HaAm, and I am not envious of my position...
After their long meeting, as he was departing, Echad HaAm said to the Rebbe's secretary "Your Rebbe knows of the world, but denies it intentionally!" (The converse of the phrase applied to apikorsim "One who knows His Master and denies Him intentionally.) The Rebbe was quite relieved one his guest finally left...

 
At September 19, 2005 at 11:17:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Chabakuk Elisha: What kind of situations have you run into relating to this topic? ...and how did you handle them?

 
At September 19, 2005 at 11:51:00 AM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

SJ,
This problem usually arises with secular relatives, but can even occur with neighbors or co-workers. I try to avoid any religious topics, but they still can come up - I used to get sucked into discussions about various religious matters, and I regretted it almost every time.
I try to just set an example as a person, without getting into various specifics, and usually a joke can change the topic if necessary.

 
At September 19, 2005 at 2:20:00 PM EDT, Blogger Hirshel Tzig said...

Chabakuk
how is it that you can relate to any problem or dilemna that Simple Jew runs into?

Has anybody seen those 2 together? I wonder......

 
At September 19, 2005 at 2:26:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Hirshel: If anyone has seen us together I would be surprised since we have never met and live in different states.

 
At September 19, 2005 at 2:58:00 PM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

HT,
I must admit that I , too, try to be a Simple Jew...

 
At September 19, 2005 at 3:11:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

so, then the only difference is that Chabakuk Elisha wears a streimel and I do not.

 
At September 19, 2005 at 7:45:00 PM EDT, Blogger Smooth said...

Hello SJ, just stopping by to say Hello. Your site is as inspiring and motivational as ever. It's a privilege to know you.

 
At September 20, 2005 at 6:36:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Smooth: It is great to hear from you again. Thanks for stopping by!

 

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