Sep

2

Jewish Life for Dummies

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Columbia was one of the first Ivy Leagues to admit Jews. A disproportionate percentage of the school identifies as Jewish. We have a freaking seminary right up the street, and the Upper West Side has probably the highest concentration of synagogues this side of Jerusalem. Coming from anywhere other than New York or Florida, it’s sometimes easy to feel like you’re not in on the joke, and live in fear of making some religious gaffe out of pure ignorance–so we’ve put together a few questions about Jewish life that you always had but were too afraid to ask, and prodded some Bwog staffers of the Hebrew persuasion to fill in the blanks.

ask Where do all the Jews go on Friday nights?

On Friday nights, many Jews go to shul, (a.k.a. temple or synagogue) for Friday night worship services after a hefty meal of comfort food at home. Some Reform Jews (those less observant of strict biblical tradition), and—as they are mockingly referred to in many circles–“Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur Jews,” will skip the synagogue on a Friday night.

Are all Jewish guys circumcised, or just some of them?

All Jewish boys are circumcised at birth. Nipping off the foreskin is a major stipulation in the Covenant between God and the Jewish people. Sorry guys.

Is “jew” supposed to be capitalized?

Yup, along with all other religions. Wikipedia says so.

What exactly can Jews eat and not eat, and when? What happens to food when they make it kosher?

It varies. Some Jews delight in lard-soaked shrimp on cheeseburger, others decide to follow a few or all of the “laws of Kashrut.” The most well-known law is not mixing milk and meat, so as to not “boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” Some Jews wait between four and six hours after eating meat to have milk in their coffee, and an hour after digesting a cheese sandwich before slurping down some chicken soup (though the cow and the chicken are not at all related, so many Jews question the law forbidding Chicken parmesan). Some Jews even have separate dish wear and kitchen appliances to maintain the milk-meat divide. Pork is an absolute no-no, as is consuming all animals with split hooves. Jews can only eat seafood with fins and scales, and all meat has to be slaughtered, salted and prepared according to biblical tradition under the watchful eyes of a Rabbi, who also blesses the animal. It’s even more complicated–consult Judaism 101  for the final Word.

What’s the difference between reform and orthodox? Do they hang out with each other, or is it kind of like Sunnis and Shiites?

Reform Jews interpret the laws of the bible more loosely than Orthodox Jews, with Conservatives somewhere in the middle. Orthodox Jews aren’t more religious, just more observant of religious doctrine, which means, for example, women can’t be Orthodox rabbis, many more dietary laws, and Sabbath laws are followed.  The sects do intermingle, but most Jews tend to stick to the community they grew up with because it’s the most familiar. Some Jews isolate themselves by ancestral background as well as level of observance. Syrian Jews, Russian Jews, and Persian Jews in New York live together in tight-knit neighborhoods. While most of these insular groups tend to do their thing quietly, some Orthodox or Hasidic Jews (the ones who wear top hats and let their sideburns grow out) have been known to throw stones at Reform or Conservative Jews who choose to drive to synagogue on Saturdays. And some Reform Jews have been known to roll their eyes in disgust at the Lubavitchers from Boro Park who approach them on street corners to follow them to temple or to perform various holiday rituals with them. Not all of Jewry gets along all the time.

Why do I see people in yarmulkes and long skirts walking around in groups on Saturdays?

Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, the day of rest, during which many Jews do not do any “work,” defined variably.  Some Jews abstain from driving (hence the walking around on Saturdays), writing, cooking with appliances, using anything electronic, handling money, ripping paper, carrying large items outside the home – or some combination of those and others. For some, doing lit hum reading is work, for others, it’s not.



Why won’t even some secular Jews date outside their religion?

This question opens up a can of worms, and truly depends on the Jew in question. Sometimes parents and grandparents are more observant than children, and so the children date other Jews out of respect for tradition. Some may want to raise their children within the Jewish faith, and so seek a partner with similar values.



Are all Jews pro-Israel?



Most Jews are for the existence of a Jewish state in some capacity. Some very observant Jews satmars and others are actually indignant that Israel exists in the form it does today. Some Jews are pro-Israel, but still oppose the current administration. Others are staunch Zionists. Can’t bet on anything with this crowd.

What are some Hebrew words I should know?

Yiddish (a mishmash of Hebrew, German, Russian and other languages, spoken in Eastern European Jewish ghettoes and retirement homes in Florida) is more fun than Hebrew – it’s guttural and a kick to speak. Try these Yiddishisms, and sound like your friend’s Jewish grandmother! Fun fact: most Hebrew curses used on the streets of Tel Aviv today are actually Arabic words.

What’s Hillel, and what do they actually do?

It’s debatable. They’ve got a website. Check it.



18 Comments

  1. Anonymous  

    From 8/29 WSJ:

    Rabbinical Advice: How to Keep
    The Sabbath in a 24/7 Online World
    August 29, 2006; Page B3

    For all its putative godlessness, the Internet abounds with religion; most major faiths have thousands of sites devoted to them. One run by the Eretz Hemdah Institute in Israel, www.eretzhemdah.org, features an "Ask the Rabbi" service. We asked some questions about the Internet of Rabbi Yosef Carmel, dean of the institute and a rabbinic judge, educator and author.
    * * *

    What are some issues involving the Internet that an Orthodox Jew might be concerned with?

    An Orthodox Jew who runs a business is supposed to close it on Saturday, the Sabbath. But what about a business on the Internet -- a Web-site business? The answer is he doesn't need to close his Web business on Saturday, and for two reasons. First, he isn't doing anything, and thus he isn't violating the Sabbath according to Jewish law. And second, on the Internet, it is not Sabbath for everyone in every place.

    Why can you keep your Web-site business running, as long as you don't work at the computer, but still have to close a physical business?

    One of the most important things in Jewish law regarding Saturday is the atmosphere of Sabbath. If you are opening on the street your market or your store, that disturbs the spiritual atmosphere. If your Web site is working, it doesn't disturb anything.

    If you are an Orthodox Jew, you aren't supposed to open your computer on the Sabbath. But you can leave it running because you are not doing anything on it and thus not violating the atmosphere of the special day.

    What if you know there is a big game on Saturday, and you leave the monitor on to check the scores as you pass by?

    You have no permission to look at it. Because it's not the atmosphere you want for a Sabbath. You can ask the same question with a VCR, since you can set it to show a movie anytime you want.

    Are there other special concerns with the Internet on the Sabbath?

    Can a Jew in New York look at an Israeli Web site which was updated on Saturday, even if he is in New York and it is still Friday? No, because Jews must also not enjoy the work of another Jew on the Sabbath. So it is not permissible according to Jewish law to use an Israeli Web site that was updated on Saturday. If the Web site were somewhere else, and you knew for sure the workers were Jews, you would also have no permission to use it if it was updated on Saturday.

    Do these answers represent the consensus of many rabbis?

    Not many rabbis have dealt with these questions.

    Are there things about their own holy days that other religions can learn from Judaism?

    I don't think Judaism wants others in the world to observe their own holy days according to Jewish law. But Jews would like non-Jews to take the values of the Sabbath and adapt them. To try to be more spiritual. To try to make a break in your everyday running of things. To try to think how you can be a good person, and do good things for others

  2. Anonymous  

    Btw, King's College admitted its first Jew, a young man by the name of Isaac Abrahams, in 1770 - beating every other Ivy by almost a hundred years.

    Mr. Abrahams received his Bachelor of Arts in 1774 and was never heard from again.

  3. aren't most  

    guys circumcised? and why is that that?

  4. well i am  

    and i'm a Jew. they certianly should have asked me first. i want it back.

  5. i'm a jew

    and my Sword of Solomon is fully sheathed.

  6. brooklynjew

    plenty of jews go to shul BEFORE they eat their hefty meal of comfort food at home. . . first they worship, then they eat. get the story straight, bwog!

  7. brooklynjew

    another mistake:
    split-hooves are a MUST not a no-no. kosher animals must have split hooves and chew their cud. really, now, we're in new york couldn't you just ask your local rabbi? or a random orthodox student?

  8. bklynjew,again

    and, lubavitchers are from CROWN HEIGHTS, not Boro Park! goddamn it!

    • worldly JEW

      DOnt forget Columbia's own Lubavitchers who have an amazing brownstone/Chabad House on 113th street that has been servicing the Columbia community with dedicated warmth and vitality with FREE delicious traditional Shabbat meals every firday night that many local celeberties (e.g zvi galil dean of SEAS) have been spotted at.
      check out their website www.chabadstudentcenter.com

  9. are we going  

    to have a guide to muslim and/or christian culture now?

  10. WW2  

    The Armed forces of the US mandated that all troops be circumcised, "as it was a health issue", given that entire generation of US men were clipped, they and the medical establishment decided circumcision was neccessary for health purposes and so most native born american men prior to 1980 were clipped. In the 80's, they began to give parents the choice, but most continue the practice, as its what is familiar to them.

  11. oh boy

    "Do they hang out with each other, or is it kind of like Sunnis and Shiites?"

    my arent we so cross culturally educated? bet you didnt know the difference until well after we invaded iraw.

  12. J Train  

    You forgot one question:

    "Does being from Montana mean that when I spray-paint swastikas onto a wall in Ruggles, I get off with nothing but a slap on the wrist?"

    Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

  13. not-a-pro-israel-jew

    actually the chabad house is on 110th right next to the 1018 Bistro

  14. jewishjew

    nope chabad moved to 113th this summer

  15. SAMUEL NOSHERMAN

    AN UPDATED TREATISE ON THE NEED FOR A SEMITIC MODERN MASTURBATION MENTALITY


    By Rabbi Moshe �hung so lo� Rabeynu, Ph.D April 19, 2009
    comments



    CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS MUST BE INCULCATED AS TO THE BENEFITS OF MASTURBATION IN THE ATTAINMENT AND MAINTENANCE OF A HEALTHY MIND AND A HEALTHY BODY! PENT UP SEXUAL FRUSTRATION IN CHILDREN HAS NEVER BEEN HONESTLY AND ADEQUATELY DISCUSSED AND DEALT WITH IN JEWISH DISCOURSE AND DOCTRINE. HISTORICALLY, JEWISH PARENTS HAVE BEEN ABLE TO COPE WITH THEIR MASTURBATING CHILDREN BY ASSERTIONS THAT GOD IS OFFENDED BY THEIR ENGAGING IN THIS ACTIVITY AND THAT HE VEHEMENTLY FORBIDS THEM THE RESULTANT RELIEF AND COMFORT. HOW MANY CHILDREN ARE STARTED ON THE ROAD TO ATHEISM OR APOSTASY DUE TO THEIR PARENTS� GROSS OVER-REACTION TO THEIR HARMLESS CHILDHOOD WANKERY? THE SCENARIO OF JEWISH PARENTS MOANING AND GROANING AND HARANGUING THEIR FRIGHTENED CHILDREN WITH THREATS OF GOD�S WRATH FOR MASTURBATING IS COMICAL AND TRAGIC AT THE SAME TIME. THEY MIGHT AS WELL TELL THEIR CHILDREN THAT GOD DOES NOT CONDONE THEIR SCRATCHING THEIR LITTLE ASSES IF THEY HAVE AN ITCH.
    MODERN LIFESTYLES AFFORD INDIVIDUALS THE PRIVACY AND HYGIENIC FACILITIES NECESSARY TO MASTURBATE IN A PRIVATE, DIGNIFIED AND SANITARY MANNER. ONE CAN WELL UNDERSTAND THE IRE THAT WAS AROUSED BY MASTURBATING INDIVIDUALS FOUR THOUSAND YEARS AGO WHEN AN ENTIRE LARGE FAMILY LIVED TOGETHER IN A TENT IN AN ARID LOCATION. NOBODY WANTED TO HAVE A WAD OF FLYING JISSUM HIT HIM IN THE EYE OR LAND IN HIS HUMUS. WATER WAS SCARCE AND ONE HAD TO WALK , SOMETIMES LONG DISTANCES, TO THE WELL TO GET IT, IF IT WAS AVAILABLE AT ALL. UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES IT WAS A CHOICE OF WATER FOR DRINKING OR WATER FOR WASHING EJACULATE OFF OF ONE�S HANDS. THIS IS WHY THE EARLY SAGES WERE SO VOCIFEROUS IN THEIR CONDEMNATION OF MASTURBATION. WE JEWISH PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A HORNY BUNCH AND, IF THERE WEREN'T THESE SEVERE STRICTURES AGAINST MASTURBATION AT THAT TIME, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN ERRANT CUMSTAINS ALL OVER THE PLACE AND THE SMELL OF FRESHLY RELEASED JISSUM WOULD HAVE WAFTED FAR AND WIDE, EVEN WITHIN THE HALLOWED HALLWAYS OF THE SACRED TEMPLE ITSELF.
    TIMES HAVE CHANGED. IF PARENTS TODAY STRESS THE BENEFITS OF MASTURBATION TO THEIR CHILDREN, THEY WILL HELP LESSEN THE OCCURRENCE OF STDs, AND UNPLANNED PREGNANCIES. SCHOLARSHIP LEVELS WOULD INCREASE DRAMATICALLY WITH THE RELEASE OF PENT UP ADOLESCENT EJACULATORY TENSION. .WHAT PARENT HASN�T FRETTED AND WORRIED OVER THE MOODINESS AND SURLINESS OF HIS ADOLESCENT OFFSPRING? THERE IS REALLY NO MYSTERY AS TO WHY THE LITTLE BASTARDS ARE ACTING OUT SO WILDLY. THEIR HORMONES ARE CAUSING THEM HIGH LEVELS OF DISCOMFORT AND FRUSTRATION. INSTEAD OF MAKING THEM MASTURBATE FURTIVELY UNDER THE BEDCOVERS IN A NIGHTLY GUILT- RIDDEN FRENZY OF PENT-UP SEXUAL DESIRE, THEY SHOULD BE GUIDED TO A CIVILIZED AND GUILT-FREE MASTURBATORY REGIMEN. IF NECESSARY, PARENTS SHOULD SET AN EXAMPLE FOR THEIR CHILDREN AS TO THE PROPER METHODOLOGY FOR THIS ACTIVITY AND FOLLOW UP AND MAKE SURE THAT THEIR CHILDREN ARE MASTURBATING REGULARLY AT AN OPTIMUM FREQUENCY. KEEPING A MASTURBATION DIARY COULD BE A VERY USEFUL TOOL IN MAINTAINING THE PROPER SCHEDULE. EVERY PARENT SHOULD ASK HIS CHILDREN ON A DAILY BASIS, "DID YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK AND MASTURBATE TODAY?"
    OH, OF COURSE, THE CHABADNIKS AND THE FRUMNIKS AND THE HAREDINIKS WILL YELL OUT, "BUT RAMBAM SAID THIS, AND RASHI SAID THAT AND RABBI AKIVA SAID THIS, AND THAT, ABOUT THE EVILS OF MASTURBATION." PROBABLY ALL THREE OF THEM WERE MASTURBATING WHILE THEY WERE WRITING THESE STRICTURES, ANOTHER CASE OF "DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO". WE MUST NOT CONTINUE TO LET OTHERS DO OUR THINKING FOR US UNDER THE GUISE OF DIVINE REVELATION AND RELIGIOUS EXPERTISE. WE CANNOT LET BACKWARD LOOKING ZEALOTS WITH THEIR ARCHAIC, OUTDATED AND ANACHRONISTIC MORALISTIC MISCONCEPTIONS CAST THEIR PALL OVER THE HEALTH-CONSCIOUS MASTURBATORS OF THE WORLD. WHAT WAS LOOKED UPON AS A SHONDER FOUR THOUSAND YEARS AGO BY UNENLIGHTENED MENTALITIES SHOULD NOT BE SO DENIGRATED IN THESE MODERN TIMES. THE BLESSINGS OF MASTURBATORY RELIEF SHOULD BE LOOKED UPON AS THE BIRTHRIGHT OF ALL B�NEI ADAM. SHALOM AND ZEI GEZUNT!

    Rabbi Rabeynu is available for additional advice and discussion on HTTP://theyeshivabucher.blogspot.com

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