Frumgirl 1: Change of Public Name

I think we need to submit the word “frum” for inclusion into standard English dictionaries. There is no other practical standard English alternative.

Calling myself a “religious Jew” puts my practice standards on the same level of perception as the barely practicing: the folk who may wear pants, pat coworkers on the back, and don’t make a big fuss about things like being asked to go for a coffee run at a non-kosher restaurant.

“Orthodox Jew,” is often misunderstood, though. Unless someone has had considerable contact with frum Jews in the past, calling myself an Orthodox Jew not ring any bells in terms of practice and possible accommodation I may need. It’s also unwieldy, being two words and not complying with easy grammatical conversion (Orthodox Jews or Jewish People do not do “x” sounds either lumpy or truncated, and unnecessarily accusatory or overly PC).

I’ve noticed a tendency to shorten one’s description to simply “Orthodox.” This is not a good idea. Why? I fell into this habit for a little while as well, until I was permanently cured of it in the course of a single conversation. I described myself as Orthodox to a non-Jewish underclassman, to be told “Me too, I’m also Orthodox! Coptic Orthodox!”

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Published in: on December 17, 2009 at 11:27 PM  Comments (13)  

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13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I just say I’m Jewish. If they need any further clarification, I’m religious. Somehow separating the two words makes a difference.

  2. Observant? It’s really insular to think that we need the word “frum” in the English language. I guess we need yeshivish, chassidish, chardal, chareidi lite, etc. in the English language too.

    • Oh, chill. Nosh, Gelt, and Schmooze made it in there, after all. And Observant has an alternate meaning that is usually grammatically applicable.

      • Don’t forget ‘shtick’. I love hearing that one from the Polish-by-way-of-Arkansas professor.

  3. (Not to undermine your point, but psst! What does “gelt” mean? I totally have heard nosh and schmooze, though! And zaftig, which was so fun-sounding I had to go look up the origin!)

    • Oops, sorry, I meant to reply to Frumgirl’s post, above…

    • Gelt is Yiddish for money. The last time I saw it used in standard English was in a science fiction novel, in the vocabulary of an alien. Laughed myself silly. šŸ™‚

  4. (In response to the post…)

    What I really want to come into fashion is people just handing out a list of things I can and can’t do if I’m ever in the position to entertain them, dietary or otherwise. This wouldn’t just help me were I ever to entertain someone who identifies as an Orthodox Jew or one of the varieties thereof–I mean, vegans stress me out because I never know if I can cook for them (some vegans won’t eat food that was prepared with utensils that have ever touched meat, and mine have). There are varying degrees of vegetarian that I can accomodate easily if the rules they abide by are explicitly stated, but they seldom are. While I generally know the rules for entertaining observant Mormons (no caffine, no alcohol), self-described Jack Mormons are a little more tricky (do they still observe some rules? Or not…?). And I’m always worried I’ll accidentally make a dish with an ingredient someone is highly allergic to!

    I mean, a dictionary definition would doubtless be informative, but some days, I just want to know if I may shake someone’s hand (or their significant other’s hand), how I can cook for them, and a list of places I can order food from if I can’t! šŸ™‚

  5. This is an interesting dilemma of sorts. I’ve been mistakenly called “chassidish” or “rabbi” or a few occasions, despite looking typically Modern Orthodox (clean shaven, dark pants, button-down shirt, tzitzis tucked out). Using frum still won’t fix the problem entirely, since the Yeshivish/Modern Orthodox/Chassidish distinction would still exist.

    • That’s true. I wish people in the “real world” were WAY more knowledgeable about us than they are.

  6. This post reminds me of those Jewish dating sites where you have to put your “outlook” in the little box…under Jewish Orthodox you have many sub sects- Modern Orthodox Liberal, Modern Orthodox Machmir,Yeshivish Modern,Yeshivish Black Hat,Hassidish, Carlebachian(??), Shomer Mitzvot….now which one of these are considered frum?? and what is Shomer Mitzvot…sounds so vague..

    • Shomer Mitzvot? I’m with you on the puzzlement. Which mitzvot?

      • The labels thing is quite annoying – especially the yeshivish modern/MO machmir – which seem to be basically the same thing.

        I’ve heard two takes on “Shomer Mitzvot” – 1) people who are basically religious, usually ba’alei teshuva, but don’t really know enough to affiliate with one or the other, so they check off that they are at least religious
        2) People who do know all about the labels, are actually very frum, but intentionally object to giving his/herself any and every label out there. So they choose this as a bottom line – I keep the Shulchan Aruch, so buzz off about the “what is your hashkafa” business. I think approach is admirable, but most people seem to have the confused reaction that you gave.


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