Frumgirl 4: Some Things You Just Can’t Explain

It’s the second day of chol hamoed and I get to class early. There’s just me an one Caribbean girl there.

“I was in Target yesterday and it was just full of religious Jews. Was it some kind of shopping holiday?”

The honest answer would be, “Um, no, actually, the opposite,” but I didn’t want to have to explain that the Jewish woman will do many things because the rabbis recommend it – fast half-a-dozen times a year; glug down four cups of wine on Pesach; and even swing a chicken over their heads – but it takes God himself in all his textual glory to keep them from shopping for a week straight. So I explained that it was a sort of half-holiday and they were off from work and taking the opportunity to shop.

“And there was this one girl there in a skirt that was crazy long! Most of the women were like you – long like ankle length skirts or knee-length ones with stockings [Frumgirl4’s note: jeepers! they notice everything!] but this girl’s skirt was so long it was dragging on the floor for inches. It almost got caught in the escalator!”

My first thought was a little girl in hand-me-downs. But what mother would venture forth on chol hamoed with a poorly dressed child?

“How old was she?”

“About 13, maybe 14.”

Ah, mystery solved. “She thinks she looks cool.”

Blank look from my partner.

“Really. She thinks she looks cool like that. Just trust me.”


Published in: on October 27, 2008 at 7:20 AM  Comments (15)  

Frumgirl 1: How do YOU React?

Now that Succos is over, school is back in full force, with a full force of situations that just make you blink several times and wonder what, exactly, just happened.

“Hey, take a look at this,” I told an amicable Muslim classmate. He and I are on pretty good terms these days. Once you get past a few glaring differences, he’s actually more alike us than non-religious folk.

I was referring to that new article in the New York magazine. This one, to be exact. The one where it oh-so-flatteringly accepts for granted that New York Jews control the economy. The one where we are urged to happily return to our corner Delis, neighborhood bagel shops, and impecunious origins since our power has been Vanquished. I wanted his opinion on it. I wanted to see if he picked up on the same subtle threads reminiscent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Turns out he does. Homes in on it like a heat-seeking missile.

“The glass towers of midtown Manhattan are filled with Jewish magicians who manipulate abstract symbols that shape the contents of people’s characters and opinions as well as the contents of their wallets and can seemingly be transformed at will into other markers of value in a dizzying progression that destroys the certainties of blood and soil on which life is founded for ordinary villagers…” he reads aloud, pausing in the middle so it doesn’t sound quite so much like an endless run-on, until he stops and laughs, “this is so true!”

And then he looks at me with camaraderie, with an I’d-nudge-you-with-my-elbow-here-if-I-could look he was so quick to develop to accommodate me, like he expects me agree with him.

I don’t. “Shush!” I tell him, for lack of anything better surfacing in the gobble-de-gook soup that used to be a functioning mind. “Jews do not control the economy. Think logically!”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Except it was obvious that he didn’t, and was just trying to placate me.

And by the time I figured out what I could say to him on the topic, it was time to go back to class.

So how do you react to flippant, friendly antisemitism?

Published in: on October 23, 2008 at 11:43 AM  Comments (17)  

Frumgirl 1: Tactile Hardwiring

Some people are just hardwired to be touchy-feely. Some people, no matter how long you’ve been around them and how many times you’ve expounded upon how you are a voluntary untouchable, these people will touch you, anyway.

Not through any malicious intent, of course. They apologize profusely afterward and firmly interlock their hands behind their backs to prevent recurrences. It never helps.

They are just touchy-feely people. They relate through touch. Nothing wrong with that, per se, it just makes relating with them in person without looking like you have ants in your pants a decidedly Herculean feat.

“How are you doing today?”  they say, as they touch your shoulder in concern.

You edge backward, replying, “I’m a little under the weather,”

“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that,” they enthuse sympathetically, while attempting to pat your back. You take another step backward, and they finally catch on. They dig their hand into their pockets or hook them onto their belt and look sorry. They produce that little half-smile that you know is a sincere recognition of their regret.

And yet you know, with perfect certainty, that come next interaction they will simply do it again. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

So you can decide to avoid them, prematurely pruning a potentially advantageous association.  Or you can  decide to maintain the minimum portable x-ray exposure distance at all times (six feet). You might even decide to continuously to admonish them for every individual frummie-relations faux pas.

Doesn’t matter which you prefer; you always lose.

Published in: on October 16, 2008 at 3:51 PM  Comments (1)  

Frumgirl 1: Manners

When I got married, right after my semester in grad school, I didn’t bother inviting my non-Orthodox classmates. We weren’t really friends, they didn’t seem to mind, and it my father objected. Strongly.

Recently, a frumguy in my class got married, but he did invite everyone who wished to come. Only one non-Orthodox girl showed, and she’s had experience with Orthodox functions and blended seamlessly in with the frummies. And I mean seamlessly. She knew exactly what to wear, how to act, what to say. Impeccably.

The last time she attended an Orthodox similarly deported, she told me, someone had asked what she was looking for. A hook-up, she called it, in the Orthodox style.

I find it rather amusing that the non-Jew navigates the being-seen-at-a-wedding shidduch must better than I ever did.

My father should not have worried.

Published in: on October 10, 2008 at 12:07 PM  Comments (3)  

Frumgirl 1: Going With the Flow

“Hey Frumgirl1!” calls the long island girl in her halter top and yoga pants, “come take a look at this!” On her Mac, she points to a fairly sedate dress available at a well-known retailer’s website. “What do you think of this for Yom Kippur?” she asks.

“It’s nice,” I tell her.

What I don’t tell her is monumental. I don’t tell that even though she considers herself Jewish and does more traditionally Jewish things than your standard non-Orthodox Jew, according to Orthodoxy she isn’t Jewish at all. Yes, her father is. Means less than the stacker and scraper shidduch inquiries, since her mother isn’t.

But I’d never tell her that. I keep mum and it bothers me. I suppose that if she wants to be considered Jewish by the resident frummie contingent, I’m happy to oblige.

She’s so proud of her identity as a Jew.

Published in: on October 6, 2008 at 2:36 PM  Comments (18)  

Frumgirl 4: Lonely Lot

We’re a lonely lot, us Jews.

Call America multicultural and let everyone trump the importance of diversity, but ethnicities still divide along party lines. Many groups are interracial, most clubs are, and you’ll catch a mixed bag socializing at any corner of the cafeteria, but the Indian guy walks off with the Indian girl; those of Chinese extraction – no matter how many generations assimilated – belong to a fraternity that only accepts Chinese; the smiling Muslim girls walk all but arm-in-arm and operate like a pack, the Caribbeans slip into Patwa and leave everyone else out.

But not us Jews.

It almost makes me feel lonely when I arrive in class the first day and find, to my excitement, that there are two other Jews there – but I can’t speak to them. Or when I walk down the hall, catch a Jew’s eye, and then we both look away. Or the awkwardness of it when we exchange a few words.

It’s weird how it works. Right or wrong, I have few qualms about getting into a lengthy mathematical discussion with the Hispanic to my left or the Bosnian to my right, but plunk a guy in black and white next door and it’s like we don’t exist to each other.

It isn’t just me – I know plenty of college girls find it easier to talk to non-Jewish guys than Jewish ones. “It’s because the yeshiva guys are not supposed to be talking to me,” was the way one friend explained it. Kind of weird when you think about it. Maybe backwards, and possibly misguided. But that’s how it is.

I’ve been trying to figure out why. Is it just habit to avoid socializing with penguins, or is it because we’re more likely to get too friendly since we have more in common than with, say, a Guyanese?

Published in: on September 29, 2008 at 12:19 PM  Comments (9)  

Frumgirl 4: It’s Good to be of Use…

Class hasn’t yet begun, so everyone is sitting around saying hello, making fun of each other, and generally socializing. In the midst of it all, a black guy in the row behind me give me a scrutinizing look, leans forward and asks, voice dropped very low, “Are you Jewish?”

“What?” I asked, startled.

“Are you – ” his voice drops another few decibels, “Jewish?”

“Oh, yeah,” I smile to put him at ease, since he seems to feel like he’s just done something terrible. “Why?”

“Do you know if that woman, whats-her-face, won the primaries?”

Momentary confusion: Hilary Clinton very definitely lost. Then I realized he must mean the Israeli primaries. Whats-her-face being Livni. “Yeah, she did.”

“Yes!” He gave a little victory punch. Conversation terminated. I’m sure there’s some significance to this that I’m missing (not follwoing Israeli politics as much as this guy does), but I don’t know what.

Published in: on September 25, 2008 at 10:10 PM  Comments (4)  

Frumgirl 1: Unconscious Innuendo

I don’t like posting about things that frummies do in non-orthodox environments to make themselves look incredibly silly and perpetuate stereotypes. Regardless of how much they may make me wish we were not affiliated with each other, I generally don’t make a big deal about it. This particular issue, however, I feel is worth writing about.

Frummies are sheltered. I get that. Frummies have different standards of normalcy. Non-frummies get that. There are, however, limits to what can be considered venial offenses. Some things just go too far.

Now, I publicly call myself a frummie, but one that grew up with movies, (sometimes a TV,) and a voracious appetite for all types of books. Despite my film-like “exposure,” to public media, I have yet to develop into what’s called a guttermind. That’s the word I use for people who think about intimate matters with such regularity so as search through completely innocent comments for hints of innuendo. Despite the darkroom effect of grad school, I have gone no further towards becoming one. Either I mysteriously upgraded from analog to digital image capturing somewhere along the line or Bais Yaakov highly eggagerated matters on yet another aspect of the “outside world.”

Bais Yaakovs would have their girls think that all males, and especially non-orthodox males, are gutterminds of the worst sort. This, folks, is not true. Yes, I am sure. Some guys are, I’m not denying that, but some are definitely not. And guttermindedness is not restricted to the males half of the specie, some females are even worse.

Growing up sheltered and being placed into the company of gutterminds for the first time might excuse the occaisional mildly gutterable comment. It is NOT a condonation to use unwittingly blatant innuendo, or for what actually goes on.

Which happens. It happens so often and to such a degree that I am forced to wonder if some of it might not be intentional. No, I guess it can’t be. People really are that clueless.

It is best demonstrated by example. I am cringing and turning red merely typing this, but if I don’t is impossible to understand what I mean. And the severity and prevalence of its occurrence.

A frum classmate of mine has a sore throat. She changed her facebook status to read that she wishes for something hot in her throat. Except she used more adjectives, and worded it slightly differently. It was not pretty.

She was wishing for a tea, or chicken soup if she could get it. I know she meant it completely innocently. Her phrasing was…unfortunate. There was, in fact, no way to avoid the innuendo. No guttermindedness needed.

It gets worse.

I see and hear an appalling amount of…dare I say it? Not entirely straight intimations.

Every single day.

Completely innocent, and yet so, so…

Here’s an example: “slept with” is a standard Americans euphemism for “had relations with.” Frummie girls do usually know this (thankfully,) and are carefull not to use it in reference to separate-room-literal-sleep with males. Still, I hear that particular combination of words all the time in reference to literal comatose shuteye in the vicinity of other females.

Combine it with the Frummie girl tendency to stand too close to one another and have more physical contact than the usual straight American friendly population. And then they say things like “I slept with her for a year, but we fought a lot so I moved out,” about seminary roommates while resting on another frummie girl’s lap.

Yes, it gets even worse.

I don’t care how sheltered you might be. Some things just don’t fly in public.

If Bais Yaakov girls are going out into the world so socially clueless, I hope the Frum educational administration knows it. I hope they know that there are non-gutterminded people out there who assume all frumgirls are lesbian because of it.

It bothers me exceedingly.

Published in: on September 24, 2008 at 10:15 PM  Comments (13)  

Frumgirl 1: Half-Holiday

One of the more difficult topics to dance around in a non-Jewish setting is Chol Hamoed.

It’s an eight day holiday, you tell them, so they ask how you’re going to manage missing eight days of school.

Oh, we’re only missing four, you reply, merely the first two and last two.

But they thought all Jewish holidays needed school-missing?

No, you explain, the eight day holidays like Passover and Succos have a break in the middle where you can do things, but it’s still a holiday.

And they look at you like you, personally, decided to instigate religious holidays deliberately to annoy them.

I’m not so happy about going to school on Chol Hamoed, in general, but I can’t miss a week’s worth of lecture, either. So I’ll avoid writing and feel guilty

Published in: on September 22, 2008 at 11:01 AM  Comments (8)  

Frumgirl 1: Chart of Jewishness

A long long time ago, I wrote about how a field guide on Jews would be extremely helpful for upper level inquirers. People who know some basics, but still can’t see the differences between different types of religious Jews.

Behold, a comprehensive chart of dress:

The only major flaw is the ordering of ultra-Orthodoxy as more “observant” than Chassidim.

Pieced together from screenshots of The Tribe.

Published in: on September 15, 2008 at 8:50 PM  Comments (8)  

FrumCollegeGirl: MIA Account

Last semester I had a lot of explaining to do as to why I was MIA for a year.

When tallying up the year I graduated from high school and what year of college I was in, my lab partner announced, “But you’re in your first year of college! What did you do last year?”

I explained that I took a year off to go to Israel to study Hebrew studies. He was amazed. So were my other two lab partners. I didn’t realize it was such a big deal. Another classmate wanted to know why I would delay my college education for a whole year, and this was coming from a girl doing the four year plan for an associates in liberal arts! She asked me if I could speak a whole different language, which I pretty much can. (My Hebrew’s not great, but I understand enough to be able to talk about my classmates in front of them).

A friend of mine took college classes the summer before going to Israel. a guy in her class asked her what she was doing the coming year and she told him she was going to study abroad. He turned to the guy behind him (who was frum) and said, “Dude, that chick is really smart, she’s going to study abroad!”

To which the frum fellow replied, “It’s called seminary, and they all do it!”

FrumCollegeGirl’s Blog

Published in: on September 14, 2008 at 6:35 PM  Comments (2)  

Frumgirl 4: The Crash-Course to Kashrus

Kosher seems to fascinate the non-Jews around me. “Is there kosher Chinese?” asked a colleague as he dug into his sweet-and-sour soup. When I answered “Yes, of course,” he asked if that meant a rabbi was hanging out in back of the greasy spoonery with the Chinese cooks? I set him straight on that score.

“Is the honey kosher?” asked another intrigued student, when a representative of the Jewish club set up an apples-and-honey display in honor of the coming holiday. “How do you know the apple is kosher? And you can just use that plastic plate – doesn’t it have to be kosher? Where’s the knife from?”

“People seem so curious about kosher,” I commented to Joe after he’d asked something-or-another on the subject.

“Well yeah,” he said, crunching his chips. “You guys go through so much because of it. I mean, I’d offer you – ” he gestures a chip at me, “but I know you won’t take. Then I feel rude for not offering, but really you’re rude for not accepting,” he finishes with a grin. I guess that’s it, really. Eating is a social thing, and you stand out if you won’t do it.

Usually these people are repeat questioners, desperately trying to pull together the fragmented responses they get into some sort of comprehensive vision of kashrus. I almost feel sorry for them, watching them retreat with the answers they get, too self-conscious/culturally-conscious to continue asking, but utterly unsatisfied. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a super-quick crash course in kashrus for the particularly curious. Question: have I left out anything important or gotten anything very wrong? I’m not all that up on my shechita, I confess.

1. Kosher animals are non-predators and are deemed free of undesirable traits. A mammal is kosher if it has split hooves and chews its cud. A fish is kosher if it has fins and scales. Birds are more complicated so let’s not go there.

2. Kosher animals must be slaughtered in a proscribed manner, with a quick slice across a specific section of the throat made by a knife so sharply honed that it goes in like butter. An animal killed by any other means, no matter how humane, is not kosher. There is no blessing of anything involved. The meat must then be salted to remove the blood, which is not kosher.

3. Milk, eggs, and animal byproducts need to come from kosher animals.

4. Any vegetable matter that is in its natural state and unprocessed is kosher.

There are three ways of processing a food that can make or break its kosher status:
4a: application of heat. A kosher food cannot be cooked, fried, baked, boiled, steamed, or otherwise heated in contact with or in conjunction with any non-kosher food or utensil.

4b: long-term soaking. A kosher food cannot be soaked in, on, or with a non-kosher food or utensil for 24 hours.

4c: pressure combined with sharp flavor. Any food with a sharp taste such as raw onions or pickles, cannot be cut, pierced, or otherwise come under pressure from a non-kosher knife, fork, spoon, or similar surface.

5. Meat and dairy may not mix. All the rules in (5) regarding the mixing of kosher and non-kosher also apply to the mixing of meat and dairy foods, products, and utensils.

Published in: on September 13, 2008 at 10:45 PM  Comments (5)  

Frumgirl 4: Unexpected Conversation

The elevator emptied out as we approached the top floors, until there was just me and a chunky Asian inside, and only “seven” glowing on the panel. I don’t know his name, but let’s call him Jin, in keeping with the Jo- crowd.

Jin looks at the panel, looks at me and conveys that he would like to know if I too am heading to the seventh floor, or should he press another button for me? I say “convey” because his speech was slow and halting and the communication wasn’t necessarily all vocal. I responded that seven was exactly where I was heading, thanks.

He hesitated and then started expressing himself again. “Is – that – Jewish – clothing?” He gestures at my ensemble.

Momentarily taken aback, I reply, “Yes, it is. I mean, the clothing is from all over, but the look is definitely Jewish.”

He digested that for a moment while I digested his question. Asians are not very savvy about Judaism, if they know it exists at all. They’re not terribly savvy on western religions in general. Heck, the average Chinaman thinks the main difference between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the mascot: fat man in red pajamas with a tree versus sober men in black and buckles with a turkey. Religion doesn’t come into it. So I asked the natural follow-up question:

“How do you know about Jewish dress?”

“I – live – in – Borough – Park.”

Aaaah. Well, that explains things.

“You – don’t – wear – a -” Jin makes a gesture of putting a bowl on his head – “hat?”

“No,” was my uncomprehending answer. “The men get the hats, the women get the skirts.” Only later did I realize that me probably meant a turban or shpitzel or whatever they all wear in BP. At any rate, he mulled that over a second and then got out, “I think – that it – is – very – nice.”

That surprised me. I mean, you don’t hear that very often, even from people like Joe, and obviously he’s his own case. “I think so too,” I said, for lack of anything else popping to mind. Well whattaya know.

Published in: on September 11, 2008 at 11:51 AM  Comments (7)  

10,000 Hit Party!

Published in: on September 8, 2008 at 7:33 PM  Comments (5)  

Frumgirl 1: The Question

It’s the question that comes up pretty often when dealing with people you do not plan on working with for any longer than a short a while. I’m sure everyone’s encountered it at one point or another.

Now, you need a minor accommodation. You might need your complimentary breakfast coffee in a paper cup instead of crockery. You might want to refrain from shaking someone of the opposite gender’s hand. You might just want to meet someone on a day other than Saturday. Do you:

a. Explain that you are an Orthodox Jew, explain the accommodation you need, why you need it, and end up spending fifteen minutes lecturing someone you will never meet again (even if you are in a rush)

b. Politely ask for the accommodation without providing and explanation, and endure the weird looks or slight annoyance of the person you wish accommodation from

c. Avoid the situation entirely (i.e. do not have complimentary breakfast coffee).

I tend towards a or c in New York, and b or c elsewhere, but I always feel odd or disappointed, no matter which option I choose.

Published in: on September 7, 2008 at 6:25 PM  Comments (6)  

Frumgirl 1: Lowercase T

My handwriting, in general, is quite legible. This is important when you’re going into a profession in which people have to read your had-written notes, like mine.

I have exception to legibility, and that is my lowercase letter “t.” There. See how it curves up a bit at the end? When I curve mine, people mistake them for Gs or Qs. It annoyed my superiors in my clinical to no end.

I finally mentioned to them, in passing, how I was taught in pre-1A (I had to stop and explain what this mysterious grade is at that point,) to curve my lowercase Ts so that they wouldn’t be crosses. Which, I understood as a five year old, is forbidden for nice little frumgirls.

My superiors got a kick out of that.

I was wondering if anyone else was taught to do this (if you can remember pre-1A, that is,) and if people encounter similar readability issues with it. The males I have asked so far have given me negatives, the females positive.

Published in: on August 30, 2008 at 9:45 PM  Comments (19)  

Frumgirl 1: Surviving in the Wild

Walmart tends to be portrayed as some sort of big bad evil, rearing its huge box-like ugly head everywhere like a hydra with the sole purpose of sucking local economies dry. While provididng low-paying, cult-like employment to people who then do their shopping at Walmart, sending all local money spiralling back to the vacuum-like corporation.

One definite big plus about the super-giant store: I have learned, over my vacation that one can subsist on only the kosher offerings of Walmart indefinitely, if they need to. If they eat Chalav Stam, anyway.

Kosher canned foods, milk, eggs, and condiments are always available, not to mention Lender’s bagels.

And coffee is kosher, too. Because living without coffee is hardly considered surviving.

Walmart has effectively made America kosher, accessible to any frummie with a car and GPS willing to brave current gas prices. No food schlepping necessary. Anywhere that a Walmart stands, a frummie can survive if need be.

Published in: on August 29, 2008 at 2:00 PM  Comments (3)  

Frumgirl 4: Tricky

There is nothing more unpredictable than the irreligious Jew. Their wide-ranging knowledge (generously peppered with gross blank spots) and an amused approach to halacha can lead to some entertaining and tricky situations.

Entertaining I: Joe derides his irreligious relatives for getting star-of-David tattoos and refraining from eating pork on Saturdays. Then, he double checks that there’s no ham in the meat-and-cheese salad his friend offers him. I give an astounded snort but decide that there’s nothing to be gained by arguing the logic.

Entertaining II: Joe locks horns with Joseph on the matter of heaven and hell. He claims the Jewish God is far more benevolent than the Christian because there’s no Jewish hell and you can get a second chance after you die. “For me, afterlife is about how close or far I am to God,” he boasts. “None of that gruesome Dante stuff.” Then he details to me how likely it is that the Torah was written by aliens, and the events therein occasioned by an extraterrestrial specie. I suggest that he watches too much TV, and maybe he should try reading “the good book” in the original, for once. He tells me that he has a gold-inlaid copy in his room, but can’t read a word.

Tricky I: Joe rests his hand on my USB flash drive when I reach to take it out of the computer.
I learned in Israel, when trying to get on the bus to Tel Aviv, that it doesn’t pay to let obnoxious irreligious guys use shomer negiya against you. It is important to very quickly let them know that the playing field is still level. So I reached for my metal thermos and held it casually by the cap. “Three options,” I said sternly. “You give my my drive, you move your hand so I can take it myself, or I hit you over the head with this and then take it.” He eyed the bottle and withdrew his hand. I only had to do that twice more before he gave up the prank completely.

Tricky II: Joe leans back, looks at me speculatively, and says, “Gosh, we’ve been working on this together for four weeks already. We should be best friends by now.” The obvious tack is to make a joke out of it, which I do: “Nope – I’ve never become best friends in less than six weeks.” And “Send in your application – I’ll have my secretary look at it.” Problem is, he does want to be friends. I’ve received casual invitations to purely fun outings, so it would be best to put things straight right off the bat and avoid any misunderstandings. So when six weeks are up and he asks if we can be best friends now, I give a little smile and say, “I’ve only got room in my circles for one male best friend, and he’s got to give me a diamond ring.” Well, that set him back a bit, but only temporarily. “How about just friends, then?” he asks. “Only as candidates for best friend,” I answer. He looks terrified. “You do realize I’m kidding, right?” he asks.
“Getting scared when I call your bluff?” I taunt.
That settled, he turns the matter over in his mind. “So you don’t have any guy friends?!”
“You don’t have anything to do with guys?”
“Not much.”
“That’s just…wild! How do you manage?”
“From what I’ve seen of men,” I retort tartly, “I don’t think I’ve been missing much.”
He knows I’m referring to some of his more repulsive and peculiarly male habits, and is silent for a moment.
“Well, what does that make me – an acquaintance?”
“A colleague.” Then, because he looked so down, I added, “A valued colleague, a useful colleague, and a colleague whose company is pleasant, but a colleague nonetheless. I’ve never treated you any differently, have I?” With the possible exception of offering to brain him with a metal bottle, this was categorically true, and he acknowledged it. “But you’ll still be around after the summer, right? I mean, you’re a good person to know,” he said.
“And you’re a useful person to know, so, yes, of course I’ll keep you around.”
That seemed to leave things on good terms, and the topic was only revisited when Joe commented that a diamond ring was pretty cheap; most of the women in his community want cars, swimming pools, and vacation homes. I decided it wasn’t the time or place to explain kollel standards.

That little chat turned out to be the right move – it’s handy to have someone around who understands some of your weirdness. Only a few weeks later, a few of my summer “colleagues” were planning a group outing. Joe, realizing that I would rather not attend, jokingly informed me that I was not welcome to join. I retorted that I wouldn’t want to spend the afternoon with him anyway. The other students looked confused, but were too polite to ask any questions. So I retired to the library, saved from the necessity of quick thinking, and they hit the Big Apple without me.

Published in: on August 24, 2008 at 12:26 AM  Comments (6)  

Frumgirl 1: Counting

Number of patients who have tried to convert me to one religion or another: 4

Number of conversion attempts, in total: 9

Snippet from the funniest:

Patient with big hair and ankle fracture: “So you’re Hassidic, right?”

Me, going about my job: “Nah, I’m just plain Orthodox.”

Patient, tilting her head: “Hassidic people don’t believe in jesus, right?”

Me, preoccupied: “That’s right.”

Patient, head tilting slowly in the opposite direction:”So the rest of you all do believe in jesus, right?”

Me, perking up: “Oh, no, you can’t be Jewish if you do.”

Patient, aghast: “What? None o’ you? You sure? I never heard of that!”

Me, cue reassuring but firm smile: “I’m sure.”

Patient, getting excited: “But you gotta believe in jesus, girl!”

Me: “Huh?”

Patient: “He’s the lord and savior!”

Then she looks at me expectantly, like she’s waiting for an agreement. Or a spontaneous shout of GloryBeHallelujah! and an on the spot conversion.

Persuasivity rating: -6,000/10

Published in: on August 20, 2008 at 5:43 PM  Comments (8)  

Frumgirl 1: So Much For Individuality

This is the sad truth that I’ve come to realize: after spending majority of my teenage-hood trying to break free of the boxes the frum world was so fond of sticking me into, I had a larger chance of being viewed as an individual there than in the “real” world.

The only time I will ever be viewed as an individual and not the “token super-religious woman” is when I’m back in an environment with other frum people for comparison.

It’s comical, really. I defied a frum three-word summation of myself, convinced that the cookie-cutter obsession was a mere frum-foible only to find out that it is entirely impossible to escape a two-word definition in the outside world.

I must laugh.

Published in: on August 17, 2008 at 1:14 PM  Comments (9)  

Frumgirl 1: Frummie Voice

“Are you Jewish?” asked my blind patient in his Morgan Freeman voice.

“Uh…yeah.” I tentatively responded.

“Religious, right?”

“Yeah.” He laughed. It sounded like a small earthquake.

“How can you tell?” I asked.

“Your English.”

I’m so frummie even a blind man can pin me in an instant. Heaven help.

Published in: on August 10, 2008 at 9:09 PM  Comments (7)  

Frumgirl 4: Kosher Catechism

Non-Jews seem obsessed with kashrus.

I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the idea of being limited in what you can eat. After all, most of what they know about kashrus is that I’m not eating things. None of them have ever experienced the cornucopia of the kosher supermarket. They often wonder how I don’t starve.


Joseph: You know, with us Christians, if we eat something wrong when we’re away, we just get re-baptized when we get back.

Me: Um… Judaism is a way of life, not a hobby. There’s no instant purification process.

Joseph: What if you get stuck somewhere and you can’t find anything kosher to eat?

Me: Have you ever heard of Chabad? (blank look from Joseph) There’s always fruit and vegetables.

Joseph: What if you can’t find any?

Me: Then you don’t eat.

Joseph: What if it’s for a long time?

Me: You still don’t eat.

Joseph: What if you’re going to starve?

Me: Don’t go there. Or leave.

Joseph: What if you can’t?

Me: Then you eat the least non-kosher thing you can find.

Joseph: And when that runs out?

Me: The rule is that you don’t eat non-kosher, but an even bigger rule is that you don’t die.

Joey: How do you know when something is kosher?

Me: There’s this little symbol over here – it means the company paid a rabbi to come in and check out their factory and make sure everything is kosher.

Joey: Can’t you just tell from the ingredients?

Me: Not when there are secret ingredients. Plus, the machinery has to be kosher.

Joey: The machinery? Wow.

Joe: How do you know the plastic fork is kosher?

Me: I’m assuming it’s never been used – American sanitary laws.

Joe: What if I got you one and I spit on it?

Me: That would be pretty gross, but your spit is kosher.

Joe: What if I did this? (he grinds the fork into the counter)

Me: (examining the fork and finding nothing) That would be very low of you, but it’s still kosher.

Joe: Why? You don’t know what might have stuck.

Me: If it isn’t visible to the naked eye, it’s as good as not there.

Joe: Aah, that’s cheating!

Me: Do vegans breathe animal dust? Are bacteria kosher? I’m not a Jainist, I’m a Jew.

Joseph: My fruit juice has a K on it. You can drink it.

Me: No – ‘K’ is just a letter of the alphabet. It doesn’t mean anything. Anyone can put a K on their packaging. Or a B or a G or a Z.

Joseph: It means everything is kosher.

Me: It means the company thinks everything is kosher. Do you trust a car salesman? Take legal advice from a truck driver? There are books as thick as your arm on kashrus. I don’t think Dole knows what kosher is.

(brief certification introduction)

Joseph: Isn’t it wrong for these rabbis to make a business out of your needs?

Me: It’s not a business, it’s a service. I want to eat Oreos, and Nabisco wants me to buy them. The rabbi just makes that possible. Believe me – he’d rather be studying.

Joseph: No – he’s taking advantage! Because you only buy the products with the symbol on it.

Me: If that symbol wasn’t there, I wouldn’t buy it.

Joseph: If there were no symbols on any food, what would you eat?

Me: I’d do what my grandparents did – make it myself.

Joe: Just because a store is owned by a Jew, you trust his food?

Me: No. On the wall there’s a piece of paper certifying his food as kosher, with the name of the certifying rabbi, so you can check up who he is and if you trust him.

Joe: Wow. You guys have major trust issues.

Maybe. Or maybe we just understand human nature. But I wasn’t going to tell him that even Jews will sell other Jews non-kosher for a quick buck. So I just shrugged and laughed.

Published in: on August 7, 2008 at 6:29 PM  Comments (6)  

Frumgirl 4: Just in Case You Wondered

A nice thing about attending a secular college: it reminds you why you’re not secular. And I’m not just referring to the many times my Jewish-but-irreligious lab partner tells me how he firmly believes that Jews get kicked around when they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do – while he’s downloading porn. Take these transcripts from one lunch session:

Scene: Cafeteria. Frumgirl4 is IMing a friend and eating rice-cakes and string cheese while Joe, Joseph, and Joey yak and eat cheeseburgers. Suddenly, Joe’s gaze strays out the door to the elevator bank and he shouts

Joe: OHMIGOSH! Did you see that hottie?!

Joey and Joseph turn curiously to look out at the elevator bank while Joe goes on.

She is so hot! Check out those legs! Can you see her?

Joey and Joseph don’t see anyone especially hot and turn to look back at Joe.

Oh, you guys missed her! She was hot. She was so burning hot she was on fire!

Joey: Well then she can’t have been a science student. Laughter all around, then Joey realizes that there’s a science girl at the table. Oh – ah – sorry, I didn’t mean…

Frumgirl4: pauses in her laughing to reassure him: S’ok – I thought it was funny too.

Joe: picks up where he left off. Did you see those shorts? Did you see those shorts?! I didn’t see those shorts. They were so small I saw right through them –

At this point Frumgirl4 peers over the top of her screen to shoot Joe a dirty look while Joseph, a devout Christian, looks uncomfortable. Joe slows down.

You think maybe I shouldn’t be talking about girls this way? He asks, turning the idea over in his head. Nah, if they dress like that, they’re just asking for it! Joey laughs in agreement. Because you guys – she was hot!

The girl was actually a student at the summer program run for high school kids, and there were plenty more running around. Once, I told Joe outright to stop being a perv and keep his eyes on his sandwich. “Why?” he asked. “If they mind, they should just dress like you.”

Well, yes, but…

And again, at the same time, it’s nice to know that my skirt is impermeable enough to stymie the biggest skirt-chaser I have the pleasure of knowing.

Published in: on August 6, 2008 at 5:16 PM  Comments (7)  

Frumgirl 1: The Kosher Collusion

When you ask the rank and file what kosher means, they’ll tell you, in exactly these words, that a “Rabbi comes down and blesses the food.”

What I have always wondered is where people get this from. Not so much the concept, but the words. Exactly the same words come out of all sorts mouths; I’ve heard it from 80 year old black geezers and Asian Wellesley students alike.

Is there a movie someplace responsible for it?

The concept is rather strange, as well. Is there something in other religions that simply requires a clergyman to bless it before it is considered to be fit for consumption?

Oh, wait. I suppose that if wine and bread can be considered blood and flesh (I have never understood the desire to eat one’s object of worship/salvation,) based on a clergyman’s words, anything is possible.

Where do the non-religious people get the concept from? More importantly, where are they all getting it from in conjunction with one another that they all use exactly the same wording?

Now, I have done my part to correct this gross misinformation by explaining to those that ask what kosher means. Namely, that we have a Rabbi go down to the plant, factory, or kitchen to make sure that no non-kosher ingredients, processes, or machinery are used for the production of our food. But I’d really like to know who the culprit for this one is.

Published in: on August 5, 2008 at 9:05 PM  Comments (5)  

Frumgirl 4: Everything’s on Saturday

It is. Everything extracurricular in this private college, I mean. If it isn’t Saturday, then it’s Friday evening. And I’m getting the impression that this is indicative of the greater world outside. It’s an odd situation for me.

For me, the disappointment is fleeting, and I don’t just mean over the fact that I can’t compete in the talent show or join the drama club. I did want to be an orientation leader, but if the training is on Saturday, I can do without it. It’s like taking a slice of pizza and then discovering that it’s full of cyanide. Yeah, you’re not happy to put it down, but you’re not very upset either.

My colleagues don’t get that. They schedule their networking dinner for Friday evening and their club sports day picnic for Saturday afternoon and then, when they announce it, scan the table, see my face, and get distraught. They completely forgot – I can’t make it.

Not that they’d reschedule just for my convenience. But they still feel guilty. On my part, I probably would attend these events if they were at a more convenient time, but oh well, I’m not shedding any tears.

The only other frum girl in my program is an upperclassman, and whenever she attends a food-event, she tends to pick at the grapes or just sip a Dasani. One of her classmates gets very distressed when he sees she’s the only person not eating. Invariably, he’ll discover a bag of nachos chips in his knapsack that happens to have a hechsher on it, and try to press it upon her. I think that’s very decent of him, but I’ve decided to forestall such classmate advances by bringing my own muffin in the future.

My next challenge: the industry national convention this fall. It’s a week long, but the points of interest are over the weekend. The local chapter president has his plans all planned: two hotel rooms, one for four girls, one for four guys. And I know he’s counting me as one of the girls.

I’m only a sophomore and not terribly good at buttonhole-networking, so I don’t think it’d be a catastrophe if I missed the convention. Plus it’s around holidays, so I’ll be studying like crazy. Alternatively, I could go to someone in Philadelphia for Shabbos, and join them at the convention on Sunday. But that compromise would probably upset the president more than complete non-attendance, because I “won’t be getting the full experience.”

God help me with well-meaning people. I have nothing against them when they’re trying to be helpful, but when they’re not…

Published in: on August 3, 2008 at 5:51 PM  Comments (2)