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Neo-Nazi Converts To JUDAISM!

Okay... so I thought the headline might be a bit sensationalist... I was wrong.

Here's a story of a Polish man who embraced Neo-Nazi ideals with his Neo-Nazi wife, only to find out that they both, in fact, had maternal Jewish grandparents. They both converted to Orthodox Judaism.

Idiocy... even in the best of circles...

So I found this blog post MoVinG oN and was just shocked... but then I remembered that every community has their own crazies...

I really hope that my generation and the next can convince the oldies that the world truly has changed.

And so begins the rest

And I mean that both in this is the "rest" of my blog and on Shabbis, we "rest." Before I get started, since I tend to explain why certain things are while in the context of the experience, I will indent these informative sections, to make it easier to read.

So we left off with the sirens going off and Shabbis starting. What is done, is done at that point and you can't start cooking anything or put on makeup or clean the house. A sense of calm falls over this small section of Brooklyn.

Shabbis in Crown Heights

I attended a Chabad l'chaim a couple weekends ago in Crown Heights.

For those of you who don't know, Crown Heights is the World-Wide Headquarters of the Lubavitcher movement. It is as close as you will get to a shtetl in modern day America. With the main arteries of Kingston and Eastern Parkway, Judaism springs from either side. Most of the row houses shooting off these main roads are adorned with a mezuzah. If not, then they house neighbors who are generally of African-American or Afro-Caribbean decent. If you have never experienced a shabbat in Crown Heights, you must. I am serious. Email me at Patheos (tdavis at Patheos dot com) and I will help you find a place to stay. It is a must!

For those of you who have not or could not stay in CH, let me paint the scene of my weekend in Brooklyn.

Friday morning, 6am - my red-eye flight from Denver lands at JFK in NYC. I am with the mother and two sisters of the groom and a very awesome woman who is heading to CH to teach Chabad women how to fundraise. [Background - I am very close with the sister of the groom (the chasson) and the bride (the kallah). We spent a week studying in FL together.] After we gather our luggage, we go to catch a cab. It's about 6:30/6:45am at this point. We have to wait for a cab large enough to fit luggage + people. We make the squeeze and we are off. We tell our VERY Russian cab driver that we are going to Brooklyn but must detour to Queens first to go to The Ohel, which is at a cemetery. It is the grave-site of The Lubavitcher Rebbe and his father-in-law, The Previous Rebbe or Frediker Rebbe.  Within Chabad, anytime you are in NY, you must visit. Not because you are forced to but because it can be centering and uplifting and is an important thing to do.

We tell the guy that we are going to a cemetery in Queens and he pulls out a picture of The Rebbe and says, "For this guy?" Well we were shocked! He knew exactly where to go. Turns out, the guy is Jewish, brings people to the cemetery all the time but had never gone in. Well we get to The Ohel and the cab driver wants to leave us. I know in the movies it always looks like there is always a cab when you need one but that is SO not the case. We convinced him that he should wait 20 min and come in with us. SO meter still running, we go in and start the process.

We wash our hand in the ritual manner (netilat yadayim) then sit down to write a letter to the Rebbes. You put your Hebrew name, bat (daughter of) or bar (son of), then your mother's Hebrew name. Then you just write. You can ask for a better job, a husband or wife, health, anything you want or need or need guidance on. Once you have completed your letter, you slip off your shoes (if they have leather on them) and slip on the oh-so-convenient Crocs they have provided in every size and color imaginable. (P.S. I think Chosids are the biggest consumer of Crocs... not kidding.)

Once you have done all this you trek out into the cemetery and enter the stone building (no roof) where the two graves are. You light a candle, grab a prayer book and head in. There are separate doors for men and women but it gets cramped really fast. Once inside there are a handful of prayers and psalms to read but then you read your letter, quietly outloud to the Rebbes. Once you have competed that, you tear it to little bits (see the pic). As you leave, you must be careful not to turn your back on the Rebbes, just like the Torah, and so people will back out of the area. I like to take a minute to touch each gravestone and say S'hma with each Rebbe.

Once you have completed all this, you head back to the tent that is set up and wash your hands again and head out. We wrangled all 5 of us AND we picked up another woman heading to CH so our cab was VERY full.

We got to Eastern Parkway and Kingston and all went our separate ways. Now here comes Shabbis in Crown Heights. It's still early, not quite 9am yet. I put my bags down in my friend's tiny basement apartment and I start walking Kingston, marveling at the shops we don't have in Denver (but they don't have a Target... so it might be an even trade... :)).

I had priorities. There were things I can't get in Denver that I had to get before Shabbis shuts the stores down. I hit the Jewish Children's Museum because they were open before 9am. Got some books and a set of Aleph Bet cookie cutters (VERY excited) and then I headed to Khan's Kosher Market. There are a few markets on the street but I KNOW Khan's has my Kosher gummy bears. Seriously. I can't find them ANYWHERE (see my post here about that). And finally Judaica World opened. I spent forever in there, breathing in the books, looking for new titles, I got a cd, AND (I feel very triumphant about this) a pink, soft leather siddur with the Hebrew AND the English!!! :) Very exciting! (I will write more about that later.) Kingston was full of hustle and bustle. Women getting last minute supplies, car horns, construction, men running to study or get home. Just like you imagine NYC. I headed back to my friend's apartment and took a bit of a shluff (nap). We woke up in time to prepare her place for Shabbis. You have to decide what lights to leave on and what to leave off, prep water for tea if you want it in the next 26 hours, etc... otherwise that all will become Muktza. Once that is done and about 18 minutes before Shabbis comes in, you will hear a loud siren. This is to warn you that it is nearly time. Everyone keeps running and rushing and trying to finish until... BAM candles are lit and there is silence. Significantly less cars on the road, no radios, just quiet. And Shabbis has begun.

And since this post is getting lengthy, I will break it up. Tomorrow - the start of a beautiful 26 hours.

Originally posted at - AshkanOrthoNewalForm-ish

WOW! Plane crash in Austin...

WOW! I really am at a loss of words. Wow... There was a plane crash in Austin this morning. A man flew a small, single engine plane into a building. But then I learned more.

The "man" was a human being who was much maligned and the victim of our country. He was a throw away person to our tax system. And the building was an IRS building. His name was Andrew Joseph Stack. 53 years old, I believe.

Now, please don't get me wrong, I don't approve of his methods. He has probably cost the life of many innocent people, however, I feel for this man. How could he continue to live when the greedy government attacked him. Honestly? He was small potatoes but that is what they seem to go after. Now, I know how I sound but believe me I am a Democrat and I believe in social services and everyone pitching in to support those among us who cannot support themselves. But in this situation, he followed the rules. He made more of an effort than I ever did to learn the rules...

More than anything I feel for his loved ones, because I know he had to have been loved. How sad that he was driven to this. I think our whole country needs an overhaul.

I also want to preserve his final words for all to see because undoubtedly his website will be ripped down when they get wind of it. The website is ... oh and as I write this... it has been removed by the FBI. Here is what it says now -

"This website has been taken offline due to the sensitive nature of the events that transpired in Texas this morning and in compliance with a request from the FBI.  Regards,
T35 Hosting"

Here is the text of his manifesto after the jump.

Who knew blue denim could throw your life into such turmoil!?

No, it's nothing major... just... well... how do I say...

I feel guilty when I wear jeans.

Yup. I said it.

So here's the story. About 10 years ago I started my transition from hippie, Indigo Girls lovin', free-form Friday night services followed by going out for ice cream Judaism that was mainly focused on social action (aka Reform) to a skirt wearing, long sleeves in the summer, Baruch Hashem sayin', Kosher keepin',  shomer negiah, shomer shabbis, "Flipping Out" "Baal Teshuvah." (Though I slightly object to being called a Baal Teshuvah. I have always been a religious Jew but my observance has just been different... like wearing tzitzit and a kippah and laying teffilin... In fact, I started a group called Frum From Nifty because there are so many former Reform kids goin' Ortho these days!)

So I went from one end to the other... then I found my way to a middle ground where I felt comfortable with a foot in both worlds. I understand the WHY of why we do certain things and make (Torah) educated decisions in how I live my life.

<--- To the left = tznius               To the right = not tznius --->

What does that mean? Well, it kinda means that I have my own Talia sect of Judaism. I am fairly sure no one else out there is just like me in my observance and that makes life hard. I am just as comfortable on the streets of Crown Heights as Denver. I'll drive on Saturdays but I try not to spend money. I (try to) davven every morning and evening and say my brachot over food and drink... okay, I'll admit there have been many shehakols tossed in over the last bite as I kick myself for forgetting. Clearly, I am far too "religious" (really, I prefer the word observant) for the Reformies and not quite there yet for my Chabad family of friends. Anyway... this is starting to get long winded for a blog. :)

So here is my dilemma... I found the ideas and ideals of tzniut fascinating. I did the full on long sleeves, long (not so fashionable) skirts, high necks, etc for about two years until I realized that while it had helped me rediscover my femininity, break the jeans cycle (you know what I am talking about... nothin' but jeans because they are comfy and easy), and realize that I can dress for myself and not for anyone else... the severely restricted nature of the 'uniform' I adopted was certainly not me. SO, I decided to keep the skirts in the wardrobe but not deny myself the joy of jeans. However, I would still dress in a modest fashion even while wearing pants. Not kidding, folks, this took me years to figure out...

So, fast forward through the awkward parts, today I wear skirts (modest skirts - knee length or longer) at least five days a week. Allowing for the need to feel a good fitting pair of jeans on myself once or twice. The added impetus for this is that I live in Colorado. Don't know if you know this but... uhm... it snows here... and gets cold... a breeze up a skirt (even with tights) ain't fun in 3 degree weather. Today is one of those days. I mean it isn't 3 degrees but it is forecast to snow and be kinda crummy and I am just going to the gym, work, home, and doctor's appointment... damn you rationalization!!! Point is, sometimes it feels more high maintenance to wear a skirt. I have shoes that look great under pants that I can't wear with a skirt. Even a long jean one. Anywho... I've noticed, increasingly, as I wear my pants the few days a month that I do, I have more and more quilt about it.

I mean, I have friends in Crown Heights (aka the worldwide headquarters of Chabad) that wear skirts rain or shine, snow, sleet, hurricane, blizzard... why do I have such an issue? Well clearly, they were raised that this was the thing to do and pants aren't really an option. Not me... my mom STILL to this day remarks when I wear a skirt, "Oh, you're wearing a long skirt, huh?" or "You look so Frummy." And I used to get defensive... like I didn't want anyone to notice that THAT was exactly what I was going for. But now, now I just say, "Yup, I do. Thanks." :)

Another point of contention with my mom (who was raised in the Conservative movement) is that I want to cover my hair when I get married. We haven't had the convo outright but I know she doesn't love the idea BUT she is happy when I am happy. On one hand it gets to be an outward sign of your Judaism but on the other hand, it truly is something you do for yourself... like the laws of taharat mishpacha which I find essential.

I think it is through education and really understanding the laws and traditions and making up your own mind that helps you stick to your choices. And this jeans thing, I think I'm just being a wuss... either throw out the jeans or suck it up and embrace my decision... yes, I know, I answered my own question.

Check out my blog at - AshkanOrthoNewalForm-ish

An Open Love Letter

A friend/colleague/partner in Jewish fun crime wrote this open love letter.

It is just so sweet. I think we spend so much of our time worrying about control that we forget to let go...

I really hope he does find his beshert soon. He certainly deserves it!