Posts Tagged ‘Orthodox Jew’

Wedding and Israel

December 7, 2010

I spent a lot of time researching the best time to take my vacation this Winter. I negotiated with my managers over the course of three weeks before we settled on dates.
Finally, on November 1, 2010 I purchased my tickets to fly to Israel on January 23, 2011 and to New York on February 6, 2011.

I informed my parents and siblings of my plans and I let my ex-wife know that I would be unavailable during those two weeks.

One of my younger sisters decided to accept a marriage proposal just prior to Thanksgiving.
A couple of weekends ago she warned me that they were considering a January 30th wedding. I informed her that I already purchased my ticket and if they held it that date, I probably wouldn’t be there.

On Friday December 3, 2010 she informed that they did, in fact, book the wedding for January 30th.*

I didn’t want to change my plans, but I felt like I was “required” to research my options. I called the airline. They told me I’d be charged a minimum of $250.00 to change my flight plans.
I spoke to my management. They didn’t want to be blamed (how they phrased it) for keeping me from attending my sister’s wedding, so they agreed to re-open negotiations to plan my vacation dates. However, they made it clear that they wanted me to go on vacation sooner rather than later.

(Basically, they expect a lot of projects to begin in February 2011, so they want all hands on deck.)

I called my brother in Israel to find out what he was doing and to hear what he thought. He’ll be coming in for her wedding. He offered to let me use his apartment while he’s away (especially if his whole family travels with him). He agreed that I am not obligated to change my plans because they knew the situation before they chose January 30.


* When I ask people advice, they usually ask why is she getting married so soon after meeting the guy and why does she need to get married on that particular weekend?
I haven’t spoken to her about it. However, I think my dad is imposing his belief that engagements should be short. This belief might work for ultra-Orthodox Jews and its practice might be appropriate for people who buy into that way of life, but I think it’s a mistake for my sister.
My sister is a sincere, god-believing, ethical, Orthodox-practicing, commandment keeping person. But she is not ultra-Orthodox.
She should have a “normal” Orthodox engagement period of 3 to 6 month. I hope I’m wrong, but I believe that this shortened time line will have negative repercussions.

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Shutter Island

March 17, 2010

I was not planning on seeing “Shutter Island” because the previews made it look like a horror film. I am not a big fan of horror films. However, when I was at the bar Monday night to see a free film, a nice couple mentioned that they saw it and enjoyed it. When I expressed my concerns with it, they said it wasn’t a horror film. They said it was thought provoking, like “Revolutionary Road”.
(When I first separated I felt like I should not be around people. I felt toxic and harmful. I planned on becoming reclusive. I figured my family would not want to deal with me because they loved my wife and because I was openly not religious. I was surprised when most, though not all, of my immediate family reached out to me during the process. They helped me in many ways. It was a very difficult process and I don’t know how it would happened without them.
I still had no plans on meeting new people. I didn’t really have friends, so it wasn’t an issue.
One night, I was speaking with an internet acquaintance on the phone. I expressed my view that I should stay away from people. Including phone conversations with her. She suggested I meet people. She gave me reasons, which I will guard.
As a result of that one conversation:
a. I learned how to bowl
b. I started going to movies
c. I started going to karaoke
d. I posted a platonic craigslist ad for a movie buddy
all in the grand experiment to see if I should be around people.
The ad that I posted got one response. A young lapsed Catholic woman from New Jersey. Our emails prior to meeting for a movie were very brief. We met at Penn Station and we got a quick snack at a nearby tavern. I found her very interesting and attractive. I knew I was just there to meet her and I had no plans on ever getting physical or romantic with her, but I began to worry, since we had not disclosed personal information prior to meeting. I wasn’t sure if I should tell her that I was recently separated.
We went to see “Revolutionary Road”. It was amazing. The plot was engaging. I saw so much in what was said. Without giving away the plot of that film, I saw that my marital status played a major role in how I viewed the film. So, as we were leaving the theater, I told her. I was surprised when she said she was also separated.
There wasn’t time for us to discuss the film that night. (Work in the morning.) So, instead we exchanged about a hundred emails devoted to analyzing it.)
You can, therefore, see why I was quite eager to see “Shutter Island”.

“Shutter Island” begins the way you expect it would. Leonardo DiCaprio speaks in a heavy Boston accent as he investigates the disappearance of criminally insane woman from a locked jail cell. I expected the film not to have an ending… meaning, I expected it to have an open ending where the people get to debate what happens next and motivations. I was pleasantly surprised with how it concluded.
I can’t say more about the plot without ruining it for you.

A couple of warnings:
a. There are a few intense scenes, but it’s not prolonged or extremely anxious.
b. There are some Holocaust scenes. If anything Holocaust related, even brief scenes, bothers you, you might want to avoid this film.

This was the best movie I’ve seen since December 31, 2009. It is extremely thought provoking and it raises questions of our memories and of reality.

I feel like this film deserves a 9 out of 10, but, I’m giving myself permission to amend it down to an 8 within the next thirty days.

Why I prayed for death

March 9, 2010

Twice, so far, in my life I’ve prayed for someone to die.

When I was in my twenties, my family was involved in a major van accident. The van flipped over multiple times. We were all seat-buckled. Otherwise, we would have ended up along with everything in the van, strewn across the highway.
I was taken to a hospital with my younger sister. I tried to get information from the nurse about the accident. I knew that my mother and her father were badly injured, but I didn’t know the extent of their injuries or if anyone else was seriously injured.
The nurse was not willing to give me any information.
I heard two nurses talking in the hallway. They said there were some “oranges”, 4 “reds”, and 1 “black”. I didn’t know the language, but I was able to discern that one person had died.
I prayed (without saying the name of diety) that it was my grandfather.

The other time I prayed for someone to die was when I was 12. I didn’t just pray once, I prayed daily for my own death. According to Jewish Orthodoxy, a child is not responsible for her sins until 12 or his sins until 13. At that time, all sins committed up until the child’s coming of age, were transferred to the young adult’s account for reckoning.

While my classmates were looking forward to Bar Mitzvahs and parties, I was dreading the impending sentence.
I knew that I wasn’t allowed to kill myself, so that wasn’t an option. The only alternative was death by god.

Get yer “Get” here!

March 3, 2010

When: Thursday, March 3, 2010 at 3 PM
Where: Brooklyn
Cost: $600 ($300 up front, $50 per week until it’s paid off)
“Service” provided: Religious divorce

Unanswered questions:

  • How am I going to get $300 by tomorrow?
  • How am I going to pay $50 a week for 6 weeks?
  • I guess I can cut out lunch?

Mind and Body Control

February 25, 2010

Until I was three, my hair was not cut. Shortly after my third birthday my grandmother came over and gave me a haircut. From age three until after I was thirty years old, a relative cut my hair at a minimum of once every 55 days. Occasionally, I’d request a haircut, but, more often or not I’d be against a haircut.
I didn’t have a choice. I had no control over how often they cut my hair or how much of my hair they cut.
My parents, my yeshiva, and, later, my wife wanted my hair cut. Any attempts to refuse a haircut were for naught.
If I specified one area not be cut or not be cut “so low”, my specifications were promptly ignored.
Now, does that make my grandparents, parents, siblings, and wife bad people? Not necessarily. You see, they weren’t cutting my hair against my will to torture me. They were cutting my hair because their god demanded it.
Their teachers taught them, that the horrible god of the Jews required men’s hair be short.

“god” requires short hair for men because:

  • Long hair is considered “women’s garb”. Men are forbidden to wear women’s garb according to the Bible.
  • Long hair can get in the way of donning tefillin. (While this is patently untrue, it is the main reason Rabbis advocate short hair for men.)

Simultaneous to being forced to have short “manly” hair, I was prevented from shaving, trimming, or cutting my beard. Once again god was keenly interested in making me appear in “his” image.

I thought the beard made me look disgusting. (When I look back at my old pictures, I often feel revulsion and anger.) I thought it was good for me to appear disgusting, as it would help me in my devotion to god.

When I used a scissor to cut my beard for the first time (at age thirty!) in the Summer of 2008, my father-in-law spent at least ten minutes in every subsequent face-to-face meeting making fun of my beard.

From the June 2008 until November 2008, I slowly lowered the beard. People at work noticed. They asked, “What is different about Alar Bean?”, and they answered, “I don’t know, I think he’s smiling more.”

As I lowered the beard, I felt better and better.

In November 2008, after my sister begged to be allowed to cut my hair for two days straight, I got my last haircut. After that haircut, I decided I’d had enough of the degradation of no choice and of being forced to look the way someone else’s god wanted me to look.

Since November 2008 I have not gotten a haircut. In March 2009, a couple of times, I used a scissor to even out my bangs.

I think the real reason “god” requires men to cut their hair short and grow their beards long is the same reason “god” requires women to wear a hair covering once they marry. “god” wants to control people’s minds by controlling their bodies. If you can force people to appear a certain way, especially if it’s making them look ugly, you have control over them. If you can make someone feel ugly, you will mess with their self-confidence. You then control who they speak with, what they do for recreation, where they go, etc.

Recently, an internet friend suggested I get my hair evened out at a barber or a salon. I am definitely not interested in getting my hair shortened. Not yet. I could be open to a styling or getting my hair evened out. However, I would need it to be done by a professional. (Though, I’ve never before had a professional cut my hair.) There’s no way I could trust a religious Jewish person to cut my hair. god might tell them to give me a crew cut!

Below is a picture of the back of my head. What do you think I should do?


A year hair, a year thair

A year hair, a year thair

The Tug Of War Tour

February 18, 2010

I attended the The Tug Of War Tour on Tuesday evening. I didn’t watch any of the youtube videos or read about it (aside from this interesting article).

All I gathered about the show was it featured a Muslim guy and gal and a Jewish guy and gal engaging in debate through the mediums of poetry and hip hop. I wasn’t sure how much tension there would be or whether I would find listening to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be entertaining.

The show, produced by @ffidler, was held at the Nuyorican Poets Café. The bouncer at the door let me in 30 minutes early because of the foul weather. This was fortuitous, as I accidentally miscalculated how much time I had between the movie and the Tour.

The show kicked off with a drum solo by Swiss Chris. The solo was impressive. He drummed on everything in his area. (His use of drumsticks that continuously changed colors was nice eye candy in the dim room.) The floor, a chair, curtains, oh, and, a drum set. He was very energetic and talented. His ability to twirl his drumsticks while simultaneously keeping a beat was impressive.
My only criticism is from where I sat, in the back, left corner, I wasn’t able to see a lot of the drum performance. (Especially when he was drumming lower than knee level.) If the stage had been elevated it would have been better. However, that’s a limitation of the venue, not the performer.

After the drum solo, the emcee, Simply Rob, introduced the women. They got up on stage, with their scripts in hand. They seemed slightly awkward standing in public and reading off a script, but only for the first few moments. They quickly got into their roles. They promised in their introduction (deliver in rhyme) that they aren’t here to kill each other or sing “Kumbaya my lord”. They suggested that through poetry they could express their own perspectives and understand the emotions of the other.

The two women, Tahani Salah, an American Palestinian-Muslim, and Vanessa, the @hebrewmamita, an American Jew of Syrian-Russian ancestry, had completely different modes of dress. While they both wore sweat-like stretchy pants, Tahani Salah wore a head covering, while the Hebrew Mamita wore a sleeveless shirt.
Both women are attractive. (Later, when I watched the youtube video for the event, I saw that she wore a jacket or a longer sleeved shirt in a prior performance. On Tuesday evening, she did not. I had to concentrate on the words she was saying, because otherwise my mind would have drifted to more physical things.)

After they finished, Simply Rob introduced the men, Mazzi, a Persian Muslim, and Sneakas, an Israeli Jew. (Mazi wore jeans. Sneakas wore purple pants. The pants fit in perfectly with his word play.) They came out and introduced themselves with a lively hip hop beat and dance.

The Hebrew Mamita, got up and recited a heartfelt poem about her inability to defend Israel for its actions. It was obvious she’d wrestled with her Zionism and her humanism and found a conflict between them.
And, so it went, a serious introspective poem by one of the woman followed by a lighter hip hop piece. This is a clever way to keep the audience from burning out on serious things or losing themselves to the rhythm and incapable of following the deeper message.

One exception was a piece performed by the men, in which they explored what an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian terrorist are thinking in the moments leading up to a conflict. That was almost completely serious and the crowd was moved by how it progressed.
Both of the women delivered a piece that really didn’t fit with the evening. The Hebrew Mamita spoke about her aunt and her Sephardic heritage. And, while I think that a discussion among Jewish people about the treatment of Sephardim is important, it didn’t seem to fit the theme of the Palestinian-Israeli relationship. Tahani Salah spoke about her relationship with her father. She added a bit at the end to make it connect to the overall struggle, but I think she lost some of the audience by taking a long time getting there.
However, their poems were highly entertaining and full of emotion.

There was one part where both women stood on stage, back to back. First, the one facing the audience spoke. When she finished, they exchanged places and the other spoke. This was my first artistic performance, so I don’t know if that is a common artistic device. The women didn’t appear to be addressing each other, so I didn’t understand the need for the dramatic pose.

I especially liked:

  • The Hebrew Mamita’s story about getting an abusive text message on Passover night. She had a great observation that her youtube channel is often attacked by a religious Orthodox Jew for her dress and words. When she said, he (the attacker) watches everything she makes, I laughed.
  • Tahani Salah’s pieces. The one that resonated most with me was when she pointed out that most people would have a hard time telling an Israeli from a Palestinian. Underneath it all, all we are is humans.
  • Mazi’s energy. It’s not easy for me to dance in a room full of people dancing. Mazi put on a solo dance performance that made me want to jump up and dance along!
  • Sneakas’ word play. Not only were his puns and word tweaking funny, they were also insightful.

Overall, I had a really good time. The performances were entertaining from beginning to end. I was struck by the energy of all the performers. I wish the show had dug more into the motivations of why each side acts the way it does, but, I understand the limitations they face in keeping it entertaining, not too heavy, and mainstream. I would highly recommend this to anyone who can think critically. If you are scared of the possible tension of the two opposing viewpoints, don’t be! Come, see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. I give it 8 out of 10.

Rental Offer Part Two

February 14, 2010

After mulling over the apartment offer for a while, I called my oldest brother for advice.
He pointed out that it’s been over a year now and the children have never stopped at my place impromptu. They’ve only come over on a scheduled day at the scheduled time. That’s unlikely to change for a few more years. By that time, they’ll either be old enough to take a subway or with all the money I save, they can take a taxi for 20 minutes.
I wasn’t able to articulate my feelings that 24/7 security will feel uncomfortable, so I removed them from my list of Cons.
I called my lawyer to make sure there were no negative legal ramifications to me taking the apartment. They didn’t see any issue with it, and, from a financial standpoint, they encouraged me to take the offer.
I called my dad about the offer and he sounded so positive about it that I began to think I should take the offer. He suggested I call my uncle about my concern that I won’t have privacy. (Since I’d already resigned myself to the fact that if I take the apartment I’ll be required to go to family meals.)
I saw myself as being about 87-92% in favor of taking the apartment

Friday morning, my uncle returns my phone calls.
I mention the apartment. He says, “It won’t be available until August [previously, I was told July], but it might not be available until a year from August.”
Then he mentions the price. $200 more than I was originally told.
In the process of explaining why the price is so cheap, I pick up on an undercurrent of doubt. It seems like he is planning on selling the apartment as soon as my grandmother dies. She’s in her late 70s and I’m not sure it’s a good idea to take an apartment that I won’t get to stay in for long. Especially, when my current place is so convenient.
We continue talking and he enthusiastically mentions that I’ll be near the family. I’ll come to meals, etc. He didn’t seem happy when I honestly said that was a concern of mine.
I then asked about my privacy concern. Perhaps, my lack of enthusiasm at being invited to family meals coupled with this question got him mad, because he responded almost angrily, “Just don’t bring dirty girls over. Don’t have parties all night.” I guess he realized he was being a bit over the top, because he modified it by saying, “I won’t be checking up on you. No one will know, but it’s my parent’s apartment.” (I don’t want you desecrating it!)
I don’t know what dirty girls are, but I know if he ever finds out I brought Dominos pizza into his parent’s apartment, he’ll cry for a week. I don’t need that pressure or situation.
My official answer is, “Thanks, but, no thanks!”

My Alternate Weekend

February 14, 2010

I have the children this weekend. Because the children are being raised Jewish Orthodox, I’m required to show them a consistent religious weekend.
Jewish Orthodoxy prohibits the operation of computers over religious holidays, so I’m forced to stay off computers when I’m in front of the children.
Because of paranoia that I’ll violate the children’s innocence of Shabbos observance, I’m required to bring them to my parent’s home for the weekly holiday.

In our divorce agreement, I’m being required to sign that I will give the children an authentic Shabbos experience (with kosher food). Once the documents are signed and the divorce is finalized, I’ll be able to have them at my place. That will be good, because I purposely rented an apartment with two bedrooms so the children can sleep over by me.

I find the whole situation offensive in the extreme, but fighting it will just cost more money and lead to more fights with my soon to be ex-wife. After a so much time swallowing blow after blow, what’s one more?

Rental offer

February 5, 2010

Currently, I live in an apartment that’s about a fifteen minute walk from where my wife and children live. I choose to live in this area even though there are so many religious Jews living here because I wanted to be able to available in case the children wanted to see me. I got lucky that my apartment is not on a “Jewish” block and i’m very close to the subway system.
This evening my dad called me to say that my deceased grandfather’s old apartment is about to become vacant and my uncle (who now owns it) is offering it to me for a very cheap rent. ($525 cheaper than what I pay now!)
Another advantage is it’s close enough to work that I can walk it most days. I could probably save additional commuting costs.
The disadvantages are:

  • I’d move from a fifteen minute walk from the children to a couple of subway trains from the children.
  • My uncle is religious. He likely wants me to take the apartment so I’ll live nearby his place and I’ll feel indebted to him. He then probably wants to “force” me to go over and he’ll be able to be mekarev me.
  • The new building has 24/7 security. I don’t know if I want to deal with that much scrutiny.

That’s my dilemma. Anyone have any thoughts? Please!

Orthodox Jews and God

February 1, 2010

Before I even start this post, let me state upfront that there’s no way for me to write everything that needs to be said in one post. So, don’t be surprised if I need to add things in the future.

My second disclaimer is if you are currently an Orthodox Jew, please don’t read this post. Thank you.

Since I “came out” to my family and some friends about my lack of religion and realization that God does not exist, a common conversation Orthodox Jews try to start is “how I know god does not exist”.

They aren’t asking because they are trying to understand my point of view. In fact, they don’t “believe” I have any proofs or reasons. They are only initiating the topic because they want to “zing” me on a logical point and “convince” to return to the fold. I have no desire to return to hell that Orthodox Jewish life is. I have no desire to believe in a bloodthirsty, barbaric, hateful, or fictitious god. I am hesitant to get into a conversation with these people because

  • I have experience, I know they’ll seize onto some logical argument and try to make me feel uncomfortable. I know I’m not only governed by logic, stubbornness is strong with me. Even if one could prove to me that god existed (which I know they cannot), I would still prefer to not believe in god.
  • I am not in the business of trying to convince people not to be religious or to disbelieve in god. For me to express my arguments fully, I might shake someone’s faith in god.

One “argument” I hear often from religious folk is, “How can you live without believing in god?”. When I ask for clarification they inevitably say something like, “If I didn’t believe in god, my life would lack purpose.”

When I point out that believing in god isn’t what gives their life purpose, it’s believing in god and god actually existing. According to them, if god doesn’t exist, did their lives really have meaning?

Another question they often ask is, how do you know what to do if you don’t believe in the Torah and its commandments. They ask as if people haven’t worked out moral codes without religion. When I was in Yeshiva we were constantly exhorted to develop our own internal compass. (There are moral questions that face us today that you cannot answer by looking in a sefer or responsa. The only way to answer them is to be “moral” and then “weigh” the issue internally.)