Judy Blume’s Legacy

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret

Most people hold dear books that they read as a child. Me, I can barely¬†recall anything I read prior to turning 15 (and those books that I do remember, like the Encyclopedia Brown and Choose Your Own Adventure series, hold no special place in my heart). So “Judy Blume” has long been just another author name to me: one of several popular children’s authors, banished to the reserve stacks of my mind’s library.

Only recently have I realized that Judy Blume has been one of the most daring authors of the last 40 years. According to a new Q&A with Moment magazine, she “holds the dubious honor of being the second-most-censored author of the past 15 years, according to the American Library Association.” Her¬†”most¬†frequently challenged”¬†novel (according to the ALA), Forever, tells the story of a high school senior named Katherine who had premarital sex and enjoyed it. (Maybe if it weren’t banned when I were a kid, I would have a sharper memory of Blume.)

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A hot knish with a side of awesome sauce…

Natalie Portman

I find a lot of great stuff on The Jew and the Carrot, a blog about Jews and food, like this blurb about Natalie Portman’s new project. She’s going to star with Irrfan Khan in Mira Nair’s next movie, Kosher Vegetarian. The title alone sends me, and it’s a movie about a relationship between a Gujurati man and a Jewish woman, so we’re sure to review it here. Maybe we’ll get hits from people trying to find recipes. (If you came here looking for vegan knish recipes, just comment and I’ll hook you up.) Plus, I think Natalie Portman is awesome. Continue reading

And they all lived Jewishly ever after…

A New York Times article on the new president of the New York Board of Rabbis had us shaking our heads here in the InterfaithFamily.com office. It’s kind of funny that the Orthodox and Conservative rabbis can handle female or gay rabbis on the 700-rabbi board, but heaven forbid they should include anyone who would officiate at an intermarriage! (Which is in one way incredibly cool and exciting–women were first ordained as rabbis by the major movements in my lifetime, and wow, did you ever think you would be reading that about gay rabbis–but still.) How does intermarriage, something that apparently over 30% of Jews are doing, get to be the one thing that’s so far beyond the Pale? Continue reading

First look at Pew Forum US Religious Landscape Survey

I’m taking a look at the preliminary findings of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life US Religious Landscape survey. (You can download it as a .pdf file here.) This survey showed that 69% of Jews were in-married and 31% reported being married to a person of a different religious background. The Pew Forum reporters couldn’t gauge the importance of this intermarriage for any of the religions.

Another interesting statistic: 95% of Jews identify as white, 1% as Black, 0 as Asian, 2% as Other/Mixed Race, and 3% as Latino. Responses to this question confirmed my impression that the face of the Jewish community in the US is changing. (The numbers could be much higher–the survey reflects who was at home to answer the phone.)

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A Catholic Controversy

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The Latin prayer that includes a call for the conversion of the Jews continues its controversial revitalization, reports the New York Times.

Since I know next to nothing about Catholic liturgy, I won’t presume to have a firm opinion on the issue. For two informed takes on the controversy, read (Catholic) James Carroll’s call to bury the prayer in the Boston Globe and (Jewish) Hillel Halkin’s call to accept it in the New York Sun.

Challenged, and Disturbed

Keeping with Wednesday’s theme, I’d like to write about two very different recently published articles.

In Thursday’s The (New York) Jewish Week, Julie Wiener writes about an organization that commits “the ultimate taboo”: teaching both Judaism and Christianity to the children of interfaith couples. Going to visit the Interfaith Community’s religious school in Long Island, she was skeptical, “expecting either Jews for Jesus or an all-religion-is-the-same, kumbaya-type gathering.” After all, by the orthodoxy of the progressive Jewish world, raising children in two religions is “naive,” “confusing to children” and “practically criminal.” But she came away from the experience “impressed by the group’s intelligence and seriousness.”

Carefully sidestepping endorsement of the group’s methods (Wiener does work for The Jewish Week after all), she acknowledges that the children weened in its school are better prepared for Jewish engagement than children raised with no religion at all.

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The Nasty and the Nice

I want to share two stories about the strange priorities of the Orthodox today. One’s nasty, one’s nice.

The nasty one comes from London, where the JTA reports that an Orthodox day school has repeatedly refused admission to the daughter of a convert and teacher in the school. Says the brief, “The office of the chief rabbi, which acts as the school’s religious authority, does not recognize themother’s conversion, which took place more than 20 years ago under the auspices of the same office.” This sorry incident has echoes of the conversion-recognition mess in Israel, where the battle over the legitimacy of even many Orthodox conversions drones on and on–and where the existing bureaucracy is ill-equipped to handle the number of people interested in converting. Regardless, it strikes me that any woman who has converted, is married to an Orthodox Jew and teaches at an Orthodox day school¬†has unassailable Jewish bona fides. Her religious identity, and that of her children,¬†should not be in question.¬†

The nice one comes from the tarmac at Orlando International Airport. Rabbi Zvi Konikov, a Chabad rabbi¬†from Florida, writes for The (New Jersey) Jewish Standard about his experience¬†organizing a¬†Jewish prayer group¬†during a flight delay on a connecting flight to New York. He needed to organize the group–known as a minyan, which, in the Orthodox understanding, is a quorum of 10 men over the age of 13–to make his Kaddish prayers over his mother’s death official. In the 10 months since his mother died, he had not once missed saying Kaddish for her.

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Learning About Christianity

One thing that always strikes me about my Christian friends is how curious they are about Judaism. But the reverse doesn’t hold true for my Jewish friends. Very few are particularly curious about Christianity–indeed, ignorance of Christianity is almost a badge of honor among Jews.

I’ve always attributed this willful ignorance to anxiety. Anxiety over our minority status, and anxiety over what it means to be Jewish. We (and I include myself) have a hard time explaining how we are Jewish, but we know how we are not. We may not read the Torah, but we definitely don’t read the New Testament. We may not keep Shabbat, but we definitely don’t celebrate Easter. We may not believe in God, but we definitely don’t believe in Jesus. We modern secular Jews are often defined more by what we aren’t than what we are. And since we know so little about Judaism, it would seem almost like a betrayal to learn about Christianity.

But that doesn’t make it right.

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Two Definites, One Maybe

Definitely, Maybe

Opening on Valentine’s Day is a romantic comedy starring Ryan Reynolds and Abigail Breslin called Definitely, Maybe. Yawn.

But Jewdar, a blogger on Heeb magazine’s website, points out that two of the three leading women–Elizabeth Banks and Isla Fisher–are converts to Judaism. Banks converted in 2003 upon marrying her college boyfriend, Max Handelman, and Fisher recently¬†converted to marry Sacha Baron Cohen (AKA Borat). Moreover, the third leading lady, Rachel Weisz, has a Jewish father and a mother who may be a Jewish Holocaust survivor¬†or may be a Viennese Catholic.

On top of that, Reynolds is currently dating, and rumoted to be considering engagement to, Scarlett Johannson, whose mother is Jewish. Now if only Breslin started dating one of the members of the Naked Brothers Band

Ronna and Beverly

Have you read You’ll Do A Little Better Next Time: A Guide to Marriage and Remarriage for Jewish Singles? No? Never heard of it? It’s written by Beverly¬†Ginsburg and Ronna Glickman, two Massachusetts-based Jewish mothers. Watch this video (courtesy of Jewcy) to see them harass an intermarried record store clerk. “We’ll talk you through the divorce,” they tell him.

Full disclosure: Ronna and Beverly are fictional. For more of their exploits, visit ronnaandbeverly.com.