Tonight marks the start of Tisha b’Av, a day of fasting and mourning for the Jewish community. Traditionally, Tisha b’Av commemorates the destruction of the temples in Jerusalem, but for many Jews, it has a more universal purpose to mourn all kinds of physical and emotional destruction: global warming, pollution, war, illness, starvation, genocide, and violence.
An article in this week's Forward describes the growing opposition to circumcision among American Jews, and the development of “bris-less” bris rituals. Although circumcision is generally considered a pretty elemental aspect of Jewish practice and identity for males, this story certainly wasn’t surprising to me. I’ve had many debates with Jewish friends about this issue, and struggled with the decision of whether to circumcise my son (we did, and I cried through the whole thing).
Confession: I am a progressive Jewish feminist with a strong aversion to wearing a kippah. I often parade around town wearing men's cargo shorts, I sport short-and-spiky fauxhawk-ish hair, and can feel at home in a tie and blazer over baggy khakis. I usually wear a tallit when I pray. But wearing a kippah in synagogue makes me feel shockingly unfeminine and terribly self-conscious.
One might not expect to hear “Bat Mitzvah” mentioned in a news report about a rural town with Mexican immigrants whose largest employer is a pork processing plant. But this morning I did. I was listening to a story on NPR about immigration issues in Beardstown, Illinois, a historically white rural community.
The few times I’ve visited Teaneck, New Jersey (usually to dine at a Kosher restaurant since my nearby hometown is devoid of one), the sidewalks have a dizzying glare of bobbing black hats. There are about 15 synagogues within a five-mile radius, each with women’s balconies that I suspect are scant on leg room and a view of the bimah.
Today is the first day of summer, the longest day of the year… which just might be my favorite day of the year. Unofficially, June 21 is the camp season kick-off date, and for many Jewish kids and families, that’s a big deal.
A few months ago, I got a call from my mom, a university professor, who had a student she described as “extremely androgynous with a unisex name.” She didn’t know how to address this student using a pronoun and asked me: “What should I do? What should I say?” I didn’t have a good answer.
Last week’s New York Times article “Journey from a Chinese Orphanage to a Jewish Rite of Passage” got me thinking more about the complexities of reconciling an adoptive Jewish identity with a non-Jewish biological heritage. The article follows the story of a Chinese girl named Cece adopted by a lesbian couple in the early 1990s when China first opened its doors to international adoption. About three weeks ago, Cece became a Bat Mitvah, one of the first Chinese adoptees of her cohort to do so.