My son Hillel pointed out something that I had just begun to sense a while back: there is a disproportionate number of Jewish bloggers who are or were Orthodox and who maintain blogs that express ongoing anger towards their Orthodox Jewish backgrounds or experiences. Some of these blogs have served the purpose of exposing child or domestic abuse or have taken on issues such as agunah, the “chained woman” whose husband refuses to grant a Jewish divorce. Others criticize religious extremism and closed-mindedness.
- Develop a sense of perspective and a sense of humor. In the majority of cases, your upbringing and/or the time in an Orthodox Jewish world left you with a set of moral guidelines like: do not murder, do not steal, do not lie and the like. If you keep those and decide to chuck the tefillin or even Shabbat and Kashrut, you’re still ahead of the game in leading a good life.
- Recognize that every school has bad teachers and good teachers. I got a decent education in the modern Orthodox day school I attended. Even so, there was the female Israeli teacher who told the girls in her class that only prostitutes wear makeup and lipstick or the rabbi who seemed to have two standards: one for the wealthier students and another for the less wealthy. Think there aren’t good and bad teachers in the best public or private schools? Guess again.
- Understand that, as Mark Twain wrote, “I never let schooling get in the way of my education.” School, yeshiva or otherwise, is the beginning of the search for knowledge, not the end. Think your teachers had a skewed view of the Jewish tradition? OK, do your own study and reading. Use the tools you gained and move forward to find the Judaism that you believe has greater intellectual or spiritual integrity.
- If your parents instilled a little too much guilt, or if your family was dysfunctional, don’t automatically ascribe that to Orthodox Judaism. Dysfunction and poor parenting exist all over. At some point, it’s time to grow up and take responsibility for your own happiness. Your readers eventually will tell you that.