midwestbuddha: (Default)
First, some background info: the purpose of these interviews is to bring people of all faiths closer together by promoting understanding of different perspectives. Enjoy! And if you would like to be interviewed, I am currently looking for someone who can tell me about their viewpoint as a Hindu or Wiccan. Just comment here and I'll contact you. Thanks!

Interview With [livejournal.com profile] prelocandkanar--thanks again, Beth! Readers: Please note that this interview contains more detail than any other before! But I have retained Beth's answers in their entirety, because I enjoyed them so much and felt confident you would, too. You will see this interview is divided into several sections, due to length. Enjoy!

15.) What are the taboos relating to your faith?

Taboos? I don’t know. Many, many Jews ignore kosher laws, don’t do daily prayers, or keep the Sabbath or any of that stuff, and still consider themselves, and would be considered, “good Jews.” I think being a “good Jew” is synonymous with being a good person, a kind and considerate person, so anything that goes against that – being mean, selfish, uncharitable, dishonest, etc. -- would be the most “taboo.” There’s a word, “mensch” – it means of person of integrity and honor. That’s the goal. The rest is gravy.

16.) Does your faith encourage belief in an afterlife? (i.e. heaven, hell, purgatory, nirvana, reincarnation, etc.)

Afterlife is not an important part of Judaism. Judaism is overwhelmingly concerned with life here and now.

17.) Does your faith encourage belief in more than one deity?

No. However, belief in any God at all is not required at all to be a “good Jew.”

18.) What healing methods are practiced by your faith? (Brief descriptions encouraged.)

Healing methods? Call a doctor! J

19.) Does your faith embrace many sects? If so, feel free to name and briefly describe the differences.

I wouldn’t call them “sects,” but the main branches or denominations of Judaism are Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. A person can and often does switch easily among them.
Orthodox are the most traditional. A sub-division of Orthodox are those that I would call a sect, the Hasidic Jews, are the ones with the hats and black coats. Most Orthodox (in my part of the world, at least) are “Modern Orthodox.”

I grew up Reform (not “Reformed” but “Reform” because it’s still and always changing and adapting), but since switched to Conservative. Reform are the most “liberal.” Services are almost entirely in English, often with musical accompaniment, and almost no one keeps kosher. Many Reform Jews only go to synagogue (if at all) on High Holy Days. Many Reform Jews would describe themselves as “secular Jews.”

There’s a wide range of observance among all branches.

20.) If you are part of a bi-faith marriage, briefly describe an incident you had with a conflict and how you dealt with it…

My husband and I are both Jewish, but he grew up (Modern) Orthodox and I grew up Reform, so we joke that we’re a mixed marriage. When we were dating, he came with me to my synagogue on High Holy Days one day, and I went to his the next day. At my synagogue, there was an organ playing music, we all sat together and the service was in English. Later, he told me that he felt like he was in a church. I went with him to his synagogue. The men and women sat separately, the men below and the women upstairs. The whole thing was in Hebrew, chanted by a cantor on a bimah (a low platform with a table to hold the Torah) in the center of the room, instead of in front. I felt so removed and apart from my then-fiance – as I was! I had such fond memories of standing at synagogue between my mother and father and grabbing their hands and feeling really connected. (Not that I ever “enjoyed” services. Long and boring!) When we got married, we agreed to “split the difference” and joined a Conservative synagogue. It was very helpful that we had a daughter. Orthodox synagogues are not as egalitarian and Conservative and Reform. (Our synagogue has had female rabbis and female cantors.)

It’s interesting that this survey doesn’t ask if one believes in (a) god or God or Diety. I’m going to answer it, anyway. J

I usually don’t really believe in God or any afterlife at all. Certainly not a God that’s involved in the details of our life. If I believe in a God at all, it would be First Cause – that is, something had to create the first particle of matter or energy in the universe. We can trace our solar system back, we can trace our galaxy back, we can propose theories about the Big Bang. But none of our cosmology can understand how this all began. Or comprehend that it might not have had a beginning. How did the first particle of matter or energy come to be? If I think of God, that’s it – First Cause.
More often, I believe in the “god” that is the best part of ourselves, the part of us that reaches the highest moral level we can. If I were to pray (which I don’t), I would be praying to that part of myself that can help me become the best person I could be.

I also strongly believe in noticing, appreciating and enjoying this life to the fullest. I frequently try to stop and notice the beautiful things around me – nice weather, nature. I try to appreciate that I have a healthy body. Because I believe that this life is all there is, I don’t want to miss anything or take it for granted. I don’t want to sleep-walk through it. My goal is to be “present,” “in the moment.” Judaism actually is a useful component of that.

The Old Testament God is often portrayed as cruel, vengeful, and petty. A projection of the times, and not relevant to how we think today. If I were to think about a God at all, it’s a God that’s patient, accepting, and loving. The piece of god that’s in all of us.
midwestbuddha: (Default)
First, some background info: the purpose of these interviews is to bring people of all faiths closer together by promoting understanding of different perspectives. Enjoy! And if you would like to be interviewed, I am currently looking for someone who can tell me about their viewpoint as a Hindu or Wiccan. Just comment here and I'll contact you. Thanks!

Interview With [livejournal.com profile] prelocandkanar--thanks again, Beth! Readers: Please note that this interview contains more detail than any other before! But I have retained Beth's answers in their entirety, because I enjoyed them so much and felt confident you would, too. You will see this interview is divided into several sections, due to length. Enjoy!

11. ) Does your faith require certain types of clothing be worn or avoided?

No, not really. There are many different levels of observance among Jews. For nearly all Jews, there are no restrictions during daily life. Most require that, while praying in a synagogue, men wear a skullcap called a kippah or yarmulke (“yaaam’ aka”). Women may wear a kippah, but do not have to. Many also wear a prayer shawl (“tallit”) while praying in a synagogue. Some Orthodox men wear a yarmulke all the time. The most unchanged denominations such as Hasidism do have other requirements, like for men, wearing a prayer shawl all the time under clothing, using tefillin (straps on the arm and a small box on the forehead containing biblical verses)while saying certain prayers; for women, modest clothing, etc. But that’s only for a small sub-set of Jews, what my family always referred to as “super-Jews.”

12.) Does your faith restrict you from eating certain foods?

Again, it depends on your level of observance. Yes, there are foods deemed “kosher” and “traif” (not kosher), and food that may not be eaten together. Pork and shellfish are traditionally forbidden, and milk and meat may not be eaten at the same meal. In the world I travel in, most Jews do not “keep kosher” at all. Some denominations say that these restrictions were based on food safety issues that are no longer relevant. Many say that following these restrictions is voluntary but encouraged, as a way of demonstrating “intention” and self-discipline, which can help one act correctly in more important matters as well. Other people believe it is an important part of their religion.

I myself don’t keep kosher at all, except during Passover, when I follow the guidelines for keeping kosher for Passover, following restrictions designed to remind us of what our ancestors had to eat while fleeing from slavery in the desert. I use separate dishes at this time, too. I do this because for me, making a “big deal” out of the holidays and following certain rituals increases the “special-ness” of the holidays. For me, rituals don’t have meanings in and of themselves, but they gain deep meaning over time, as you perform them as a child with your family over and over again, and positive family memories become fused to the memory of doing those things with your family, and so they become meaningful in a personal way. This is why I don’t believe in “letting children choose” their religion when they grow up. I don’t have any objection to someone rejecting or changing their religion, but if you’re not raised with some traditions and rituals, whatever they are – you can even make up your own as a family! – the traditions won’t have any meaning for you.

13.) What advice would you give to someone who’s considering joining your faith?

I don’t know. I guess find a synagogue with a rabbi and community that you relate to and that/who reflects your beliefs. If you’re planning to be a “synagogue Jew,” that is. You can practice all of Judaism without even going to shul (synagogue) at all. And ask questions, challenge stuff that doesn’t make sense, and argue. That’s what Jews do. J

14.) What is your faith’s most widely celebrated holiday, if any? (Brief descriptions welcome.)

Most widely-celebrated holiday? Passover. Think of it like another Thanksgiving, in a way. The whole extended family gets together. Guests are invited, including (and sometimes especially) non-Jewish friends. Everyone sits at the table and reads aloud from the “Haggadah,” a booklet that describes the Exodus, story of the Jews escaping slavery in Egypt. Four glasses (or at least, four swallows) of wine are drunk. The youngest child(ren) ask The Four Questions, which prompt the rest to explain the holiday.

Many families create their own version of the Haggadah to reflect their views of what they value most. The Seder can last ten minutes or more than an hour. Then everyone eats a meal with certain traditional food meant to remind us of parts of the story. At the end, most families have a tradition involving the children hiding or having to look for a hidden piece of Matzoh (the flat, unleavened bread that is an iconic symbol of the holiday.) Going to synagogue or services is not part of the holiday.

The holiday lasts for seven or eight days. Many families do two seders, on the first two nights. Some people keep certain food restrictions for the duration of the holiday.
Passover is probably the most beloved holiday. The most important are the High Holy Days: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. And the Sabbath.
midwestbuddha: (Default)
First, some background info: the purpose of these interviews is to bring people of all faiths closer together by promoting understanding of different perspectives. Enjoy! And if you would like to be interviewed, I am currently looking for someone who can tell me about their viewpoint as a Hindu or Sufi. Just comment here and I'll contact you. Thanks!

Interview With [livejournal.com profile] prelocandkanar--thanks again, Beth! Readers: Please note that this interview contains more detail than any other before! But I have retained Beth's answers in their entirety, because I enjoyed them so much and felt confident you would, too. You will see this interview is divided into several sections, due to length. Enjoy!

5.) How often do you experience others’ prejudices directed toward you regarding your faith(s)? (i.e. daily, weekly? Is this a common or uncommon occurrence?)

I myself have almost never experienced prejudice. I’m well aware that where I live, it used to be common to have “restricted” neighborhoods or clubs where Jews were not welcome. But I’ve never experienced it.

But what I do feel is my perception, in the US where I live, of the almost universal assumption that one is Christian. It’s subtle but there. Here’s a striking illustration.

When my daughter was very little, in December, we could hardly go into a store or shop without the shopkeeper asking my daughter (in a very friendly manner) if she was looking forward to Santa Claus. Was Santa going to bring her lots of presents? Was she excited? I had trouble figuring out how to handle this.

There was no malice here, only really nice people being warm and friendly. But I couldn’t say, or ask my daughter to say, yes, we were looking forward to Santa. But there was no graceful way to say “no.” Saying “No; we’re Jewish” felt like it might make the other person feel uncomfortable; it sounded like a rebuke and like too much information. I tried saying it with a smile in a casual, off-handed way, but kind of resented being put on the spot. At one point, I thought I had a great solution. My daughter’s birthday is in December, so, when asked about Santa, I’d finesse the question and say, “And she’s looking forward to her birthday, too.” I was so proud of this, until they said, “But you’ll still get Christmas presents, too, right?”

Another example of this is the preponderance of Christmas fanfics around December.

6.) Would you briefly describe one such incident, how it made you feel and what you did about it?

I guess I just did.

7.) What is your favorite faith tradition?

I guess the Passover Seder, with its celebration of freedom and insistence that it’s understood as a universal and timeless theme. There’s a line in the Seder that says that each generation recognizes a new affliction or prejudice that had not been acknowledged before, and must work to overcome it.

8.) If you could dispel the most common misconception about your faith, what would it be and how would you go about it?

Because Judaism is, to a large extent, both a faith and a people (and a culture), there are misconceptions about both Judaism and about Jews. I guess the misconception is that Jews are “different” or “other.” How would I go about dispelling it? How about something like this survey?

9.) If you left a previous faith for the one you now call your own, why did you do so and how do you feel about your previous faith?

I didn’t leave a previous faith, so this doesn’t apply.

10.) If there were one thing you could change or eliminate about your faith, what would it be?

I’d go back to the biblical story about Abraham and Sarah and Ishmael and Isaac, and hit Abraham and Sarah upside the head. In the story, they behave abominably. I’m not a big believer in the literalness of biblical stories, but that still doesn’t keep me from arguing about the many stories that I think demonstrate bad choices, wrong-headedness, “lessons” I disagree with and versions of a god that does not match my sense of what a Deity would be. (Ditto the Sacrifice of Isaac story. No caring God that I can imagine would ask this of a parent. Not even as a test. It’s sick.) Jews and Arabs have so much in common; we’re fellow Semites; cousins. Many customs are the same, like the prohibition about pork. I wish relationships between Jews and Arabs were better, and it may be silly, but if Abraham had acted more in line with Jewish principles of Tzadakah (charity, justice, righteousness), maybe we wouldn’t be in this situation today. (Am I joking? I’m not sure…)
midwestbuddha: (Default)
First, some background info: the purpose of these interviews is to bring people of all faiths closer together by promoting understanding of different perspectives. Enjoy! And if you would like to be interviewed, I am currently looking for someone who can tell me about their viewpoint as a Hindu or Sufi. Just comment here and I'll contact you. Thanks!

Interview With [livejournal.com profile] prelocandkanar--thanks again, Beth! Readers: Please note that this interview contains more detail than any other before! But I have retained Beth's answers in their entirety, because I enjoyed them so much and felt confident you would, too. You will see this interview is divided into several sections, due to length. Enjoy!

1.) What is your chosen faith?
Jewish.

2.) Please briefly describe the basis of your faith, as you see it. (Feel free to quote a brief sacred text which illustrates this description for you.)
Judiasm is based on monotheism (the idea that there is one God), and is equally based on living an ethical, moral life. Actually believing in God is optional.

3.) Were you (and your mate) raised in your chosen faith? If not, how did you learn about it?
Yes, my husband and I were both raised Jewish, but in different ways.

4.) What is the most compelling element of your chosen faith, for you?
I would choose to be Jewish even if I hadn’t been born to it. Here’s why. (I am describing the style of Judaism I was raised with. As with most religions, there are other “flavors” that may not agree with everything I say. But my rabbi does, and so do most Reform and Conservative rabbis and their congregations.)

Judaism does not require you to suspend your intellect. It doesn’t insist that you believe in miracles, the literal truth of biblical stories or even in God. It does encourage you to question and think for yourself. Its primary goal is to guide and encourage people to lead ethical, moral lives and to treat other people well.

Judaism has no interest in converting or persuading others to Judaism. It doesn’t insist that Judaism is the only “true” way. It doesn’t tell people that are not Jewish that there will be “consequences” to not being Jewish.

It has virtually no political structure, in that there is no “chief rabbi,” and no dogma handed down. The only political structure is the tumult of each synagogue with their rabbi, cantor and board of directors. The appropriate comment here is, I think, Oy. No dogma?? Two Jews = three synagogues + 5 opinions. [Old joke: One Jew, stranded on a desert island, builds two synagogues. Why? The other one’s “the one I wouldn’t be caught dead in.”]
Judaism has almost no interest in the afterlife. Everything about it is concerned with this life, and living a good, honorable life. There is no “burn in hell,” there is no concept of “original sin.” Judaism tells you that you should act in a moral way not in order to “buy” yourself a “reward” in the afterlife, but simply because it’s the right thing to do.

In Christianity, one goes to confession, and the priest gives penance, after which the sin is absolved and one is “clean” again; at least, that’s how I understand it. In Judaism’s equivalent, Yom Kippur, one appeals directly to God to be forgiven for one’s “sins” – But! You can’t be forgiven until you’ve asked the people you’ve wronged for forgiveness, and done something to (attempt to) make your misdeeds right.

In Christianity (as I understand it), one often goes through clergy or prays through intermediaries like saints. (Maybe more so in the past than now??) In Judaism, if you want it, everyone has a direct line to God. (I guess I know that Christians also believe they can pray directly to God, but the custom seems to be to often go through an intermediary.)

Also, on all the political and cultural issues that are important to me, Judaism comes out on the “right” side of the issue: gay rights, women’s rights, reproductive freedoms, diversity issues, etc. (Although Jews of a different political outlook from mine can also find Jewish communities that reflect those points of view, I’m sure.)

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