Thursday, January 15, 2009

Navigating Jewish Israel

This may be a surprising post- but I have been thinking about this topic for a bit.

I grew up frum, and went to your typical Bais Yaakov and seminary. Yet, every once in a while, I'm confronted with a situation in which I don't know the 'typical' frum thing to do. And, I'm sure this happens to most people. Sometimes, when I ask another friend, they don't know either, and we head to the third alternative, my local understanding Orthodox rabbi.

Sometimes, there is no 'typical' thing to do- it's what one makes of it. Sometimes families have customs, and sometimes not. Sometimes in a certain place it is done one way, and sometimes differently in others. Sometimes people in the same place have different viewpoints, depending on their families, values, minhagim, traditions, and so on. I'm sure my readers could think up many examples.

Israel comes with some of these things. And, sometimes, I'm left feeling like I don't know the Israeli way to do it, but I know the American way, and vice versa. Different shul minhagim, different ways of raising children/dealing with family/you name it, different psak, differences that abound.

It's amazing actually, but in Israel, I've found that there are more differences than anywhere else. Students from Aish, Discovery, Neve, EYAHT, Ohr Someach- all of these wonderful places for newcomers to Judaism have different approaches. And, these places make themselves public and accessible for all those who have questions- whether they've attended these institutions or not. In fact, sometimes I believe that asking questions is even better here than in America, due to the fact that there are so many differences and nuances.

Not everyone who lives in the same place does the same thing- and that's okay. And, you can ask more questions than ever. I belong to the camp that feels that the more questions asked and posed, the better. I'm not content with just 'going with the flow' or 'doing whatever everyone does'- and for that, Israel suits me very well, as everyone asks, questions, clarifies, and does differently.

So for all those differences among us- come to Israel- where it doesn't matter. We're all one people- one nation- remember?

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