naomiandruth: Antique calligraphy pen resting on boxed inks (Default)
I have very little idea of how to Dreamwidth, but supposedly a sticky post for an intro is best so... Hi? Please use this to introduce yourselves or ask me questions or so on and so forth.

I'm a geology student at SFU, a writer, converting to Judaism (which is going to probably be most of this blog, since I'm starting with chattering chapter-by-chapter about the book I just got) and I like cats and my hair and headcovering stuff which may also get some airtime here.

Fandom-wise, I'm mostly into Hetalia, Harry Potter, Terry Pratchett, Tamora Pierce, Anita Blake, Star Wars (by osmosis from my partner [personal profile] slashmarks), MCU movies, and a couple others I've gleaned bits and pieces of over the years. I like talking about fandom in general, so I can get started geeking on almost anything (I tried and failed to read Game of Thrones, but by word do I have opinions about it) and will happily listen to OTHER people's geeking about fandoms I don't currently know.

I have an AO3, several Tumblrs, and will happily give them when asked but am not posting them offhand.
naomiandruth: Antique calligraphy pen resting on boxed inks (Default)
(I know I know I've mostly forgotten this space exists. Oops.)

ANYWAYS I finished another Jewish book finally so I'm gonna go ahead and try and review it decently here.

It was, overall, a very good read. Published in 1981, this is of course abundantly obvious in the content of the book. Given that my study of both historical feminism and Jewish cultural developments is poor, I can’t comment on how well it reflects these movements at the time, but based on what little I know I expect it impacts the content in many ways.

The book is organized by chapters that talk about the feminist movement, the author’s journey to becoming a feminist, and then detailed arguments on halakhic precedents for ways to make Orthodox Judaism more inclusive and egalitarian. These address things like coming of age ceremonies, women and prayer, family purity laws (which I’ve discussed elsewhere,) divorce and agunah, abortion, and looking towards a Jewish future.

The author is honest about the fact that she is writing about her opinions, experiences, and her sincere desire to reconcile feminism and Jewish law. In some ways it reads like a personal journal in which she’s talking herself through the arguments as much as addressing an audience. From what I’ve learned of Jewish theory and learning, it’s almost exactly that: a great deal of ground covered to establish the problem, the existing precedent, and then knitting those into several options for solutions without attempting to specify which one is “best.”

In this, it’s an incredibly useful book that I can see myself referring to again and again in spite of its age. I’d be very curious to look into the different branches of Judaism to see whether some of her conclusions have since been implemented. Her suggestions are almost entirely ones I find little fault in, which is a little surprising for reasons I’ll mention later. At one point, discussing abortion, she suggests that a helpful innovation would be “to support research on earlier and self-implemented methods of pregnancy detection […] the morning-after detection and antidote kit” - which sounds to me like it’s fulfilled in part by the advent of Plan B as a pill.

Other conclusions she draws tend to be things like changing women’s exclusion from prayer obligations to apply only during the years one has young children (and to apply to men or women in those instances,) and to allowing women to deliver a get to a court themselves to prevent the abuse of leaving a woman agunah.

The fact that the book is mostly opinions leads directly into my main issue with her writing: she is very pointedly “pro-family,” talking about the “plague of divorce” and the “tragedy” that is women not marrying or having children or having enough children. I suspect, in part, this comes from the feminism of her time combined with her social background - of which she is honest about the influence of, which mitigates her opinions slightly as you can anticipate them in most cases.

However, if you have problems with books that push the narrative of traditional family, gender roles, and procreation as an obligation, this will make it an uncomfortable book to read. While she comes to good egalitarian conclusions in every case and admits that the social structures she so admires will only persist if social services support them (ie child care options must be provided for families to have more children comfortably) she spends a great deal of time defending their value while she gets there. At times, it reads like many of the conservative deliberate misunderstandings of feminism are at play.

Ironically, her ‘getting there’ includes undermining her own insistence that the genders have distinctive roles and values, which is part of what makes her opinions less frustrating to read. If you take the book as one half of a conversation, it reads very well as food for the thought and provides a great deal of information one might not otherwise have without the same kind of “Yeshiva girl” education she grew up with.

(For those who need to avoid certain triggers in books, her stance on abortion includes both a discussion of genetic disorders and her belief that the Jewish community “must” reproduce to replace population loss to the shoah. While most of this occurs in that particular chapter, it also comes up in the introduction and the conclusion in brief.)
naomiandruth: Antique calligraphy pen resting on boxed inks (Default)
On my Tumblr, I'd posted that I was starting to read this book and would share my thoughts on it so here goes.

The Introduction:

I can’t say I’m super thrilled,even if it’s actually exactly what I hoped it would be.

I think I just have something against people who are super excited by Buddhist philosophies after my New Age/Pagan years. (I have nothing against Buddhism in general, but it’s in the same category as Christianity for me in terms of just how useful the ideas are for my personal spirituality - which is to say, ranging from useless to potentially harmful, and mostly just impossible for me to follow.)

I was less than thrilled by his account of having been inspired by a Buddhist-themed Rabbi retreat where they didn’t speak for three days and cycled walking and sitting meditation for the entirety of it. I’m glad he found something that worked for him, but it didn’t fill me with joy at the prospect of the rest of the book. However, I got the book for ideas, not in the hopes of agreeing with it completely, so that’s not enough for me to write it off.

The rest of the ideas in the introduction were pretty nice. I really enjoy the story of what is enough for a miracle in which the story is that there is a place in the forest, a fire to light, the words to say and over the years the specifics are lost but the place and the words remain, or the words remain, or the memory that there was a place and the words and the fire – any of that is enough. It’s helpful for me especially when while I may know what should be done I’m not always able to do it. That knowing and respecting that is enough to be heard.

I can appreciate also the idea that people often begin to see the practice of religion as an act of theatre with nothing ever new to see. To be fair, I believe for many people this is often true. If you’re not actually engaged with the religion, the movements of it can become utterly meaningless. It’s why I left my first religion, and why I often struggled as a pagan. I knew theoretically what was supposed to be done, but I couldn’t access the reasons why and it often gave me nothing new. After the intellectual exercise ended, I didn’t see the point in staying.

(I’m still slightly afraid that this might happen with Judaism, but logically I know there’s several reasons why it won’t go the same way – both for the greater volume of accessible materials, and for the increased access to social spaces and real-world engagements that don’t make me gag like generic pagan ones do.)

Also helpful is the discussion he goes into about the difference between how spirituality is commonly understood versus how he’s working with it in his book. Rather than dividing religion from spirituality in the sense of impersonal vs personal beliefs and actions, he handles it in the sense that spirituality is one’s connection to God within your religion and, also, while he doesn’t state it explicitly, he does implicitly state that it includes your connection to God within the material world in the sense that marching for Civil Rights protests can be “praying with your feet.” That, to me, is a connection to God in material world concerns and very relevant right now isn’t it?

He also discusses Halakah as a word that puts “tradition” in the context of “the way” or “to go” as the root of the word, and Kavanah as “intention.” Obviously his interpretation of kavanah comes from his Buddhist tendencies but I’m interested to see where he takes it.

Some of might be helpful, some not but if nothing else learning what ideas I disagree with and why will be helpful in the end.

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