I’ve been in Los Angeles for almost a week now. I’m spending the month here figuring out if I want to move here (after one day, the answer was a resounding, “heck yes!”). I’ve even started to look into the Jewish community, which has been, to say the least, very interesting.
In New York, the ultra Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods are the most noticable. That’s mainly it when it comes to overall communities. The Modern Orthodox ones aren’t young, and Danny and I have never felt at home in the ones we’ve visited. We were hoping to have a little bit more luck in LA.
The second day here we visited Fairfax, or as everyone out here lovingly refers to it, “Jewland.” The local kosher butcher carries South African meat, which is a rare find in NYC. It was already looking good for Danny, who is addicted to the stuff. The supermarkets have a nice vibe, and unlike the ones in NY, aren’t dominated by the traditional Orthodox or Chasidic people. They are truly a mix.
Our first Shabbat here was spent at a Conservative shul since the place where we are staying isn’t near an Orthodox one. It was… weird. The people were warm, and the building itself was beautiful, but the experience felt a little off. The rabbi and cantor brought out guitars and played a piano during services, which felt like a Jewish open mic. It was very Hollywood. I felt uneasy considering that it’s forbidden to play instruments during Shabbat. The piano felt like I was in church. And on the Conservative side, it doesn’t feel right that Danny and I were allowed to sit together. I know I sound anti-feminist or sexist, but sitting next to him really was a distraction.
Other than that, the water for washing before the meal was warm. It’s forbidden to turn on hot water on Shabbat because it lights up the hot water heater. It was mandatory for me to wear a head covering at services, and all of the women were wearing kippahs. My belief is that if I want to wear a head covering, it’ll only be after I get married. It made me feel uneasy that I didn’t have a choice. They spoke about momzers, and said people don’t pay attention to that anymore. However, I learned at my shul that there are websites specifically for momzers to meet each other. I thought it was ignorant to say that the momzer ideas are outdated when there are tons of people who still care about it and have to live that way.
I liked that women participated in the services, which is something I wish that Orthodox Judaism promoted more. That was definitely the best part of the whole experience.
It’s funny- about six months ago, I wanted to convert to Conservative Judaism, but now I can’t even imagine it. If I’m going to convert, I have to go all in and do it halakhic style. To some, it may seem that I’ve become more close minded. I look at myself all the time with a critical eye and think, will I become pro life? Will I become anti-gay? Will I move out of mine and Danny’s apartment and live on my own until marriage? Will I go to the mikveh once a month and practice the strictest family purity laws? The answer to all those is no, but I know that Danny is often afraid that they’ll all turn into “yes” once I get more into it. But if that does happen, why would Danny want to be with someone who loses herself completely to her religion?
I have my core values, and I won’t let my liberal views be tainted by my religious ones. Heck, there are ways to be pro-gay and pro-choice in Orthodox Judaism, despite close minded opinions about us. There are even ways to not have to go to the Mikveh every month. Once you get inside the Orthodox community, you learn all these things. As for people who have these opinions, I advise them to spend some time within our community.