Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Girl Walks Into a Bar...

Yes, I know that just yesterday I promised a blogging hiatus. But I had an experience tonight that was both out of the ordinary and frustrating—an irresistible combination for a blogger. So, since I felt like writing about it anyway, I figured I might as well post it here. I hope you forgive me for yesterday’s misleading post. I guess I will now add a disclaimer to the disclaimer: I am on a break from blogging—unless something so blogworthy happens that I am necessarily compelled to violate my self-imposed exile.

Ok, so now on to the story…

Tonight I went to a bar for the first time in my life. Before you start ranting about the moral deterioration of today’s youth, I’ll relieve your concern by telling you that, no, I was not there to drink myself silly or to meet guys. In fact, I was quite resistant to the idea of going, as I had never planned to enter a bar, at all, ever. The reason I was there was because my creative writing teacher told us at the beginning of the semester that we had to attend a reading of fiction and write an essay on it at some point over the course of the semester. Of course, being good college students, my entire class left it till the very last second, and now the essay is due on Monday. So we all scrambled to find a fiction reading that was free and not too far away. And we did. There was to be a reading at an Irish pub right near my school tonight at eight. So a few friends from class and I decided to go. Beforehand, we did some research about the bar where it was to take place, since none of us are 21 yet and we wondered whether we would have trouble getting in. After looking it up, we hopefully determined that because it holds weekly fiction readings (as well as Irish language lessons), it was really not a bar, but rather a dimly lit cultural center that also happens to serve alcohol.

We got there tonight just on time, at 2 minutes to 8. The pub was small and narrow with a low ceiling—and the only part of my assumption that turned out to be correct was that it was indeed dimly lit. The only other people there were two college girls from another school who also needed to hear a reading for a class. My friends and I situated ourselves on a leather couchish thing against the wall near the small platform where a shtender with a microphone waited expectantly for the absent author to appear. We had ample time to observe our surroundings and comment on the novelty of actually being in a real live bar, because the author was late. It was fun for a few minutes, but then it got later--and the author still didn’t come. We started getting worried, and we asked the bartender (a normal-looking 30ish lady with a thick Irish brogue) whether the author was coming. She said that she didn’t know, because she “just provides the rrumm” (room or rum?) so we sat back down and chatted amongst ourselves. After we had waited about 40 minutes a few girls left, but two of my friends and I still waited hopefully—because we really needed to hear the reading tonight in order to write the essay in a timely fashion. At 9:01, over an hour after the reading was scheduled to begin, we finally gave up hope and left. The End. Great story, no?

Overall, it was an extremely frustrating experience, because not only did I go to a bar for nothing, and not only did I waste over an hour of my incredibly busy life, but I still have to take even more time to find another reading to go at some other point! Now it looks like I have to go to yet another bar tomorrow night to try again (two bars in two nights—I don’t know what has become of me!). To try to look on the bright side, I guess it can count as an interesting experience. Maybe I’ll even get a short story out of it someday. My creative writing teacher would be pleased.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Disclaimer in Advance

I would like to apologize in advance for the blogging hiatus which I am obliged to take. Basically, my life right now is full to the brim with schoolwork and extracurriculars. Since I have barely a second to spare for breathing, eating, and sleeping, the blog is going to have to take a backseat until I have made it past this next two weeks or so.

In other news, I just got back to NY on Monday morning after a brief trip home for Thanksgiving, which was awesome. My family had a huge Thanksgiving dinner with 20 people and a TON of food. My family is quite patriotic, and very into Thanksgiving--as well as willfully ignorant of the potential halachic issues of taking it too far (and when I say too far, I mean too far...just trust me on this). Despite that minor issue, it was fun, and really really nice to be home again.

Anyway, I have now spent more time than I can currently afford on blogging, so I must get back to the pressing obligations of my ever-hectic life (which, btw, I love, no matter how much I complain or how stressed it may sometimes make me...and I am incredibly thankful for everything in it...shoutout to G-d!). I will rejoin the world of active bloggers in due time, iy"H. Till then, hope you all have a lovely couple of weeks!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

NCSY: Why it's Awesome

This weekend I attended a Regional NCSY Convention. It was the third shabbaton I’ve attended with this region, and like the two shabbatonim before it, it was an amazing experience.

As an advisor, I was there to hang out with the kids, and that’s what I did. I reconnected with kids I had met on the previous shabbatonim, and met new kids as well. I find NCSY incredibly inspiring because it brings together Jewish teens from all different backgrounds with advisors who are excited and committed to Yahadus (not to mention a little nuts, for the most part) as well as staff and administration who are so dedicated that it’s almost hard to fathom.

I personally believe that being involved in organizations like NCSY is one of the most important things that a young Jewish adult can do. Reaching out to high-schoolers to show them that being Jewish can be fun, cool, and inspirational is absolutely crucial to the survival of the Jewish people. The intermarriage rate today is devastating, and far too many kids have no idea what Judaism means.

Over the weekend, I became close with two girls from a public school located in a community with no religious Jewish life at all. These girls had attended the “Hebrew Culture Club” run by NCSY in their school, and had been persuaded by the head (the Director of Outreach for the region) to come to regional. They knew absolutely nothing about Judaism, and definitely didn’t know what they were getting into when they signed up to come for the weekend. (The head of outreach later told me that during a discussion of intermarriage in the club one week, both of the girls had said that they’d marry non-Jews without hesitation.) I hung out with these girls practically the entire time, and it was really fun. They were supernice girls, and unlike many of the day school kids, actually listened when I asked them to do something or go somewhere. Yet, these really sweet girls didn’t know what shabbos was, couldn’t figure out why we were constantly praying out of backward books, and were fazed by the idea of wearing a skirt for all of Saturday. I didn’t push any information on them, but instead tried to make sure that they had a good time. I really think that the most important part of being an advisor is just making a connection with the kids, really being a friend and showing them that you care—and the rest will follow naturally.

On the shabbaton I also had the opportunity to meet/re-meet many many kids whose lives have been changed by NCSY—kids who have started keeping kosher, who are dying to keep shabbos in a non-shomer-shabbos home, who want nothing more than for their parents to allow them to go to day school, or to Israel after high school. Seeing people (high school kids, no less!) who sacrifice and struggle so much to be better Jews never fails to inspire me. Too often I take my life for granted—the fact that it is so easy for me to keep shabbos and kosher, the fact that I have opportunities to learn Torah everywhere I turn, the fact that I am surrounded by so many wonderful examples of Torah Judaism. Seeing kids who have to fight for every inch, for every mitzvah, reminds me that I am incredibly lucky. As much as one may think that the advisors are on the shabbaton to give to the kids, I find that the kids are often the ones who end up giving to the advisors (as cliché as it may sound, it’s true!).

Overall, it was a wonderful (and completely exhausting) experience, and I can’t wait for Winter Regional!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Freedom of Choice?

I don’t know if everyone already saw this article, or if it’s already been thoroughly blogged about (I only read a select few blogs), so if this is repetitive, I apologize.

Yesterday, the NY Times reported that "New York Plans to Make Gender Personal Choice." I found this article so preposterous that it would almost be funny—if not for the fact that it is real. Instead, I would have to describe it as extremely scary.

Basically, the city’s Board of Health is considering implementing a rule that states that a person may change the gender documented on his/her/its birth certificate if he/she/it has statements from a doctor and a mental health professional supporting a gender switch. The person will have to have lived in the proposed gender for two years, but the rule gives no specific medical requirements. In other words, you would be able to change the sex on your birth certificate even if you still had all the biological traits of your birth gender!

According to the NY Times:
“The change would lead to many intriguing questions: For example, would a man who becomes a woman be able to marry another man? (Probably.) Would an adoption agency be able to uncover the original sex of a proposed parent? (Not without a court order.) Would a woman who becomes a man be able to fight in combat, or play in the National Football League? (These areas have yet to be explored.)”

Is anyone else baffled by the idea of a “freedom to choose” your gender??? This brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “pro-choice.” It just shows how the concept of individual rights, if given no boundaries, can be taken to frightening extremes. Since when is it a basic human right to select one’s gender?

I am appalled by the depths to which our culture has sunk even to be taking such a thing seriously. Not only are we prepared to allow people to live their lives as a member of a different gender than the one in which God created them, but we are actually prepared to totally eliminate all trace of the fact that God “chose” a different sex for them than they did. Frankly, the whole thing seems slightly delusional. Secular people will label religious believers as closed-minded and willfully self-deceptive for attempting to reconcile science with religious dogma, yet some of the same people are prepared to accept this total denial of biological reality. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

“Joann Prinzivalli, 52, a lawyer for the New York Transgender Rights Organization, a man who has lived as a woman since 2000, without surgery, said, ‘It’s based on an arbitrary distinction that says there are two and only two sexes. In reality the diversity of nature is such that there are more than just two, and people who seem to belong to one of the designated sexes may really belong to the other.”

Really? That's news to me!
I’m sorry, but this seems simply bizarre!