Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Kippa Conundrums

Update:
Since a lot of nuance can be lost in the blogesphere it seems I've misinterpreted respondingtojblogs indentity crisis by being overly defensive on the MO side of things (see what a righteous convert I've become!) Please read his comments to better understand where he is coming from before responding to my post. I still feel that my post has merit on it's own (although not as a direct response to "responding") so I will leave it up in tact.
-Shifra

There has been a bit of discussion going on my blog shameless plug regarding this comment from “respondingtojblogs.”

I first confronted my MO identity crisis when I posted a profile on Frumster. I put myself down as MO, but I am from a very Yeshivish background (through high school). I felt that there is no way I can justify calling myself Yeshivish. While the Frumster profile has gone away, my crisis as it is has not. I think I am MO by default although I don't subscribe to its dogma.
My question is- am I full of crap if I wonder if I should change my kippa type from Yeshivish velvet to the supercool MO crochet? Does that show that my transformation was for cosmetic purposes only?


Before we get to the externals ie your choice of headwear, it is interesting to me that you consider yourself MO by default. Since you claim not to subscribe to the MO dogma by which I assume you mean valuing secular knowledge, Zionism, torah u’maddah, etc… I can only assume you mean that you are not as observant of mitzvos (or perhaps chumros) as you used to be. This to me is not a sign that you have become MO at all, only that you feel you have become less observant and now feel that you identify more with the less observant MO crowd (who seem more at ease with their laxity) than the less observant UO crowd who hide their lack of observance (Fakers) or flaunt it in an odd way (Yeshiva Bums, see also Hockers.)
Ok with that out of the way the next order of business is to choose how you want other people to see you. While I FIRMLY believe that kippot, hats, etc… are purely external matters of fashion with no intrinsic value (unless they affect the way you behave while wearing them) they do affect people’s perception of you. My husband, a lifelong srugah wearer discovered a few years ago that black velvet yarmulkes cost about $6 whereas srugot cost about $25. Because he is um… frugal… he bought a few to see if he could make the switch. It did get a big reaction around town and in the end he decided he was more comfortable with his old look. If you feel that you now are more aligned with the MO crowd these days and want to identify yourself that way, go ahead, but in the end it’s more important to be true to yourself than to try to force yourself into an image that doesn’t really fit.

22 comments:

respondingtojblogs said...

Oy. Now I know how those guests on daytime TV feel like when they are ambushed.

I consider myself MO by default, because I cannot find intellectual accomodation in Yeshivas. In other words, since I could not be comfortable in a Yeshiva community, I find myself living in an MO community by default. Since leaving Yeshiva I have increased my adherence to some halakha- I now keep Cholov Yisroel. Of course the Yeshiva world would say that I am less observant, since I read books.

respondingtojblogs said...

And to further elaborate on my reasons of considering a kippa switch- I find people coming over to me in my wonderful MO shul and speaking to me in pidgin Yiddish as a joke. Instead of breaking their face, I nod politely and consider switching kippot.

Shifra said...

Oh it was not my intention at all to ambush you! I'm sorry.
Your wording left a lot up to the imagination. If you feel you are still quite frum and yet like to read why do you not feel at ease with the MO world?

respondingtojblogs said...

I think it is mostly my reluctance to accept any label, since any label has dogma that must be followed. It seems to be pretty standard MO practice to mock the chareidi world, just as it is standard practice in the chareidi world to bash MO. And in my specific MO community I witnessed abborgation of halakha that just can't be justified (taharot hamishpacha).

My knee jerk response is a pox on both your houses. Of course that doesn't work because eventually my yet unborn kids will have to go to school somewhere. The question I wanted you to address was: does my concern about my kippa and my MO commmunity's response to it negate all my wonderfully elaborate reasons for splitting with Yeshiva?

Akiva said...

I wish this wasn't so sad. When I first moved to Israel and walked into the butcher shop, they said to me and my wife, "oh, you eat this meat and this one but not that one and that one". I said, "how do you know what I eat". "Well, your xxxx, aren't you?"

Who says you can't be MO and wear a black velvet kippah, or yeshivish and wear a leather one?

In Israel, I can ride a bike or drive a scooter, but I can't skate (did it once, it actually stopped traffic with people lookin).

It's one thing to be yourself in the context of your group, it's another to be your group in the context of (not) being yourself. The latter is a sad situation.

Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

Jewish headgear is such a code. I attend a Conservative shul where almost none of the women cover their hair, but many wear kippot or scarves to daven. I always wear a hat, since I think I look like an idiot in a yarmulke, and they fall off my hair. People are used to it.

So, Simchat Torah I meet my folks for the great evening of Yekkies giving children mass amounts of sugar. I don't have my tallis, since it is night. I therefore don't have my hat, which in my mind, and also my closet partitions, is connected to the tallis. I'm sitting surrounded by six or seven other bare-headed women when the Rabbi walks up and says to me "All of a sudden you're Reform?"

I went and got a yarmulke from the box. I looked like an idiot in it.

respondingtojblogs said...

Akiva- Are you asking in the sense that it is impossible or are you saying ther eis no problem wearing a velvet kippa in an MO shul (my experiences to the contrary).

Balabusta- Great comment, thanks for showing that gear is not just a crips/bloods thang.

Akiva said...

I recognize the problem, and note from Balibusta's comment that it's even in Cons. / Reform as well, I just think it's mighty sad.

From the hassidic side, I'll tell you I once got a comment from the Rav while going to the mikvah for having the wrong kind of undergarment.

I still think it's sad and don't think there's any problem with crossing those 'style' and 'fad' lines.

I've got a hassidic buddy who wears the wrong kind of shtreimel with the wrong kind of black coat and the wrong kind of socks. During the week, he wears a crocheted kippah (a really big plain one) with his big peyot, white shirt and cargo pants. Confused people keep coming over to him and asking him what he is.

His answer, "I'm a Jew."

ClooJew said...

You are forgetting, lulei demistafina, that many of the MO youth today where the black velvet themselves. It's how you wear it that shows where you are on the orth-o-meter.

Further, the trend of Yeshivish people who are turning modern (e.g., going to movies, not shomer negia) does not make them MO. They still didn't go to MO schools and they aren't of that weltenshaung. It's a different breed and we will need another term for it. Off-Right Wing, perhaps, or Post-yeshivish.

respondingtojblogs said...

That is percisely what I meant when I said I am MO by default. Until there are post-Yeshivish school, however, I do have to pick a community. And I find that on the whole, MO is more tolerant of other people, hence my selection.

Halfnutcase said...

not just the yalmukas really. it's the whole thing.

Still Wonderin' said...

Responding to blogs: I have great news for you.

(no you didn't save a bunch of money on your car insurance by switching to geico, but thanks for paying attention, amshi)

Actually, you're not MO and you're not alone. You're part of the silent majority of MOTRO (middle-of-the-road-orthodox, for those who haven't been playing along at home).

Your inability to feel entirely at ease in MO or UO circles makes you MOTRO.

Welcome to club. Where should I send your application? 'eh Airtime?

Zoe Strickman said...

I'm trying to figure out exactly what Modern Orthodox (MO) means, because as far as I knew (forgive me for my ignorance), I thought MO meant that each individual chooses which halachas they want to follow, they find as many leniencies as possible (real or imagined) so that they can live a convenient life as a Jew while still looking relatively frum. I guess I'm a bit biased, because when I started becoming frum I rebelled against the kind of MO yiddishkeit my gf at the time practiced and after she dumped me because I was "too religious", I continued learning in Yeshiva until law school started. However, even though I don't see myself as so frum, my frum friends refer to me as being chassidic. Of course, I'm nobody to preach, because I've had issues with keeping certain things (including movies, kol isha, etc) myself. But I thought MO was a cop-out. How are MO people actually frum? [I apologize in advance for the question.]

respondingtojblogs said...

Still Wonderin'-

So long as there are no dues, I'm in. However, since there are no MOTRO schools, I will still have to make a binary yeshiva/MO choice when I have to raise my kids. Until then I suppose I could keep the velvet and tell those with a problem with it where to stick their srugy.

Zoe-
I hope you got an asbestos suit.

Halfnutcase said...

my perents called them traditional orthodox. it's what i was raised to be. then when i wasn't happy with the MO types and the like i went to a UO school and was appauled at the number of made up chumros they had, while the number of halchos they either ignored or simply accused those speaking about them as appikorsim where just as large. there really isnt a diffrence in actual observance. the UO crowd, to a lerge degree simply ignores those halachos or chumros they dont like. (not the rebbeim. they ignore the rebbeim when it's covenient too. case in point is lubavitch these days.

daat y said...

Joe'
MO has hashkafic differences with UO.The actual level of observance is an individual matter in both groups.

daat y said...

Joe'
MO has hashkafic differences with UO.The actual level of observance is an individual matter in both groups.

daat y said...

sorry I meant Zoe.

Still Wonderin' said...

"However, since there are no MOTRO schools,"

you bet therre are...but they're usually in disguise (i.e. they aren't called motro). If you kow what you're looking for, you can always spot them from a mile away. They usually stress middos and individual excellence as opposed to this demonic fixation on learning at all costs. The girls motro schools are obsessed with providing a balanced education and individual opportunity rather than simply indoctrinate the girls to marry a learner and dress tzniusdike.

Also, no matter what, the kids in motro schools are better behaved and less chutzpahdik. You can discover this by attending a bar mitzvah or spending about 11 minutes in a typical summer camp. the motros stick out.

respondingtojblogs said...

I hope I can find them when the time comes.

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