Thursday, August 24, 2006

From the mail bag

Dear Mr. Bear:

I am a lurker on your informative blog, and I thought you might just be the person to answer my question.

Yesterday, I was driving through Englewood, New Jersey. Yes, I know it was Shabbos, but becuase I am an official Secular Jew (tm), I have special permission to do so from the God in whom I don't believe.

I am led to understand that Englewood has a large population of Orthodox Jews. I was interested in obersving them in their natural habitat, becuase I live in Baltimore, Maryland, a location that also contains large numbers of Orthodox Jews. However, what surprised me was that I observed a young man (of apparently high school age) who was walking down the street wearing a srugi kippa (not too unusual), but also wearing shorts and a polo shirt like some secular yuppie! In addition, he was carrying a backpack!

The backpack was less problemmatic to me, because I suspect that Englewood might have an eruv, but the mode of dress seemed to be entirely out of place. Yes, we have Orthodox boys in Baltimore who might wear a polo shirt and jeans during the week, but never shorts. And this was Shabbos! Even if a Baltimore boy wears a srugi instead of a black hat, he's never dress so casually on Shabbos.

So this correspondent from the provinces wants to know what's going on? Is this an example of the "modern orthodoxy? that I've heard about? (We have shuls in B-more that are suppposedly "modern Orthodox," but that just means that they are Conservatives that don't like egalitarianism. The real Orthodox shuls are all black-hat. They also tried starting a "modern Orthodox" day school, but it has since reverted to a leftwing UO school where they teach "Ivrit.") Is it really possible for someone to observe the laws of Torah, yet also be allowed to dress comfortably on a hot Shabbos afternoon?

Or is this simply an example of how populations change morphology in different habitats, the same way that the trees look different in northern New England than they do down here in Dixie?

Anyway, I'd appreciate it if you or your regular commentators would have any answers to my question or coments about the phenomenon.

Thank you in advance,


I replied: The answer is that yes, you can be orthodox and dress comfortably in places like Englewood. You couldn't get away with it in Flatbush or Baltimore, but the further into the sticks you go, the more likley it is that you will see it, but let's see what the readership says. Readers?

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