Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Let's not ignore the social aspects

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For your entertainment today, I've combined two classic posts from 2007 in which I attempted to popularize a new and improved way of describing Orthoprax Jews. It failed to catch on, but I think the idea is sound. With all the focus on ritual law, and serving God, we often forget that the social aspects of Orthodox Judaism are among its top draws.

In previous generations, non-Jews went out of there way to create fraternal clubs and orders like the Freemasons, or the Moose Lodge, or the Elks, or any WASP country club,  that replicated some of the wonderful features that are built right in to Orthodox Jewish culture. Some of those features include:
  • A safe zone, where you can more or less be as racist or misogynistic as you wish 
  • A privileged zone where you can imagine your devotion to secret rituals and rules affords you various benefits 
  • A party zone, where you can eat and drink and hang out
  • A business zone, where you can network with likeminded people from similar backgrounds
See more of what I mean after the jump

A raccoon club for Jews

Originally posted January 30, 2007
Ralph and Ed had the International Order of Friendly Sons of the Raccoons. Barney and Fred had the Royal Order of the Water Buffaloes, and even Howard Cunnigham had the Leopard Lodge. The Talmud promises that Jew lacks nothing if he follows the commandments, and I see from Saturday's New York Times, that this is true: We may not be able to fritter time away and hang out with each other at animal lodges, but we do haveCongregation Shomrei Shabbos
Congregation Shomrei Shabbos, a 24-hour synagogue where a service begins every 15 minutes. What started more than three-quarters of a century ago as a tiny congregation has grown into a mainstay of this community: transit hub, soup kitchen, community center, bookstore and prayer hall all in one.
And of course cholent and other Jewish delicacies are easily found in close proximity:
Thanks to all this activity, the once-inconspicuous synagogue is now a trigger for local nightlife....Sub Express, a kosher fast-food restaurant whose menu includes what is described as a unique “brisket egg roll,” keeps its doors open until 1 a.m. Another popular outpost is Deli 52, which on Thursday nights serves two [!!] variations of cholent, a traditional Sabbath stew of beans, meat and barley, until 4 a.m.[!!!] The late-night cholent attracts crowds of men, who often stay and schmooze until the morning hours, a somewhat controversial activity among the ultra-Orthodox, who pride themselves on not wasting time with idle chat.

Raccoon Club Judaism

Originally posted August 16, 2007
Ralph Kramden belonged to the International Order of Friendly Sons of the Raccoons , a fraternal organization that required funny hats, silly songs and was governed by rules that were both arcane and often-argued about. Why did Ralph go? For the camaraderie, I presume, and also because its fun to be a part of something big, and old, and, well, special. The sticky rules are also part of the fun, I think. Frasier and Niles, for example, belong to a Wine Club, and at least half of their enjoyment is derived from citing the bizarre bylaws that govern their club and dinging each other for violating them.

There are many Jews who keep halacha and go to shul for the same reasons. Thus, I propose a new word:

Raccoon Club Judaism

The branch of Judaism that strictly adheres to Jewish ritual, but only for the social benefits

Raccoon Club Jews

Jews who treat their religion like a fraternal club

Raccoon Club Judaism is a registered trademark of DovBear Incorp. All rights reserved.

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