This post is dedicated to Carey, a woman I am humbled to call friend. She is brilliant, creative, passionate, empathic, and totally comfortable with both power and vulnerability. She’s the smartest (and therefore sexiest) person I know and she inspires me by example not to be complacent. I’m infinitely grateful to have her in my life.
The other night we were catching up after a long spell of not seeing each other and I was telling her (and the people to either side of us, I suspect) stories about the couple of years I worked for the Orthodox Jews. I mentioned that I’ve wanted to blog about it but that I hadn’t figured out how to balance telling my stories with being PC (because boy have I been nailed to the cross for not being PC!). She told me in her gentle manner to get over it…so I did. Thanks, Carey. You opened a massive can of worms.
Let us begin:
Yeshiva is a Hebrew word meaning generally “a Jewish school for religious instruction.” Also:
1) a school for talmudic study
2) an Orthodox Jewish rabbinical seminary
3) a Jewish day school providing secular and religious instruction
(Does anyone else’s brain read “seminary” as “cemetary?” Mine does…and then has a great laugh. Haha!!)
Anyway, the yeshiva I worked at is a boarding school for boys in grades 9 through 12. There’s also a Beis Medrash (college program).
Here’s what I mean when I say Orthodox Jew:
This is also an Orthodox Jew, of the Chasidic variety, and this is NOT who I’m talking about (notice the difference in hair and hat):
The men of my yeshiva keep a lock of hair long enough to tuck behind each ear but they don’t do the long side curls that the Chasids wear. Their black hats are a source of great pride, especially among the younger men (and yes, the kippah, which is synonymous with yarmulke, which is pronounced yamaka, is still worn under the hat).
This is a society in which hat boxes are a common thing—among the men! How cool is that? Some of the students even had these plastic hat-carrying devices that helped them transport their very expensive hats safely as they traveled.
Now hopefully we’re clear on exactly which Jews I’m talking about.
You Worked Where?!
My general modus operandi in life is to see every situation as an opportunity to observe myself and those around me. I’m the lab rat of my own reality and in this particularly long experiment the name of the game was
“Don’t pin the kippah on the DYKE because, Baruch Hashem,
she’s a woman and we’re Orthodox and that’s NOT okay.
Oh, and what do you mean by dyke?”
This, my friends, is the first of many posts I will share about my experiences working for the Orthodox Jews. I will endeavor to educate, draw lines, blur lines, offend (inadvertently but most inevitably), and entertain.
Walking into the yeshiva every day was stepping into a world that is not mine. It’s also a world that has very little room for someone like me. It was a fantastic and oftentimes beautiful adventure, though, and one I look forward to sharing.