Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Best Bagel Ever

The other night after breaking practice, I went with my fellow b-people to eat some dinner. We ended up at Nussbaum & Wu, a bakery that serves basic, American cuisine, or as a Korean-American bgirl called it as she headed to an Asian store- "white people food." Perhaps the bakery also serves non-white people food, but I didn't make it over to the Wu side of the business. On the Nussbaum end, I ordered a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese. (Chosen not because it was the Jewiest thing in the store but for reasons of thrift- I had already spent four dollars on my lunch and this meal pushed me just slightly over my five dollar food per diem. Actually, now that I think about it, cheapness is just as culturally Semitic as a bagel.)

Are you at the edge of your seat yet? I know that a carb loaded dinner after an exhausting workout is hardly noteworthy, blogworthy or even Twitter worthy. But it was actually very thrilling, at least for me. I don't get out much.

As I ate my bagel
, alternating between listening and jumping into the conversational fray and in general , I kept flashing back to similar scenes from Dvora: the College Years.

Back then, I had been a member of the club gymnastics team and after practice we often went for food. While my teamm
ates proceeded to order and eat 1/10 of their body weight, I enjoyed a Diet Coke, the gymnast meal of champions. If it was especially late, I'd choose caffeine free DC, or as my cousin likes to call it, brown water.

The reason for my anorexic selection- kashrut. Aside from kosher dining, there was no place on campus to buy rabbinically supervised food. Though I tried to insert myself into the conversation in between sips of my liquid dinner, I always felt a little left out. At the time, I had no idea why.

It sure looks kosher...

Many of my friends (and certainly most of my family) believe that I've "rebelled" in the ways I have because I enjoy being controversial and heretical, and they're right to a point. I do get a giggle out of pointing out the absurdity and hypocrisy of Orthodox Judaism. I enjoy using my extensive Jewish legal, biblical and Talmudic knowledge for laughs.

But I'm not like the Seinfeld dentist who converted to Judaism just for the jokes. I
did not become less observant just to be snarkier and more outrageous. I did it for the bagel. I started down this road, one that has led me from eating in only kosher restaurants to only vegan restaurants, then only vegetarian restaurants, to mostly vegetarian establishments to vegetarian food in any spot, so that I could become part of different communities. I want to be able to break bread or even a bagel with anyone, anywhere and anytime.

(Of course, I could always suggest a kosher spot to eat. But sometimes you don't want to go to 72nd Street or Midtown or Brooklyn to be served by rude Israelis in a restaurant whose decor, attitude and atmosphere all seem to be saying (in an exasperated tone)- "We're kosher. Isn't that enough for you?")

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mormons to the Rescue!

This post is by guest blogger (and fellow Orthodox expat) Molly Grue.

I have a red halter dress hanging in my closet with a low-cut, lacy affair next to it. They were perfect for my friends' summer weddings the last few years, but a far cry from anything I grew up wearing. I remember twirling in the shop when I bought that first dress, while my brain struggled to rewire deeply rooted associations in order to connect pretty, sexy dress with wedding.

I've got a family affair coming up soon and I'm going to need a dress. In my previous life, I would have made the trek to Boro Park to scour the gamachs (free loan societies). I spent hours browsing through rack upon rack of high-necked, long-sleeved dresses, mostly in sizes that don't take into account more... womanly proportions. And above a size 6, the dresses tended to be heavy and black.

In my dance with religion, my family and I have been approaching tentative compromises. I won't go back to those Brooklyn basements, but I know that a red halter dress won't work either. I've been looking for a middle ground, but most of the bridesmaid dresses out there are strapless, low-cut, and too racy for my family.

My search for moderately modest dresses took me to and the Mormons. LDS standards are looser than the yeshivish ones I grew up with. Sleeves can be short or even capped and necklines are high enough to hide cleavage, but the collarbone can see the light of day. I'm considering ordering a dress all the way from Utah. Now I just need to reassure my parents that I'm not joining the Church of Latter Day Saints. :)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mickey Mouse's Latest Role

Since his creation inf 1928, Mickey Mouse has been a lover, a soldier, and a...b-boy?

This video, which I saw yesterday on the b-boy blog, More Than A Stance, captures a battle between a kid and a breaking Mickey Mouse at Euro Disney.

Props to the b-boy Mickey Mouse for pressing up to a handstand while wearing that enormous head with ears.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My high school and the Israeli army find common ground

An article in the International Herald Tribune reports that the Israeli army has contracted 7 private investigative firms to spy on women who claim to be religious in order to avoid army service. In Israel, the draft is mandatory for both men and women though females who claim to be very religiously observant are given a pass since Jewish law does not permit them to serve.

Well, army officials, noticing an uptick in such claims of piety and modesty, have used these PIs to search for breach of religious law- such as kissing men, wearing skimpy clothing and riding in an elevator on the Sabbath.

The army's campaign became public this month when grainy footage was leaked to the Israeli media showing a young woman in a tight shirt appearing to kiss a young man — something no religious, unmarried female would do in public.

Now I don't know how much the army is paying these firms but I bet you they could save a whole lot of money if they hired some of my former Brooklyn neighbors, who performed the same service for free. Back in elementary and high school, we all knew that if we wore pants around our neighborhood or talked to boys, we did so at our own risk. You never knew when you'd bump into a "concerned citizen" who'd report your sluttiness back to your principal.

This never happened to me since I was nauseatingly obedient, but friends of mine were reported to the Committee of Actions Not Befitting a Bas Yisroel. (Sort of like the House Un-American Activities Committee, except instead of concerning themselves with the color of your shirt- Commie Red or Liberal Pink- they agonized over its tightness and the depth of its neckline.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"... Loves You More Than You Will Know..."

The other night I began singing Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" to a group of friends. As for the reason for this serenade, I know not. I was quite high. Anyway, as I approached the line in the chorus, "Jesus loves you more than you will know," I hesitated slightly before I said the name of the son of God. This pause is hardly intentional. It is a habit born years ago back when I was in middle school.

My mother used to play the Forrest Gump soundtrack in our car's cassette deck, which at the time seemed to be the height of technology since it had auto reverse. (What do you mean that I don't have to take the tape out and flip it over?) We would sing along as we did our errands around Canarsie.

When Mrs. Robinson came on, my mother became wistful for the days of Simon and Garfunkel, but I was disturbed. True, the harmonies were beautiful and the melody was catchy. But why all this talk about Jesus? To further confuse me, my mother told me that the two singer/songwriters were Jewish boys themselves. I could not understand why they were singing about their not savior.

Well, we were not that kind of Jew, the one that sings about Christ or Christmas (I'm talking to you, Bing Crosby). Instead of saying Jesus, we'd insert "God" or "Hashem" (which is Hebrew speak for the name, a common term used by Orthos who do not want to take the Lord's name in vain). And sometimes, we'd say nothing. We'd pause for a second until "Jesus" had rolled off of Paul and Simon's tongues and out of our car's speakers, before jumping back into the lyrics. And years later, the habit persists in part. Though I now utter Christ's name while singing along, I pause, as if to wonder if he really loves me.

Jesus loves Jew?

(On a semi-related note: Some Jewish bands have had a tendency to "borrow" tunes from the mainstream culture, something I did not learn until later. There was one song, frequently played at weddings and bar mitzvahs called "Gila v'Rina," which was done to the tune of "The Land Down Under," by Men at Work. The first time I heard the original on the radio, I became convinced that the Jews had, once again, been taken advantage of by the Gentile world. I'm not sure when I learned it was actually the other way around.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hole in One?

Since I've left the cloister (aka, all-girls yeshiva) and entered the "secular" world, I've occasionally found myself as an ambassador for the Orthodox to the rest of society. Over the years, I've fielded many different questions, such as:

Has kosher food been blessed by a rabbi? (Answer: No)

How is flicking on a light switch considered working on the Sabbath?

And my last, and favorite one:

Do Orthodox Jews really have sex through a hole in a sheet?

Sarah Silverman's invitation to Orthodox penises.

Most recently I was asked about the mating habits of Orthodox Jews by a fellow Heeb and b-person. When he asked if it was indeed true, I was tempted to smirk and say, "Well you gotta try everything at least once." But instead I told him the boring truth- no, my former coreligionists do not have sex through the bedding. That there's nothing between genitalia with the exception of a condom (but only if there's rabbinic dispensation).

This most recent inquiry got me thinking. Where did this myth, that Orthodox Jews fornicate through their bed linens (of course not linen mixed with wool)- come from?

I went in search of answers. I looked online. One site posited that it was a joking reference to ultra-Orthodox weddings, where the dance floors are gender segregated and separated by a partition that is sometimes breached by a child passing from one section to the other. (I don't totally get how going through the mechitza morphs into putting a penis through a bed cloth, but anyway).

A friend I asked said it had to do with the tzitzit, a ritual four cornered garment with strings that men wear under their shirts (I promise you it's less weird than the special Mormon underwear).

They look like this:

"What must've happened," she said, "is that some people saw these things that kind of look like sheets with holes drying on a line and thought that Orthodox people have sex through them."

While that is much more plausible than the mechitza response I found on one site, and is probably at least part of the origin of this shtetl legend, it still leaves me with at least one question. The hole in the tzitzit tends to be pretty big. After all, they have to fit over a Jewish man's head, which tends to be inflated and disproportionate to his often scrawny body. What must have these Gentiles wondered about Jewish male member size when they gazed on the dangling tzitzit and believed them to be a sex? Did they think that the wives were merely stroking the ego of their men folk by cutting an extra large sex portal?


But as hilarious as this "the sex through a hole in the sheet" question is, it still does not beat the inquiry made by one of my fellow grad school students a couple of years back. After class and a few drinks, she asked me, "Do Orthodox Jewish women wear a merkin?"

"What's a merkin?" I asked. I was still pretty innocent having just begun a grad program in Creative Writing. After two years of reading about gay and tantric sex, and on occassion, crabs and other STDs, I would lose most of my wide eyed innocence.

"A pubic wig," she responded. I spritzed my white wine in surprise. This writer, having heard about the tradition among Orthodox women to cover their hair with a wig, thought they covered all of their hair. No, I told her, they do not.

But if they did, I'm sure some rabbi would complain that the merkins look better than the woman's real pubic hair and is therefore not an acceptable covering according to Jewish law.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Flares can be lethal

Gymkata, a 1985 film starring 1979 world champion gymnast, Kurt Thomas plays Jonathan Cabot, also (and quite shockingly) a champion gymnast and U.S. operative sent to the fictional Parmistan to secure a missile launch site. No, I haven't seen this film, which undoubtedly received two thumbs up- I paraphrased IMDB's synopsis.

In the clip embedded below, the lethality of flares is demonstrated by the gymnast who invented and introduced them to the gymnastics and b-boy universes. His opponents are defeated by his lovely form and pointed toes. Also note his use of the pommel horse, which helps Mr. Thomas overcome the height deficit he faces as a gymnast when encountering the folks of Parmistan, who look like medieval villagers.

Friday, March 6, 2009


When commenting on a slutty shirt she had lent a friend, the fabulous Shay R. told me, "Oh yeah, I've got the complete hodrobe!"

I quickly fell in love with the word- two syllables that describe everything in Britney Spears' closet. I was shocked to discover that it was not already a word in the Urban Dictionary. So late last night I submitted an entry for this term, which was very quickly accepted thereby demonstrating a need for such a word in the English language.

So here's to Shay, who invented a word, that will surely be used regularly the world over.

a collection of clothing hanging in the closet of a a street walker or stripper, comprised of items short on length, deep in neckline and made from flimsy (i.e. sheer) material; clothing not to be worn to church/synagogue, or to visit grandma's.
Did you amass that hodrobe by raiding Paris Hilton's closet?;

Feel free to create a sentence using "hodrobe" and leave it in the comments.