Most Orthodox people that I know just love to talk about being Orthodox and are flattered by interest and curiosity in their lifestyle. [GENERALIZATION ALERT.] Here are some questions we’re happy to answer.
1. How did you and your spouse meet?
While we know that the way we meet and date is very different from that of most people, we’re proud of our style and, like most couples, enjoy recounting the process.
2. (For women) So is it hard to shop for clothes? Where do you find your skirts?
Again, like most women, we like to shop and the thrill of the chase is a good part of it. So the limitations of our wardrobe make it kind of like a treasure hunt. When we find a good skirt, we Facebook it so all our fellow skirt-wearers can enjoy. It’s fun to share how we make “regular” department store clothing or Target finds “kosher” for our use. Go ahead, ask!
3. How do you guys manage with so many kids?
While sometimes this question will be met with a groan and some eye-rolling, because ALL of us struggle with raising kids (whether it’s one or ten), overall we are proud of having large families and have developed tricks and tips along the way. So it’s a good feeling to be validated for this and respected for meeting the challenge.
4. Do you mind that you can’t eat all these foods and that you’re limited with what restaurants you can go to? What do you do when you travel?
Kosher is another area that is all-inclusive in our lives. Like most people, when something is a big part of our lives, it’s fun to talk about. As we do, we revisit these concepts from a fresh perspective (yours) and are reminded that our lives are pretty cool.
5. (For guys) Do you wear your kippah all the time? What about sports? Does it ever fall off? Do you wear it when you sleep?
It’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of habit with observance. Being reminded about something that is a constant is good for us.
If you are Orthodox, what are some other questions you’re happy to answer? What are some questions you don’t want to be asked?
If you are not, what are some questions you’ve wondered if you could ask?
We must know different people, or maybe it's more common "out of town". The right-wing Orthodox people I know try to avoid conversations with any people who are not familiar with their lifestyle; and the left-wing Orthodox people I know, who do socialize with non-Jews and nonreligious Jews, don't want to be defined as "the Orthodox friend" but would rather just be a friend.
And I feel any discussion of religion at work is a huge distraction from, you know, work. The question about kosher food comes up a lot, but that's about it. I wouldn't discuss skirts, holidays or beliefs at work at all, except in the most general terms.
I don't either like to be defined as the "Orthodox friend" but I am just am. I would hope as people get to know me they see past the externals and as a human being. Note that the questions are more cultural/lifestyle oriented than actual beliefs.
I really don't know any "right-wing" people who try to avoid conversations with any people who are not familiar with their lifestyle. And I know a lot of people.
I do know people who would prefer to only know other "frum" people and limit their interaction with non-Jews and even non-frum Jews to a minimum. They are nice people, they just prefer to live in a really insular way. Not everyone in my community is so insular, so I was generalizing a bit too much – guilty 🙂
Oh, and BTW I didn't say people want to avoid conversations with nonJews and non-frum – but they wanted to avoid conversations about their lifestyle with such people. I think there's a big difference.
Thanks for clarifying, I understood that's what you meant! And yeah, I admitted to generalizing too – but I do think it's true for most people I know.
I guess those Os who want to limit their interactions with non-Os wouldn't be much on this blog. I sometimes wonder about them. Would they be thinking what I imagine them to be thinking? What are the nuances I will never know?
Responding to Ruchi's initial reaction, I think when one lives in a large, homogeneous Orthodox community, it's less necessary to go outside the community to meet one's needs. (Although Target is a given…) Your kids' therapists are all frum. Frum doctors in all specialties. Sometimes, obviously, you need to talk to a non-Jew, but it can be avoided much of the time. You start to think that the frum world is self-sufficient (though it's not). You start to think there are no benefits to dealing with the non-frum world except for necessities; and that's not true.
Obviously, out of town, people realize it's not true. One's support network is strengthened by one's interaction with those who are different than us. But living in a large frum community, that's easy to forget.
I agree with tesyaa. I'm pretty uncomfortable with the questions. I'd rather blend in when I'm out and about, not be pegged as the Orthodox one. The most common question I get is "why do Orthodox women cover their hair?" and the most recent one was "Why do boys get a huge deal made out of their bar mitzvahs and the girls don't get celebrated as much?"
The right-wing Orthodox people I know try to avoid conversations with any people who are not familiar with their lifestyle; and the left-wing Orthodox people I know, who do socialize with non-Jews and nonreligious Jews, don't want to be defined as "the Orthodox friend" but would rather just be a friend.
I'm a little surprised to hear that; I have a few more left-wing Orthodox friends, and while we don't spend every second of our free time talking about their lifestyle, it comes up occasionally, and it's never seemed like a huge deal. Though I suppose, "Hey, I don't know if you hold by OU, but I picked up a hechshered bag of chips- it's on the counter, if you're hungry," is a little different than, "Oooh, yarmulkes are so exotic! How do you decide which one to wear every morning?" The difference between a friend for whom English isn't a first language casually asking what word or expression means and someone pumping you for full-blown English lessons, to use a more personal example. Or introducing you as, "my Foreign Friend™."
This is so true for me. I LOVE being asked questions about what I do, wear, where I go, eat etc etc. I am always so happy when someone asks instead of that feeling I get when I know someone wants to ask but is too afraid to do so!
Perfect timing for this post! Just as I pulled up your blog for a 5 minute distraction at work, a co-worker stopped by my desk to ask me a question about Judaism. Long story short, she wanted to know the Jewish perspective about sex outside of marriage, which was an easy one to answer — not allowed!
I also am happy to answer questions or talk about my lifestyle. I recognize it is unfamiliar to most people, and consider it an important task to give people a positive face to counter negative stereotypes, just as Ruchi attempts to do with this blog.
I saw a post called "10 Things Not to Say to a Working Mom." I was like, hey, I should do a post on 10 things not to say to an Orthodox person. Then I thought, well, that's like one long whine. Instead I'll write about the things you should feel free to and can ask.
Now I'm really curious about the 10 things I shouldn't say . . .
One tip — avoid words like old-fashioned, archaic, medieval – as in "why do you do all this archaic stuff?"
My least favorite question ever (during a discussion about not using electricity on Shabbat): "Are you allowed to flush the toilet on Shabbat?" [It probably isn't as awful as it felt, but I was 16 and the questioner was my grandfather, who never hid his disdain for my observance.]
Another word to avoid: fanatic.
Oops, I already blew that one about using the word "archaic" on the "Chosen People" thread. I referred to the idea of the chosen people as feeling to me archaic, like a dusty vase in a museum. Weeks later I saw someone online say almost the same thing in an insulting way about Judaism, and went back to the thread to clarify what I meant. I take this as another opportunity to correct any lingering offense that was taken.
The word "archaic" is to me not an insult, it just means "from a non-modern time". Like dictionary definitions that note archaic meanings of words. I have great respect for dusty museum items in their datedness. There is a lot to learn from ancient things even if I don't believe in them.
SBW, look at it this way — the opposite of archaic is contemporary. We believe that what we are doing is contemporary, relevant, still applicable, albeit with ancient roots. I remember my ex-h's offense when we went to a museum that showed a shtender, a wooden bookstand, with a label that said "used to be used by Jews when they studied" or some such. His response was that he still uses one. It may be traditional, but it is not relegated to the past.
Miram, frankly that says more about the museum staff than about Jews and/or their being archaic.
I remember visiting a museum in California, where there were a few Christian Orthodox icons on display. The label said "In medieval Europe simple folk worshipped Mary, the mother of Jesus". I found it hilarious, but also scary that a museum would be so clueless about their own artifacts.
Actually, I think Christian Orthodox icons are a good example of what SBW mentioned, speaking about archaic and non-contemporary. They are archaic in the sense that they are painted in a very codified style and technique, which is not in line with contemporary art. BUT that doesn't make them irrelevant – they are still people praying to them and believing they are holy, and there are still artists painting them now, although respecting the rules. For me archaic doesn't mean obsolete, it means age-old, long standing (I don't know if it's clear, English is not my mother tongue, so my semantics my be a bit off)
Um… on the toilet flushing front, is it allowed? That's something I've never even considered before. I'm going to assume that it is, since you're not using hot water, but if your water pump is powered by electricity, it seems like it could start getting complicated.
Diplogeek – yes. The flushing action is mechanical, not electrical, so it is not a problem. (As I said, a reasonable question that just felt totally unreasonable based on the attitude of the original questioner and the dynamics of our relationship.)
Hot water heaters are a bigger problem. Many people don't use their hot water taps on Shabbat. I prefer to turn my hot water heater to the "pilot only" setting, and then use the water until it cools off, knowing that no new water is being heated on Shabbat.
This was a GREAT post but I think the other one work as a follow up. 🙂
I think you can include anything mikvah related as a question to avoid. Unless you know your friend SUPER well and know she won't mind. I'm ok answering mikvah questions with very close friends, Ortho or not, but having come from the non frum world, I'm more open than most perhaps.
Also, generally speaking, if you're not Orthodox, but saw something in a book or a movie about how Orthodox Jews do things, don't assume it to be true of all Orthodox Jews. I've gotten that a lot. Do you really…… (insert some really out there minhag someone saw in a movie here).
Yes, I figured that Ruchi was not actually inviting questions with this post about sexuality in O marriages. But that is probably among the top topics people have questions about, me included.
If you want you can ask me questions by email. Except for time frames imposed by mikveh usage, I doubt the sex lives of married OJ people is as different as you might be thinking.
I think OJ's who are into kiruv, either as a regular activity or generally as a value, will not mind one-on-one mikvah related questions from nonobservant Jewish women who are genuinely interested as opposed to making fun. Even if they feel some discomfort. I would not bring it up at the Shabbos table though.
Weird question… I wish to invite a woman I went to school with for Shabbos. We both grew up frum … but she walked away in her early 20's and married a non Jew. Can a non Jew sit at a Shabbos table?
I'm confused. You didn't actually answer most of the questions…