Archive | July, 2014

Everyone: Calm down on the Internet

29 Jul

I did something last night that I have never done before. I mean, I am a millennial. I have mildly strong opinions. I spend 90% of my time on the internet.

No, not that.

No, not that.

 

Yep. I responded to a random comment on the internet.

It’s strange because I’ve absolutely loved reading the bloodbath which is the comment section on anything from New York Times articles on Israel to BuzzFeed’s “25 DIY things to make out of lanyard for your cat BFF.” It’s a perverse thrill to watch people scream at each other, for seemingly no reason. No one actually *wins* a comment argument. you just stop responding and move on to the next article where you will respond passive aggressively to a stranger who’s claiming “Omg do NOT let you child play with princess dolls you IDIOT – DO YOU WANT A WEAK WILLED DAUGHTER? DO YOU YOU INSANE BONEHEAD WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!”

 

Meh, nothing good ever came out of a princess leader.

Meh, nothing good ever came out of a princess leader.

 

I remember in 2010, I was working at the NYC Law Dept. Well, “working” in their media department. My job included some useful things like editing press releases and writing up articles for the news letter. But for some reason, I was also supposed to read the news. Just read all the news. All day. And I had never read the comments before, I didn’t see any reason too.

Until I read an article about how some program was letting prisoners in NY jails bake and sell carrot cake to the public. Now, why you would want someone who used those hands to strangle someone make your cupcakes, is none of my business, where you get your cake from is your deal. But it was a nice story and I noticed on the bottom there were 400 HUNDRED comments. Why? What could 400 people say about one article? Were they all new and different ideas regarding the story?

No. Not at all. Because when I finished reading every single one it was clear that every comment fell into three categories, 1. HOW DARE YOU LET PRISONERS DO SOMETHING CONSTRUCTIVE!  THEY SHOULD SIT IN THE CORNER AND THINK ABOUT WHAT THEY’VE DONE UNTIL THEY DIE! 2. I think it’s nice that this program is letting prisoners gain some sort of skill and learn about business. 3. What’s the recipe for this carrot cake?

 

And can you cut down the recipe from feeding 400 to feeding four please?

And can you cut down the recipe from feeding 400 to feeding four please?

 

So that’s the backstory of my love of Internet comments. Watch but don’t touch. Until last night. I was reading some innocuous article on Huffington Post about 10 really good movies that came out in the past few years. Great. I mentally saved the article so I could watch these suggestions later. Read the article and as always, scrolled down. Three comments. The first two were “I highly recommend this movie – it was so cute – can’t wait to see the others on the list!”

Then. One woman writes “Ugh I HATED XXXX movie! It was so NOT funny and spoiler alert, they DONT end up together.” I was blindsided by the haphazard spoiler alert. I literally felt my blood boil. WHY WHY WHAT would possess someone to do that?! It’s so rude. No one asked you to spoil the movie! So my fingers flew to the keyboard, “What the H lady? That spoiler was super unnecessary.” No response. This morning I get a notification that someone had commented on my comment, it was some dude. “Well she SAID spoiler alert and anyways who cares it’s a dumb romantic comedy.” Oh my god I was enraged – I HOPE YOU BOTH SPONTANEOUSLY CATCH ON FIRE WHILE GETTING A PARKING TICKET AND THEN GET ATTACKED BY SUBWAY RATS YOU INHUMANE GARBAGE PEOPLE! I yelled in my head.

I wanted to respond. I wanted to spoil ALL the movies for them. I wanted to find their addresses and order 50 pizzas. I wanted to explain reasonably or make them sympathetic. And then I stopped.

 

Cause of death: Internet RAGE

Cause of death: Internet RAGE

 

What am I doing? Why am I so worked up? I’ve become the people, the commenters who shout and insult for no reason. Yes it’s rude to ruin movies but do these people deserve all this rage I’m putting out into the world? I am poisoning my own thoughts. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. It’s going to be OK. It’s not the end of the world. Is this really worth expending useful energy on?

I decided: no. I closed the tab. I felt a little bit adult but also still like I was giving up. This is a dangerous slope, this comment button. Especially since the internet is forever, do I really want my kids seeing me write mean things to strangers about some movie, in all honesty I probably won’t even see in the end? Or do I want them do be able to unclench their typing hands. To realize that people on the internet are still people. Idiot people but still.

We’ve all seen things get out of hand on Facebook. Especially about incendiary topics that we fiercely believe in.  And it’s OK to have opinions and it’s OK to want people to know the truth but we have to remember that there are people on the other side of the screen. Especially in these new few days, the nine days before Tisha B’av. Someone writing insulting things doesn’t give you a base for your baseless hatred. It doesn’t. Save that hatred for systems. Save your hatred for concepts like terrorism. Patriarchy. Bureaucracy. Hatred itself.

Just for a few days.  Or more. No here’s a relaxing picture to calm everyone down today.

 

"AAHH THERE'S SAND IN MY DRINK DAMN YOU SAND!"

“AAHH THERE’S SAND IN MY DRINK DAMN YOU SAND!”

The Struggle Israel

17 Jul

Israel, in english means ‘struggles with God.’ It’s not a very cool name. Even by Cheroke standards, it’s no ‘Runs with Eagle’ or even ‘Little rock.’ The nickname was acquired after God kind of blitz attacked Jacob and wrestled with him – Jacob didn’t tap out or call 911. He continued fighting until sun up (and God kind of cheated.) That’s who we are, we are people who struggle with God, whether it’s trying to understand why terrorists hate us or why we can’t go to that concert on Saturday – we live our lives trying to decipher why, why God decided to do what God does.

And everyone has their own unique ‘struggles.’ For some, it’s why bad things happen to good people, for others it’s the concept of free will, soul mates or trying to be an individual in a community that values tradition, loyalty and solidarity above all others. For me, it’s learning how to be a Jewish woman in a religion that, at first glance, seems not to care so much about my feelings.

Yet, when I articulate my struggle, I will sometimes get dismissed like my plight is some attempt for attention. That I am a feminist trying to get a rise out of those around me. Like I am trying to be difficult. Like I should just follow the rules, that’s just the way things are.

Don’t get me wrong. I *love* being Jewish. It is the club that allows you to be welcomed to complete stranger’s houses for a weekend. I love thinking that I am part of the same family tree as amazing poets, kings, philosophers, rebels, scientists and artists. It is the only thing you will have in common with Scarlett Johansson and James Franco. But this is not an equal opportunity society. And to my millennial mentality of “You deserve the same respect, treatment and consideration as anyone else,” it does not jibe.

I think the first time Jewish girls are exposed to the feeling of inequality is in elementary school. We sat during prayers saying the same blessings as the boys, “thank you for giving me sight,” “thank you for giving me clothing,” and then the girls fells silent while the boys simultaneously chanted “thank you for not making me a woman.” I didn’t have the words at age 8 to understand the feeling of uneasiness in my stomach.

It felt like a school-sanctioned playground taunt. “Haha! Thanks God for not making me a smelly cooty-girl! Boyz rule!” is what it might have well been. Then girls chanted back “Thank you for making me in Your image.” Did that mean boys weren’t in God’s image? Adam was created in God’s image. Our blessing felt like a weird consolation prize that didn’t even make sense.

But I kept quiet, accepting this Orthodox world where women sat in the back of the shul, were told not to sing in public lest it arouse a man, cover our distracting knees, that we weren’t obligated to read Torah or build a sukkah. For my Bat-Mitzvah, I studied Ethics of our Fathers (ie Advice From old timey Rabbis) and learned that talking to women would lead to sin. Like bro, you have ONE sentence to leave to the WORLD and this is what you choose? What would you mother say?

It stings to hear that women weren’t supposed to learn Gemarah, that a woman’s value is in her virginity. It’s hard to wrap around your head around the fact that Rabbis who love the same god who created you, told their disciples that women are chatterboxes (Kiddushin 49b), male babies are always preferred (Tractate Pesachim 65a), and if you have to choose between saving a woman or man – always save the man (Yoreh Deah).

It fucking hurts.

I learned all these previous examples while trying to find out a reason why women aren’t allowed to be witnesses for a wedding. After all, if she’s already at the wedding, she’s clearly found a way to leave her 20 babies at home. In my quest, I haven’t found any answers other than “Umm…’cause she’s a woman obvz.” I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with that kind of answer.

And I don’t really have any conclusion to this piece. I wish I did. The only thing I can hope will come of it is for people to stop dismissing women who want to actively participate in their religion. To stop waving away girls who want to know *why* they can’t do something. For people to stop thinking women are just out for attention. I want people to know that you can love a religion yet be SO angry at it for a lot of the time. That it’s okay to question.

I want people to know that this struggle, or any struggle they have with Judaism is what truly earns them this place in this crazy religion.

Ein Milim – There Are No Words

1 Jul

“Ein milim,” said the woman reading at the prayer vigil for the murdered Israeli boys at the Isiah Wall outside the UN tonight. “There are no words.”

Ein milim, people write sharing posts on Facebook. Baruch Dayan Emett. They say. Because that’s what you say when you don’t know what to say. There are no words to describe the death of three innocent Jewish teenagers on their way home from school. 

Well, that’s not entirely true. There are words like tragic, senseless, horrible, violence, heart-breaking. But those words don’t cut it. Those words don’t make us feel better, they won’t bring them back. They won’t fix the Middle East or make people care. 

But for the parents of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, all they have are words now. Instead of sons, they have stories. Instead of children, they have memories to share. 

“Naftali loved to play basketball,” they’ll say. But they’ll never see him teach his son to throw a ball.

“Eyal loved to cook,” they’ll say. But they’ll never taste a Shabbat meal prepared by him again.

“Gilad loved movies,” they’ll say. But they’ll never sit next to him in a dark theater on a Sunday afternoon.

These words and the words of comfort their friends and family give them are all they have left.

 

My mom called me today after the news broke.

“I’m sick over it. I don’t want to be at work anymore,” she said. “I don’t even want to be in this country anymore. I want to cry.”

“So cry,” I told her.

“I can’t. I have a presentation in half an hour. Can you write me something to make me feel better?”

I was touched that my mother had such faith in my writing, and I love when my posts help people deal with certain emotions or situations. But I replied, “Mom, I don’t think there’s anything anyone can write right now that’ll make us feel better.”

Later, when I arrived at the prayer vigil outside the Israeli mission. Her eyes found mine in the crowd. She pushed people aside to hug me tight. Like I had been at the bus stop hitchhiking with those boys that day. Like I had just come from a war zone and not Washington Heights. 

She didn’t say anything. She just hugged me. And held my hand as we walked to the Isiah Wall. And kissed my cheek when we said goodbye. 

Tisha B’av has come early this year. The day when we commemorate the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and the beginning of our exile. The book we read, Aicha, is full of familial imagery. Families destroyed. Torn apart. Tragic, heart breaking, horrible. On a much much larger scale. But we need Tisha B’av to help us in times like this.

All year round, we have almost comical identical holidays. “They tried to kill us, God saved us, Let’s eat.” Moshe splits the Red Sea. Esther saves the day. Ruth marries Boaz, the Maccabees win the war. We expect miracles. We are taught that we will be saved at the 11th hour. We pray and pray and at the last second the Angel of Death will swoop in to kill the first born, Achashverosh will kill Haman. The oil will burn for 8 days. We’ll be saved.

Not on Tisha Bav. We’re not so lucky this time. After the Beit Hamikdash is destroyed, we’re weak. We’re fractured and broken. But we’re not destroyed. We’re still here. We still cling to faith. 

Eyal, Gilad and Naftali were not saved either. They were murdered in cold blood. They were shot and hastily buried in a land they loved. By people who hated them and did not even know them.

Naftali’s last words to his mother were a text message. “I’m on my way home.”

The last words her son said to her should be a comfort during this awful time. May his final resting place in Olam Habah truly be his home. May their souls have peace because God knows we don’t have any down here.

But, like on Tisha B’av, we will fight on for you Gilad, Eyal and Naftali. We will not be broken. 

We will fight because we have nothing left to say. We will hug one another because nothing else can comfort us. We will cry because nothing else will convey our sadness.

We will still hold on to hope. Because we have no more words. 

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