Today I address a question we get all the time: Why the “Punk” in PunkTorah?
The goyim succumb to taiva and are dangerous. They will befriend you and then turn on you. Non-Jews are evil and are only there to convert you. They will suck you in and then slowly convince you that Jesus is Lord. First you will be chatty in school, and then all of a sudden you are under the chupah and your bride isn’t Jewish.
This and more is what I heard during my yeshiva years. We were told how holy we Jews were and how evil and unworthy the goyim were. We were told that they hated us. Wait, I am still told that by plenty of people. Everyone hates the Jews, according to my old man — especially the liberal Jews. Either way, being friends with non-Jews never really entered my solar system.
Think about it. As an FFB, I went to yeshiva my entire life and the first time I ever had a non-business experience with a non-Jews was when my auto mechanic asked me to mow his lawn for him. Most of the folks I know who grew up orthodox have little to do with non-Jews in a non-professional manner. I didn’t go to school with them until I hit 18 and even when I tried to hang out with them, I could never fully relate. I don’t think it’s wrong to be friends with non-Jews like my Rabbis had tried to convince me, I just didn’t have any interest.
I received an email the other day from the same girl who wrote that Dear Heshy post from a week ago. She was pissed that other frummies were giving her looks for hanging out with non-Jews. I don’t understand why. She lives in NY, hasn’t she ever gotten the Boro Park Stare?
This got me thinking about the fact that throughout my entire life I have had maybe 3 good non-Jewish friends. In fact, only in the past 3 years have I even had non-frum Jewish friends (not including my friends who have chosen a non-frum lifestyle) Most of the folks I know who grew up orthodox don’t have any good non-Jewish friends. Sure we have those guys from work or school, but how often does it go beyond that?
I can fully understand why some folks might feel it wrong to be friends with non-Jews. Some of the core parts of Judaism are designed to keep us with our own kind. Keeping kosher is one of the basic tenets of Judaism and it is responsible for derailing all of my chances at being chummy with coworkers or classmates. Shabbos is another biggie. Not being able to go out on Friday night has made me look like an anti-social religious nut job to plenty of people, but I have never gone “out” on a Friday night, unless you count those evenings spent at Barnes and Nobles looking at bike magazines when I was a teenager.
I don’t look at non-Jews as evil. I guess I just stick with my own (although my own include people who converted to Judaism – reform, conservative and orthodox) out of comfort and Judaism being central to my existence. I look at it like any common group sticking together.
In loving memory of Ha Rav Aryeh Lev Tann
My name is Roger Tann but have been known as Viking for the last 17 years of my life. I am a 33 year old Jewish Rocker who has been working the freakshow and magic circuit under the name Dr Gore doing horror magic and freakshow acts that have been so gruesome that they were banned by British TV. So the 2 questions I’m always asked are:-
Where did such a nice Jewish boy go wrong?
Why did you rebel against your faith?
I always answer them with the same answer, I didn’t really, I just saw faith and personality as 2 different things. Just because I happen to be a punk rocker doesn’t mean i don’t have faith.
My father was an Orthodox Rabbi, I grew up with learning and Shabbat and Yommim Tovim like all good Orthodox boys. From the moment i could hear i grew up on bible stories instead of fairy stories. My favourites were always the ones full of blood and gore, the fighting for one believes in. My father brought those stories to life for me and I suppose my love of the macabre came from there.
We moved around a lot and i spent my teenage years in Birmingham. There weren’t many people my age or a Jewish school over the age of 10 so I went to a non Jewish school where I first discovered anti-Semitism and lived it for the next 8 years. During this time I started hanging out with punks and rockers who didn’t care if I was Jewish, pink or green with spots, I was a decent person.
So after leaving there and having a run off bad luck at uni I decided to go to Israel. Spent time there at yeshiva, worked as a youth worker on the Lebanese border, spent time working doors at clubs even lived on the streets for a time, but I found my home. I spent half my time in the old city and the other half in Tel Aviv. This to me just screamed to me the 2 halves of me that make me as a person, spirituality and night clubs. I never found them to be exclusive of each other and to this day I never will.
I moved to London in 2000 and worked as a doorman and bodyguard for a further 4 years before disaster struck, I was hit by a car and was unable to continue my career. I thought long and hard about what I knew and the only thing I had left to use was my magic. A hobby of 14 years by that point became my passion and my new career. By this time my love of gore had taken new meaning and created something new, horror magic. After reaching the semi finals of Britain’s Got Talent (and having my semifinal act banned for doing a live human autopsy on national TV) worked around the world ripping peoples organs out and cutting people up with power tools (really satisfying if the get the chance to try it, just don’t hurt your friend trying, he will never forgive you).
A year ago bad health struck again and I’m now ill with a neurological disorder and live using a wheelchair. I pray that its only temporary.
During my 10 years in London I discovered something new, a serious divide in the community that made in most part appearance more important than anything else. I found myself pushed out and shunned, hell I even had people crossing the road to not be seen anywhere near me. Recently I have been going to Chasidic areas and apart from a few gasps of amazement at the fact I put on tefillin I am accepted for just being an Orthodox Jew.
In short I can sum up in 1 statement that was said to me many times by my father Ha Rav Aryeh lev Tann, The Torah and Judaism are so big that the can encompass almost all walks of life.
by Michael Sabani
Should you ignore something just because you don’t believe it? Can you still learn from it?
It was during a recent discussion with some friends about the Torah that I realized something that opened the Torah up for me almost completely.
We were discussing the different interpretations that one can have about things that happen in the Torah. I don’t want to get into specifics, but there was a questions as to what happened in a particular part of the story. Most everyone believed that one “counterculture” interpretation was true. In fact, they felt so strongly that it seemed they were almost offended to hear that a traditional or Midrashic interpretation could even be entertained. I was honestly kind of shocked. Not that they would entertain a view that doesn’t necessarily portray the patriarchs or matriarchs as saints because, let’s be honest, they weren’t! The issue I had was that they almost wouldn’t even listen, and when I did share, I felt like I was viewed almost as an anachronistic, ignorant, orthodox party pooper! And I most certainly am not!
What I learned is this:
We are a tradition full of ideas. You know that old saying, “three Jews, five opinions”. The thing is, when we hold on to one interpretation over another, when we almost outright refuse to listen to something from our own tradition that differs with what we want to believe, we are only cheating ourselves. In order to be informed, in order to be fully aware of what the Torah is trying to tell us, there has to be a balance. Just because you don’t like an idea, DOES NOT mean that you should run from it! Instead, embrace it! Look it right in the face and figure out exactly what you don’t like/believe about it. If, after you’ve listened you still don’t agree, GREAT! At least you learned something. And as people of the book we are called to always learn.
There is a saying from the sages that the Torah has 600,000 letters, and each represents one Jewish neshama, one Jewish soul. This means that there are as many ways to read the Torah as there are Jews who read it!
The sages also say that every letter of the Torah, down to the smallest yod ( ‘ ) is there to teach us a lesson. It would seem to me that in order to get the most out of the Torah, especially today, we should pay attention to even the smallest letters, especially when we disagree with it. Only through that friction can we release the Light, and only through that struggle can we brighten the world.
“If you have a good gut on something, go for it. You’re probably right.”
Sarah Lefton is the creator of G-dcast, a site that teaches me more about Judaism than any other resource I have ever found.
The “guts” of the site is the weekly Torah portion, taught through animated cartoons. “Jewlebrities” as far reaching as Hesta Prynn (from Northern State), actor and yogi Marcus Freed, controversial Rabbi Steven Greenberg and…ahem…myself, contribute d’vrei Torah that are insightful, musical, and frankly, hilarious.
Sarah and I have three big things in common. First, our mutual friendship with Matthue Roth, second our love of Judaism, and third…well…our love of cussing.
“I basically grew up with crap for Jewish education…there was one synagogue when i was growing up…this whole project, honest to G-d…is an honest attempt to educate myself.”
Honest to G-d is right. And honest to the Jewish people as well. G-dcast staff do not have a hidden agenda to promote any special version of Judaism. They are reform, orthodox, secular, and everywhere in between.
Why G-dcast? “A spoon full of sugar that helps the medicine go down,” replied Lefton. I started hearing Mary Poppins in my head when she said, “this is a fresh idea for people…that Jewish learning can be fun.”
Lefton, like most cool Jews, came from outside the system. Growing up in the south, her town had one synagogue and no Jewish educational resources available.
So when Lefton started college, she jumped right into Judaism, head first. “I did crazy things that no 21 year old would do, like joining a synagogue.”
This immersion into the Jewish world, coupled with her background in digital media and advertising came full circle when Lefton asked herself one basic question, “how come Jewish education sucks so badly?”
“I more than anyone can use a Jewish literacy. For me, this is what it has always been about,” said Lefton.
This runs contrary to the popular opinion of most Jews in the non-profit sector, who focus on community and identity. Lefton fights back with this bold statement:
“The Jewish community has done a damn good job in talking about identity and about people-hood, community, continuity, pride. But we’ve done a lousy job with literacy. Ask any American teenager is who Captain Ahab is and they’ll have a great answer…they may not like it, but they know who these people are. Smart Jewish kids…don’t know who Joshua, Miriam and Ruth are. Literacy, not pride, holds people together.”
Preach it, sister! www.g-dcast.com