After Jewlicious this weekend, I have come to the conclusion that I am a strange anomaly in the Jewish community. I’m kosher, but not completely – I will eat hot dairy when I go out. I wear long skirts and sleeves… occasionally, and depending on my mood. I consider Friday night possibly the most sacred time of the week, but am not Shomer Shabbat in any way, shape or form
So here I am, a Jew in Long Beach, filled with unusual contradictions and odd ways of looking at my faith. You could say I’m conservative, and I do associate myself with the conservative movement in Judaism. But for me, I guess I would consider myself a Punk Jew – right down to my red-and-black checkered Vans, also known as the Anarchy Shoes, 2.0.
Now, I don’t look punk in any way, shape or form – unless you counted the times I dyed my hair red. But the fact of the matter is that when it comes to my Judaism, I have a nonconformist and rebellious point of view when it comes to faith. Sure, I’m traditional, but you don’t see me covering my hair (and if I was, I’d be wearing a bright purple wig) or completely covered from head to toe. I also support things – such as gay marriage or sitting with your family during services – that would have some Orthodox Jews freaking out.
At the same time, I don’t associate myself completely with the reform movement. I like using Hebrew when I pray, separating myself from my normal world. I don’t feel like Shabbat services should be quiet with the strumming of guitars – instead, I want the power of loud and powerful voices filled with joy dancing me into Friday night, no instruments required. I am of the belief that the best thing you can do in Judaism is sit down on Friday night to a Shabbat dinner with friends and, if you have them close by, family.
I reject the fact that I have to be told by the rabbis what to do or how to live my life. I am a Jew, and I feel that I have the free will to do what I want with it. I’m no less of a Jew because I don’t observe the way you do, and I am no more of a Jew because I may observe more than you do.
When it came to kashrut, I dedicated myself to this practice because I wanted to. It was something that was important to me, that made me aware every day that I was Jewish, and therefore I was special. I felt that it was the right decision for me. But I don’t push others to do it.
I may not be an anarchist, but the fact is that I don’t need authority to tell me who I am, or what I can and can’t be. I don’t need people telling me that I’m not Sephardic because either my skin is too light or the fact that my father isn’t. I don’t need people telling me I’m not good enough to be a certain type of Jew. I’m proud to be Jewish and somewhat traditional, yet I am proud to be progressive and accept those who may not have a place in Judaism and welcome them to my movement of being a Punk Jew, and not being in just one place.
The Booksteins taught me that any way that you can be Jewish, you should – and it doesn’t matter if you are Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or Reconstructionist. You should embrace everyone and let them become close, and encourage love. I guess I am a Punk Jew in that way: I believe more in love than anything else in my faith. I believe in basic human values – not embarrassing people, respecting those around you, loving openly, being honest, understanding, kind and giving.
I believe these values come before anything that is written in the Torah – and trust me, I love my Holy Book. But these values come before any laws, rules and regulations. So, in this way, if being a Punk Jew means loving with a full heart, I don’t mind it in the slightest.
In honor of anarchy and going against the grain, I give you Pollack Salad – named after the famous painter Jackson Pollock. Every time I think of him, I think about an incident when I was in Israel. I was in a drama class, and my friends had a conversation about Jackson Pollock splattering paint all over a toilet seat and selling it for gobs of money. But if the guy had to make a salad, I bet he would do it this way.
1 bag salad greens
1 large carrot
1 yellow squash
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons garlic powder
Salt and pepper
Pour the bag of salad greens into a bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skins off of the zucchini, yellow squash and carrot and discard them. Then, using the peeler, slice the vegetables over the salad greens until you reach the centers and are unable to peel. Discard the insides.
Meanwhile, chop the scallions into ¼ inch pieces and top the salad. Slice the radishes into small pieces, like matchsticks. Top the salad.
Meanwhile, whisk the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic powder and salt and pepper together. Once ready to serve, pour over the salad and mix.