Tag Archives: Ashkenazi Jews

An egalitarian, Sephardic, Ashkenazic, Ugandan service? Sign. Me. Up.

I just posted this on the New Voices Magazine blog and I thought y’all might be interested too:

Today, in New Voices Magazine, Carly Silver writes about Sephardic student life, or lack thereof, at Columbia University.

Though the picture is mostly bleak, one group mentioned in the article stands out, New Yachad City. Part of Columbia University Hillel, New Yachad City tries to create services that are more reflective of the diversity of world Jewry.

They lead student excursions to different synagogues around New York City, typically off the beaten path. They also host their own monthly service. This month’s New Yachad City Friday night service is this week and I think I’m gonna go.


Alternative, egalitarian, multi-traditional Kabbalat Shabbat service in Earl Hall on Friday, October 28th at 6 PM. Welcome in the Sabbath with Shabbat tunes from Sephardic, Ashkenazic, Bnai Jeshurun Synagogue, Abudaya Jewish community and much more. Experience Shabbat services in a different way and learn about world Jewry while praying! Everyone is welcome!

If you’re planning on coming, let me know in the comments.


“Browsing for free” on JDate.com, with commentary

Crossposted to New Voices

I’ve been bemoaning my singleness to my friends a lot lately. Being a college senior who knows he’s gonna move–but not very far–in May is a weird position to be in. People keep telling me to try online stuff, which I don’t have any problem with, philosophically. It does, however, seem odd to me to do online dating while I’m in college. But last night I was slightly convinced by a friend.

So I went on JDate a few minutes ago to see what’s what. I clicked on “BROWSE FOR FREE” and quickly realized that there was commentary to be made. So I started over, typing up my comments as I went.

jdate-1-you-are-a-looking-for-a2I suppose it’s quite convenient that JDate predicted that I’m a straight male. Is it magical or does it assume everyone’s a straight male?  What happens to people who want to identify themselves as something other than a [Man/Woman] seeking a [Man/Woman]?

jdate-2-type-of-relationship-and-current-status1I have questions. Not snarky questions, as regular readers will no doubt assume, but real questions from a place of curiosity. Are there actually people who look for a “Friend” on dating sites? Or is “Friend” a codeword for something? And what activities might one engage in with an “Activity Partner?”

jdate-3-habits-and-kashrutI’m sure I’m more concerned with the finer points of Jewish ritual/denominational/philosophical/ideological/etc identity than most, but I these kashrut options seem limited. Where’s eco-kashrut? And why do we insist that kashrut is a matter of degrees? It’s not as though there’s a definitive list of things that one does to keep kosher, and some people do all of them and some people do none of them and some people are on a spectrum in between.

And how do I indicate which of these things I care about? I drink regularly with friends, but I don’t care how often she (whoever she is) drinks. I don’t smoke, and I care a lot about whether she does. And I care some, but not a whole lot about whether she keeps kosher. I wish there was one of those “Indicate how strongly you feel about X, by choosing a number 1-5, where 5 is ‘I care a lot’ and 1 is ‘I don’t care at all'” things.

jdate-4-education-work-and-ethnicityIf I’m graduating in May, how misleading is it to claim that I have a BA?

Without wading into the issue of what constitutes an ethnicity, this list of possibilities is beyond outrageously limiting. It assumes that all Jews are either Ashkenazi or Sephardic or don’t care enough to list an ethnicity. Obviously, most Jews in America are Ashkenazi-descended, and if you add Sephardic, that takes care of almost everyone. But it doesn’t account for all Jews by birth.

And what about converts? Am I “Mixed Ethnic” because one of my parents converted and the other is Ashkenazi? Or did she become Ashkenazi when she converted (whatever that would even mean!)?

Is the implication of this that Jews only wanna date Jews from a similar background? I again find myself wanting some way to indicate how much each of these factors matter to me.

I have settled on “Will tell you later” as a way of protesting this question, which feels pretty silly.

jdate-50-backgroundAt this point, I’m pretty sure I’m not doing this in the spirit any of it was intended, but this stuff is important enough to me that I’d like be able to indicate it with more accuracy than the available choices allow me to.

Literally, my “religious background” is Reform, but the wording of some of the options here seem to indicate that this question is not actually about background, but about current practice. Many of these could be backgrounds, but “Baal Teshuva” isn’t a background as at all, but a conscious choice that one might make after childhood–childhood being what the word “background” suggests to me.

Again, as with the ethnicity question, anyone outside of the other options offered up here is forced to pick “Another Stream of Judaism.” That would include anyone that is observant (broadly defined), but prefers “Just Jewish” and anyone that goes with something like Pluralist or Post-Denominational. It also strikes me that this is probably the more appropriate place for Sephardic to be an option, given that all of these denominations are outgrowths of the Ashkenazi sphere.

This is a seriously troubling question to me. As I’m writing this, I’m waffling back and forth in my mind about selecting Reform or “Another Stream.” I call myself Reform, but most wouldn’t look at my observance and call it Reform, so that’s potentially misleading. “Another Stream” is probably closer to what I outwardly appear to be.

I want to be able to check off boxes and I want one of them to read “Other” and give me space to type a couple extra words. Why doesn’t this question give the option of “Will tell you later?”

I think I’ll take the question literally and pick Reform.

jdate-55-how-often-to-shulWhat about people who go more frequently than “Every Shabbat?”

Then it asks me for my country and zip code. Whatever.


OK. I haven’t had a username for something other than my real name since the last time I used AIM, which was probably in eighth or ninth grade. I’m a total loss. I also don’t know how to “pop” in such a way that it will help elucidate “what makes me ME” (to use their abuse of capitals).

After ten minutes have passed and I’ve consulted with a few housemates, I’ve made a decision. But I’m not going to tell any of you want it is.

Also, it would be pretty awesome if you could list your Hebrew birthday on JDate.

Then there’s e-mail and password. Whatever.

jdate-7-describe-myselfYeah, this part is completely nerve-wracking. There are two kinds of people in the potential audience for this:

1). There are people who would read an accurate description of my personality and interests and think, “This guy sounds like an asshole” or “This dude just sounds boring,” but would actually like me if they met me. I know this because I know real people who fall into this category.

2). There are people–fewer than there are in group 1, but they exist nonetheless–who would read an accurate description of my personality and interests and actually be interested.

The question is how to craft a description that plays to both of these groups of people, both of which I’m interested in. This has stopped being a slightly humorous exercise and become significantly intense.

OK, an hour and help from three housemates later, I’ve written something that isn’t completely objectionable about myself.

Now I’m gonna think about whether this is worth spending any real money on.

How to transport yourself to a synagogue in ancient Israel ten days a year

The real point of this post: Should I buy this siddur?

The Soferet, Jen Taylor Friedman, has a delightfully contorted post about all of the liturgical maneuvering over the centuries that has led to a minute change in the Amidah and Kaddish during the Ten Days of Repentance. The full post, which is fascinating to me, is here. But I’ll try to summarize a bit.

Apparently, it was the tradition in the old, largely lost, Palestinian rite to conclude the blessing for peace in the Amidah with the line “Baruch atah Adonai, oseh hashalom,” blessing God as maker of the peace. The standard line, at least since the period of Geonim, has been “Baruch atah Adonai, oseh shalom,” blessing God as maker of peace–no definite article.

Over time, these two lines flew in and out of the Ashkenazi nusach for the Ten Days about eleventy-seven times, as far as I can tell. At some point, it came out of the Amidah, and the definite article reappeared in Kaddish, as some kind of compromise. And now it’s in both the Kadish and the Amidah, quite unnecessarily, it would seem.

The real point of this post is two-fold:

1. I discovered while flipping about in a couple of siddurim and machzorim, trying to keep up with the liturgical acrobatics in Jen’s post, that I need a good, modern, Hebrew-English Sephardi siddur. I’m open to suggestions. The one I’m leaning toward getting soon is Siddur Zehut Yosef, by Hazzan Isaac Azose, one of the leaders of Seattle’s large Sephardic community. It’s got some Ladino in it and it’s the record of a specific congregation’s minhag, both of which are pluses in my sefer. Thoughts, anyone?

2. Someone needs to collect all of what we know today about the ancient Palestinian liturgical rite into one reference siddur.