Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Camp? Me? Ha!!

One of the famous (and more reasonable) Shidduch questions nowadays is which camp I attened. That's when I break it to them gently: "I never went to camp," I answer with a smile that reads, "please don't kill me--I'm totally normal." My parents always offered it to me, and almost FORCED me to go, but I refused for good reason.

Who really wants to spend 4 long, hot weeks in a sweltering bunkhouse with 8 other girls breathing in your face all day eating greasy food? Really. What's the appeal?

In general, I have a need for space. Something some girls consider foreign. Basically, just leave me alone. I can't be social 24/7. Even the best need to take breaks. I also need sleep. I can't talk all night and party until 3 a.m. and be up in time for Shacharis. And if I'm the first to go to sleep, they'll do that mean trick where they dip your hand in warm water so you'll pee in your pants. Girls.

Besides, who needs a counselor on your back all the time making sure you participate in every activity? Don't I sound like fun to hang around in camp??

Also, laundry is a pain-- you're either trusting someone else to do it, or you're busy with it youself all day. There's also no TV. No downtime. No ALONE time. No time to sit and read your magazines or your books. No independence. You play sports that you don't like...blah, blah, blah.

They also have this picture fetish in camp. They take 7 rolls of film in two months, and hang the pictures on the walls, and make collages and all that. Put it this way, 95% of my pictures of my nieces and nephew. And they're on a camera that I haven't finished, that expired a year ago. What's the big thing with pictures? You need 10 poses with the same girls on the same day in the same clothing? What's the point? And hanging millions of them on the wall? Who's that for? The Janitor? I guess I'm not the typical picture-obsessed teenage girl. When we went on trips in high school, my friends always brought their cameras. I brought one a few times*--mostly in 12th grade because it was the last year...that film isn't finished either, come to think of it.

Okay, so why didn't I go when I can be a counselor? Many of the aforementioned reasons. The no space factor, the greasy food, the laundry, PLUS, rotten, spoiled, bratty campers with attitudes to match their wardrobes. Who needs it? I am quite satisfied with my summer experiences. 2 year olds. I try not to go over the age of 3, which is when they start giving attitude, (yep, they start young nowadays). I'd honestly rather change diapers than deal with bratty tweens, or worse: teens.

* Funny story--in 12th grade, when we went to Niagara Falls, none of the principals came, so my "bummy" friends and I decided we'll put on those sandals they give you on one of those things, without socks. I know, we're so terrible. Nisht Past for a Bais Yaakov girl. For a Bais Yaakov Rebel on the other hand...
Priceless picture: 4 girls' feet together, the only ones in the grade, with the sandals and no socks, and nobody there to kick us out of school :-)

Monday, July 25, 2005

17 Tammuz

Now I know this is the job for say why G-d does things when He does, and all that, but allow me to share my thoughts.

I believe that these London bombings were timed perfectly for us Jews. The fact that America is now under high alert, and inspecting bags at the train station, shows us that we can never feel safe in the arms of the Amim Lo HaNivcharim. It was now, many years ago, that Eretz Yisrael was surrounded and the Bais HaMikdash was soon to be destroyed.

I was considering taking a train to my father's office in Manhattan, when I thought, "Everyone says, 'it won't happen to me,' yet somehow it happens..." and all that nervous jabber. So I decided not to go by train. That got me thinking that maybe G-d is reminding us what time of year this is. The people in Eretz Yisrael certainly could not feel safe then, so we are reminded of what they went through on a smaller, different scale. That's serious stuff.

Which brings me to my next point. During Sefira, I wrote about A Cappella music. I won't recycle that, but it is recommended reading. But as I think more about the three weeks and its severity, I think listening to A Cappella is really insensitive. No matter how addicted you are to music, you'll manage for three weeks. (If you need it in the car to stay awake and not kill 100s of others on the road, you might as well listen to the real stuff)

When adults listen to A Capella during the three weeks, I wonder their spirituality is. I say "adults" because until recently, I was selfish enough to listen once in a while during the Three Weeks, because I was young and I don't think I quite understood the depth of the situation. Now I try to use that to stop myself from listening, which I know is a real challenge. Especially since it feels like Sefira just ended yesterday.

Another thing about 17 Tammuz. (It's just easier to write it that way) I know fasting is really really hard and exhausting--especially in the Summer with the fear of dehydration. I only made it till a little past 6:00 last night when I finally caved.

(I don't know if the following applies to men, but) I have become aware of a common pastime on fasts, which is to watch movies. Does anyone else see the glaring clash in this?? You're fasting, which is something extremely spiritual- you are supposed to be staying away from Gashmius, and with movies you're feeding yourself with Gashmius and oh, so much more great stuff for your Neshama...So my question is, is it better (as a woman) to break your fast at 6, and not watch any movies, or to stick it out till 9:05 and swoon over Brad Pitt or Orlando Bloom all day? I exclude men from this, because based on my limited knowledge, I think it is more chamur for men to fast all day, and if watching a movie (with no pritzus of course--good luck finding that) is the only way he can manage, I'd say that's better than stuffing his face at 6:00. That's for today.

When it comes to Tisha B'Av, both men and women are required to make it all day. Going outside is not an option. Although the day is more serious, the fact that you don't have that hetter to rely on, I guess there are few better options.

Now, I know some smart alecks are going to say, "well if movies are that bad all year, why do people (namely, me) watch them all year..." That's a separate issue right now, yet I understand that movies are not good to begin with.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Lakewood, NJ-"Ihr HaKedoysha"?-part 2

In 12th grade, my school arranged an "inspirational" Lakewood Shabbaton. We went to stay at selected families, eat a meal at a stranger's house, and attend many speeches.

Part of the program was a panel discussion. I usually love those because it's more informal, and you get to know the teachers better. (That's another story). Anyway, this time it wasn't the teachers who were up there, there was a group of Kollel wives of all ages and different stages of life.

I don't remember all of them, because only 2/5 are memorable.

One woman was a young newlywed who didn't stop telling us how "normal" she is. She bragged about how frum she is now because her mother didn't cover her hair and how her family isn't "learning people." Now, either she buckled to peer pressure (she did attend a Brooklyn Bais Yaakov-type high school), or she was sincere. Either way, the designer logo on her suit made a statement, but I don't know if it was the one she intended to make. It almost read, "Daddy paid for this." So, as I said in part 1, this materialism is the antithesis of what Lakewood used to be.
Then again, to appeal to the rich kids in my class, they needed her to show that they can have their cake and eat it too, just like this woman demonstrates.

The other woman put a smile on my face. She must have been about 50. She was dressed simply and B'Tznius. She then sincerely lamented about the day she had to send her husband out to work because the bills were unable to be paid. He had learned in Kollel for many years, and they got by (and not by the seat of their Armani pants, either) until the next baby came along, or whatever it was. She also described how hard it was for her when she had to leave to go out to work. This lady knows what she's doing. She was not happy to leave her beloved children, (who, unlike many nowadays, could pick their mother out of a lineup) but she was realistic and down to earth enough to know that if she did not go out to work, there would be trouble. Now, some may argue that she should have "had Bitachon" and all that, but then we get into the whole Hishtadlus issue which is too huge for me to tackle. I also admire the fact that her husband had learned for so many years prior, and she truly looked saddened at what had to happen. If she was doing this for image, they would have stopped a long time ago.

It was also interesting how some of these houses resembled those in flatbush, and were fancier than some of my friends' houses. Not that they should put us up in shacks, but it seems they only were appealing to those whose fathers have the spare $50,000 sitting there under his mattress.

They always represented Lakewood as some fantasy-land. Kind of like on all those Walgreens commercials. You know-- how the kid plays baseball and his uniform stays clean and all that unrealistic, "Land of Perfect" stuff. I feel really stupid that I was naive enough to fall for their "Land of Perfect" shtick.

They kept on mentioning that the father is never stressed out, because there is no dreaded "office" to report back to, and the like. And that the only discussion at the table is Torah. And that the husbands come home and share what they learned rather than de-stress from their day at the damaging "office." Do you really think these coach-shoes wearing, shop-a-holic spoiled brats actually care about what their husbands learned? Unless it's what Ralph Lauren is making next, I doubt it. Obviously, this excludes the ones who are actually sincere, and live in Lakewood because they want to be immersed in Torah, and all that I discussed in part 1.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Tell Me What You Think

I have decided to extend the IMHJO enterprise further in celebration of reaching one year of changing the world. Not.

Anyway, you can now e-mail me directly @

You can also visit a new site I created, . That is where I ask questions, and use your responses to formulate my opinion--make my arguments more complete and well-rounded, that is. If it's a failure, it's outta here by August, and you guys will PLEASE let me live it down :-).

Thanks y'all,

Stay Tuned for Lakewood-parts 2 & 3!!


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Lakewood, NJ- "Ihr HaKedoysha" ? Part 1

In high school, the rule was that if you did not intend to marry a learning boy and move to Lakewood, you have no Bitachon, and no love for Torah. A guy who works and is "Koveya Itim"? Chas V'Shalom.

"Why does he need to work? Have Bitachon in Hashem that you will have what you need..."
Now I understand that there ARE people who sincerely choose to live like that. I am amazed by them. I am enamoured by them. I also think it takes a lot for them. A lot, that unfortunately many do not have, especially in the generation of excess Hashem has given us.

People have grown accustomed to luxurious lifestyles without even realizing it. However, Lakewood was always known to be the pristine area where Torah truly reigns, and there is no pressure to keep up with Joneses. After all, the original Lakewood people came with just their love for learning Torah and bitachon in Hashem. Their wives weren't desperate for the best custom sheitel, or obsessed with buying $50 outfits for their children that they will outgrow in 3 months. Lakewood was the opposite of the materialism associated with Flatbush and Boro Park. They purposely secluded themselves from the influence of the media, showing no interest in TV and movies, and focused on living a lifetsyle devoted to serving Hashem. That's the ideal. Unless I'm really naive, that's how I think it was in the beginning.

But times have changed. In my high school class, Baruch Hashem, many of the girls parents are extremely well off. So a few of them got married and moved to Lakewood as the cookie cutter dictates. Daddy/Totty bought them a house (or pays rent), plunked a new car in the driveway, and the boy was off to Yeshiva. Talk about Mesiras Nefesh. Put everything, including Bennetton's latest styles, Bloomie's fall collection, and of course that $500 suit you just HAD TO HAVE, on Daddy's credit card, while your husband is in Yeshiva. Poor baby. I'd bet that SOME, not all, of these kids would make their husbands run out to work if their parents decided to stop pumping the cash.

Now look at it the other way, the girls whose parents can't afford to support a whole other family besides their own, (Gee, who doesn't have $50,000 a year to spare??) and their kids still want to marry a guy who will sit in Yeshiva. That's real. They know what they're up for. They know it's not going to be a party. If they want to buy a car, it will a simple one, and they will have to earn it. Those kids have all my respect. They are also accustomed to a simpler lifestyle, which will help them in the long run.

Anyway, when I hear about these people moving to Lakewood, I don't have to hear from everyone else that "Lakewood is the new Flatbush," I can use my own imagination. What does this do to those who once enjoyed a no-pressure environment. Tell them to control themselves from feeling overtaken and perhaps jealous of how easily everything comes to them? It's not that simple. New mansions are built day and after day. The newlywed wives bring their vanity into the once unconcerned neighborhood, and begin competition betweeen one another. These girls also watch TV, watch movies, blah, blah, blah...and talk about clothing and shoes and clothing and shoes.

Of course, nobody expects Lakewood to be a slum, because that would be a chillul Hashem, and tell people that if you learn, and trust Hashem, you get a broken down Shack, Chas V'Shalom. Modest houses, people. They're there.

Now, those of you who think I am judging, I have seen these people in action. I gathered the guts to sit at their table once or twice, and was bored out of my mind. This is what I see. This is what I know. And it's extremely unfair to the innocent Ohavei Torah that started Lakewood.

I guess it's like a white shirt. Bound to get dirty.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Maids and Mommies

This Shabbos, I was at the playground watching the adorable kids in the bungalow colony. At a nearby picnic table, there was a group of 9 Latina maids. We're very multi-cultural there...There are about 4 groups of maids that socialize with their own nationalities.

Anyway, it's fascinating how completely Mexican looking women can have white, Jewish looking children. With Yarmulkes no less. Oh, wait! You mean they're not theirs?? Last week, a maid was on the swing with her "charge" (is there another way of saying it? They're not her kids...?) and she was singing some Spanish song with him and he was humming along--he either knew it, or was still learning it.

Another maid was showing off how much Spanish she taught her 6 year old whatever..."Count to 15..."

Then another kid was about the same age talking to her maid, "Me sit. You push. Ana! You no listen me!" So she responded, "Okay, baby! I comin'."

Then yesterday all the maids were at the picnic table, so I don't know whose charges were whose. But one kid did not get the swing he wanted or something, and he started viloently hitting a maid (I'm not sure if it was his or someone elses because they were taking care of others charges.) Her response? "I give you tickles..." Those kids are unbelievably spoiled because the parents don't teach their kids anything-they're scared of disciplining their children because of all the hoopla in society. The maids are afraid of their job security. So if the kid wants something, he's got it.

Then a--gasp--mother came with her children. We struck up conversation and I shared my thoughts on what was going on. She told me that she grew up with a live-in, but understands that the disdvantages outweigh the benefits (mostly religion-related) and that she works hard with her 3 children aged 3 and under. She proceeded to tell me this story that I made her swear(not literally) that it is true:

There was a little 3-year-old boy whose maid put him into bed, and he unfortunately went into a coma. The doctors said he needed something familiar. So they called in his mother, (Okay, this is massively predictable, but I'll continue for the slow people) and she sang her songs. Nothin. She spoke to him. Nothin. She hummed. Got nothin. They began to get nervous, and they said they must try something else. The maid walked in and sang her Polish hymn...and the kid began to stir.

She promised it's true. I certainly don't make these things up. This is what society has come to. For more on this, check out "Cleaning Ladies Part 1-Raising Our Children"...It's in the archives...October, November or something.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

More About Them Benjamin$

Last week, I worked in my high school office closing out this year, and preparing for next year. I looked at the calendar and remembered that last year they divided the mid-winter vacation into two separate weekends in order to prevent the girls from taking a vacation in Florida. They planned to do the same for '05-'06.

I whispered to the other woman in the room with me, "Don't they know that the girls who are going to go to Florida will go whether they have off or not?" She shrugged.

"It's funny how tanned these kids get when they are 'sick,' isn't it?" I asked.

She chuckled, and I continued, "Come on, what's the point if they are going to go anyway? More importantly how do they get away with it?"

"Well, you know, they go down to the main principal and ask permission..." she started.

"And if the price is right....and Daddy puts the right number of zeros on that check..."I added.

She nodded and smirked, "You got it."

If you people really think Florida is so wrong, don't let them pay you off. If it's really "Toyrah" that's so important and everything like that, you'd have Bitachon that Hashem will give you enough money, not to take bribery from these idiots. So obviously, you're not practicing what you preach, yet again.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think it's fine to go to Florida--if you are going to visit your grandmother, go shopping, relax...whatever. But when I was in high school, some idiot girls were looking at some pictures right before class, with the teacher in the room. She saw that these were pictures of those "Bais Yaakov" girls on a beach, in shorts. I think it's okay for girls to go to a beach--in a skirt that covers your knees and a shirt that covers your elbows like they're supposed to--especially "Bais Yaakov" girls. Oh, but Daddy paid the Rabbi off, so it's okay to walk around looking like Linday Lohan, right?

When will these people understand that Tznius applies 24/7, no matter what city, state, or country you're in?? But apparently, these kids are taught that if nobody who matters will see you, it's okay to do what you want. I heard that this teacher reported them, but little to no disciplinary measures were taken.

Friday, July 01, 2005

In My Humble Jewish Opinion Celebrates Its 1st Birthday!

Happy 1st Birthday, Humble Jewish Opinion!!

First of all, I know the new template is a little "boyish"...and I'm gonna have to get the counter again...but it's a change and I'm not 4.

I can't believe we made it!
Anyway, I really want to thank all my readers and those who comment.
If there is anything you want to hear my "Humble Jewish Opinion" (hardy har har.) on, post a comment and I'll get working on it.
I still owe y'all R-E-S-P-E-C-T part 2, and my Koylel thing...
Thanks again to everyone and have a great 4th of July weekend!