Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My First Goyishe Party

My class threw an end-of-semester party a while ago.

It was the most fun I'd had in a LONG time.

Although I had to check every item for hechsheirim, and homebaked cookies were off-limits, the selection of Pringles, Pepperidge Farm, and Entenmann's clued me in. This wasn't the low-fat muffin parties of high school.

Certainly, I had to make it clear that I don't touch boys. I warned anyone who was in a picture with me, "I don't touch boys." My classmates were understanding; they even reprimanded those whose hands were lurking when posing for pictures, "Hey Stephen, watch out--you can't touch Michelle!" I wasn't asking for attention. People laughed, but I knew I was doing the right thing regardless.

I also, ironically, played DJ. Somehow, I was the only one who volunteered her iPod. I attempted to be politically correct, but my tempramental iPod didn't allow my Beyonce songs to play. Luckily I had Destiny's Child, Good Charlotte, Gwen Stefani and No Doubt. At first, I worried that the next song on the playlist would be nerdy. I quickly forgot that, and was comfortable enough to share my Dixie Chicks, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Spice Girls collection.

Sure, people made Jewish jokes. They also made lesbian jokes to the lesbian kid, and black jokes to the black kids. I just kept my mouth shut.

I thought back to high school. They would have had a kumzitz, sat on the floor, and chomped on lettuce. I'd be in a corner somewhere, talking to the few others who objected to this behavior, listening to my discman, on the phone, or writing. Some kid trying to be nice might approach me, and try to convince me to sit with them. They put their arms around each other, and I'd do the same, hesitantly. About a minute later, I'd be right back where I started.

Parties in high school were exclusive. They were made for and by the "in crowd," that existed whether you believe it or not. Why didn't we join the Kumzitz? Because we knew we'd be ruining it for them. They'd smirk at their buddies as they awkwardly placed their arms around our shoulders, as if we all had bad BO. The "cool" in crowd members weren't part of the kumzitz but would certainly object to us simpletons joining their conversation about boys we don't know.

This party was different. Very different.

I was wanted. I was accepted. I was called into pictures. I was confident. I was comfortable. I was happy.


At 6/14/2007 5:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You had the wrong attitude in high school. I had a similar situation in camp. There was a cool crowd. Wasn't crazy about them, but I decided, if I can't beat 'em, join 'em. And that's what I did.

And I had a great summer. Much better than had I been on the outside looking in.

You should have done that in HS. Then you'd be in the "in" crowd and wouldn't have such resentments.

At 6/14/2007 8:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michelle-please don't try to fool yourself or anyone else. You're better than that. Anyone will agree that cliques, in crowds, etc. are present in nearly every society. Don't try pinning this on your high school. It's more a matter of how you feel about yourself than how others actually view you (which is only a reflection of how you view yourself -remember the miraglim??? v'hayu kichagavim...)

At 6/14/2007 8:44 AM, Blogger FrumSingleGuy said...

I don't agree with the past two comments! I had similar experiences in High School. It is true that the secular world is more accepting (shoot me for sounding apikores-like) and less judgemental ABOUT THE THINGS THE FRUM WORLD JUDGES PEOPLE ON. The question, in my opinion, is what do we do about it? Do we give up frumkeit? Do we hang out with people who make us feel more at peace with ourselves? I think your experience is pretty normal, I ask myself, continously, how far such experiences will take me.

At 6/14/2007 9:08 AM, Blogger Chana said...


I think it's wonderful that you felt so accepted at that party. As someone who had a very bad experience at my first highschool (single-sex Orthodox Jewish Beis-Yaakov-like) and switched to a non-Jewish school, I understand the feeling of acceptance.

It is a wonderful, empowering feeling. You're wanted; you're having fun- you're acting in a normal fashion, not under pressure, not in an environment that is, as you mentioned, exclusive.

I am glad you feel happy. That is wonderful.

Perhaps one day we can bring this feeling of acceptance to those who have no idea what it means- create a Jewish society that will enable us all to feel wanted.

At 6/14/2007 10:13 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

frumsingleguy and chana: I was pleasantly surprised by your reponses. I knew that inevitably people would tell me it was ME. Thanks for your input,and supporting my point. :-)

Now, I tried to sit with those idiots once or twice. But I don't care enough about shopping, facials, and face-shapes to actually sit with those yutzes. Besides, I felt like a total sore thumb.

I've seen this happen. I've seen my mother sit down with a bunch of "it" women. They'd greet her right away, and then treat her as if she's invisible.

At 6/14/2007 2:56 PM, Anonymous a junior said...

im so jealous- when is high skewl frikken over!!

At 6/14/2007 4:16 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

a junior--I take it you can relate?

At 6/14/2007 9:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok i was in a high school very similar in style, in which there was an in-crowd and there were those that weren't quite with them. My personal experience was apparently quite different. i disagree with a number of the comments posted specifically the "cant beat em join em" one. many people often resent the in crowds. i while clearly not the center of that crowd certainly did my pat to connect those in the in crowd and everyone else. i think you should focus on being universally friendly and not to place blame any one certain group. in fact there are movies and books that mention the in crowds as those that shun others out so its clearly not a jewish issue. Again i neve associated with any cliques but my outlook allowed me to be friendly with everyone.

At 6/14/2007 9:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

its odd, for all the jewish unity out there, no matter how old we get jewish life will always be highschool. In my own experiance i have found nonjews to be a lot more accepting of differences while other jews will shun them

At 6/15/2007 3:21 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I never said "in crowds" don't exist in the Goyishe world.

There's a reason I ran to see "Mean Girls" in '04, (although it wasn't what I expected, and I was kinda disappointed) and I love Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion as well.

However, as other commentors have pointed out, (thank you), Goyim are generally more accepting of differences.

As far as "joining 'em," I find it a worthless endeavor. If they'd be willing to welcome an outsider, what kind of "in crowd" would they be? They make themselves like that- they WANT to be unapproachable.

At 6/16/2007 8:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1st commenter here - disagree with that. You could have been part of the in-crowd had you played your cards right. But you didn't.

Besides, what's you point? That goyim are better than Jews?

At 6/16/2007 10:06 PM, Blogger Semgirl said...

Michelle...You totally rock!!!

My cap (actually snood, lol) is off to you. When I was in college I wasnt able to do the whole Shomer Negia trip..

At 6/17/2007 8:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you realize that much of the reason you're more accepted in the college crowd is the importance of political correctness in the outside world?

At 6/18/2007 8:20 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

anon- yes, i thought of that. So what?
At least they don't snub me.
I'm not asking for lifelong friendship. I wasn't asking for that in HS either.
They were friendly. HS classmates weren't. Big difference.

So what if they're politically correct? don't we all have to be at one time or another?

At 6/19/2007 9:53 AM, Anonymous chani said...

I hear what you're saying about non-Jews being more accepting & I was thinking, like the last anonymous said, it probably is becasue they've been trained to be accepting of everything & everyone, no matter how different. I disagree, however, with one point you mentioned in your piece. Did you really see people smirking at each other after you joined the kumzitz circle? If you did, I really doubt that it was because of you. Maybe I'm wrong, but although they may smirk in their minds, I don't think they'd do it outright to other people. That would be lashon hara. I think most people in our grade had a basic understanding of it. Once again, I could be wrong, but that's my humble jewish opinion.

At 6/19/2007 4:22 PM, Anonymous a junior said...

so ur saying they were trained to accept everyone no matter how diff. well that goes under michelle's response to anon-"dont we ALL have to be politcally correct" what does that show that they were trained, were we not? and if not, whats that all about

At 6/19/2007 5:19 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Chani-yes, you're right. Not many would smirk, and I apologize if I implied that all girls would smirk. Yet,t hanks for acknowledging that they smirked in their minds.

a junior-thanks. and i've been reading the comments you left on my pieces, if you'd like a response, feel free to email me @

As far as the whole political correctness thing; that may be true, but i usually don't fall for crap. I felt accepted enough to jump into pictures; in HS, NEVER!!

At 6/20/2007 6:47 AM, Anonymous Xvi said...

An important point was raised about PC and its lack of training in HS. Thats a VERY true point. In a public school of multiple religions/ethnicities, there is an automatic lesson that is learned in accepting others, both explicitly and subconsciously. There are, of course, cliques of ethnicities and religions in addition to the jocks, freaks and geeks, but there is still a coexistence of these groups within the same setting. Contrast that to a parochial school, particularly Jewish ones, where there is just one flavor of classmate (WJF), and that automatically leads to a situation of intolerance. Furthermore, the teachers themselves, in my experience, tend to preach intolerance as well. How many teachers have you had that spoke in an openly derogatory way about the "shvartzes," etc? Plus, as a religious school there is an inherent merit system of fruminess by which we can judge each other.

Add it up'; the Jewish school system is exclusive by nature and will probably always remain so.

At 6/20/2007 12:46 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Xvi-sad but true. You raise a great point. Many teachers would say, "the goyim," in fear that they'd steal things in the building, etc. Well, Jews steal too, unfortunately.
It was often stressed that, "Halacha Yaduah She'Eisav Soneh L'Yakkov."
In fact, when I told the authorities of my intentions to attend Brooklyn College, they foolishly recommended that I "sit surrounded by frum girls in every class." Try finding me another frum girl in a Journalism class. Or a poli-sci class. I'm lucky if I have ONE per semester. I mean, what kind of idiots!!??

I've learned, grown, and (hopefully) changed for the better because of my diversified classmates.

At 6/20/2007 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

about PC--

yes, there are pros to it, but i must say that PC does not cure all and should be taken with a grain of salt.

yes, you may be accepted as a Jew, but you are put in a category with other people who must be accepted for tolerance's sake.

on your own side, how pc are you? you may not call blacks schvartzas, but would you raise your kids next door to them if you had them playing rap music with offensive lyrics so loud you can't think straight? this is what pc has brought us. we can't protest such actions because we are then labeled as intolerant. where do we draw the line?

At 6/21/2007 10:33 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

I don't consider myself too PC. After all, despite the fact that I don't listen to Imus, and never have, I was upset by his firing. Same goes for Isiah Washington on Grey's Anatomy (I don't watch that either.)

The way I see it, it's like if you step on someone's foot accidentally. You might apologize, even insincerely. Wouldn't you find that better than no apology at all? By my high school classmates shunning me the way they did, it was as though they stepped on my toes (intentionally? unintentionally?) and didn't bother to apologize. If your claim is that people in Brooklyn College are only nice to me to be politically correct, at least they're "apologizing." Get it?

At 6/21/2007 1:12 PM, Blogger Notsofrummie said...

Leaving the negia issue aside, which i think is ludacaris. Did you just want to make a scene of how relgious you are to the other people?
On to the hanging out with non jews - they are soo much more accepting than the the frum people. if your not exactly on he same hashkafa level, dont even think about joining their crowd. Extremely cliquey. And yes i know there are cliques in the non-frum world but its much easier to find your place and much less common. I just went on vacation and hung out with totally non jewish people and were ton nicer and accepting than many of the frum people i have known throughtout my yashiva days and brooklyn college days.

At 6/22/2007 3:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be careful NSF.. as some one who as been around its very superficial.. Goyim can be very nice but can also turn on you in a second and get very ugly.

Ask anyone who lived thru WW2...At least with frum yidden, you know where you stand with them..

At 6/23/2007 8:17 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

NSF- Not the situation. I don't need to prove how frum I am to anyone.
As I was typing the piece, I assumed someone would accuse me of doing that. But guess what?
I'm damn proud of the way I behaved, now that you mentioned it.
I wasn't showing off. I was demonstrating that my class was understanding about the situation. That's all. I was illustrating the point.

As for frum people judging you based on hashkafa, not always the case either. I'd say some of my closest friends are more "yeshivish" than I am and they don't judge me, and I don't judge them. I respect their differences.

And Anon--I agree. I hope I made that point clear at the same time. In case I didn't, thank you for reminding us of that aspect as well.

At 6/24/2007 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

michelle-anon's point is not an "aspect" it totally undermines your whole argument. Yeah, great-the goyim are "nicer" but they'll have no qualms about backstabbing and stepping all over you (in the case of the Nazis yimach shemam-they took it to the extreme....
) so what's that worth???

At 6/24/2007 6:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great point. Goyim will smile in your face one moment and stab you in the back the next.

At 6/25/2007 7:50 AM, Anonymous xvi said...

I love how they say that "goyim" will stab you in the back, as if it were a group of 5 people that they intimately knew. Stop living in a paranoid shell. Jews and non-jews are pretty much identical. We just call our god by a different name. Some are nice. Some arent. Some are ignorant, and thats just the way its going to be, and some will stab you in the back and thats just the way its going to be.

Somehow, this conversation turned into an "us vs. them" debate. You cant take all of your life lessons out of the holocaust.

At 6/25/2007 8:23 AM, Blogger Notsofrummie said...

Its interesting that you are calling all the non-jews nazis and how they are all going to backstab you. Its kind of racist of you to stereotype all the goyim like that. The person who quoted the WW2 reference, I dont know you but im pretty sure YOU yourself didnt go through the war. Yes, many Germans were back stabbers, but have you not heard all the stories of the 'goyim' trying to save the jews from the nazis. Right, i forgot every singe Goy is evil and they were just saving us because they hate us. Ive been backstabbed by many frum jews as well. In addition, your post was not about anti semitism. It was about feeling more 'accepted' by the goyim.

At 6/25/2007 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the point here is not to classify goyim as backstabbers more than any other group, but rather, to emphasize the point that eisav sonei liyakov-bottom line-they hate us...look around you that's not too difficult to understand i.e. europe, middle east etc. don't be fooled by their niceties-deep down they hate us. period. end of story.

At 6/25/2007 2:52 PM, Anonymous Lance said...

Michelle, you seem real smart and friendly, but there is absolutely no question in my mind that you've grown up incredibly sheltered.

The title of your post says it all: My First Goyishe Party. Your in college, but have never been to a non-Jewish party before? At the risk of sound like an old man--I'm actually 28--there is going to come a day when you look back on the post and think, "Man, I was young and kinda clueless back then."

After you graduate, you may end up working with "goyishe" people, and am hoping you grow up a little by then. Good luck telling all the people at your office party that they can't touch you or have fun making a big deal about checking to make sure that all the food is or isn't kosher.

Plus, non-Jews aren't like some different species. There are plenty of them who are nice and some who are mean, just as with any other group of people. While I'm glad you enjoyed the party, your post is shockingly naïve, even for a bais yakov girl, who clearly has been drinking the cool aide, but tries to portray herself as independent minded.

At 6/25/2007 6:30 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Lance- Perhaps you misunderstood the nature of my title. It was meant to sound juvenile, as kids' book titles. For fun. And it WAS my first non-Jewish party, and I don't see why that's such a bad thing.

I certainly plan to work among Non-Jews, and I hold nothing against them. I have many non-Jewish friends in school. In fact, I've been told numerous times that I'm the first Orthodox Jew to give them time of day and not snot them out.

I DID NOT tell ANYONE at the party that I was looking for a hechsher. Nobody noticed. One person brought homemade cookies, and assumed I couldn't have. I told her she was right.

I plan to remain Shomer Negiah at office parties, maintaining that a handshake for business purposes is excusable, but nothing more. If that's possible.

I don't want things getting in the way of following Halacha. Religion, FIRST, everything else, SECOND.

Call it Kool-Aid, call it naivite, but for right now, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

At 6/25/2007 8:18 PM, Blogger eddie said...

michelle- i think you did everything right and although i agree with lance about the sheltred part, for a former bais yackov girl to hang with gentiles (i dont like saying "goyim")is rare today with the brainwashing going on, i know firsthand about this because i have two sisters whove been through the bais yackov system one of them being very narrow minded as a result of her well meaning morahs and rebbetzins, as for anonymous its people like you who cause much of the anti-semitism today. i really hope you grow up

At 6/26/2007 7:11 AM, Blogger Semgirl said...

Yes...I love the way you let Lance have it with both barrels. I really respect your convictions..

At the risk of sounding, whatever, I think you should set your sights on being ehlich, and scrulously honest in business, and making a Kiddush Hashem wherever you go.. If you remain SN as well, thats beautiful, but it shouldn't be your main focus or emphasis..

At 6/26/2007 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


why shouldn't being shomer negia be michelle's main emphasis?
being shomer negia is quite beneficial in business settings. once others respect you for your obvious religious values, many of them assume you are being honest and scrupulous. in fact, you are forced to be honest and scrupulous because of the huge chillul hashem you know you will make if you're not. and michelle-- ask a rav about negia for business purposes, it's not that simple. many opinions state that you can only shake hands if chances are that you'll never see that person again. many business associates are going to work with you on a day-to-day basis and will wonder why you can shake some men's hands and not theirs. it's easier to go all the way either way than to meet half way in the middle.

At 6/27/2007 10:33 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

semgirl-thanks. I didn't say that being Shomer Negiah supercedes ehrlichkeit in business.

eddie-your closing statement doesnt connect with the rest of your comment. You tell me to grow up, but it's hard to see in which aspect you mean

At 6/27/2007 5:01 PM, Blogger eddie said...

the "i hope you grow up" comment was directed at anonymous

At 6/27/2007 8:27 PM, Blogger Hefcuz said...

The Frum world is like a small town. It has a small town mentality. Everyone knows each others’ business. There is no anonymity. When people meet you they immediately try and pigeon-whole you. They are often very judgmental. These are all symptoms of a small town close-knit community.

Our commitment to torah values, is supposed to remedy these faults. Unfortunately we’re all human, with an evil inclination and all the frailty that comes with it, and don’t always achieve the torah’s ideals.

Unfortunately, most Americans in and around big cities have no community. Therefore they don’t suffer from this particular brand of small town, clicky judgmentalisim.

I know many, many secular Jews and non Jews very well. Don’t fool yourself, they aren’t accepting of every one for who they are. They just have DIFFERENT criteria by which they judge people. They are just as human as BY girls and are plenty judgmental, clicky, etc..

My heart goes out to you for the way you were treated. I can relate.

At 6/28/2007 6:46 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

Eddie- i just reread it. Sorry for the misunderstanding; Thanks.

Hefcuz- you make an interesting distinction. It's not that they're not judgemental, they judge by different criteria. But could we say that they're LESS judgmental? And I refer to the people in my classes in college.

Think about how Connecticut people are represented on tv. Snooty and judgmental. I'm not saying I necessarily take their word for it, but judgmentalism (is that a word?)certainly exists there as well.

At 6/28/2007 8:27 AM, Blogger Hefcuz said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 6/28/2007 8:29 AM, Blogger Hefcuz said...

Agree, the secular world is less judgmental. Frum people’s judgmentalisim is an outgrowth of small-town, close-knit mentality. The secular community, (oxymoron) has very little scene of community.

Judgmentalisim, as far as I know, is not a word.

P.S. Did you go to seminary? if yes where? The reason I ask is, I was wondering if you ever understood the Hishtadlus Bitachon mantra. (Integral part of BYA hashkafah)

At 6/28/2007 9:14 AM, Blogger Notsofrummie said...

Well, naturally Non frum and non jews are human after all and can choose different criteria who they want to associate with athem nd make people 'feel accepted'. It is just a much more different and more rationalization than frum people . They dont wanna become friends with a rapist or a criminal, as long as your a decent, moral, and non judgemental person, they will alot more accepting than the frum crowd who criteria is a million times more stricter and waay more judgemental. Semgirl/Michelle, i dont think you met that many non jews to be making such statements. semgirl - as your name implies- lets wait sometime for your mind to cool off from israel and get back into the normal world.

At 6/28/2007 10:57 AM, Blogger Hefcuz said...

Notsofrummie, I know many, many secular Jews and I’m good friends with many non-Jews. I disagree with you.
I once held your position and now that I’ve been exposed to the “goyish”(whatever) community, I’ve changed my mind.
Again, human beings usually share common human faults.

Lets play psychologist: If you’ve been hurt in a particular community, other communities will feel like heaven. The reason being; they simply don’t carry the emotional baggage.

At 6/28/2007 1:05 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

notsofrummie- what makes you say that? I've attended Brooklyn College for, well, too long, and have met plently of non-Jews. I even, GASP, talked to them!! Even on the phone!! So, perhaps this is a taste of my own medicine--being judged.

Hefcuz- I'd prefer not to say which seminary I attended. It was not BYA, and I didn't go to Israel for Seminary. AS far as the Hishtadlus/Bitachon mantra, I don'tknow what that is, but we had many a discussion about that in my seminary.

Was there something you wanted to say about that? It's the kind of topic where if you ask 5 people, you'll likely get 5 differnt answers.

At 6/28/2007 5:26 PM, Blogger Hefcuz said...

Regardless of which seminary you attended, I’m curious to know what you thought or how understood the Hishtadlus/Bitachon mantra. You seem to be a though-out, reflective person that is why I posed the question to you.

“It's the kind of topic where if you ask 5 people, you'll likely get 5 differnt answers.”

Since this is such an essential in pop hashkafah, I’m trying to attain some clarity on this topic and wonder if there’s anyone who gets it. All though I’m sure many people (especially those in the “in crowed”) can through lines back at you, I’m wondering if there’s a deeper understanding of it and if there is, what is it?

At 7/18/2007 6:07 PM, Anonymous BecomingFrum said...


As someone who grew up non-religious and is only now becoming religious, I think your actions were totally acceptable. You can't totally ignore the non-religious world, and I only hope that I can straddle the two as well as you.

At 7/19/2007 3:36 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

becomingfrum: Thank you so much :-)
I hope you can do it better than I can; I wish you best of luck.


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