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Jul 15, 2013

Call me Haredi? Call me whatever you want, but don't call me late for dinner

The past couple of days has seen a preponderance of articles in which people described themselves as haredi, as not haredi, as amalek, as whatever, all in response to Rabbi Shalom Cohen calling some segment of Jewry by the name "amalek" .

In no particular order:

Personally, I follow the old American maxim of "Call me anything you want, but don't call me late for dinner".

For most of us, our lives are far more complex than what can be neatly packaged into this or that label. Personally, there are plenty of aspects of my life in which I act/behave/prefer things that fit more with some of the various forms of  Haredi society. At the same time there are plenty of aspects of my life that are more in tune with some of the various forms of Dati Leumi society. And, surprisingly enough, there are also plenty of aspects of my life that are more in line with the general public and not this or the other religious society. And that's putting it briefly. It can probably be described in far more complicated combinations.

When I answer telephone polls and surveys, and I answer plenty of them, I always refuse to answer the standard question of "what are you - haredi, dati, masorati, chiloni?". I always answer I am 'Yehudi". I am just a Jew. The questioner is always taken aback and not sure how to proceed. On the one hand, it is not fair to them - they just want to check a box and move on - they do not at all care how I define myself. On the other hand, I feel no need to define myself and limit myself to one inaccurate description just because they want me to. When pressed, when the questioner insists on getting a "clearer" answer, clearer to them that is but not clearer to me, I just say I am a Jew trying to keep Torah and Mitzvot to the best of my ability. I have no idea what they actually write down as the answer to the question, but after that they move on to the rest of the survey.

My point is that I am happy to live my life the way I see as being most proper and appropriate. That includes aspects of many different societies. I don't want to define myself as "Haredi", nor do I want to define myself as "not Haredi". I am often told that here in Israel it does not work like that - you have to pick a side, you have to define yourself. I disagree. If you feel that way, you are letting other people dictate for you how to live your life.

I prefer to decide what I feel and/or know is right or wrong, to give in to my temptations or to conquer them, to accept challenges and face them head on or to avoid them and avoid the lifestyle confrontation. Insisting on a label, whether for myself or to stick to someone else, is just a way to conveniently allow myself to be judged or to judge others. I prefer not to do that. I am happy to let each person live by his or her beliefs, no matter how wrong or ridiculous I might think those beliefs are, as long as they are not trying to harm me (or others, really) in the process. I am happy to be let to live my life by my beliefs, no matter how wrong or ridiculous someone else thinks they are, as long as I am not harming someone else in the process.

So, call me whatever you want, but don't call me late for dinner.

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