Thursday, December 2, 2010

To be a "Menu Jew"

"Cafeteria Catholic" sounds cool, but Cafeteria Jew doesn't have the same alliteration, and besides that, most cafeteria food sucks.

So, since I'm a bit of a foodie and I like things that rhyme, I've come up with the new term "Menu Jew".

What is the basic philosophy of the Menu Jew?

1. Before concluding that you don't like something, find out if you were really having the most authentic and properly presented thing.

One pet peeve of mine is people who say that they hate Indian food, but have never had anything other than stale yellow curry powder. Taste the real thing, cooked decently, before you diss it.

Similarly, don't judge your religion by what another religion says about it, or a random blog, or a statement by someone who is frankly clueless. Put in the effort to do the spiritual equivalent of finding the best Indian restaurant.

2. Acknowledge that not everything that is authentic will be palatable.

From time to time, you may encounter the spiritual equivalent of haggis.

3. Let me taste the real stuff, and don't Gerber-ize it.

Baby food makers often mash and puree food, sometimes adding in starch or salt or sugar because they claim that babies won't eat the stuff any other way. I'm not sure that's a great way to feed babies, and I'm positive that adults shouldn't be treated like that.

So...don't decide ahead of time that concepts need to be dumbed-down, or that you won't show the original sources, or that you won't discuss all of the viewpoints on an issue, or that you need to alter stuff from the original because I wouldn't like it. I'm a big girl. Feel free to review or comment on the offering, but let me chew on the real stuff.

4. Sometimes fusion works, sometimes it doesn't.

Butter and mayo on a Montreal smoked meat sandwich is just wrong. So is Chrismukkah.
Guacamole on challah, though, works quite well. So does Judaism and liberal democracy.

4. It's the restaurant's job to present the full menu. It's my job to select what I consume.

We can talk about what constitutes the range of Jewish belief - ie. what should be on the full menu. Ultimately, though, there is another question: as an adult with G-d-given free will and intellect, what am I choosing?


C. Laundry said...

> "1. Before concluding that you don't like something, find out if you were really having the most authentic and properly presented thing."

In this context are you implying that OJ interpretations are authentic, and more so than texts used by other denominations?

" Put in the effort to do the spiritual equivalent of finding the best Indian restaurant."

Similarly,in your opinion, should one live 'Orthodoxly' before deciding one is not Orthodox?

JRKmommy said...

1. No, this isn't about Orthodoxy. First, more than one OJ interpretation may exist. Second, I have encountered Orthodox women who were never taught, for example, that the Talmud specifically discusses examples of situations where birth control is to be used, or who were given bogus explanations for things by kiruv workers, or women who are simply incapable of explaining the basis for saying that X is forbidden under Jewish law.

2. Again, it's not necessarily about just Orthodoxy. There are people who go off the derech because they were raised in sects with extreme rules or because they had particularly bad experiences with rabbis or family, and they may generalize those bad experiences to Judaism as a whole. I wouldn't believe everything that someone who wasn't Orthodox said about Orthodoxy, but I also wouldn't judge more liberal movements by what someone who has always been Orthodox would say about them.

JRKmommy said...

Let me give you one example of Orthodox gerber-izing: the Artscroll translation of Song of Songs.

Take a look at a literal translation of Song of Songs. It's a love poem, a somewhat erotic description of an interracial romance. Apparently, it's also too hot for Artscroll to handle, so they instead publish a non-literal translation that is really just an interpretation of the text.

C. Laundry said...

All good points - thanks for clarifying.