Note: the follow-up post on this subject is "What I'm Thinking When The Orthodox Make Headlines," based on a query from one of my readers in the comments here.
When you're identifiably Orthodox, you wear your religion on your sleeve. Literally. Either you've got a yarmulke or a long skirt but everything you do is a walking advertisement for or against your faith, and especially, your brand of your faith.
When you're not part of a particular community, race, or culture, all "those people" appear alike to you. You don't know how to differentiate. And Orthodoxy is no different. So when "bad news about the Jews" hits the world, and in today's tech society, it's instant and viral, all Ortho-folk look bad. Of course people are attracted to bad news like bees to honey. Ever see a newspaper full of good news sell?
Controversial articles attract comments; car wrecks attract rubber-neckers; family drama attracts more family drama. That's how we are.
This week I attended two "very Orthodox" weddings. As I looked around the room at the dancing, men and women each on their own side of the mechitza, black hats and all, I thought to myself: I know almost everyone in this room. They are good people, mostly. Pretty much just trying to do their thing, raise good families, uphold basic values, make a decent living, and be faithful Jews. Many are truly excellent people. Exceptionally kind, humble, giving, forgiving, and busy dedicating their lives to helping others both organizationally and personally. The emotions of joy, love and spirituality ran high in the room.
But then my brain switched to "outsider mode" (it does that often, with apparently no control on my part). I wondered, if an outsider would walk in here, would they think us bizarre? Odd? Phobic? Hateful? Rude?
It's painful. And I'm not sure what to do about it.
What do you think?