On Skeletons

 Posted by on October 31, 2012
Oct 312012
 

A woman saying the skeleton in her closet is not for halloween, it's always there

Secrets. So many, so good. We all have our skeletons in the closet, don’t we? I’ve asked friends from the Hasidic community on occasion: “Who knows your little secret that you have a couple of kids in a strange religious community in Brooklyn?” Not the dates, I tell you. OTD guys and girls often seem so regular, so fantastically dressed up as a secular Joe or Jane, no date would ever guess their secret of a religious life they left behind unless they share it.

Secrets fascinate me. I used to be very naïve about them and I would adamantly deny the allegation about secret illicit behavior among the families I saw around me. I thought all families were what you saw. The world was so simple and straight. When I first heard of secret gossip about sexual abuse in the Hasidic community, I was unable to believe such things happen. I would never believe that a man in a beard and a religious demeanor had done something like that. Only when I began encountering such men in “marriage counseling” did I begin to understand how religion and hypocrisy went hand in hand. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to get away from it all. The abuse and hypocrisy is still unbelievable but I now know that it is true. Such secrets are there, in the closets, fermenting.

I’ll tell you my own little secret in the spirit of things. I am very ambivalent about Halloween. Okay, not much of a secret but something I would generally not admit on this site because it is hard to have a conversation about the subject without a flock of holier-than-tho religious preachers coming out of the woodworks. But it’s Halloween, I won’t be spooked, boo all you will. It’s not like I do Halloween. My son would want to do Halloween though, that’s the other part of it. He got it into his head to convince me to dress up as a ghost and go around begging for sugar. The two clowns will now be the two ghosts. How will this look for shidduchim? No. After a bag of chocolate bars and candy bulges at my waist? Definitely not!

The other day in college while the professor was preparing his stack of papers to begin class, a student slid into the chair next to me and whispered “are you doing Halloween with your son?” She is a conservative Jew and I’ve invited her to celebrate a holiday with us on occasion. She’s curious about where I stand with religion. Aren’t you all? It’s a secret. I love it. So she tells me that their conservative rabbi called Halloween a pagan holiday, but they trick-or-treated anyway. I tell you, I feel a little like the rabbi – with an opinion as important as his. I don’t see why we can’t stick to our Purim and rabbi costumes. True, Halloween is for the most part not considered a religious holiday, but it’s still not a secular holiday like Thanksgiving. I’m not very impressed with a holiday of gore and sugar anyway. But — but then again, if trick-or-treating won’t impede with my son’s sense of strong Jewish identity, why not? Why be stubborn and dogmatic? Why not be open to new experiences? I worry not to be as rigidly religious as I know others to be, but I also worry to introduce a healthy sense of my son’s Jewishness to him. So I don’t know which hat to wear to this affair; the Yid or goy, the traditionalist or the pluralist.

Frieda Vizel

Frieda Vizel left the Hasidic community, the Modern Orthodox community and the Formerly Orthodox (OTD) community. She now lives in Pomona and is actively looking for a new community to leave. She deals with the perplexities of the communities she left by drawing cartoons about them, a habit that gets her into an excellent amount of trouble.

  9 Responses to “On Skeletons”

  1. I dont get it, why would you not enjoy the holiday like the rest of american society?why cling to religon and jewish identity if you dont belive in the authenticity of the god given Torah?

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  2. 90% of the Jews, Kevin, don’t believe in the authenticity of the God given Torah. Or maybe it’s 80%? But you get the point. And most of these do, at least, cling to Jewish identity.

    When you have so many exceptions to the rule, it’s time to reformulate the rule. So the question is not why, but why believing in the authenticity of the Torah should be seen as a prerequisite for clinging to Jewish identity when, you know, most Jews do it without believing.

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  3. Ha, great cartoon!

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  4. Oh what a cute skeleton, and such a clean closest. Does he do windows too. “S” re mattan Torah et al–at every single second of history there are true believers, non believers, and make believers. So if that is a given, which I suspect it is what are you going to do reformulate the rule every 30 days. And as you note identity in the broader sense has very little to do with belief. Kevin seems to be suggesting an all or nothing or worse mocking it.

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  5. How old is he? Can you just tell him that? Sure, go ahead and trick or treat with your friends. It’s fun. Your attitude is its fun but not something that has any meaning.He can pick up on that. And if he asks you any questions about the significance, which he probably will if you have an open attitude towards it, you can casually dismiss it, like you do to yourself. It doesnt need to be a lesson to be a lesson. Hes an Amwerican, part of American society. Why should he feel different? He can be proud of his own heritage (and I think its important to, for self-confidence), but he doesnt have to feel this is bad, especially since he wants to do it.

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  6. Hi I enjoy your art with your unique view on Chasidim. I must point out that there are no conservative Jews. The only Conservative Jew in a like minded congregation is the Rabbi.

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