13 Annoying Things Most People Assume About Orthodox Jews
You likely base your knowledge of Orthodox Jews on ridiculous caricatures which were dreamed up in Hollywood and the headlines that capture the worst in our community. It’s time to straighten things out.
1. You guys have sex through a hole in the sheet, right?
No, but I’ve been asked this numerous times — once even by my cleaning lady. Which is pretty funny because she’s SEEN my sheets. I’m thinking,”Hey, lady, you make my bed! Ever seen any hole anywhere? Nuh-uh? It’s cause we don’t got ‘em!” People assume that because we’re outwardly modest that our modesty continues behind closed doors. It doesn’t. (News flash: We also shower like regular people!) It’s a big mitzvah for a husband and wife to be together — and not just for procreation. A wife’s sexual satisfaction is actually part of her marital contract, and if her husband doesn’t fulfill his end of the deal, it’s grounds for divorce. Don’t assume that because you don’t see us being overtly sexual we aren’t doing so in private places. That’s the point: We believe these matters are *private.*
2. You wear a wig? Oh, so then you shave your head, right?
No, actually, I don’t. And none of my friends who cover their hair do either. It’s only a small segment of the Hasidic community that does. Why do I cover my hair in the first place, then, and with *gasp* a wig that makes me look beautiful? Well, that’s a longer discussion than we have time for in BuzzFeed land, but I’ll keep it simple: Jewish modesty is not about looking unattractive, it’s about keeping certain parts of yourself private. The wig creates a barrier between me and the rest of the male population, and there’s only one man who can cross that barrier. Again, there’s no space to do the topic justice, but let’s get one thing straight, folks: If you see a wig, assume there’s hair underneath, because there usually is.
3. You’re a woman, so you’re subjugated, right?
No. I’m not, and I don’t think any of the women in my community are either. But of course there are SOME subjugated Orthodox women in the world because there are jerky men everywhere including in the Orthodox world. Orthodox Jews have many shared values with second-wave feminists, and the vast majority of Orthodox women that I’ve come across feel respected and are choosing their way of life. Does Judaism consider men and women to be different physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Heck, yeah! But different in a yin-and-yang sort of way, not a in a Coke-Pepsi sort of way (Coke clearly being the superior of the two). Orthodox Jews are second-wave feminists. We believe in celebrating women’s unique womanhood, not trying to make her more like a man.
But don’t take my word for it! Go out and meet some Orthodox Jewish women yourself and see directly from them how they’re treated. You can come to us for Shabbos, if you’d like. (Did I mention that my husband is an excellent cook?! ;) )
4. You’re a woman, so you don’t work, right?
Actually, I do. And most of us do. I once literally had a fight with a reporter from a major news outlet about this because she wouldn’t believe me. She had no real knowledge of the Orthodox community, yet she INSISTED that Orthodox women don’t (and can’t) work. She noted at one point that “maybe my secular bias is getting in the way.” (Ya think?!) When she finally conceded that Orthodox women could work, she asked, “Well, what do they do — run shops?” *Eye roll.* “Well,” I began, “Some run shops, and some run companies” (like Rickie Freeman, CEO of Teri Jon). “And some run hospital departments” (like Dr. Laurel Steinherz, director of pediatric cardiology at Memorial Sloan Kettering.) “And some run legal cases at major law firms” (like Lydia Kess, a Hasidic Jew who was the first *female* partner at Davis Polk — one of the most prestigious law firms in the country). And frankly, there’s more Orthodox Jewish woman - from all walks of Orthodox life — excelling in so many more professions than I even have space to mention. [Such as Vicious Babushka, who works in the auto industry—VB]
We could have a companion piece about “Annoying Things Most People Assume About Muslims” :)