Purple Jacket People

Purple Jacket People

"Why do Jews Keep Kosher?" and Some Other Things, Too
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The number of times someone has asked me, “Kayla, why do you keep Kosher?" or "What’s the purpose of Kashrut?” and I haven’t had a proper answer is insane. Sometimes I’ll mumble something along the lines of “Oh, it’s a Jewish tradition” or “I’ve just always done it because that’s how I’ve been raised” or “it’s cleaner”. Yet through the Jewish Learning Experience seminar I’ve attended over the past month, I’ve learned that the truth lies in ethics, deep beneath the surface.

When the rabbi leading the seminar explains a concept to us, he sandwiches stories and analogies within each other so that we’ll be better able to understand the why behind what happens in our world instead of just the what. He began the seminar with asking us about the definition of ethics and the purpose of having rules to follow in the name of being morally good people. Delving into the roots of Judaism, he asked us if we had ever heard of the Jews being the “Chosen People” and most of us nodded that we had. It is said in the Torah that the Jews “shall be a light unto the nations” for when the world had dissolved into crime. God picked the Jews, who had known the greatest hardship of being the lowest of the low -- slaves in Egypt -- as his Chosen ones. The Rabbi called the Jews the “purple jacket people”, mentors and role models for the other people, saying that the one thing that can really help people escape bad communities and lives of crime is a single mentor. And with this designation, Jews were supposed to be extremely compassionate people who should always do good. For example, in segregated America, Julius Rosenwald, a Jewish philanthropist, helped set up 5357 black schools in the south. Of course, this does not always occur, and such an occurrence creates problems for Jews, a different standard.

For while the Jews were intended to be compassionate and able to relate to all of these people, being Jewish comes with an additional responsibility. The rabbi gave us a hypothetical example, asking us what would happen if Trump’s campaign manager spent an evening in a nightclub and got too drunk or rowdy. The general consensus was that he would probably get fired. Like celebrities or politicians who are massively criticized when they commit both small and large mistakes, the Jewish people are put in a similar situation with being chosen. While this may seem elitist, perhaps we’re being held to a higher standard. This I would not believe if the recent past and my own present hadn’t confirmed it.

The Holocaust happened less than a century ago. The Jews were scapegoated because it was easy to blame them for financial and other difficulties in Germany, and the idea of reversing the tables on the supposed elitists was very attractive to many, both in Germany and in Europe, Asia, and many other places across the globe. And 10 years later, in the 1950s, Jews and blacks were not allowed to live in La Jolla, California. It wasn’t until Jonas Salk, a Jew whose lab was in La Jolla, found the polio vaccine that the city changed its law, allowing him to finally be able to live an apartment next to his lab and enabling blacks and other Jews to live there too. Yet this scapegoating doesn’t just lie within the past.

Israel today is the only democracy in the Middle East. Women have equal rights, people can vote, and people can practice whichever religion they would like freely. So it shocked me when I learned that from the years 2006 to 2012, there were 48 UN reports condemning Israel when only 9 condemned Syria, 3 condemned Iran, and many nations such as China were left untouched. And on March 24, 2016, the UN solely condemned Israel for violating women’s rights, citing mistreatment of Palestinian women. I was floored that the UN would criticize Israel more than Syria, a nation which has been undergoing brutal and bloody civil war for years and that no nation aside from Israel would be called out for violating women’s rights, not even nations such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Iraq. Israeli women and girls, amongst others, have been violently slaughtered on the streets of Israel, yet their plight was not condemned by the UN.

All I could ask myself was why. Why is it that Israel is criticized so often and so brutally when other nations, perhaps less humane nations if such an assessment is possible, are not?

Maybe it’s because the way we think of Israel and the way we think of other nations are not the same. Maybe it’s because the world holds Israel and the Jewish people to a higher standard. Such a phenomenon results from being in the spotlight, and for better or for worse, the Jews have certainly been in the spotlight throughout history. Even in my own discourse, I am constantly asked why the US should support Israel, why anyone should support Israel. People are always asking about Israel and critiquing its actions, and while I definitely don’t agree with all of Israel’s actions, I hadn’t understood until this seminar the reasoning behind the present reality, behind the UN, as one article cites, considering “the most evil country in the world today” to be Israel.

But this relates back to Kashrut, I promise. It it said that initially, Jews weren’t supposed to eat meat, but when corruption and crime happened in the world, God allowed them to eat meat. This is because, as the Rabbi says, “we [people] aren’t animals, we believe we have a higher cause," making a distinction between people and animals and stressing that this dietary change physically caused Jews to reevaluate what it means to be human. Once Jews began to eat meat, the rules of Kashrut (keeping Kosher) were constructed and they are explicit in the Torah. One rule is that Jews can only eat land animals that both chew their cud and have split hooves. The only animal that does one but not the other is the pig. Pigs have split hooves, but do not chew their cud (constantly regurgitate food over and over again). When they are sleeping, pigs put their hooves out in front of them to appear as though they are Kosher animals, an action which has caused them to be considered deceitful and two-faced and therefore unkosher. Another law of Kashrut is that Jews cannot “boil a kid in its mother’s milk”. While, taken literally, this seems horrific at the outset, there is a deeper meaning behind it. Meat symbolizes death and milk represents life, a mother’s milk sustaining babies with the perfect amount of nutrients throughout the nursing process in an incredible phenomenon that even modern technology cannot come close to replicating. Essentially, putting meat and milk (dairy) together is like mixing cruelty and compassion. To connect to the earlier Holocaust example, Hitler thought that what he was doing with murdering Jews and other people was best for Germany and the world. Yet his actions are largely considered to be inhumane in all regards and one of the worst things that has ever happened to humanity. The same problem exists with Syrian refugees today. Many nations, such as Israel wish to be compassionate and take them in, though they fear what cruelty and problems might ensue if they do. And in California, the Rabbi told us, PETA made a billboard putting a picture of Jews being murdered in the Holocaust side-by-side with a picture of animals being slaughtered. While I understand the rhetorical point that PETA was trying to make, comparing humans to animals, especially in such a dramatic way, is unthinkable to me.

It is this principle of not mixing cruelty with compassion that makes us Jewish, which holds us to a different standard. It helps make us who we are as a people not just because of “Tradition!” [insert Fiddler on the Roof music here] but because it’s ethical. So, to all the people who have been asking me about why I keep Kosher and the people who, like me, have been blindly obeying the rule because the Torah says so, this is why I do it. Because when I go up to the burger station in the cafeteria and ask for a plain burger, no cheese, it’s because it simply seems to be the morally, ethically right thing to do.
Cover Image Credit: Unbeatablesale.com

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I'd Rather Be Single Than Settle – Here Is Why Being Picky Is Okay

They're on their best behavior when you're dating.
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Dating nowadays described in one word: annoying.

What's even more annoying? when people tell you that you're being too "picky" when it comes to dating. Yes, from an outside perspective sometimes that's exactly what it looks like; however, when looking at it from my perspective it all makes sense.

I've heard it all:

"He was cute, why didn't you like him?"

"You didn't even give him a chance!"

"You pay too much attention to the little things!"

What people don't understand is that it's OKAY to be picky when it comes to guys. For some reason, girls in college freak out and think they're supposed to have a boyfriend by now, be engaged by the time they graduate, etc. It's all a little ridiculous.

However, I refuse to put myself on a time table such as this due to the fact that these girls who feel this way are left with no choice but to overlook the things in guys that they shouldn't be overlooking, they're settling and this is something that I refuse to do.

So this leaves the big question: What am I waiting for?

Well, I'm waiting for a guy who...

1. Wants to know my friends.

Blessed doesn't even begin to describe how lucky I am to have the friends that I do.

I want a guy who can hang out with my friends. If a guy makes an effort to impress your friends then that says a lot about him and how he feels about you. This not only shows that he cares about you but he cares about the people in your life as well.

Someone should be happy to see you happy and your friends contribute to that happiness, therefore, they should be nothing more than supportive and caring towards you and your friendships.

2. Actually, cares to get to know me.

Although this is a very broad statement, this is the most important one. A guy should want to know all about you. He should want to know your favorite movie, favorite ice cream flavor, favorite Netflix series, etc. Often, (the guys I get stuck on dates with) love to talk about themselves: they would rather tell you about what workout they did yesterday, what their job is, and what they like to do rather than get to know you.

This is something easy to spot on the first date, so although they may be "cute," you should probably drop them if you leave your date and can recite everything about their life since the day they were born, yet they didn't catch what your last name was.

3. How they talk about other women.

It does not matter who they're talking about, if they call their ex-girlfriend crazy we all know she probably isn't and if she is it's probably their fault.

If they talk bad about their mom, let's be honest, if they're disrespecting their mother they're not going to respect you either. If they mention a girl's physical appearances when describing them. For example, "yeah, I think our waitress is that blonde chick with the big boobs"

Well if that doesn't hint they're a complete f* boy then I don't know what else to tell you. And most importantly calling other women "bitches" that's just disrespectful.

Needless to say, if his conversations are similar to ones you'd hear in a frat house, ditch him.

4. Phone etiquette.

If he can't put his phone down long enough to take you to dinner then he doesn't deserve for you to be sitting across from him.

If a guy is serious about you he's going to give you his undivided attention and he's going to do whatever it takes to impress you and checking Snapchat on a date is not impressive. Also, notice if his phone is facedown, then there's most likely a reason for it.

He doesn't trust who or what could pop up on there and he clearly doesn't want you seeing. Although I'm not particularly interested in what's popping up on their phones, putting them face down says more about the guy than you think it does.

To reiterate, it's okay to be picky ladies, you're young, there's no rush.

Remember these tips next time you're on a date or seeing someone, and keep in mind: they're on their best behavior when you're dating. Then ask yourself, what will they be like when they're comfortable? Years down the road? Is this what I really want? If you ask yourself these questions you might be down the same road I have stumbled upon, being too picky.. and that's better than settling.

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Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?

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This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

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