Tuesday, April 26, 2016


היום שלשה ימים בעמר
Today is three days of the omer
תפארת שבחסד
A day of compassion in a week of loving kindness

Road trips to LA, which I take every 3 months or so, have become opportunities for podcast marathons. WTF with Marc Maron is a favorite, Fresh Air is usually in the mix, and FiveThirtyEight Elections is the seasonal choice. I've also become a fan of Tablet Magazine's Unorthodox.

During an interview with Ladino singer/songwriteSarah Aroeste, Deputy Editor Stephanie Butnick admitted to being, to her dismay, "Ashkenormative." What a great word, one that should be entered in Jewish-American dialogue.

In the US, the Ashkenazic Jewish culture, passed on from Eastern Europe, is what is seen as Jewish. Fiddler on the Roof has somehow become the source of all Jewish tradition, coming from Jews and non-Jews alike. It's become what defines the Jewish status quo. Any other Jewish cultural, ritual, and liturgical traditions are considered outside the norm. Everything is viewed through the Ashkenazic lens.

The recent ruling--and reaction to it--by the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement in America to "allow" legumes, such as beans, and rice and other kitniyot for Ashkenazic Jews really proved the overwhelming Ashkenormative view of Judaism. It made big news in the Jewish world, and even without. I especially love this NPR story, written not by a Sephardi spouse of an Ashkenazi--some would define this as intermarriage :) -- but by a Latina who married into a Jewish family and could now have rice and beans during Pesach.

This brought to my mind that as Jews in this country, we can share the heritage of our ancestors, but we shouldn't be bound or, more accurately, set apart by those demarkations set so many centuries ago. In food, in music, in culture, we are American Jews. We can make our shared, diverse backgrounds the norm.

While not at the top of the issues facing American Jews right now, I think it's time to take off the Ashkenazic filter through which we see American Judaism. At the end of that podcast episode, Stephanie Butnick pledged to try to stop being so Ashkenormative. I join her in that, and I invite you to do the same. The more we open our world, the stronger we'll be going forward.

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