Thursday, February 28, 2008

Memo to the American Organized Jewish Community

To: The organized Jewish community

From: Katrina

Re: Bad for the Jews

It has come to my attention that certain Jewish leaders have been making ninnies of themselves and, by extension, all of us. These leaders, who happen to be Republicans (I have no problem disclosing that I am a proud Democrat), have been saying as loudly as possible that Obama is bad for Israel, AND that American Jews agree with them (Many of this was quoted first in the Jerusalem Post, which, to its credit, also has a campaign section about Israel with a variety of views on Obama). Although certain other Jewish leaders, who are Democrats, have spoken out against this, it may be too late, since I saw a news story on CNN's Situation Room this evening about what Israel thinks of the American candidates. The fact that there even was such a story (as though the US should care what Israel, or any other allied country, thinks of their individual candidates, as long as neither one of them is an axe-murderer) indicates that certain people in media also take seriously this idea that "American Jews" are evaluating Obama solely on his position on Israel. Furthermore, the implication is that there is a substantive difference between his views on Israel's and McCain's, of which there is currently no evidence (other than, as CNN reported, that Obama might talk to Ahmadinejad--that's talk to, folks, not sign a mutural non-agression pact with--without preconditions instead of bombing first and asking questions later).

Remember 2004, Organized Jewish Community (OJC)? Republicans said the sky would fall if Kerry was elected, and then Bush proceded to: 1) do nothing for 3 years, and then 2) do something, which many of our friends in New York who had been so vehemently against Kerry nevertheless thought was totally unacceptable because it might result in peace (although no one seriously thought that it would result in peace, but, you know, it's the principle).

So, OJC, these are my requests: 1) Regardless of your party affiliation, stop portraying "American Jews" as a giant monlith whose behavior is identical with yours, or yours and your other New York friends; there are Jews all over the country, and the majority (including some in NY) both support peace in Israel, including with some symbolic concessions on Jeruslaem, and think that a candidate's fitness to be president involves his or her views on domestic and general foreign issues, in addition to his or her views on Israel; 2) Stop making the Jews look bad, traitorous, selfish, etc. This is related to 1), of course, but this Israel-centric behavior RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE TV CAMERAS OR NEWSPAPER REPORTERS just plays into the hands of the The Israel Lobby folks and everyone else who thinks that Jews control the government and/or don't care about anything other than Israel; and 3) Do some research on the remaining candidates from both parties and think about domestic policy for a while. You live here--and here's kind of a mess right now.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Must-See

UPDATE: Here's the link!

So I was watching the newly-returned SNL tonight, and Tina Fey was hosting. At the end of Weekend Update, which she used to co-anchor when she was on the show, she did a bit about Hillary Clinton and why people in Texas and Ohio should vote for her. As an Obama supporter who used to support Hillary but doesn't think she's electable, I appreciated it. As an assertive woman who has been called (mostly behind her back) a bitch, I idenified with it. As soon as it's online, I'll link to it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Taking a Break

After consultation with a few people, and reassurance from alg (a member of my approximate demographic) that it's not totally nuts, I have decided to take a two-month-to-10-weeks break from dating. I have been so frustrated lately (here is just one example) by my unsuccessful efforts to get from a first date to a second date that I think I am doing no one any good by going on more first dates. I think guys can tell how pissed off/frustrated/nervous I am. The key is that this is not an indefinite break or a sign of giving up--it is a mindful decision to concentrate on other things to the exclusion of dating, online or otherwise, until Pesach or right after Pesach.

Also, I am trying to declutter my life in general, since I am deluged by a number of treatises in a language other than English that I have to read within the next month for dissertation purposes. It's hard for me to admit that I need de-cluttering, since I pride myself on being a very competent multitasker, but when a trusted person who knows me well suggested it yesterday, it made a lot of sense. I felt very relieved, so I'm pretty sure it's the right thing to do. I don't know yet how this will impact blogging. Right now I'm not intending to take a break, but if you don't hear from me for a while, you will know why. Thanks.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I Tried to Date the Law . . .

. . . and the law won. Or whatever. The analogy doesn't quite work. The lawyer, aka Date #3 from my 3-date bonanza of a few weeks ago, told me tonight that he didn't feel a click after the first date. So he doesn't want to go out again. I told him I was confused because he called after the first date, and normally when guys do that, it means they are open to a second date. He said that he "doesn't like it" when guys don't call, so he called to "feel me out" regarding the situation. What does that mean? Maybe I was too eager on that phone call. There are different freaking rules for every date and every guy, it seems.

So, that means I have officially gone 0-3 on the date front. And there isn't much waiting in the wings. I have a lot of work to do, and I'm really discouraged, so my instinct is to take a break. My parents are constantly telling me that I can't take breaks, but they don't have to deal with the emotional consequences of the aftermath. I would also like to add that I have difficulty taking breaks myself, but the lack of prospects should help. I can go onto J-Date as much as I want, but I think I have run out of people until the next mass-joining. So, if you need me, I'll be working on some sort of arcane treatise and feeling, at best, inadequate.

Blogs and Privacy

Happy Monday. (I am, of course, kidding; it's raining, and I have just started my taxes).

Anyway, my blog is pretty new, and I have been interested in figuring out how many people are reading it. Naturally, I thought of Site Meter, and, on the advice of the BF's DH, Google Analytics. But I have been troubled by the ethics of tracking people. I worry about the extent that all of these great software tools infringe on privacy. Right now I'm leaning towards not tracking.

Has anyone else worried about this? Any thoughts? As a new blogger I am always looking for advice on these matters. Thanks.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Conservative Judaism??

I have been thinking a lot about Conservative Judaism lately, and I have been getting quite frustrated.

First, some background: I went to a Solomon Schechter school for an undisclosed amount of time, but let's just say it was a lot of years. I have also audited a bunch of classes at List College at various times and in a whole bunch of different subjects (Talmud, Midrash, Jewish history and philosophy, Hebrew literature, etc.). When I lived on the Upper West Side for a year after college, I occasionally went to Hadar and more often went to an actual Conservative shul that had been partially taken over by young whippersnappers. When I came to grad school, the first minyan that I attended (I now attend more than one) was Conservative in a way pretty similar to Hadar. Despite all of this, I was not brought up in the Conservative movement, so I never identified with the movement or felt it was "mine." When I was in college, the Conservative minyan was lame, so I went to the Orthodox one and found I could tolerate davening with a mechitsah. I tend to "affiliate" as Conservadox because I find it is the label that fits me best and most accurately conveys to others, in one word or less, what my beliefs and practices are.

While I was growing up, my family and I used to make fun of the Conservative movement. In our defense, my father's job brought him into contact with the Conservative movement and its officials, whom my father experienced as fence-sitting even on very important issues, such as the recognition of non-Orthodox rabbis and synagogues by the Israeli government. Lo those many years ago, in the '80's, there was still a fair amount of what my friend calls, "But if we do that, what will our friends at Yeshiva University think of us?" in the movement. My teachers at school who were modern Orthodox also often made fun of the indecisiveness of the Conservatives. My fellow students who identified strongly as Conservative (often the children of Conservative rabbis) did not make too many of these jokes, and I figured that that made sense, since it was their movement.

That was why I was so surprised when I got to graduate school and the Conservative minyan that I go to, where most of the other attendees could be described as self-loathing Conservative Jews. Many were brought up in the Conservative movement but find it ridiculous, as I learned when we had a Koach (the Conservative movement's college organization) speaker for a Friday night dinner, and we were talking before she got there about whether we should mention our lack of enthusiasm for the movement. Some want to become Conservative rabbis, although usually not pulpit rabbis, but view any time they might have to spend at the Jewish Theological Seminary (to say nothing of an actual, real-life, non-New-York, Conservative shul) as some sort of purgatory. They do tell jokes about the Conservative movement, particularly about the Dorff-Nevins-Reisner homosexuality teshuvah, although they hope the new Chancellor will improve matters. At a recent Shabbat dinner, some of the more involved undergraduates were saying that they will probably not end up in a Conservative shul when they get older, unless it is a minyan like Hadar, because it will not be "frum" enough.

As a non-Conservative Jew looking at this at least partially from the outside, I often think, What is WRONG with these people? I may be yet another unaffiliated wonder, but I know lots of committed Reform Jews, for whom Reform is not a synonym for "nothing," but rather a particular set of beliefs about Judaism, Torah, and mitzvot. Although the key to this is "informed choice," and so it only involves mitzvot on a very uneven basis, these Reform Jews proudly go to Temple, attend movement conventions, send their kids to Reform summer camps and NFTY (the Reform youth group), etc. They are also pretty happy with the national movement, despite all the usual Jewish kvetching. Most of the self-loathing Reform Jews I have come across are the LEAST committed (they say things along the line of, "Well, I'm Reform, I guess, but I don't see why I should do anything, unless you, Rabbi X, can PROVE to me that I have to/that God exists, etc."). Any movement will have trouble attracting/retaining its marginal members. What surprises me about Conservative Judaism is that, from my own experience, it is the MOST committed people who are dragging themselves, kicking and screaming, to identify with the movement, rather than to become un-affiliated, post-denominational, or whatever. I think that is partially because the national movement is so fractured. USY (the Conservative youth group), JTS (the Conservative rabbinical school), and the Solomon Schechter schools teach one thing, but if it doesn't seem replicable, and not too much is being done about that fact, I see how that could be depressing.

I am less qualified to talk about modern Orthodoxy. Of course it is different from Reform and Conservative; it has a weak national movement, but people like that. Its leaders seem to have an incredible hold on some members (in the Northeast and California) and much, much less of a hold on some other members (everywhere else). I don't know if Modern Orthodoxy has much of a future in the New York area, where it's "Centrist or bust!," but in other parts of the country it seems to be doing pretty well. One can hardly underestimate the importance of NCSY (the Orthodox youth group) in attracting new members.

So, what's my point here? I guess it's that I don't know what the future of the Conservative movement is. It seems likely to break in half, with one half at least trying to hold onto halakhah, even at the expense of pretzel-ing sometimes (see, above, Dorff-Nevins-Reisner), and the other half, which has basically admitted that on some key issues it is most concerned with "meta-halakhic" issues, which is, as far as I can tell, a fancy way of saying, "non-halakhic" standpoints. With these messages coming out of New York, how can one expect people at a Conservative or sort-of-Conservative shul to realize/accept that some questions have to be answered with halakhah firmly in mind, even at the risk of hurting someone's feelings? Ideally, the halakhic types would remain at JTS, with a few decamping for Chovevei (a relatively new Orthodox rabbinical school that is to the left of Yeshiva University), which is not abnormal (just as a few students at Hebrew Union College, the Reform rabbinical school, over a given decade will decide they want to study more Talmud and go to JTS), and the "meta-halakhic" types would go to Hebrew College or AJR or somewhere else not-so-denominational. One of the things that metaphorically kills me is that I think that, hashkafah-wise, the "meta-halakhic" rank-and-file, if not the leadership, would be happiest in Reform congregations, where at least they might meet a rabbi who has something in common with them. But then there is the difficult issue of the wide liturgical differences between two movements whose practices are, on the ground, quite similar. Maybe the new Reform siddur will help bridge the gap, or maybe, as often happens, the folks on the ground will do EXACTLY what they have been doing for years, while bloggers like me obsess about this online for the benefit of their 12 readers.

So, what do you guys think? I am especially interested in hearing from people who DID grow up Conservative on what they think the future of their movement is, but, please, everyone, feel free to let loose. One more question: Does this sort of post qualify as Lashon Hara?

Good News, For Now

Just a quick note that the lawyer, aka date #3, called today. I was really happy. We just chatted about politics and our work, and he said he would talk to me later. It seems he is quite deliberative and moves slowly. I think that he wants to go out again, but it may take him a few phone calls to get there (We didn't set up our first date until our second phone call). Plus, I told him that my mom will be in town this weekend, which is true. So, I am trying to be cautiously optimistic about a second date and not think beyond that. This was a quick infusion of self-esteem at a time when I REALLY needed it.

I figured that since I have been complaining so much about my life, I would tell you all about this. Thanks for "listening."

Also, my blog was featured on Haveil-Havalim today. I'm so excited. I'm hoping to get some more readers who don't know me personally. Thanks a lot to Shira and Jack for recommending this to me.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Two Strikes . . .

So here's the latest report from dating-land:

I told the Israeli guy that I thought we didn't have too much in common (or much to say to each other). He seemed pretty upset and asked if I was sure I didn't want to go out on one more date. I said yes. I felt bad about this but also found it to be a confirmation of the Murphy's Law of Katrina's dating: Apparently, another thing we didn't have in common was perception of what constitutes an awkward date.

Then, the guy from the second date, the fun one, told me today that he doesn't think we clicked or will click in the future. This one pissed me off. This is an older guy (10-15 years older than I am), and he is pretty average in terms of what people stereotypically usually look for in guys: looks, job, apartment, etc. On the other hand, he is pretty weird in terms of interests, which I will not delineate here for fear of being too specific. He basically had two concerns: we're at different places in life, and we don't have too many overlapping interests. Give me a freaking break. If I were his age, I would be eager to start a relationship, not looking for excuses not to start one. Perhaps I am naive, but it has never been my policy to try to date someone who is exactly like me. If two people spend time together, their interests will ideally get closer together. If you're a squash fanatic, I might start playing squash with you, and at the same time, you might start organizing your week around my favorite television show so that we can watch together. This guy is sufficiently weird that he will never find someone who has all of his interests. If that is his method, he won't ever find anyone.

And maybe that's the point. I spoke to a good friend of mine, a professor in New York, about this guy and the date. She expressed herself more eloquently, but basically she said that from my description (this was before I talked to the guy, based on my report of the date and the fact he hadn't called), this guy sounded like a freak and a loser. If people aren't married by his age, she said, it may be that they cannot give of themselves. (That may why be the very idea of doing something that he hasn't done before, merely because I am interested in it, strikes fear in his heart). She is frum, so some people might say that she has too narrow a view of what relationships should be, but in my opinion, ca. 40 is ca. 40, regardless of whether he watches TV.

From my perspective, another potential problem is that I am far more accomplished than he was at my age. In the frum world, this seems less of a problem than in the regular, Conservative/Conservadox world (Older Guy is an active member of one of the shuls I go to). That has to do with concrete socio-economic factors, and I am not judging either world, but the religious issues that I encounter are just piled on by guys sometimes not being interested in smart, ambitious women. I can't say that this was a factor for Older Guy, merely that it could have been.

The third date was fine, conversational but low-key, but I kind of doubt he will call, since I don't exactly seem to be batting 1000 lately . . .

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Katrina is, you guessed it, overwhelmed. I suppose this happens to everyone occasionally, but I feel guilty about being overwhelmed since I basically have no life. Somewhere in my town there is a mother with 4 kids, a full-time job, and a do-nothing husband who demands that she make dinner, who is also feeling overwhelmed, but she is justified. One of the interesting features of modern upper-middle-class single life is that it leaves a fair amount of time for thinking too much, perhaps on a scale unprecedented in history.

So why am I feeling overwhelmed? There are a few factors. First, my dissertation. I am up to my neck in books to read, and I am having trouble organizing my time. I keep thinking that it would be best for me to have large blocks of uninterrupted time to work, but in fact I work better if I know some activity to attend that acts as a deadline before which I have to get someting done. Knowing that I am supposed to be done in three semesters is just starting to hit me. Some of my friends who are a year ahead of me in the program have on-campus job interviews coming up. It turns out that every school, including Do You Want Fries with That U, demands, in addition to the application submitted in the fall, an approximately 30-minute talk, in which one's research has to be made palatable to non-specialists, a lecture to actual undergraduates and/or a discussion of one's teaching philosophy, and an overview of future projects. This semester is supposed to be the most productive one of my life, since starting in the fall I will be the one applying to jobs for the first time and having to sell myself in this time-guzzling manner. Great. No pressure.

Now, my love life. Israeli guy did, indeed, call me on Thursday (oh, disinterested Katrina is so hot!), and he said he would call back, which he hasn't. This is a relief to me because I don't know what to say to him. I had another date on Thursday night, with a different guy, whom I liked, and now I get to wait for him to call or e-mail. This guy I was interested in, so it's touch and go. I REALLY want to wait for him to call and not jump the gun, since I think this is the best way to gauge his interest in me, but I have poor impulse control and have to struggle constantly not to pick up the phone or at least send him some light-hearted e-mail. Does anyone have suggestions about how NOT to call, other than hiding my cell phone?

On Tuesday, I have a third date, with a guy I "met" and e-mailed with on JDate a half-dozen times and talked to on the phone twice. You're probably saying, I can't believe Katrina is complaining. THREE dates in two weeks? Fair enough. I want to emphasize, though, that I had no dates between Chol HaMoed Sukkot and December 23rd, when I had a perfectly nice dinner with a Frumster guy who was so hashkafically to the right of me that I almost burst out laughting over my cucumber martini. These three Jan./Feb. dates were the culmination of a lot of getting myself out there singles-wise in late 2007 and early 2008. I'm not saying that I deserve them, per se, but I went through a lot of humiliation to get them, and if even one resulted in a second date actaully desired by both parties, that would be a lot. I have low expectations going into the JDate date Tuesday because, like many guys on JDate, this guy is smart and cute and is probably not too observant at all despite the "Conservative" label. This is my experience with JDate and Frumster, respectively: JDate guys tend to be way to the left of me, while Frumster guys are way to the right. My parents, and especialy my father, are urging me to date guys more to the left, because the odds of finding an unmarried Conservadox guy with fewer than 3 heads are low. I am beginning to agree, but that's putting the cart before the horse for now.

Then there is the connection between work and love life, with the rest of my social life, such as it is, thrown in there for fun. The problem is that I am exhausted. I am not a high-energy person, and I am shy, although most people don't realize that about me, since I SEEM confident, and the putting myself out there and then actually going on the dates that eventually result is taking a lot out of me. Then I note all the time I haven't worked, and I get freaked out. This doesn't help my work, and it makes me more determined than ever that at least one of these dates HAS to work out, because how else will I explain to my advisor that I haven't produced some written work by X or Y date? Don't worry, I don't actually talk to my advisor about my love life, good or bad. Then I want to do other things, with actual friends who I already know and get along with, and I have no time for that, what with the dates and the working. Hence the overwhelmed-ness. Any ideas on how to get through this, as I imagine some of my readers have had to do at some point or another, would be appreciated. Hint: starting slack-jawed at Law and Order reruns on TNT doesn't work. I have tried.

Shavua Tov everyone.