Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ilene Rosenblum

Hello and Happy Saturday Everyone!

First up, I wish to thank Sarita for her excellent post last week and for sharing with us what it means to her to be a Pagan. I encourage all to read it!

Thanks Sarita!

This week we have a new post so please welcome Ilene Rosenblum.
Ilene is Jewish and I know you're going to enjoy her interview as well!

Here Is Ilene Rosenblum's Introduction:

As a child, I found Judaism uninspiring, wishy-washy at some times, and too dogmatic at others. I was also mystified by the Jewish community's fear of assimilation yet seeming inability to answer the question "Why Be Jewish"? While working in Washington, D.C., I was more exposed to Orthodox Jews I could relate to, and I slowly began to attend more Torah study classes and to spend Shabbat with local families. I felt totally out of my league despite having gone to a Jewish day school. I realized there was more to Judaism than I thought and decided that I wanted a Jewish lifestyle -- not simply to go to synagogue or do Jewish activities as a hobby. I chose to move to Israel to study Torah in a full-time, intensive program and have been there ever since.

My blog is at You're also welcome to follow me on twitter @ilenerosenblum.

1) What religion do you practice?

2) Did you convert or were you born into this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
I was born Jewish, but I grew up practicing differently. I am more observant than my parents, or stricter in according with Jewish law, halacha.

3) Would you consider yourself a moderate, conservative or other.

4) In your opinion, what makes you moderate/conservative/other?
I try to draw the best from strict observance while keeping in touch with the modern "real" world, other Jews and other people of all stripes. There is probably an equal number of Jews would consider me conservative (lower case "c") as there are Jews who would consider me too liberal.

5) In your opinion, what makes someone conservative? What makes someone moderate?
Someone is more conservative if they stay more tied to the law and traditional values. Someone who is more moderate is more tolerant of other ways of doing things besides that which they conform to, and they are also probably more willing to try and accept new things.

6) What's your heaven/paradise like?
Judaism is much more focused on the present life, so I don't think much about heaven. A Jew's mission is to repair this world, which means elevating the physical. Ultimately, in olam habah, the next world, we should be able to be 100% spiritual, and closer to Gd, without being distracted by the physical. Meanwhile, I have my work cut out for me here, and I will deal with that when it comes. I do think about divine retribution from time to time, and owning up to what choices I make in the present. I hope that in the next world, olam habah, I am able to achieve a greater closeness with Hashem, my maker, and a sense of full completeness.

7) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
I don't believe that there are two destinies - heaven or hell. Everyone's soul ends up doing what it needs to do.

8) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
It includes absolutely everything. So many people, and Jews in particular, I find, are searching all over for something that will give their life meaning and purpose. This is contained in Judaism, though it often seems to be a well-kept secret these days. It recognizes the cycles of nature, connecting me to a more natural, peaceful way of being. The Jewish holidays are times of meaning and reflection and restoration, when observed properly.
I don't know what I would do without Shabbat, a full day of rest. Without the distractions of e-mail and telephone calls, I can have meaningful conversations with those close to me, take relaxing walks, and read a book. Without an externally imposed day to relax, I probably wouldn't.
Judaism is a religion that encourages open dialogue, with one another and with Gd. While it may seem so from the outside, it is not about strict dogma. To the extent that it is limiting and strict, I find that it provides my life with necessary structure. A child obeys the rules set by a loving parent, and I choose to obey the laws of my Father in Heaven, because I believe that they are for my benefit, even if I do not yet understand why.
I have not studied other faiths extensively, but Judaism makes sense to me. I do not feel a need to look elsewhere.

9) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
Explaining all of the ritual and significance in each Jewish holiday would take quite a long time. I welcome those who wish to learn more about Jewish holidays to look at and
Most holy days are called "Yom Tov" and they involve the strictures of Shabbat, which create an atmosphere of peace and rest. Families gather for festive meals and pray at synagogue. I try to learn something new about an approaching holiday and add something new to my observance or keep with me a thought that adds spiritual uplift that I may share at the festive meal. Sometimes I buy a new outfit that I will wear for the first time on Yom Tov.

10) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?

11) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
Depending on what the celebrations involved, I would join at least to observe. I believe that tolerance can only be fostered through understanding others, however, at the end of the day, I am a Jew, and I am unwilling, for instance, to eat something non-kosher in a festive celebration or pray to another God.

12) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
It seems to me that the burka and Shariah are often used to oppress women.

13) What are your thoughts on women not being allowed to become priests?
In modern society, gender roles are becoming increasingly blurred, for better and for worse. I think that we will increasingly see female priests and rabbis, even in more conservative movements. On the one hand, women often serve alongside men as lay leaders, so it would make sense that they could serve in leading a religious community. On the other hand, I believe that a woman's first priority is in her own home. I cannot comment further on priests specifically, but the Judaism I practice is home, not synagogue-centered. A woman sets the spiritual tone for her home, and if men run services in the synagogue, I do not feel that it is in order to exclude women. It's more of a logical distribution of labor.

14) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?
Men and women sit separately at synagogues that I attend. At first this bothered me. Eventually, I got used to it. I also internalized that prayer is about deepening my connection to Gd. Therefore, it should not matter who, or even if anyone at all, sits next to me. There are plenty of other times to speak with a male friend, boyfriend, husband, or son. While the prayers at synagogues I attend are led by men, I usually manage to find synagogues that are more architecturally designed to include women, even though they sit separately.

15) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
My religion is my spiritual guide and affects practically every decision I make - small ones, as well as large moral decisions. There are often no simple answers about "hot topics" such as abortion. Judaism understands nuances and each individual's personal history and needs. When I think I need help making a decision, I often turn to a trusted teacher or rabbi.

16) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
I would be very upset.

17) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
No. I do not believe that everyone should be Jewish.

18) Who do you think is not a practicing ----- in your religion and why? ie who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not?
There is not one voice for Judaism. Not myself, and not any rabbi.

19) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.

20) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
Occasionally I feel that some interpretations of Jewish law devalue women. That does not mean that my religion does. Much more often, I come across things that value me as an individual and as a woman.

21) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
Although it makes some areas of life more complicated than it would otherwise be, a driving higher purpose does bring peace of mind.

22) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
I believe it is possible that if a soul has not finished its work on Earth, that it can return again in another body. This may help explain why innocent young children die. According to Jewish tradition, there were 600,000 Jewish souls that stood at Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah. These souls would have had to have been somehow been split up and reincarnated in order to constitute the "body" of the Jewish people today. It's not something I fully understand.

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