Frustrated at being in the middle of nowhere USA.

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    I was raised here out in a mid sized suburban town in the middle of Ohio in a reform congregation (NOT a temple, no matter what they call themselves). I love Jews! I love being Jewish! I hate that I don’t have enough money to travel to cleveland to study on the weekends and learn more. Honestly, I don’t know that I ever really want to become frum because there’s just so much work involved, but even conservative Judaism doesn’t do it for me.

    What’s my point? I don’t know…. really… just have some sympathy and friendship for those of us who didn’t grow up with other Jews.

    I also don’t really know if I want to be associated with a community that is so well know for alienation of everyone else!

    I can’t tell you how angry I get when I see that a black hatter won’t even make eye contact with a fellow jew!

    What’s the excuse there? You can tell me this isn’t the norm, but it happens all the time.

    I really love studying and spending time with fellow Jews and attending classes, but as I’ve mentioned their are some real problems. I guess I just need my stuff together and find a Shul that works for me.


    OP you might want to consider a more modern community that is more open to BT’s and those not so relgious. Many more modern shuls especially out of town have a “Dont ask , Dont tell Policy” at least at first.

    Many Chabad houses out of town also have this policy as well


    Outsider: Are you from Akron? I feel like I’ve met you.


    Let’s just say I’m from outside of Cleveland. You probably don’t know me, but I’d like to keep my identity mostly unknown.

    Although, if I did live in Akron, I think I would be better off than I am now, I understand they have a large Shul there, with regular classes.

    I would really like to be able to move closer to a larger religious community, but it’s impossible right now.

    Appreciate what you have, guys! seriously.


    I was raised with Classical Reform; i.e. we used a prayer book (Union Prayer Book) which refers to the rabbi as “Minister,” we had organ music, choirs, English hymns (some of them very beautiful, taken from the Protestant tradition, which are not theologically problematic for Jews), kashrut was anathema, the Pittsburgh Platform of 1885, the Brunswick Synod, and the catechism of Isaac Mayer Wise, the systematic theology of Kaufmann Kohler, and the catechisis and theological works of scholars like Joseph Krauskopf, Joseph Mendes deSola, Solomon Sonnenschein, Felix Adler, and others comprised our theology. Interfaith theology and spirituality, as well as religious humanism, were also part of this approach. As a child, I pitied and looked askance at Orthodox Jews. I thought they were backwards, ignorant, tribal, corrupt, and cruel, heartless people who reject children and turn away converts. I felt that they could have used our enlightened approach and our dignified worship. I eventually began to see this as at odds with what I read in the Torah, and had to leave. Orthodoxy is imperfect and is a reaction against Reform, but Orthodoxy is the only movement that is home to a committed cadre of observant Jews. I’d say to think independently and critically while living halakhically.


    Wow. I didn’t know Reform even had a theology (Okay I did, but I never learned any of it). They honestly didn’t teach us squat when I was growing which is my biggest beef with Reform. I mean they really taught me NOTHING. I feel like I might as well sit around humming Kumbaya for 1/2 hour for all of the learning I’d get during any of their services.


    I thought “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is the official stance in Judaism except in the case of marriage. Nu?


    You have my sympathy. It’s not easy growing up in a community where you don’t find the level of religion meets your needs.

    My experience with Orthodox black hatters is that they need time to get to know someone. Once they befriend you, it will be a close friendship. Take the time to let someone get to know you, and your opinion will change.

    It’s heartwarming to hear you say that you love Jews and you love being Jewish. Best of luck.


    Im ani kan, hakol kan.


    Also, b’makom sh’ein ish, hishtadel lih’yos ish.

    Come to think of it, it’s like chazal was written for people stranded in Toledo.


    rebdoniel: Good Moed 1)I have tremendous respect for you after having just read about your early years you truly are a Gibor. 2)I have a differing perspective on two thoughts that you wrote within your paragraphs

    A)”English hymns (some of them very beautiful, taken from the Protestant tradition, which are not theologically problematic for Jews)”

    B)”Orthodoxy is imperfect and is a reaction against Reform”

    A) The use of hymns based on protestant church prayer or tunes used in protestant churches is problematic with Jewish theology.The whole reason they were used for reform prayer was to be seen as less traditional and to resemble a church gathering.Additionally, to praise Hashem based on something taken from another religion and incorporating its use for tefilla purpose is definetly a zilzul,falls under Uvichukoseichem Lo Sieleichu and probably Chillul Hashem as well.(many other reasons can be listed)

    B) (I assume that you are not talking about the vailidty of frum versus reform because that would be denying Moshe Emes Visoraso Emes but rather you are talking about some of the Halacha and Hashkafa chumras that have been going on versus the secular world which do not have a discernible reason for their implementation.)

    Various strictures and sometimes seemingly unnecessary positions of chumra have always been around. To say that Orthodoxy as we know it is a response to reform does not jive. Even in the days of yore we have had lenient versus strict interpretations of Halacha and Hashkafa. Granted over the past decade there are issues of extremism within our ranks. However, would anyone have thought even just 5-10 years ago that marriage laws against family values could be passed or that the usage of vulgar language and improper topic matter in mainstream media is such that one cannot even turn on a news station with kids in the car for fear of the ads they might run or that even a clean internet site can showcase ads or topics that are improper for a G-d fearing person?

    The move to the right in all sectors of orthodoxy over the past twenty years is not a response to the reform movement but a response to the sick world we live in.


    abcd2, I’m sure that was a beautiful argument, but I didn’t understand most of it! Thank you for your contribution. I’ll see if I can’t sort it out on my own. And I agree. We live in a sick world.


    Orthodoxy is imperfect and is a reaction against Reform

    This line probably explains why you refuse to undergo a conversion that would be accepted by the vast majority of the Orthodox world.


    a) If you thumb through the Union Hymnal, they selected pieces which were largely adapted from tehillim. The idea was to lend the synagogue some dignity and decorum and some class. Chief Rabbi Hertz, zt”l, cites Isaac Watts’ hymn “O God Our Help in Ages Past” (psalm 90) as “a cherished spiritual possession of the English-speaking race” on page 887 of his Humash and on page 150 of his “Book of Jewish Thoughts,” he includes the hymn verbatim. Likewise, the Hampstead Synagogue, which was one of the best representatives of Minhag Anglia, sang Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, upon the 100th anniversary of the shul’s consecration. Rav Yisrael Moshe Hazzan (Kerakh Shel Romi 4b) even encouraged cantors to sit in churches in order to listen to their music and writes there that when Jewish aesthetics are beneath those of the non-Jews, Jews are duty bound to adopt the higher standard of aesthetic. Singing religious songs in the vernacular therefore wouldn’t (And shouldn’t) be considered a violation of lo telechu, when that issur is understood as a prohibition against adopting pagan practices from non-Jewish religions. Singing religious hymns in the vernacular doesn’t strike me as such, especially if you believe Christianity to not be avodah zarah. Hasidim borrowed many tunes from Poles and Slavic peasants. The Syrian nusach hatefillah is largely borrowed from Arab musical traditions, with the system of maqamot that is used in Muslim worship. Ashkenazic nusach hatefillah bears many similarities to Gregorian chant. We furthermore acknolwedge the existence of non-Jewish prophets and “Ma Tovu” is part of the Torah, despite its origins.

    b) The rigidity of what we think of as Orthodoxy, and the very relegation of halakhic observance to one denomination, is a function of circumstance. Most historians agree with my observation; prior to Reform, our sages were flexible in a way that Orthodox Judaism today would never entertain. The Hatam Sofer’s polemics, as well as the polemics of many others, were a visceral, knee-jerk reaction against the excesses of the reformers. Do you seriously think an approach which looks at critical manuscripts and acknowledges them in a way with bearing on halakha (as did the Gra) would be allowed in today’s Orthodox Judaism? Many things which are halakhically allowed we don’t do purely because we’re afraid of looking like the Conservative movement.


    When traveling in some areas with few frum (strictly Orthodox) Jews (and even sometimes in some very frum areas) I have several times been harrassed by some who were very against the very idea of a Jew wearing a black hat and following Torah.

    Some of the worst ones, identified themselves as Jews.

    So not looking too much at others is simply my way of trying not to look like I am trying to start any trouble with a stranger who for all I know, might be looking for the slightest excuse, to get into some kind of conflict with one of those ‘backwards fairytale believing, religious fools’ as I have been called, more then once.

    I don’t mean to be unfriendly or standoffish, but you just never know who is who untill you are properly introduced, and you do start to get to know them.

    May G-d show you his guidence and his plan for your life in such a way that you can embrace it and enjoy it, and grant you peace of mind (which I believe is the single greatest blessing anyone can ever have.).


    You don’t have to wear a black hat, or speak yeshivish shprach, or engage in the social conventions of the right wing to be a good Jew. Stay focused on learning torah, observing halakha, and being a good person.


    It’s true that a lot of what we consider Orthodoxy is a reaction to Reform. Perhaps the most relevant is the exclusion of people who are not on a particular level observance-wise. Witness the difference between non-observant Ashkenazim, who most often have no connection to Orthodoxy, and non-observant Sefardim, who are perhaps less affiliated than observant Jews, but are adhering to essentially the same ideas.

    live right

    many times if someone isn’t looking at you or acknowledging you, it is because of an insecurity within themselves. maybe they are not sure of their place, are shy, afraid of strangers…. it could be anything.

    basically, if a guy in a black hat wont look you in the eye, it may not be because he is standoffish and snobby. there are many reasons for the actions of people. sometimes you just need to be creative to come up with one that doesn’t automatically put someone in the wrong.

    don’t be so quick to judge because im sure you don’t want others to judge you. 🙂


    Live Right, then please tell me some reasons that NO ONE and I mean NOT ONE Black Hatter would look me in the eye when I walked in to a kolel wearing jeans and a polo. I wasn’t scruffy looking, smelling badly or anything. My dress was business casual (for a jeans day, that is). And I actually stopped in the area somewhat unprepared because I had been there a couple of times already with my rabbi (although I will admit I was dressed nicer) and I was in the area. I just stopped buy hoping to daven mincha or maybe study or just listen. When I was my rabbi, he know everyone and people were friendly towards both of us. I was SHOCKED at the change of the attitude of this community when I came by myself.

    it’s one thing to judge a single person’s action but when 40 or 50 do the same thing, what kind of conclusion am I supposed to have?



    you sound like you were very hurt by that episode at the kosel. im sorry that happened to you. had i been at the kosel then, i wouldnt act that way.

    live right

    ive gotten that reaction many a time when I’ve walked into a unfamiliar place filled with either black hatters, non jews and everyone in between. what they all had in common was that they were STRANGERS. and sometimes, strangers wont come right over or make eye contact because they are not sure what your reaction will be. they don’t know you and unfamiliar territory is scary. so they go the easy way out and try not to acknowledge your presence. they think if they don’t look at you it means you will think that they didn’t see you. which, unfortunately is not the case.

    yes it is rude. yes it is uncomfortable for you. but its a natural reaction. very infrequently are there warm, outgoing people who come over and make you feel welcome.

    I hate to say it, but this world is just filled with socially awkward people. and black hatters are not immune.


    You know… I never thought of it that way, but yes, I was hurt. I love being Jewish and studying and finding out new things. You know… I was in the midst of discovering a really great new world filled with brothers and cousins and uncles that I had yet to meet, and then to be so completely rejected was really just beyond words. (I honestly can’t think of a word for wholehearted disappointment of that episode…. bewildered might be close….)

    I guess I’ll have to keep a black suit jacket handy in the trunk from now on.


    Outsider, have you ever considered learning online or on the phone? There are programs available for that. has chavrusas available to learn over the phone. Aish Hatorah has a program called Jewish Pathways that has online courses available. You can find them at (original, right?). Anyway, the discomfort that you felt would probably get less over time if you continued to go to such a place frequently and if you attempted to dress one step up from jeans – say slacks and a decent shirt (not necessary to be in black suit). Yes, people would still remain distant from you, but once you become a frequenter of such a place, then once they recognize you as being part of their group the distance will slowly decrease.

    Hatzlacha in whatever you decide to do, but keep in mind that orthodoxy is a matter of mitzvah observance, not how you dress.


    I suggest the following plan:

    1) Learn how to read Hebrew well. Learn some Hebrew grammar, as well.

    2) Read a book like Sha’arei Halacha or another kitzur sefer. Get a basic understanding of what you need to do halakhically, as far as prayer, dress, eating, berachot, shmirat shabbat, yomim tovim, etc. go

    3) Practice Hebrew reading as much as you can. I’d start with looking at the weekly torah portion (and haftorah), and by now, maybe also get a feel for ta’amei hamikra, trope.

    4) Practice the prayers in the siddur, and get a sense for the phraseology and nusach of prayers for weekdays, shabbat, and chagim.

    5) Learn some of the songs and tunes most commonly used: such as for kiddush, havdalah, Shir ha Ma’alot, the first bracha of bentching, some table zemirot, etc. This will help you survive in Jewish settings. I’d suggest an NCSY bentcher.

    After you practice these, you’ll be able to function relatively well in the shul and in a frum home. I’d suggest after getting down these basics, only then, progress in your learning to things like Mishna and whatnot.


    rebdaniel, I appreciate what you’re telling me, but I have a very thirsty brain!!!!

    However, I do have some good news, a Chabad guy came into town, someone who I can relate to, who knows hebrew and is well versed in many aspects of judaism. We are quickly become friends, but is really more of an uncle/nephew relationship. He’s been sharing a lot of wisdom with me. Thank Hashem! He knew that it was time for a teacher to come along, and He provided.

    I will take everything you have recommended to me into consideration, and will make some notes later.


    Thank you, EVERYONE for your kindness, understanding, advice, and guidance. May Hashem bless you, keep you, and continue to provide you with wisdom to help others!


    I remember when a new person came to the (Lakewood) Kollel in my home town, the Rosh Kollel also suggested him to learn Hebrew and Halacha.


    You know the funny thing is you guys assume that everyone thinks about the Lakewood in Jersey. There’s one in Ohio too!

    LOL (what’s so exciting about wood from a Lake, I don’t think I will ever know)

    Okay. Speaking of learning. I’d like to be able to read the FULL Shulchan Aruch NOW or at least parts of it. The shame of it is (for me anyway) is that I cannot find it in English, anywhere, just the Kitzur (shorted) version.

    ******If anyone knows where I might be able to find the long version in English, online or on real paper, please let me know. thanks.


    outsider: not sure the shulchan aruch will be the best place to start. also, the kitzur is not a shortened version but a different version of codified law which happens to be shorter. if jewish law is what you crave maybe begin with the rambam’s yad hachazaka also known as the mishna torah. it is not anyone’s final authority on jewish law (except for some Yemenite communities) but it is a great place to begin. i believe it has been translated many times into english.


    There is only one translation of the Yad. It’s the Chabad Moznayim one and I have some issues with it, though overall it is a good translation.

    The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch represents the backbone of much of Jewish Law as practiced in the past century. I would advise starting there so you know what to do and then branching out into other things after. It is not a shortened version of the Shulchan Aruch. It is its own Sefer and stands entirely on its own merit and that of its author.

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