Jerusalem Post – ANDREA SAMUELS
“Anyone can be observant, but a truly religious person is kind, thoughtful, inclusive and caring.”
As I’m not religious, does my voice count? Should I restrict my opinions to non-religious matters only? Should I keep any opinions or thoughts that I have on the subject to myself? Generally speaking, I don’t tend to wade into matters of a religious nature as, quite frankly, they don’t interest me and I don’t feel that I have much to add. I was brought up in a traditional Jewish household where shiurim and religious learning, per se, were completely absent. I had no formal Jewish education. The most I got in that department were a few hours of cheder each week in the lead-up to my bat mitzvah. I dabbled a bit in my mid-20s when I hooked up with a fellow who was “on a journey,” but gave it all up along with him when I realized that the relationship wasn’t going anywhere. That said, I’m not a total ignoramus when it comes to religious matters; I’m an educated woman who’s managed to pick up a fair amount of knowledge on the subject along the way. I’m also a proud Jew with a deep connection to my religion, heritage and traditions. I don’t feel any less Jewish than my rebbetzin friends, all of whom are respectful and accepting of me and my lifestyle choices. We even have chats about religion now and again. Nothing too heavy or involved, just two Jewish women chewing things over, each enjoying the other’s perspective.
Sadly, there are those who believe that in order to be able to opine on matters of religion, one must be a “religious” Jew. By religious, I would venture to suggest that what they in fact mean is observant. The two are not, in fact, the same, as one of my wise rebbetzin friends asserted recently. Anyone can be observant, she said, but a truly religious person is kind, thoughtful, inclusive and caring. This got me thinking in light of an unfortunate incident that happened the other day when I was made to feel stupid and worthless, having commented on something loosely relating to a religious matter in a group chat. My response was perfectly reasonable and yet it soon became apparent that not only was my comment not welcome, but that as a non-religious woman, I didn’t have the right to opine on such matters in the first place.