There's Jewish Life Outside the Orthodox, David Brooks!

There Are Many Ways To Live a Meaningful Jewish Life

getty images

By Jordana Horn

Published March 14, 2013, issue of March 22, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

In early March, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a column titled “The Orthodox Surge.” In it, he detailed his visit to Brooklyn’s fancy kosher supermarket Pomegranate. He waxed rhapsodic over everything from “dairy-free cheese puffs” to “a long aisle bursting with little bags of chips and pretzels, suitable for putting into school lunch boxes.”

One could easily wonder if Brooks had ever set foot in any supermarket before. He soon segued into waxing rhapsodic over Orthodox Jews — who are apparently the only people he can conceive of having a need or desire to shop at a kosher supermarket.

This is where I, a kosher-keeping, Sabbath-synagogue-going, sukkah-building Conservative Jew, started getting a little angry.

“For the people who shop at Pomegranate, the collective covenant with God is the primary reality and obedience to the laws is the primary obligation,” Brooks writes. “They go shopping like the rest of us, but their shopping is minutely governed by an external moral order. The laws, in this view, make for a decent society. They give structure to everyday life. They infuse everyday acts with spiritual significance. They build community. They regulate desires. They moderate religious zeal, making religion an everyday practical reality.”

I have heard of these laws. In fact, I observe them. I was educated by my Conservative Jewish parents, and at my Conservative synagogue. I went to Jewish summer camps and summer study programs in Israel. The Jewish calendar governs my life, from Rosh Hashanah all the way through the year.

I am not Orthodox.

I realize that I am a minority, but I exist. And my Jewish observance is just as legitimate as Orthodoxy. It also infuses my everyday reality no less than theirs. My Jewish observance, though, is one in which values of egalitarianism exist. It is one in which I am seen as an equal, countable member of the congregation. It is one in which I can read Torah to a mixed audience and can teach my daughters how to read Torah. It is one in which my voice is not only allowed to be heard, but also actually matters, beyond the perimeters of my own home.

Pieces like Brooks’s column, however, make it seem as though one cannot have a meaningful, multifaceted Jewish life outside Orthodoxy.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.