The year 2020 was nobody’s favorite. But can you imagine a better time to kick off our new, revitalized advice column? With so much unprecedented change in Jewish life, and life at large, our inbox was busier than ever with questions big and small. In honor of the year’s end, and as your faithful Bintel writer, I present my top seven questions from 2020.
My wife rejects her faith around her family: Because faith journeys and marriages are messy, intimate, and don’t always coincide as neatly as we desire.
Can I still take off class on Yom Kippur if I’m not religious?: Because all Jews have a right to their Jewish heritage, whether or not they’ve “earned it.”
Rabbis and sex parties: Because this question got me my first wave of hate mail!
I want my husband to stop giving the dog bacon treats: Because our Jewish identity shouldn’t stop at the doghouse.
My friend hasn’t kissed his fiance — but I have: Because it has it all — sex, gossip and religion. The drama can’t be beat.
I don’t want to forgive my dad for supporting Trump: Because anger at the world we cannot change sometimes forces us to double-down on the family members in closest range, who we also cannot change.
My Husband is Jewish, but his DNA says he’s not: Because our brave new world of information and answers can stir up questions we don’t want to face.
Bonus Legacy Bintel question: Should I risk my life for wages that my family needs to survive?
For a few weeks, we ran legacy Bintel Brief columns alongside the current ones, providing never before seen translations of original Yiddish questions from the early 1900s. Nobody read them, so we stopped. But they were amazing. Dipping into the Yiddish archives was a weekly investigation into the hopes and dreams and pain and sadness of a growing Jewish community in America, and the modern resonances were eerie. Couples argued over whether to attend traditional or progressive Rosh Hashanah services, siblings debated bitterly what constituted reasonable hosting duties, and young children asked if they could find ways to support overworked parents. In this time of Covid-19, this young man’s question from 1906 — whether he should continue working if doing so risked death, but not earning risked poverty — stuck with me. We’ve come so far in our world and we’ve moved on so little.
For all Bintel 2020 questions, read more here.
Shira Telushkin lives in Brooklyn, where she writes on religion, fashion, and culture for a variety of publications. She is currently finishing a book on monastic intrigue in modern America. Got a question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our top 7 Jewish questions and answers of 2020