01 April 2008

That Thing On My Head, and On My Shoulders Too!

Ok, so it's not my watermelon kippah (I'll try to get you a shot of that later--this one I actually borrowed from Mike, b/c it went so nicely with the green in my skirt & rest of outfit) -- but this is a shot of me tying the final knots of the tzitzit on my new British tallit (material from Shepherd's Bush Market, with thanks to Liza for fabric choice help & sewing machine assistance; tzitzit by mail from Jerusalem the Golden in Golders' Green; handsewing with needles & thread from Boswell's here in Oxford + some burgundy thread from Liza's London sewingbox; debuted at Oxford women's tefillah in March)...

thanks also to Rabbi Chuck Feinberg for confirming for me that I had no shaatnez issues to worry about with it :)

Why are you wearing that on your head?


Girl in a Watermelon Kippah
(if you can still call me a girl... do I even still count as a "young woman," here in my [early] mid-30s? I guess it's all relative: A. had just been calling herself "middle-aged," and then the Good Rabbi refers to us as "2 young Jewesses" ;) )

Standing in line for Oxford Literary Festival tickets at the marquee (that's Big Ol Tent for us Americans) yesterday, wondering how long it would take to get up to the front and get things done --

and suddenly a voice booms out from behind me:

Why are you wearing that on your head?
You're not Jewish!
And you're not male!

I turn to see a bushy-bearded (grey, and unkempt literati-beard rather than frummy-Ortho-beard) fellow, bald of pate and blue of eye, interrogating me.

ohhh kayyyy:

I am Jewish,
and no, I'm not male,
but it's my custom to wear it.

I've never heard of such a thing!
I've never seen a woman wearing a skullcap!
(quite loud, a little pushy/aggressive, but more astonished than aggrieved)

Women do, in the progressive movements -- you'll certainly see it in Reform, Liberal, Conservative & Masorti, Reconstructionist. It's true that there aren't so many women who aren't clergy who wear one all the time -- but I'm not clergy, and it's my custom to wear one, and I do know a few other laypeople who are women who do the same. But if you go into a non-Orthodox shul in the States you'll be very likely to see women wearing kippot, and also tallitot -- which I also wear in synagogue. I actually started wearing a kippah on Shabbat & holidays here in Oxford, when I became more involved & observant, because that was the custom of my friend Lisa, now Rabbi Doctor Lisa Grushcow...

You don't look Jewish!
Well, I am Jewish. Jews look all kinds of ways...

I'm Jewish! And people tell me I don't look Jewish!
Then they have a rather narrow view of what "looks Jewish" -- good thing that there are people like me and you to show them otherwise!

So you're not "taking the piss," then?
[Brit-speak for mocking/making fun of something]
No, I'm wearing this kippah because it's my custom, my minhag, to do so. Just like it is for some men.

I've never seen such a thing. These people, who are mostly goyim--
you're Gentiles, right?
--have you ever seen a woman wearing a skullcap before?

[The 20+ folks in line, who probably are mostly Gentiles & mostly Brits, decline to participate in BeardMan's straw poll. In fact, they mostly do not look at him and try to disengage from the situation, other than occasionally giving me sympathetic and somewhat amused looks, since I seem not to be minding his attempt to make me a subject of public debate and/or spectacle.]

Well, now they--and you-- have!
My name's Rebecca--what's yours?

Rebecca what?
Rebecca B----.

B----. It's from my father's -- non-Jewish -- side of the family.

Ah-ha! So you're not purely Jewish!
Not all of my family background is, no -- but I'm Jewish.
Your name is?

David Diamond.
[takes my hand and kisses it]

A woman wearing a skullcap!
Yep. Nice to meet you!
[he kisses my hand again]

Two Young Jew(esse)s

This blogpost title may ring parodic echoes in the ears of some of you who survived the 80s and 2 Live Crew, especially if you encountered 2 Live Jews and "Oy! It's So Humid!"

...but it's the translation of the phrase used to describe me & Avielah ( 2 yehudiyot ts'iyrot) in a note that the Nice Rabbi at the Great Synagogue near Marble Arch left for the Israeli security guard there, when he let us dump our bags there for an hour or so 'til Mr. Security Guard would be back and be able to let us in to see the synagogue....which we had wandered up & down the neighborhood seeking& not finding for about half an hour. (He also recommended that we spend the intervening time at the Wallace Collection, which was fantastic! Go Rabbi Rosenfeld!) But if we'd gotten there any earlier, we wouldn't have caught him just going out the door & thus been able to leave my Monster Suitcase (carrying stuff from/for 5 days in Paris + 4 days in London) there while we ran about & picnicked on kosher goodies from Golders Green and whatnot!

I also love that the note has 3 exclamation points after the all-purpose Hebrew expression "b'seder" (okay) -- rough translation =

I had these suitcases brought in;
they belong to 2 young Jew(esse)s*.
Lionel (signed in English, though the rest is Hebrew)

*Because all nouns have gender in Hebrew, our feminine gender is already indicated -- as it is not with the word "Jew" in contemporary English. We don't use the word "Jewess" any more (at least in a non-humorous/archaizing context), but somehow it feels appropriately British & old-school here...

Well, these 2 Young Jew(esse)s had a terrific time, catching up on all that's gone in in our Jewy Geek-Girl lives since last we met, talking about our Jewy/nerdly/adorable (all of the above)Significant Others and their work (or play)... can't wait to see her again soon!

If you're in London on Sunday 6 April, you can learn from her about cool scribal stuff :) when she gives the 4th annual Vivian Solomon Lecture at Southgate and District Reform Synagogue on "Mishpachat Avraham: Seeing Our Origins through the Lens of the Alefbet."

Whan That Aprille...


And I'm back again, said Nora
(with a monumental crash)

Never fear, fair readers, MiriyaB is here!

A very happy Whan That Aprille month to you all!

I suppose I am among the folk who longen to go on pilgrimages, since I am headed to the Holy Land in 10 days' time... and thence to Budapest, arriving on St. George's Day
(seems appropriate for our English sojourn, though of course he's not that English) !

See ya 'round!