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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.


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Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Religious One

I have a friend who is a freelance graphic designer/multimedia guy/general webhead.

A few weeks ago he got a call from a woman who I used to work with about five years ago. She asked him to come in for a meeting about some webwork she needed done at her new company (he used to work with her as well, but long before I did.)

Although we did not work closely together, this woman and I did work for the same small company for over two years and saw each other nearly every day. We had many conversations over that time. She is Jewish like me (although not Orthodox) and we both have two daughters. She also knew a lot of people in my town, so we had plenty of things to talk about while we waited for the coffee to brew or the copier to free up.

I was pretty sure she would remember me so I asked my friend to send her my regards.

When my friend came back from his meeting he told me that after thinking about it for a minute or two (I have an unusual name) she remembered me. “Oh, the religious one!” was her reaction.

This comment bothered me as soon as I heard it. At first I wasn’t sure why but I spent some time thinking about it:

Maybe I’m tired of being “religious” first and everything else second. If she had remembered me as “the hardworking one” or “the brilliant one” I probably wouldn’t have minded it at all. I don’t mind being identified as Jewish, or religious, but in a work setting (where religion is fairly irrelevant) why would that be the one thing that stuck out in her mind after all this time?

I try hard to be a well rounded person, certainly religion plays a large role in my life but it’s not all I put out there as a person. I am both hardworking and smart, I know how to have fun, and I’m a pretty nice person overall- so be tossed into the “religious” box makes me feel like the rest of my interests and personality are hidden behind my religious observance. Of COURSE I know I’m reading too much into a tiny sound bite, but a few weeks have passed and it still bothers me whenever I think about it.

Is my religion the essence of who I am?
Is it wrong for me to not always want it to be?

55 Comments:

At 9:31 AM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

For better or for worse, Religious Jews are always seen as "Religious"...

In yeshiva, I remember the Rosh HaYeshiva always saying you see need view the world though Halachik Glasses. Everything we look at is through the eyes of Torah. Therefore, I assume everyone sees us like that. If we didn't dress "religiously" whether it means a kippa, a kisui rosh, tznuit, then we wouldn't be "the religious one".

One of the big things about moving to Israel, is that its not nearly as difficult as Chutz LaAretz. For Example, if its late afternoon, and I didn't yet daven mincha, it doesn't bother me to stop on the side of the road, and daven right there. Or even if a million Israelies are walking around, it doesn't bother me. I still may be a "religious" one, but since there are so many here, its not that big a deal.

Yes, its liberating to walk around "not as a religious one" to see if you are treated differently. (ie, if I wear a baseball cap on an airplane in the US, with jeans and a polo shirt, so that no one knows I'm "Jewish")...but I guess that's not the point of what we're supposed to do.

Like it or not, its the essence of who you are. Don't be depressed about it - spread the word!

לתקן עולם במלכות ה

 
At 10:04 AM, Blogger Eliyahu said...

we remember people by shortcuts. to her, your image was "the religious" one. we all want to be more than a shortcut word, and i'm sure you were. but that is how she filed you in her memory, and summoned you up. on the other hand, some of your fans just remember you as the green blogger. carry on.

 
At 10:33 AM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Hmmm...

There are worse things to be called than "religious."

 
At 10:34 AM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

(I have an unusual name)

Wait, isn't your name "Shifra"? Or "Askshifra"? Or something like that?

 
At 10:39 AM, Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

"Ashshifra" is an unusual name, i agree. ;-)

 
At 10:43 AM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Steggie, was that geminated shin in "Ashshifra" (אַשִּׁפְרָה) an intentional variant of, or a typo for, "Askshifra" (אַסְקְשִׁפְרָה)?

 
At 10:48 AM, Blogger Shifra said...

Once again, "Askshifra" is my blog's name (I really need to get a second ID to post as just "Shifra.")

"AshShifra" on the other hand is a semi-religious holiday in which people line up for me to draw a question mark in ashes on their forehead. This is meant to remind them to send in more questions to my blog.

I actually don't go by the name "shifra" in RL (checklist, checklist!) but is my real name (in Hebrew.)

 
At 11:16 AM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Asc("Shifra") = 83 decimal

 
At 11:17 AM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11:18 AM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

(checklist, checklist!)

Does this mean you have met Steg? (!!)

When does the holiday AshShifra fall? I can't wait to celebrate it!

 
At 11:51 AM, Blogger Y.Y. said...

shifra you should be proud when people call you the religious one

 
At 1:04 PM, Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Just a typo, folks, move along nothing to see here...

As long as you don't pronounce ask by its old dialectal variant (note: not an Ebonics innovation) aks, in which case Shifra might have to dodge some large sharp objects...

 
At 1:10 PM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Is that how you celebrate AshShifra? By aksing Shifra (ch"v)?

I'm moving this conversation over to DiqduqGeeks, where it belongs.

 
At 1:22 PM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

See here:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/diqduqgeeks/message/366

 
At 1:22 PM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

See here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/diqduqgeeks/message/366

 
At 1:23 PM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

This is getting messed up. See here.

 
At 1:24 PM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Ah, that's better!

 
At 3:59 PM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

How about if we call you "chiffre"?

 
At 4:06 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

I kinda like Shiphrah - a little Egyption sounding maybe?

 
At 4:22 PM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Google searches:

Shiphrah-- about 23,800
Shifra-- about 177,700
Chiffre-- abuot 7,240,000
Schifre-- about 357
Schifro-- about 123
Shifro-- about 194 (but most of them are irrelevant)
Shifrah-- about 574

So Chiffre wins, without a question.

 
At 5:17 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

But what does it mean?

 
At 5:57 PM, Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Anyway, in relation to the main question, i don't see a problem with being known as "the religious one" as long as they recognize your other qualities too. Among many of my gamer geek friends from college, some of whom are non-observant jews and some of whom are non-jews, i'm known as "the religious [jewish] one", and i don't really mind.

 
At 6:00 PM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

But what does it mean?

The word chiffre in French means "number".

Anyway, in relation to the main question....

Aww, Steg, why do ya always have to go back to main questions? Is that yer teacher-nature kicking in? We have much more relevant issues to consider, such as what the haloches and minnogem are surrounding the celebration of the rituals of the holiday AshShifra. (And, of course, the most relevant question of all: When is it?)

 
At 6:12 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Well I appreciate getting back to the topic!

As for being called number... thanks but no thanks. I'm not really a "numbers" person.

I will find a suitable day for AshShifra. Maybe it will coincide with Ash Wednesday so that the Jewish people will also have an excuse to come to the office late :)

 
At 6:48 PM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Ash Wednesday = 1 March 2006
Rôsh Chôzesh Azar = 1 March 2006

Perfect!

 
At 6:49 PM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

משנכנס אפר שפרה מרבים בשמחה

 
At 6:55 PM, Blogger Eliyahu said...

the only ash holiday i can remember is tisha b'av. but if you could somehow tie ashshifra into mardi gras, maybe you can help bring back New Orleans to its former glory.

 
At 7:29 PM, Blogger Ashshifra said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 7:32 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 7:37 PM, Blogger Ashshifra said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 7:40 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 7:48 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Ok so about all those deleted posts...
Apparently my little joke got away from me...
I appreciate the efforts of all involved but let's take it easy...

You are all individuals! :-)

 
At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are all individuals! :-)

Except me!!!

 
At 7:52 PM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

OK, I'm sorry about the "sub-blog".

Do you want me to remove the zeicher to it that I put on my blog? (Check your e-mail.)

 
At 7:57 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Nah that's fine, enjoy, it's a good joke.
I just find a screen/blog name so close to my own unnerving...

 
At 8:51 PM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Shifra:

What if I call the new blog "A new holiday", and merely call the holiday "Ash Shifra" (in the text of the postings)? In that case, may I re-instate it?

 
At 12:30 AM, Blogger Lab Rab said...

Shifra:

Many non-frum yidden fear that the religious ones leer upon them and label them as "the secular one". In various professional roles as a rabbinical student (such as rabbinic intern at a local university Hillel), I have always felt pressured to convey acceptance (without theological endorsement) of each Jewish person for whom he/she is. In your case, even though you never adopted a superior attitude towards your friend, she likely felt intimidated. Especially since you seem so secure and fulfilled in your frum lifestyle. [Cf. the meraglim effect - because we were like grasshoppers in our own eyes, we must have also been like grasshoppers in their eyes.] In short, I think her comment says a lot more about her than about you.

 
At 12:38 AM, Blogger Lab Rab said...

after thinking about it for a minute or two (I have an unusual name) she remembered me.(I have an unusual name)
I actually don't go by the name "shifra" in RL (checklist, checklist!) but is my real name (in Hebrew.)

Now this is weird for a couple of reasons.
(1) You would think that with an unusual name you'd be more memorable, not less.
(2) When God apportioned unusual names to the world, 9/10ths of the lot must have fallen to your parents ... I mean, to have an unusual name in addition to Shifra?
By the way, the only Shifra I know reminds me so much of you. MO, witty, educated, 3 daughters. You folks ought to organize a Shifra convention one of these days (perhaps even on Rosh Chodesh Adar :)).

 
At 8:19 AM, Blogger Shifra said...

Lab Rab- welcome to the comments section.

I did mean that *because* my name is unusual she was able to remember me. Although Shifra is my hebrew name it's been very under utilized by me (at least until I started blogging!)
My last name is also unusual.

Thank you for the complements- all the Shifras I know are nice too- warm, sunny, clever... maybe it's a good name.

 
At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Brutus said...

As someone in sales thats always looking for a way to differentiate myself from the competition, I find that being thought of as the religious one only helps. My prospects are inundated with sales pitches by goyim with forgettable faces, they don't forget me that quickly. I'm the religious one.

 
At 10:50 AM, Anonymous chuck said...

hey shifra why didn't it make you proud?
ya dont wanna be known as the lipstick lady, the nerdy techie girl, the slob who leaves thier leftover lunch in the lunchroom, the one guy who always leaves the seat up...uh never mind

I think "Religious" is pretty good, in my mind in denotes honesty, one of upright moral fiber
and in my book thats AOK

 
At 11:12 AM, Blogger Mis-nagid said...

"why would that be the one thing that stuck out in her mind after all this time?"

You ask what is it about yourself that caused her to remember that aspect of you, but you have it backwards. It's not you -- it's society.

Religion has fallen so out of favor that anyone who practices an orthodox religion is highly unusual. This is a new development, like the separation of church and state, and it's a good thing. Religion used to be so all-encompassing that there wasn't even a word for it (go on, try to find it in the Torah). Now it's so out of the ordinary that not only does it have a word, it's unique enough to make for a memorable aspect of a person.

Welcome to the future. I hope you like it here.

 
At 11:31 AM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

Your post reminds me of the scene in Annie Hall when Woody Alan's character goes to meet (Diane Keaton) Annie Hall's family and the camera shows that Annie's WASP-y grandmother's perspective of Woody Alan is a chassid with payos, a streimel and bekesheh.

I always think that no matter how modern I may look, simply having a yarmulke on my head makes me an Ultra-Orthodox fanatic in everyone else's eyes.

 
At 1:11 PM, Blogger dilbert said...

You should be proud and honored to be known as the religious one. It is true that in our society, those who are religious(especially those who have practices that stand out from the usual, such as dress, eating habits, etc.) are seen as different, and in some cases unusual. However, from my point of view, it is better to be viewed as the religious one than other alternatives.

We were at 40th birthday party for a friend and her husband asked everyone to choose a book title that best described her. He read the list and most involved shoes or shopping. Is that how you would want to be known?

 
At 1:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's better than being remembered as that nut who thinks god cares what you eat.

 
At 3:35 PM, Blogger Ayelet said...

I like to think that, first and foremost, I am religious and that my actions should reflect that. My goal is to think "Ma chovati b'olami" and fashion my days accordingly. Of course, I'm nowhere near that level yet(sigh).
Just curious how you're feeling aout all the comments. Do you feel that you're seeing the comment in a new light or that your feelings are being invalidated and everyone "just doesn't understand"?

 
At 3:48 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

I like the comments quite a lot- they all gave me different types of perspective.

I liked Dilberts comment particularly - my associations could have been much worse as chuck also said... Eliyahu is right too, it's just the internal filing system kicking in. Mis-nagid was also right on- I do feel like a bit of a dinosaur in the workplace- I just have to be comfortable doing what I'm doing.

There were many comments to the affect of "be proud of who you are" which I am... I just want to be more than one thing... but you know... I think I am THAT too!

So thanks to all of you for your good input, I actually think everyone one of you understood what I was feeling(you too Ayelet!)

 
At 6:38 PM, Blogger chuck said...

Anonymous said...
It's better than being remembered as that nut who thinks god cares what you eat.

dear anonymous
you have my sincerest pity

 
At 6:53 AM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Mar Gavriel: "Ask Shifra" on google comes in with a good standing of 11,800. Wow...thats 11,800 references to this blog or it's author.

Shifra: "Ash Shifra" didn't get any hits on google...new-age holidays are much harder to start I guess.

 
At 2:36 PM, Anonymous Miriam P said...

I didn't know anyone named Shifra until I named my daughter that (okay, I met the Great-grandmother for whom she is named once, but they called her "Mimi") but now I keep seeing them everywhere.

Anyway, being remembered as the religious one isn't so bad... she probably at least knows which religion! I'm still smarting from the time someone walked past me on the street when I was wearing a snood and mumbled under her breath something about how this was America, not Iraq! (Baruch Hash-m!) The kid standing next to me wearing a yarmulke and tzitzit wasn't a big clue? Nope, she didn't even see that. But I was too stunned and not sure I'd heard her right to set her straight... and not sure what to say in any case.

You probably don't wear snoods or scarves in public, (I'm not really into wigs) so you probably don't know what it's like to be mistaken for Muslim, but I'm getting tired of it. Why does everyone know that Muslims cover their hair, and some even know about Christians who do it, but no one seems to realize that the Jews started the custom?

 
At 2:45 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Hi Miriam,

Good choice on the naming.
I actually didn't meet any other Shifras until I was an adult and moved to the east coast.

I definately DO wear scarves in public (all the time!) but I don't think I've even been taken for a muslim. I'm rather fair skinned and don't look terribly semitic that may be the difference.

 
At 3:29 PM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Miriam: Since most non-Jews experience Jews and Moslems via Hollywood, its not surprising at all.

The only 2 types of Jews that people know from Hollywood are Chassidim, and reform/conservative. The Reform/Conservative married Jewish women never cover their hair...while Moslem women sterotypically do.

Most Americans have never met a modern Orthodox Jew in real life...and would expect an Orthodox Jew to match the Hollywood sterotype (which is more Amish than anything else).

 
At 9:15 PM, Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

There are Christians who cover their hair?

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger Shifra said...

I think you are right Jameel- people always seem to find me quite puzzling- although that might not be entirely due to my modern orthodoxy....

 
At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Miriam P said...

Steg -- yup. Christians who cover their hair Seems to come from a verse in Corithians that says something about how men should never cover their hair while praying but women always should.

Shifra -- I get taken for Muslim way too often for my liking, and I'm also very fair-skinned (and freckled! my father is a red-head and I have his skin if not his hair) so I really don't get it. People are always shocked to hear that I was actually born in this country, as was my husband, as were our parents and grandparents. Because Americans don't go in for those "silly" customs like hair-covering.

 

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