Culture, Religion, Sex & Gender

Blogging the Omer, Day 23

Week Four, Day two,
Gevurah of Netzach
Since yesterday was mother’s day, and today’s sefirotic interpretation of the Omer quirkily translates itself in the book I’m using as “Discipline in Endurance” …
Jewish mothers are a dying breed. Is this good? Is it bad? I don’t know, but I don’t know anyone who qualifies under the stereotypical description. But it’s more than that. As I’ve mentioned before, the Jewish community, for all its frothing at the mouth about continuity, makes it nearly impossible for young Jews to make the parenthood choice in any rational way.
While the Conservative movement recently told us all., yet again, to have more babies sooner, no one is willing to take the step of saying that the Jewish community needs to make a commitment to things like: paid parental leave for every Jew employed by a a Jewish institution or agency. Quality day care subsidized by our communities. Day school for everyone who wants to send their kids to it -and heavily subsidized so not only the well off can afford it- and a much better system of religious education for those who don’t. More truth telling about the flaws of Israel within a context of love for the country and its inhabitants.
But the truth is, that’s not really what the Jewish community wants. It’s far easier to wail and moan about how Jews growing up don’t value Judaism, how we’re all so individualistic that we don’t care about community, and how all the young people don’t care about Israel, and women aren’t having enough babies because they’re busy having careers instead. None of it’s true, but it’s much easier than looking ourselves in the face and doing something hard: changing the way we live.
Oh and while we’re at it, why don’t we throw out nonsensical solutions to problems, like saying that since boys aren’t flocking to liberal Judaism, the best thing we need to do is start having men only clubs and meetings. yes, that certainly will solve the problem, because as we all know the reason boys are leaving Judaism (YAWN) isn’t because boys have much greater pressure to excel at sports, or because their parents let them quit after bar mitzvah, or because Judaism is treated as hobby. Nope, it must be the girls, because as we all know, teenage boys aren’t interested in being anywhere around girls.
A new graphic novel, “The Rabbi’s Cat,” taking place in Algiers in the 30’s, starring a rabbi and a nameless talking cat.
I haven’t read it yet, but I surely will soon.

The other, longer story in the new volume is “Africa’s Jerusalem,” a zigzagging tale that starts out as a “Tintin”-like adventure and eventually evolves into a love story, graced at its conclusion with bracing flashes of eroticism. (Tintin, in fact, comes in for a drubbing: He turns up for a page as an arrogant, racist reporter, Sfar’s upraised middle finger to French comics master Hergé’s infamous “Tintin in the Congo.”) In an introductory note, Sfar claims that “Africa’s Jerusalem” is “a graphic novel against racism,” which it is, but it’s also another opportunity for him to avoid the risk of the series falling into a formula.
The story begins when the rabbi receives a mysterious crate; instead of the books he expects, it contains a Russian Jewish painter who has tried to ship himself to Addis Ababa to find a rumored Jewish homeland in Ethiopia. (He only speaks Russian, and the Algerians don’t understand it at all; fortunately, the cat understands all languages.) Joined by a rich, arrogant local Russian man and the rabbi’s cousin, a sheik who’s also part of the Sfar family, they drive off to find Jerusalem in Africa.

5 thoughts on “Blogging the Omer, Day 23

  1. This book is several years old. I checked it out of my public library at least three years ago. It’s good, it’s really good, in my opinion, but it’s definitely adult and it’s definitely not new.

  2. The first book, The Rabbi’s Cat, is a wonderful, unique read. One of the best parts is the cat arguing with the rabbi about whether a cat can have a bar mitzvah.

  3. “because as we all know the reason boys are leaving Judaism (YAWN)”
    Yawn all you want. See if that solves the problem.
    Let’s look at what Fishman had to say.
    “For Fishman, “As soon as you say that women dominate certain aspects of Jewish life, it sounds as if you’re saying, ‘Let’s go back to the way things were.’ That’s not the point of my research, but we need to look at what’s happening and be honest about it.”
    “or because their parents let them quit after bar mitzvah, or because Judaism is treated as hobby.”
    Those two reasons do not address why this seems to be a gender imbalance.

  4. It is interesting that you counterpose The Rabbi’s Cat with mothers’ day. The Rabbi’s Cat is a wonderful graphic novel aboout how the racism (is this the right word?) of French Jews towards Algerian Jews impacts the self-esteem of the Algerian Jewish community. But the women in the book are either sex objects or mothers and their major interests are clothing and getting married. In a scene towards the end of the book, the Rabbi’s daughter demands that her French Rabbi husband buy French dresses for her because she is ashamed of her beautiful Algerian dresses.

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