First Person

In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Why I didn't become Leah Vincent

By Avi Joseph

A rabbi confesses his yearnings in this response to the author of the latest 'formerly-religious' tell-all | Dear Leah Vincent,

I read your book, Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation, After My Orthodox Girlhood, with interest. While you grew up in Pittsburgh and I grew up in Brooklyn, we share a lot in common.

You grew up "yeshivish" (part of the Yeshiva community, which emphasizes Torah study as a primary Jewish value), as did I. You grew up in a family of 11 children, as did I. You grew up in a culture where boys and girls are educated separately, as did I. You grew up in a community where Torah scholarship is cherished and secular culture challenged, as did I.

Our reactions, however, differed.

You found it limiting and rebelled against it; I found it disciplining and appreciated it. You found it heartless and rejected it; I found it spirited and engaged it. You found it patriarchal and defied it; I found it validating of gender uniqueness and embraced it.

Like you, as a teenager, I was drawn to the opposite sex. Like you, I experienced an engine humming in my gut with brakes nowhere in sight. It was new and it was engaging.

Like you, my parents and educators told me that following primal attraction at that age would be destructive. Boy girl stuff was wondrous -- two human becoming one was magical -- they said, when courtship was a dance that led down the wedding aisle. Otherwise, they opined, women tend to pursue love and men tend to chase sex, all while using the language of the other. Without the maturity of age and the grounding of marriage, both men and women are often left alone and adrift, broken hearts held together with anger and suspicion.

Looking back, they had our back.

My wife and I never touched anyone of the opposite gender -- including each other -- until marriage. Do we regret it? We appreciate it.

There is no one else in our intimate memories and, to us, it allows for a more perfect union. Nothing was lost and confidence, which comes with discipline and self-control, was gained. Was it awkward when we first met and developed feelings for each other? Yes. Would our conversations have been less stilted had we attended coed schools and beheld coed relationships? Yes. But once we began to engage, once our romance emerged, it was as meaningful as any other.

Arguably, it was more so, as it was sincere and short, pure and permanent. And having begun to date as adults, we were able to spend our teenage years focused on our studies, becoming lettered and committed Jews, the foundation of our identity.


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Seemingly, the secular mind -- Jewish and Gentile -- is intrigued by Orthodox intimacy. Almost any OTD (off the "derech", or religious path) tell-all replete with salacious exploits, true and embellished, will be a NY Times best seller. Arguably, it is because secular culture has so over-exposed sexuality, so dulled male female magic, that the last frontier it can still try and unravel is religious culture; a world in which intimacy is actually intimate, in which the depth of togetherness is hidden from anyone besides those who are entirely together.

Your book is your story, and the public is taken by it. Pain runs deeply through your adolescence. Alone and adrift, you didn't know the rules of the street or the nature of men untethered by religious conviction or social constraint; unaware that it takes one or the other to regulate the primal proclivity of the male. The key factor in your descent, as you told Katie Couric, was when you were violated by a man you met in the park. With no support group, you let go and embarked on an emotional and sexual free fall, culminating in self-mutilation and prostitution. You finally found your personhood in an affair with a married professor who encouraged you to pursue a formidable secular education.

You blame the affair on your father. You say that you were seeking a positive father-daughter relationship and, because of your repressed sexuality, confused parenting with cavorting, engaging someone forty years your senior in a relationship that destroyed his marriage.

I would suggest another option. You were already in school, in your twenties. You were already pursuing your career and moving from nihilism to secularism. No one forced you into that relationship. You may have had the affair with your professor because you wanted to control and minimize fatherhood.

Secular culture has a problem with fatherhood, with patriarchal masculinity. It is too reminiscent of a fatherly G0D, the Judeo-Christian understanding of a Creator who established rules we are to follow to give life meaning, who establishes right and wrong and expects us to know the difference between the two, and who empowers and requires us to pursue a relationship with Him. That may be why you open your story by writing about your fathers' worn boxer shorts and sleeveless undershirts. Your father the rabbi must be plain, regular, a human being as imperfect as any other. He must be brought down from the moral pedestal he held in Orthodox Pittsburgh for you to fully embrace secularism.

I empathize with your pain. And I reject your conclusion.

I live in a yeshivish community where most people are married, most women have children, most men are providing for their families, and most people are happy. It is the life my parents hoped for me, and it is the life my wife and I hope for our six children. Women are free to be feminine. Men are free to be masculine. The focus is on "other", even, often, at the expense of self. Life is busy, and life is good.

The greatness of America is that the Founding Fathers formed a country in which parents can imbue their children with values as they understand them. As yeshivish Jews, these are the values my wife and I have embraced. And, inspired by the mission, destiny, and the beautiful sense of family and community we enjoy, these are the values, and the discipline that we will teach those whom we care about most --- our precious children.

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Ordained by Beth Medrash Gevoha Lakewood, New Jersey in 2000, Avi Joseph is a rabbi and small business owner.

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© 2014, Rabbi Avi Joseph