About to See the Ultra Orthodox Cousins

 
Aaron
 
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Aaron
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13 August 2017 06:02
 

Tomorrow, I attend a family gathering where my ultra-orthodox first cousin will be with his wife and three boys, two of them teenagers, one younger. They live in Manchester, England, in an insulated Jewish community. The actual occasion is his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary (they are not orthodox).

This will be the first time since 2001 I’ve seen this cousin, and really the first time I’ve met the kids since they’ve been able to talk. Prior to Manchester, they lived in Israel.

The cousin sent a mostly humble e-mail to my aunt (who’s hosting) with a rundown of the rules they follow. Among them, no shaking hands with or hugging opposite genders in most circumstances - “it’s not that there’s anything “wrong” with the women. On the contrary, women are very beautiful and attractive It’s just because men have this thing called hormones, so we practice an extra measure of modesty!”

It should be interesting. I do have a bit of anxiety. I’m a 53-year-old single, gay, atheist. I don’t know if they know about any of this, though I’ve been out (in both cases) for a long time.

From what little research I’ve done, I conclude that they identify as Haredi.  Regarding homosexuality, Haredi have a variety of outlooks, the most extreme being death and the most lenient still being “compassionate” but forbidding homosexual sex. Just more of “hate the sin” nonsense.

I’ve made it a point as much as possible to have friends that do not take that arrogant stance—that smug, pitying, “hating pretty” (as Betty Bowers so wonderfully puts it) stance.

I realize I shouldn’t judge people before I know them, but I know something about their religion, and my hackles are raised in advance. I want this to be at best neutral, perhaps pleasant. Any advice?

Thanks.

 
 
GAD
 
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GAD
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13 August 2017 09:07
 

Oh my! It should be interesting.

 
 
Skipshot
 
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Skipshot
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13 August 2017 09:08
 

Welcome back, Aaron!  It has been a long time.

Since you asked, how about putting down some special rules of your own in advance, to help keep the peace of course.  Announce you are a gay atheist, which tacitly should say that you would appreciate your cousins keeping their unappreciated religious opinions about these traits to themselves; after all, homosexuality and atheism are legal in the US, and when in Rome. . .

Not shaking hands with the women is a pretty small request, which should be easily accommodated.

I’m sure you have heard and lived this many times - don’t let someone else’s hang ups become your problem.  Your cousins are proudly and overtly announcing how they would like others to treat them, and while their specific request is easily accommodated, so is yours - namely, don’t insult me.

 
Aaron
 
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Aaron
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13 August 2017 10:32
 
Skipshot - 13 August 2017 09:08 AM

Welcome back, Aaron!  It has been a long time.

Since you asked, how about putting down some special rules of your own in advance, to help keep the peace of course.  Announce you are a gay atheist, which tacitly should say that you would appreciate your cousins keeping their unappreciated religious opinions about these traits to themselves; after all, homosexuality and atheism are legal in the US, and when in Rome. . .

Not shaking hands with the women is a pretty small request, which should be easily accommodated.

I’m sure you have heard and lived this many times - don’t let someone else’s hang ups become your problem.  Your cousins are proudly and overtly announcing how they would like others to treat them, and while their specific request is easily accommodated, so is yours - namely, don’t insult me.

Thanks for the welcome, and thanks for the advice! I think that it’s too late for a letter in advance, though it would be interesting to pen one and just switch out words. But I’ll put myself on alert and bring it up if appropriate.

 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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13 August 2017 17:46
 

You need to add a (square bracket) /em (square bracket) to the end of your signature.

Or better yet, the website needs to close out all HTML tags at the end of each post.

[ Edited: 13 August 2017 17:49 by Antisocialdarwinist]
 
 
hannahtoo
 
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hannahtoo
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13 August 2017 19:18
 

These are people you don’t know well, but they decided to include you and you accepted.  Maybe you could see it as a cultural experience.  Like being in another country, observing their customs.  If they ask you if you’re married, say yes or no, as the case may be.  If they inquire further, answer briefly.  They’ll probably catch on quickly, and if it bothers them, they’ll switch to another topic.  Not a time for changing minds, on your side or theirs.  Just enjoy the exotic experience as far as you can.  Likely there will be some other relatives who will be out of place as well, and you could catch up with them.

L’chayim!

 
Aaron
 
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Aaron
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13 August 2017 20:08
 
hannahtoo - 13 August 2017 07:18 PM

These are people you don’t know well, but they decided to include you and you accepted.  Maybe you could see it as a cultural experience.  Like being in another country, observing their customs.  If they ask you if you’re married, say yes or no, as the case may be.  If they inquire further, answer briefly.  They’ll probably catch on quickly, and if it bothers them, they’ll switch to another topic.  Not a time for changing minds, on your side or theirs.  Just enjoy the exotic experience as far as you can.  Likely there will be some other relatives who will be out of place as well, and you could catch up with them.

L’chayim!

Well, actually, the situation is that the ultra orthodox cousins are the minority visiting from Manchester. The rest of the family is mostly non-religious, though we all had somewhat Jewish upbringings. But I will be truthful and polite with them. I don’t anticipate any disrespect, but who knows.

 
 
sethg
 
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sethg
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17 August 2017 06:00
 
hannahtoo - 13 August 2017 07:18 PM

Just enjoy the exotic experience as far as you can.

This is such good advice and something I find that we Jews often have a hard time with. We can travel the world and experience all types of cultural and religious differences. Here in America we celebrate the differences throughout the population as a whole. Yet, when it comes to other Jews, if their level of observance of holidays, shabbat, kashrut, etc. differ even slightly from our own, we have a very hard time accepting different practices.

 
hannahtoo
 
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hannahtoo
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17 August 2017 13:27
 
sethg - 17 August 2017 06:00 AM
hannahtoo - 13 August 2017 07:18 PM

Just enjoy the exotic experience as far as you can.

This is such good advice and something I find that we Jews often have a hard time with. We can travel the world and experience all types of cultural and religious differences. Here in America we celebrate the differences throughout the population as a whole. Yet, when it comes to other Jews, if their level of observance of holidays, shabbat, kashrut, etc. differ even slightly from our own, we have a very hard time accepting different practices.

Hope it went well for you.

My nextdoor neighbors are Reform Jewish.  They have a son that went to Israel and decided to live there and become an Orthodox Jew.  He was fixed up by a matchmaker.  When the son and his wife came to the US to meet his old friends and neighbors, my husband was told he should not shake her hand.  He forgot (doh!) and reached out, but the young husband (who has always had a good sense of humor and timing) jumped in and took the proffered hand in his own, giving it a hearty shake.

My neighbors said they are kinda sad their son is Orthodox for several reasons.  Primarily, because he lives far away in Israel.  Also because they can’t cook for him any more. (The whole kitchen thing is really tricky.)  Also, they had to sit separately to watch their son be married.  The mom told me she’d always dreamed of sharing that special occasion with her spouse.  Oh well.  They’re glad their son has found a community he enjoys and a wife he loves, and several children in quick succession.

 
lynmc
 
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lynmc
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30 August 2017 20:39
 

I think you should try to find out if this cousin is one of those who supports raping women in war or killing babies who might grow up to be enemies.

Not to worry.  While, a few years ago, I read on the Chabad web site that non-Jews aren’t fully human (and therefore, e.g., the commandment “thou shall not kill” does not apply when killing them), I’m sure you’re fully Jewish and need not have any fear even if this cousin is a follower of those or similar beliefs.