Circa 1998:
I had asked if I could become a moderator of the non-denominational newsgroup "soc.culture.Jewish.parenting", and at the time, the current moderators, mostly from the liberal denominations, wondered:
[Since] your background is Baal Tshuvah, would you have a problem letting through posts from a less observant point of view?
After much thought, I gave the following response:
I frankly doubt any of your board members / advisors / moderators are completely objective where Jewish observance is concerned.  Everybody has their own agenda; the reason we're in a Jewish NG [NewsGroup] is because we're probably more Jewishly involved than the population at large.

As I stated in the brief bio [all prospective moderators are expected to provide a short biographical statement; mine appears below], Jewish life is central to my own existence: there's no question of that.  But even traditional Judaism, with its seemingly dominating "halachic infrastructure", also equally (and many deny this truth) emphasizes "mussar" and "derech eretz" -- ethics, personal character, and manners.

I believe in the twin dicta "v'hava'as shalom bein adam l'chaveiro" -- you should bring peace between fellows, and "kol yisrael areivim ze la'zeh" -- all Jews are responsible for one another.  These are just two of my ETHICAL responsibilities in Jewish life.

I also believe, with respect to my participation on this (and other) "secular" Jewish forums:
a) I don't have to agree with everybody's opinion of what defines "Judaism"
b) I don't have to argue with anybody's opinion of what defines "Judaism"
c) Pirkei Avos exhorts us to be like David ha-Melech in honouring those from whom we learn "a single perek or even a single word".  Kal v'Chomer (how much more so) for those many wise Jewish individuals out there on the Internet.

I have no "hidden agenda"; it's right there in the open, in my bio (though I don't have it in front of me on this computer...!).  I hope that if I am "nice" to somebody who's never met a religious Jew, he or she may be able to free themselves of a baseless, harmful preconception.  AND maybe add a mitzvah or two, start lighting Shabbos candles sometime, think about sending the kids to Hebrew school, you know... That's it.

Although many ba'alei tshuvah react by rejecting their society and lifestyle from their "pre-tshuvah" days, I prefer to participate in what I can of it.

What's also important is that I do not endorse any one "movement" in Judaism.  I am not Reform or Chabad or Conservative or Egalitarian or Traditional or Secular.  Many of the ideas of these movements are valid ideas; they are the ideas of Jewish PEOPLE,  not of Judaism itself.  Similarly, my ideas are to be taken as the ideas of a single Jewish person.

You know, a friend of mine said at the time of the Baruch Goldstein massacre [Goldstein ran into a mosque at prayer time and shot down Muslim worshippers], "I guess you're pretty happy about all of this".  This guy wasn't joking, he was serious.  He thought we'd be thrilled.  We were "ultra-Orthodox" (to him!), Baruch Goldstein was "ultra-Orthodox".  In his mind, we were equal.  You don't even have to touch on the rightness or wrongness of his actions to see that this perspective is ridiculous.

When Yitzchak Rabin was killed, and we were living in a smaller Jewish community (Calgary), a Memorial was organized at the local Conservative shul.  While we lived there, we were members of Chabad, and I remember the shaliach calling on his entire membership to attend the Memorial, despite any personal anti-"dati" bias that Rabin might have had, or any grudges the "chareidim" might have had against him.  A dead Jew is a loss of a neshamah.  Period.

For years, my extended family (who are not very close) has been meeting mostly at funerals and shiva houses.  So when I was planning an upsherin for my son, Yerachmiel Meir, last October, I told my mother I wanted to invite the entire mishpocha. She responded, "Why?  It's only a birthday party, and we don't see those people from one year to the next anyway!"

And I could only answer, "Imagine the crowd that would come out if he were to die, chas v'sholom [G-d forbid].  I would like those people to be able to appreciate him while he's still alive instead."

So, I'm sorry to have gone on so long with this; it's a topic quite close to my heart, obviously.  I guess my point here is that if we can draw together as Jews for a disaster, like a death or a war, perhaps we can do something about coming together to appreciate each other "while we're still alive", so to speak.

Be well, and good Shabbos,


Brief biographical statement from the FAQ for the newsgroup soc.culture.jewish.parenting:

o  Jennifer M Paquette <[email protected]>
	  * Jennifer Paquette is a divorced single mommy to Yerachmiel Meir
	    (25 Tishrei, 5754) and Elisheva Chaya (8 Teves, 5755).  She has a
	    B.A. in Philosophy (Computer Science minor), and works for a
	    software company.  She does not affiliate with any one synagogue,
	    congregation, or movement, but considers herself Torah-observant
	    in the sense that she allows Jewish law, custom, and philosophy to
	    guide the course her life wherever possible.  Observant only since
	    adulthood, she is one of many Jews known as "ba'alei tshuvah", or
	    "returnees" to religious Judaism.  She is constantly learning from
	    the many wise parents in SCJP, and also trying to help other Jews
	    become more open-minded to the details of a traditional lifestyle;
	    many carry around counterproductive stereotypes which prevent them
	    from living their lives more Jewishly.  She tries to live her
	    Jewish life with a sense of tradition's great weight, but also
	    with feelings of joy and wonder, and these are the messages that
	    she tries to pass on in her own parenting.
	  * Jennifer joined the moderation team in April 1998.
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