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Isn't it pretty?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Frumster Defines Its Categories

Frumster recently published guidelines for members to use when trying to identify which observance level they fit into. You can find the guidelines here, under the question “How are the observance categories on Frumster defined?” I understand that some people feel the need to define themselves into categories and need clearly delineated definitions for putting themselves into those categories. But personally, I am an individual who doesn’t like to be placed into a category, and don’t feel that I fit into a specific label anyway. I feel that categories stand to separate rather than bring people together, and to discriminate between people rather than help foster community. And I feel that the fact that Frumster did this is a blow to seeing others as individual people who should be judged for their character rather than external attributes that are used as an easy way to judge and discriminate. And I feel it is a detriment and pandering to the problems that the current shidduch system is already deeply enmeshed with. Here are some specific issues that I have with the definition Frumster has come up with: Under the “Yeshivish Modern” category: “Identification with a "Yeshivish" outlook can reflect itself in dress.”

I have never, ever understood how one could define himself in a category of religious observance based on how one dresses. Outward appearance says so incredibly little about a person, and can be such a ridiculous mask that a person wears trying to hide those aspects about them that they are ashamed of. I have seen so many people wearing black hats act so despicably and rudely and speak such hideous loshon hara that I give absolutely no credit to someone just for wearing that hat. I also know many people who wear black hats who are wonderful, gracious, caring and loving; I am not against all those who wear black hats, just those who behave without regard to their fellow humans. As I am against all people who disregard their fellow humans, no matter what they are wearing. Under “Hassidish” Frumster writes:

“Such individuals embrace a Hasidic philosophy, which includes a commitment to the emotional/spiritual element of Torah observance.” Does this mean that other individuals do not commit to the emotional or spiritual element of Torah observance? If you consider yourself emotional or spiritual, you must be Hassidish? I think that much of commitment to Judaism is emotional and inherently spiritual, how can one say that if you commit in this manner, you are necessarily Hassidish? And what about those people who have many Hassidish minhagim, because that is what they grew up with but don’t necessarily affiliate with a specific group, or follow a specific Rebbe? Are they still Hassidish? This is a general point that makes it incredibly difficult to put oneself into a category. Frumster defines “Carlebachian” as:

"These are individuals who are Shabbat and Kosher observant and tend to embrace a more spiritual, and relaxed observant lifestyle. This observant outlook emanates from followers of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlbach who was an inspiration to many unaffiliated Jews in the 60's and 70's and who where drawn towards greater observance by a Rabbi who embraced a message of Torah, love of the Jewish people, and Israel, expressed through his own musicality." I am now more confused than ever about what “spiritual” means. Frumster needs to start defining the words in their definitions.

Again, I don’t believe that being spiritual can place you in any sort of category. And if you define a category by people following a “message of Torah, love of the Jewish people, and Israel” I would hope that every person on Frumster would fall into it. I have many other problems with the definitions, but I want to give my last one to the “Shomer Mitzvot” category. Frumster defines Shomer Mitzvot as: "This category was created out of a demand from many members for a no-name brand "Orthodox" category. While this group may comprise a diversity of observant individuals, it seems more readily chosen by modern orthodox liberal singles who feel that their liberal approach towards Halacha is satisfactorily shomer mitzvot." This is the category that I have chosen for myself, because I believe it comes closest to leaving me without a category. To me, being Shomer Mitzvot means that you follow the mitzvahs, which I would think every Jew who considers themselves Torah Observant would believe themselves to do. I am not saying that we don’t have our weaknesses, and that we are always perfect. If Frumster had left the definition at their first sentence, I would be overjoyed. But the fact that they go on and specify which individuals seem to choose this category, and that they say that those individuals “feel that their liberal approach towards Halacha is satisfactorily shomer mitzvot” leaves a horrible taste in my mouth. First of all, what does it mean to be “satisfactorily shomer mitzvoth”? And that one “feels” that they are so? I believe that the language used implies that those who generally choose the Shomer Mitzvot category are not actually Shomer Mitzvot and that they should be choosing one of the other categories that Frumster provides. And to me that implies that Frumster should have never bothered with the category at all. In general, I feel that the categories, and their definitions, are a waste of time. I wish they would get rid of the categories and let people define themselves based on their actions and their mindsets, rather than an easy label. Push people to really read the profiles and see what others say about themselves and what they are looking for – it reveals a lot more about a potential date than a general category that took someone two seconds to click on. I have a lot of issues with being defined by a label – I think I am much more than that, and strive to look at others as much more than that also. Give people some credit for being complex human beings who can’t be summed up with a word.

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