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The religious thing

Continuing on a theme which I thought deserved a post of its own…

I mentioned that in Kiryat Shmuel, “all-religious” means a spectrum more than a particular outfit or way of pulling up your stockings, a spectrum that includes chareidim, datiyim, and “traditional” Israelis who don’t dress to represent any type of religious affiliation at all.

The religious thing in this place (Israel) continues to confound, surprise and delight me at every turn.  And challenge my expectations.

Yesterday, I was in a grocery store and a woman in front of me was checking out with her daughter, who was maybe 4.  The woman’s curly hair wasn’t covered, she was wearing pants, there was nothing outwardly “religious” about her.  Naomi Rivka would probably ask me if she was Jewish if I let her. 

Of course, her groceries were all kosher; it would probably take an effort to find more than a few things in the store that weren’t.  She was carrying a baguette from the store bakery, and tore off a piece while she waited in line, chewing it up without a bracha.

But then her daughter walked up with a pack of gum.  “Lo, lo,” said the mother, peering at the package as she bundled her groceries.  “Zeh lo Badatz.”  It’s not Badatz, an abbreviation for “beit din tzedek,” a chareidi form of “premium” kosher supervision.  (I’m not going to use a term like “ultra-kosher,” don’t worry.)

So that was that.  (I think they picked another pack of gum instead.)

There are just no clues here, that I can figure out.  In North America, a woman dressed like this wouldn’t care what her daughter put in the cart, unless maybe she wanted to make sure it was vegan or cruelty-free or some other non-religious standard that has now become more important than kashrut.

In North America, I might assume she was very little like me in what she fed her family and the path along which her Judaism led her, and I’d probably be right.

Here, I have nothing I can use to judge others except their words and their actions. 

Of course, that’s probably a good thing.  Once you unseat people’s expectations, they can’t judge others, only accept them as they define themselves… and leave it up to Hashem to decide who’s who.


  1. The diversity of "what religious looks like" is one of the best things about living in Israel. I've lived here for 30 years, and on recent visits to various U.S. religious communities, it seems to me that everyone looks EXACTLY alike - down to the kippot on the men and the sheitels on the women. How boring!

  2. In a lot of the MO communities in the states you'll also have surprises like that. I remember overhearing some women in a Great Neck, LI, supermarket, dressed in tight leggings, not much in sleeves etc talking of recipes and one saying that when she makes it for Shabbat she uses margarine and not butter so it'll be parve.

  3. Hey, have you forgotten us already? Every single week I'm at no Frills in my yoga pants trying to explain to K that she can't have Yop because it doesn't have a hechsher...

  4. Okay, but that's YOU. That's different; I know you. But maybe you'd fit in well here... ;-)


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