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It is very discouraging when a story about the Jewish singles scene (“Looking for Mr. Goodman,” 3/17) is rife with inaccurate and condescending, even downright offensive, statements. I will focus on a mere few.
I have been an active member of Fabrangen, a nearly three-decades-old egalitarian chavurah (do-it-yourself congregation), since 1974. It’s bad enough that Elissa Silverman should dismiss this vibrant and unique community—where many couples have met, married, and become parents—in a single sentence. Worse is that she mischaracterizes where Fabrangen fits in on the spectrum of Jewish tradition and observance. (Parenthetically, our varied membership goes far beyond “guitar-stroking, consciousness-raising…types”—not that there’s anything wrong with them.)
Though not formally affiliated with any of the major branches of Judaism, Fabrangen has always been at the progressive end of Conservative Judaism. It was founded in 1971 on the principle of equal participation by women and men—earlier than any of the major branches embraced this value. Until a few years ago, we used a Conservative prayer book; we now use the Reconstructionist siddur (prayer book) Kol Ha Neshamah (All Living Souls) because of its inclusion of the matriarchs and women in historical and contemporary references and its use of nongendered language for God. By no stretch can Fabrangen be considered to be populated by “Reform types” (not that there’s anything wrong with them, either—it’s just not us).
Particularly offensive was Silverman’s interpretation of the underlying sentiment behind the singing with which the Adas Israel minyan celebrated the announcement of the engagement of two members. Many Jews—I hope most Jews—do not see the impending marriage of two Jewish persons as a victory over the “shiksa-goddess-worshipers,” as Silverman so viciously puts it. In addition, many Jews in these “enlightened” times have eschewed the use of the words “shiksa” for a non-Jewish woman and “shaygetz” for a non-Jewish man because of their negative connotations in both Hebrew and English. It is lamentable that Silverman took the liberty of putting such words in the mouths (or minds) of members of the Adas Israel minyan.
I could go on and on about the perpetuation of the stereotypes of the nerdy Jewish man and the interfering Jewish “yente” mother, but I won’t bother. Silverman clearly has axes to grind; it’s just a shame that the Washington City Paper gave her a forum for airing them.
Fabrangen Steering Committee