My Daughter Saw Black, and then a Rainbow 🌈

My Daughter Saw Black, and then a Rainbow 🌈

Jewishly, I fit in everywhere and nowhere. Partially thanks to the serpentine route of my personal journey to (and through) Orthodoxy, and partially thanks to the tolerance and open-mindedness I imbibed with my mother’s milk, I feel as comfortable communicating with a secular Jew as I do with someone Chassidic, Litvish, Chardal, National Religious, Modern Orthodox, Conservative, Reform etc. Simultaneously at home everywhere, and yet fully at home nowhere, with only two exceptions: in the company of English-speaking baalot teshuva like myself and in my own home.

Unlike me, my kids were educated in National Religious schools. And are presently or probably will attend secular Israeli universities. This means my kids’ comfort zone is shorter than mine, ranging the distance from National Religious to secular and back again.

So it brought me special nachas this week to take one of my daughters on an unplanned and eye-opening excursion through Charedi Israel.
It all started Monday, when my daughter asked if I wanted to join her at the end-of-year exhibition of the Betsalel Art Institute. The timing didn’t work for me, so we decided to meet up for a sabich at the shuk instead.
At the sabich stand, we ran into Leah*, an old acquaintance of mine, a great-grandmother from Monsey who, based on her sheitl and European accent, I’d always mistaken for a typical FFB bubby. But over the course of our conversation my daughter and I discovered that until the age of 48, Jewish-born Leah had been a devout Hindu and then Buddhist. In fact, Leah had been responsible for running the first Vipassana retreat (10-days straight of silent meditation) in Israel. My daughter, who has done several Vipassana retreats, was very surprised, and impressed. At the age of 49, Leah told us, she had married a Charedi rabbi with 7 children, and today, almost 3 decades later, she is a widow living a fully religious life in Jerusalem with a vast step-family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Post-sabich, my daughter and I headed towards to light rail when we ran into Faigy*, another acquaintance of mine who lives with her Yerushalmi husband and children in Meah Shearim. I introduced my daughter to Faigy, and again, this woman dressed in Meah-Shearim garb from head to toe shared her life story that was a complete shocking disconnect from her appearance. Faigy, we found out, was raised in the US by a Catholic father and Presbyterian mother but by the age of 19 she had begun training to become a monk at a Buddhist ashram in Virginia. She had a lot of questions for the guru, such as, “If I’m supposed to be celibate and never have a family, why was I created with a womb?” The guru urged Faigy to look into her own tradition, so Faigy started reading the Bible. She especially liked the Hebrew Bible, and took it very seriously. She tied strings to the corners of her monastic robes. She wrote the words of the “Shema” onto the doorpost of her monastic cell. And one day an OTD Jew showed up at the monastery and informed Faigy that she had in fact not invented a new religion, there was in fact an entire society living in accordance with the Bible like her. So Faigy came to Israel and converted to Judaism and somehow met the cousin of a Yerushalmi Breslover in Uman, ended up marrying him and for the last two decades has been raising a family of Yiddish-speaking children at his side.
Yesterday, I attended the wedding of the oldest son of my dear friend, an FFB Yeshivish American. I was surprised when my daughter asked if she could come along. At the wedding, my daughter whispered to me that she felt really out of place with her short hair and nose ring in the all-Charedi crowd.
We sat at a table on our own, and then Brachie, also an FFB Yeshivish American and close friend of the mother of the groom, sat down with us. My daughter had a lot of questions for her, especially about dating and marriage in the Litvish world. Brachie answered my daughter’s questions with such openness, sweetness and humility that my daughter said she could have spent all night speaking with her.
On the way home my daughter told me how impressed she had been by Brachie and Leah and Faigie.
“Charedi people are far more interesting than I would have ever thought! I loved this wedding. I was thinking of the students with me at university, who feel no meaning, no real purpose in their lives. The people at this wedding have such a clear sense of meaning, a real sense of purpose in life!”
“Eema,” she said, “let’s go more places together. Because the world is so much more interesting, so much more beautiful, when I see the world through your eyes.”


  1. This is SO BEAUTIFUL, B’H!

  2. Ada Apfelbaum

    Love this

  3. This is lovely on so many levels. You mentioned that the current political situation in Israel can make your Shabbos meals lively (ahem). This seeing behind the surface is so important in both directions.

  4. What a credit to you that your adult daughter can have this feeling of admiration and closeness towards you as she explores what place she wants to have in this world as a Jew.

  5. I loved reading this article. I thought that your influx of guests would also broaden your daughter’s view but in thinking about it, your more Charedi friends are unlikely to come to you for a Shabbos meal. Mother and daughter time is a precious commodity. “Chap Arein” yiddish for grab it while you can.

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