October 31, 2012 On Skeletons
Secrets. So many, so good. We all have our skeletons in the closet, don’t we? I’ve asked friends from the Hasidic community on occasion: “Who knows your little secret that you have a couple of kids in a strange religious community in Brooklyn?” Not the dates, I tell you. OTD guys and girls often seem so regular, so fantastically dressed up as a secular Joe or Jane, no date would ever guess their secret of a religious life they left behind unless they share it.
Secrets fascinate me. I used to be very naïve about them and I would adamantly deny the allegation about secret illicit behavior among the families I saw around me. I thought all families were what you saw. The world was so simple and straight. When I first heard of secret gossip about sexual abuse in the Hasidic community, I was unable to believe such things happen. I would never believe that a man in a beard and a religious demeanor had done something like that. Only when I began encountering such men in “marriage counseling” did I begin to understand how religion and hypocrisy went hand in hand. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to get away from it all. The abuse and hypocrisy is still unbelievable but I now know that it is true. Such secrets are there, in the closets, fermenting.
I’ll tell you my own little secret in the spirit of things. I am very ambivalent about Halloween. Okay, not much of a secret but something I would generally not admit on this site because it is hard to have a conversation about the subject without a flock of holier-than-tho religious preachers coming out of the woodworks. But it’s Halloween, I won’t be spooked, boo all you will. It’s not like I do Halloween. My son would want to do Halloween though, that’s the other part of it. He got it into his head to convince me to dress up as a ghost and go around begging for sugar. The two clowns will now be the two ghosts. How will this look for shidduchim? No. After a bag of chocolate bars and candy bulges at my waist? Definitely not!
The other day in college while the professor was preparing his stack of papers to begin class, a student slid into the chair next to me and whispered “are you doing Halloween with your son?” She is a conservative Jew and I’ve invited her to celebrate a holiday with us on occasion. She’s curious about where I stand with religion. Aren’t you all? It’s a secret. I love it. So she tells me that their conservative rabbi called Halloween a pagan holiday, but they trick-or-treated anyway. I tell you, I feel a little like the rabbi – with an opinion as important as his. I don’t see why we can’t stick to our Purim and rabbi costumes. True, Halloween is for the most part not considered a religious holiday, but it’s still not a secular holiday like Thanksgiving. I’m not very impressed with a holiday of gore and sugar anyway. But — but then again, if trick-or-treating won’t impede with my son’s sense of strong Jewish identity, why not? Why be stubborn and dogmatic? Why not be open to new experiences? I worry not to be as rigidly religious as I know others to be, but I also worry to introduce a healthy sense of my son’s Jewishness to him. So I don’t know which hat to wear to this affair; the Yid or goy, the traditionalist or the pluralist.