The Memo

Here is where I reveal myself to be a narrow-minded misnaged. I expose myself because I have a feeling that there are many more like me out there, and I’m trying to help the naive newcomers who don’t seem to have a feel for the topography.

To: All BTs who want to date smart and interesting centrist Orthodox women but who include a photo of themselves wearing a bekesher with their profile

Subject: How you are narrowing your dating pool

A conversation I had not so long ago while perusing a fellow’s profile:

Me: He looks really interesting—look, he’s been to Cambodia with the Peace Corps after he became religious. But what’s up with the bekesher in the photo? Think it’s Purim?

Father: No, it looks like a wedding. And you see he mentions Chabad further down.

Me: Yeah—he became religious through them and he likes their ideas. But what’s that got to do with the wrap-around tapestry?

Father: It seems he’s got chassidish leanings. Maybe he’s not for you.

A conversation I had not so long ago with a friend:

Me: So why don’t you want to go out with him?

Her: Well, he’s gone a little weird. He started wearing a bekesher. Tsupwithat?

Another conversation with another friend:

Her: You’d like him. He’s really into lots of stuff. Plays seven instruments. Invented a new golf shot. But… he wears a bekesher. I don’t know why. He’s totally normal otherwise.

Look, I get it. You became frum in college through the campus Chabad, and you have a soft spot for the sect. (We all do.  They’re the indispensable if adorably odd sibling.) But do you sit on your hat before you wear it? Do you grow a bushy beard? Do you walk around with your shirt untucked? No. So why the 16th-century Polish costume?

A bekesher doesn’t just represent chassidus, an ultra-orthodox sect. It represents the irrational part of chassidus—the part where they can’t tell the difference between an anachronism and a custom. Or, it sometimes seems, between an anachronism and a Torah commandment.

It makes the average over-educated woman uneasy. She begins to wonder about your BT motivations. She wonders at your opaque rational processes. She wonders if you’ve finished your BTing, or if you’re still travelling across sects, and might wake up in Satmer one day. Or maybe Bat Ayin. Or someplace else she’d rather (in her admittedly narrow-minded way) not be.

So, if you’re trying to weed us out, you’re doing a great job. Just keep posting those bekesher pics.

But if you want to broaden your dating circles, and you can’t figure out why otherwise intelligent and charming women are making the unintelligent choice of not dating you, take this suggestion: shock her with the bekesher on your Shabbos sheva brachos.

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20 thoughts on “The Memo

  1. If they in fact dress that way, why hide it? Better to be upfront about it.
    I supposed one could argue that you are the one narrowing your dating field by rejecting people who embrace the Polish costumes.
    PS, The photo thing could be a whole post. I was once a shachanta on sawyouatsinai, and a guy posted a pic of himself bare-chested. Yes. For all the married women to see. (I personally think sawyou needed some rules here!) But in a way, it is good to be clued in immediately that this guy is just not a match for your straight-as-a-die frum friends, right? So I am glad the guy did that, rather than fooling us…since we’re bound to find out he’s the type that likes to show off his body sooner or later.

  2. I’m not chassidish and am more likely to align myself with a misnagdish school of thought, but am frankly offended by the diverse group of people –men, women, intellectuals, naive folk, Israeli, American, FFB, BT –whom you’ve so flippantly written off as unable to “tell the difference between an anachronism and a custom.” It’s pretty impressive that at 25 you’re able to aptly assess a centuries-old movement and immediately discern which aspects of it are entirely superficial.

    Look, I don’t want to marry a guy with a bekeshe either, but to dismiss them as anachronistic and suggest that the people who wear them place more stock in custom than halachah, without even a qualifying “In my perception” –well, to me, that smacks of arrogance.

    (Am also wondering why you ended the word with an ‘r’; I’ve never seen the Yiddish word spelled with a reish.)

  3. Ah, bekeshes and gartels.

    I am a fan of one upholding their own personal background. There is a tendency amongst some of Polish ancestry that even if they are clean-shaven, they will don the accessories of yesteryear.

    That means something to them, since it is their heritage. Chassidus is actually in their blood, and they are not casting their background aside.

    My cousin, who comes from a European but non-chassidish background (like me) married a clean-shaven college graduate who wears a bekeshe and gartel like his father, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather (Poilish). Her father-in-law is a college professor. But they are upholding (to some degree) an actual background, not adopting a new one.

    Chassidus has to be more than just garb. I once challenged a woman who’s chassidish (more hip-chassidish; fabulous dresser) and I said, “Someone puts on a streimel and suddenly they’re chassidish?”

    “Yes!” she said. But come on. Chassidus can’t just be about CLOTHING. A bekeshe is not a sect, or a mindset, or a belief system.

    If a BT has no chassidishe background (unlike other FFB gartel wearers) then his reasons for the bekeshe is presumably due to a somewhat chassidishe mindset. In which case, a “centrist Orthodox girl” is not going to be for him, and he can’t be surprised if she is not exactly enamored with his attire of choice.

  4. I come from the mindset that clothing does not define a person. One needs to show the world (through actions, speech and general behavior) that they are frum, Torah’dige Jews. Just because someone wears a black hat does not mean that they are any “frummer” than someone who wears a kippa srugah.
    Why do we do this to ourselves? I think it does our society a big disservice when we take outerwear and say it defines us. We stop using our brains to think and make decisions. Anyone can put on the garb and claim to be a tzaddik or big gadol ( side note: repetitiously redundant?).

  5. NNY: I agree with you. I do not hold clothing, in general, as a gauge for frumkeit. We are all equal, streimels and black hats and srugies in our quest of observant Judaism.

    But when someone opts to wear garments that are not from his own background, then I wonder (not just a gartel, but even a black hat). If someone puts on a bekeshe without a prior connection to it, it’s not because it’s black and slimming. A gartel is a pain, with all the wrapping and bunching up jackets and such. It’s not like selecting an oversized belt.

    It is one thing for all of us to be one big happy Jewish family. But we are talking about dating, and wanting one’s spouse to be on the same page. I don’t know of anyone who dates all over the religious spectrum because, after all, we are all observant Jews.

  6. As a smart and interesting centrist Orthodox woman who married a guy who wears not only a bekeshe, but white knee socks, as well, a word of advice: ask him why he wears it before you write him off. Plenty of nutty bekeshe-wearers out there, but plenty of rational ones, too. Ask why, and you’ll learn a lot about the guy.

    On the other hand, if you will be mortified to be seen in public with a bekeshe-wearing husband, then there really is nothing to discuss. But if you just think it’s kinda silly, then talk it over.

    Full disclosure: my case might be different, because I like to wear a cloak in the winter. (No, not like Harry Potter. Like Lord of the Rings. Sheesh.) Cloak-wearing girls really can’t knock guys for wearing long jackets 🙂

  7. One hand I agree-why show the bekesher picture. Anyways, that hashkafa would come out in other ways through the bio – education, yeshiva, what he is doing know, etc.
    But I would rather see the bekesher pic and know it advance – because just coming from my background I would probably say no to the suggestion.

    and @iyhby – just had to comment. So it’s totally fair that the guy demands a pic, but the girl doesn’t get of the guy? Explain.
    Even though it’s not such a big deal know because first thing I do with a name is plug it into facebook. I now get really annoyed when either a-he doesn’t have fb
    b-has fb but doesn’t have pictures posted
    c-or has security settings so I can’t view anything.

  8. Maybe because I’m a narrow-minded misnaged myself, I didn’t take offense at the post, but actually got something totally different.

    People are people, we judge, right or wrong, effective or misleading, we judge, and therefore people knowing that others may judge them, should take care in how they present themselves (especially on a dating site).

    Now think if every person wrote down all their postive and negative traits, no matter how good you are, you’ll probably sound like a “not if s/he were the last person on earth” option.

    When people actually meet and interact, a lot of the intial judging falls away, and people are ok with the flaws, or quirks their friends (and spouses) posess, when if they would have just seen it written on paper, or viewed in a picture if would be an immediate “x”.

    So, not that this guy should hide his bekeshe, or who he is, but knowing the natural inclination of people to judge he should rather wait until the person meets him – not just his picture, before donning his bekeshe, and then see how she reacts.

    (step off soap box, walk away)

  9. Was this guy divorced? Lubavitchers do not wear a Kapotah until their marriage. Other Chassidim wear a Bekishe before then.

  10. Princess Lea-
    I fully understand what you mean in regards to the “why wear it” question. That could mean a major difference in lifestyle or future goals/dreams, up to the point where it would not be even worth going out once. My statement was more on the “hat-no hat” or type of yalmulka differences in people, which tend to happen a lot more often and are more subtle differences than the “bekeshe boy”. I feel that the former happens a lot more than the latter bekeshe issue. So many people turn down someone based off of minor details that really do not tell that much about a person. I know plenty of people who would not have found their current spouses if they had strictly dismissed someone from a different background. Does the type of head covering really make that big of a difference (except for wedding pictures)?

  11. snort. classic example of ” clueless BT thinks chassidish is just more frum than plain yeshivish,” aka “shtick”. or they want to identify more “spiritual”. it means nothing but that.

    though, sartorial shtick is hardly a reason to write someone off. what it indicates, if you’re positive it does, is.

    and lubavitchers wear prince albert frocks.

  12. B&N….Again

    What’s up with so many people on this blog taking everything people say completely out of context? What I said was, what guy puts a picture on his profile. That’s it. I think that is an odd thing to do becuase what guy does that? I’ve never met a normal guy who sends out a picture.

    However, I see nothing wrong with giving a picture out if a girl asks for one. Considering I don’t ask for pictures and only receive them about 5% of the time, it is nice of you to accuse me of demanding them and not giving them. I one time had a girl ask me for a picture and I was quite amused by it. I actually think it’s awesome for a girl to ask. This goes back to girls not opening their mouths. What can I say, I’m turned on by a girl who expresses herself.

  13. I’m here to be a voice of accuracy, although I did see someone else beat me to it. Seriously, get the facts straight. Lubavitchers don’t wear bekeshes. (And yea, what’s up with calling it a “bekesher?” Are you British and end everything with an r? Even in writing?) They wear kapotes, after marriage. While the details may seem trivial, you do realize that your whole article is based on this one detail. Do your research.

  14. He was wearing a bekesher! (And btw, I chose that spelling after googling it, probably a bit too briefly.) My whole article isn’t based on what Chabadniks wear. My article is based on what some BTs choose to wear. And it is definitely not a kapote. I have no idea why they wear them.

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