Monday, May 2, 2011

I Have Been Guilty of Stereotyping, Too

A few weeks ago when I wrote about my late nephew, I remarked on how unusual it was for his parents, who are Orthodox, to have let their son pursue the non-traditional (for a nice Jewish boy) career as a winemaker. It wasn't as if he left Torah behind, though. He had studied in Yeshiva in Israel in conjunction with being in the army, and maintained all the Orthodox practices (that was a given). But what it took me a while to realize (and even longer to get down to writing about) was that I had completely forgotten that my own brother, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi, and his wife, have children who, even if they aren't pursuing non-traditional careers, certainly have excelled in non-traditional extra curricular areas. My 3 nieces, now aged 15, 17 & 19, had, by 2 years ago, each earned her black belt in karate. Definitely not something I saw while I was growing up. I don't know how long it takes to earn a black belt, but the sisters started on the process together and reached the same level of achievement together. There is no way you would guess from looking at these young women, modestly dressed with long sleeves and long skirts, had hands that could be used as lethal weapons. And their older brother, now 21, is quite accomplished as a magician, not just in performing sleights of hand but even inventing new tricks. When I went to see them about 2 weeks ago when they were visiting my mother, my nephew showed me a publication for magicians (I didn't take much note of the title because I knew I wouldn't remember it) in which his trick had been published.

So whereas I had operated from the assumption that everyone Orthodox followed a straight, or conventional, (which is actually the meaning of 'orthodox') path -- toward law, medicine or Talmudic study, for boys, and teaching for girls) there is a wider range of practices and opportunities that some families provide for their kids. And it isn't to the exclusion of being religiously observant; rather it is on the side, an opportunity to do things that a lot of kids take for granted as being available to them, and have applied the same diligence to their hobbies as they have to their studies, and excel there, too.

My youngest nephew, only 12, hasn't defined his unusual calling, but once he does, I have no doubt that he will excel at it, too.

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