A look inside daily Jewish life

Robert Jean Bloom’s book Jewish Life in the Twenty-first Century provides fascinating insight into daily Jewish life, nutrition, education, festivities, and anniversaries, complete with relevant interviews with liberal and Orthodox Jews. A practical handbook with a wealth of information. Did you know that the following Dutch words are of Yiddish origin: prison, gaben, joke, young, rob, infidel, capsons, groups, bravery, berry, excuse, secret, cool… But of course there is more discussion in this conversation.

She systematically writes Jews and Jews in capital letters. Do you not distinguish between “the Jewish religion” and “belonging to the Jewish people” as some other authors do?

Blom’ I did so consciously throughout the book, out of respect for Jewish life and existence. When we talk about Flemish, Belgian or Dutch, signs like Flemish, Belgian, Dutch, etc. are also written in capital letters.

What is the difference between conservative orthodox Jews, liberal Jews, and conservative Jews?

I explain in the book that there are many movements within the Jewish faith. Orthodox Jewish faith means that one adheres to strict Jewish laws. This means that almost all days of mourning, days of fasting and blessings are celebrated and celebrated. The synagogue is also visited often and all customs are respected there, customs like the Jews have been followed for centuries.

Then there is a small group that calls itself a conservative Jew. This group is mainly located in England and has small branches in Holland and Belgium. It is about a Jewish experience in which people adhere to traditional Jewish customs, but are also willing to consider challenges (and thus changes). Jewish laws are observed. Then there is liberal Judaism. Within this movement, we are open to new opinions and a freer experience. This does not mean that people are less adherent to Judaism. Certainly not: liberal doctrine is also a movement worthy of respect. Remember that all Jewish denominations cherish the Jewish religion to one degree or another. In other words: there are movements within the Jewish religion, just as there are movements in other religions.

You give the percentages for the US: liberal 38%, conservative 33%, orthodox 22%. Are there also pedigrees for Belgium and Holland?

About 50,000 Jews live in the Netherlands and Belgium in each country. There are 15 million Jews in the world. But of course there are more Jews, so these are unregistered Jews. The percentages for the categories are not updated. ‘

In the Jewish faith, childbearing is a religious duty’, I read. What is the position on birth control pills and other contraceptives?

Robert Jean Bloom In a strict orthodox life, contraceptives are rejected. The Orthodox Jew refers to Jewish law that procreation is a religious duty. Many Jews do not adhere to this. But in the Jewish Land of Israel, increasingly larger families are forming. Outside of Israel, a Jewish family is usually limited to two or three children.

Jewish friends from Israel told me that contraceptives are available there as well. Birth control pills are also used there. Even the Jewish Bible says that a fertile woman gives birth to two children. girl and boy. Remember, too, that in Judaism there is hope that a woman will give birth to Christ.

Are these contraceptives available in Israel and what is the birth rate there?

Yes, contraceptives are also available in Israel. Having said that, there is much less objection to large families in Israel than in other countries. Jews in Israel have the highest birth rate at 3.5 per family. The Netherlands and Belgium have 1.6 children per family. Israel has the highest birth rate in the western world. In areas such as Judea and Samaria (Israel), six children per family can be counted.

Is it true that you are Jewish if your mother is only Jewish, but not only if your father is Jewish?

This is certainly true. It is the most famous Jewish law. Thought tells us that after all, it is the woman who takes care of the offspring and thus also the survival of the Jewish people. Keep in mind that there are also movements (mainly liberal) who think you’re Jewish too if only your father is Jewish. But the vast majority within Judaism do not agree with this idea.

What is the difference between bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah?

“Bar Mitzvah is about a 13-year-old Jewish boy. At this age, he is considered mature. The Bat Mitzvah is about a 12-year-old girl. She is already an adult Jew at that age. The boys and girls then go to synagogue for the first time and read From the Torah in the Jewish Bible, of course, it is not about the legal age of adults, but about the emotional and religious age.

“Mitzvah is a rigorous ceremony in which boys study mainly for a year, under the guidance of a Jewish teacher. It’s also a party with appropriate clothing and a big meal. So Bar Mitzvah is for boys and somewhat ‘stricter’ than Bat Mitzvah for girls.”

A Jewish family is not allowed to light a fire on the Sabbath. Does this also apply to electricity? Can this be bypassed by employing non-Jewish employees?

“Indeed, no activity is permitted during the Sabbath. However, one is permitted to walk to the synagogue and to friends and family who live nearby. Severely religious Jews will not even touch the light switch. There is a long list of prohibited activities called “39 – melachos” Candles must be lit before the Sabbath. Of course, emergency services (firefighters, ambulances and police) are allowed to perform work. Non-Jewish domestic servants are also expected to abide by the Sabbath laws. Violation is a serious violation.

Why is a menstruating woman impure? Does this have practical consequences?

‘This is correct. According to the Hebrew Bible, a woman is unclean for seven days during menstruation. This is a Jewish tradition that states menstruation is unclean (Leviticus 15). This has dire consequences. It is not permissible for a man to touch a menstruating woman, nor shake hands with her, nor lie next to her in bed, nor dance with her, and it is not permissible for a woman to enter the kitchen during those seven days. After indulging in a ritual bath, she can describe herself as pure again. Needless to say, these provisions of the Torah are mainly followed by ultra-Orthodox Jews. In liberal Judaism, people often think of it as being more moderate.

On the other hand, did you read in your interview with Rabbi Meno Ten Brink that LGBTQIs are welcome in the liberal Jewish community?

There are debates about this within the Jewish movements. There are significant differences of opinion between Orthodox Jews and liberal Jews. Most ultra-Orthodox Jews have a lot of trouble with this. Liberal Jews accept different sexual orientations. Personally, I think orthodox Jews take longer to accept patterns. In any case, LGBTQIs in Jewish life are not excluded. It’s different with acceptance. But it is also growing.

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