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The Orthodox Community I Know

The Orthodox Community I Know

What do you envision when you think of the Orthodox Jewish community? Here’s an accurate portrayal based on real life experience.


The Orthodox Jewish community has a certain mystique.

Whether it’s because we look, act or believe differently, people are intrigued by stories about the Orthodox Jewish community. Media outlets often oblige but whenever I read these stories, they don’t quite resonate with me. They don’t look like the Orthodox community I know. So I’d like to share a few things that happened to me over the last year that give a more accurate insight into the real Orthodox Jewish community.

My wife and I have experienced fertility problems. We thankfully had been blessed with two children but as they grew older we had been trying for some time to have another child to no avail. One day I was speaking with my rabbi about our situation and I conveyed to him that my wife and I wanted to pursue fertility treatments but because of the steep cost, we were having second thoughts. A few days later my rabbi said that he spoke with an anonymous individual with means in the Jewish community who had agreed to sponsor fertility treatment for young Jewish couples if they could not afford it. He would not know who we were and we would not know who he was. He was motivated purely out of a sense of loyalty to the continuity of the Jewish People.

That’s the Orthodox community I know.

Nine months later we gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.

The excitement began early Friday morning and as the day progressed I started thinking about Shabbat. What would we eat? How would I recite Kiddush? Light candles? I remembered hearing about an organization called Bikkur Cholim which means “visiting the sick.” It’s a volunteer-driven charity that looks after the needs of people in hospital. I called them and within a couple of hours someone came to our hospital room with literally bags of food, grape juice for Kiddush, electric candles to serve as Shabbat candles, even spices for havdallah. The food is free and the person delivering it is a volunteer. In the few moments I had to speak with him I learned that he was just a regular guy -- an accountant -- who takes off Fridays from work to volunteer for Bikkur Cholim. I asked him why he does it and he replied simply that it’s what God wants of us.

That’s the Orthodox community I know.

After a quiet Shabbat with our new baby the doctors told us that they had detected some abnormalities on x-rays that they had taken. While they told us not to be alarmed, they were concerned and wanted to transfer her to the intensive care unit at the children’s hospital. So the day after giving birth to our baby girl, we were in an ambulance being transferred to a high risk intensive care unit for some unspecified condition. Not exactly what we had been planning.

Friends in our community heard what was going on and told us not to worry about our two kids at home. They would take care of them. They arranged sleepovers and carpools and meals. Bikkur Cholim received a notification that we had been moved to another hospital and contacted us and asked if we needed continued meal service. Grateful, we accepted.

The idea that my kids would let a bunch of strange girls give them a bath was, well, laughable.

We also received a phone call from another organization called Chai Lifeline. They are a charity dedicated to helping sick children and their families. They had heard about our situation and wanted to help in any way they could. They offered to take care of our older kids for all of Sunday so that we could stay with the baby at the hospital. They said that they would take the kids out for the day and have them bathed and ready for bed when we returned in the evening. When I heard this I actually laughed out loud. The idea that my kids would let a bunch of strange girls give them a bath was, well, laughable.

Sunday night after a long day at the hospital I returned home to find my kids playing with a Chai Lifeline volunteer and they were in their pajamas, and…

“Why is your hair wet?” I asked my daughter.

“They gave me a bath,” she said nonchalantly.


Stunned, I sat down at the table and had a bite to eat while I listened to my kids tell me about their amazing day. Then I heard the water in the sink running and turned around and saw the Chai Lifeline volunteer washing our dishes. Washing our dishes! “You don’t need to worry about washing dishes right now,” she said.

That is the Orthodox community I know.

Word started getting out in our community, and I cannot count the amount of people who approached me in shul and asked what they could do to help. And help they did. For three weeks we didn’t cook a meal because people in our community rotated, cooking meals on our behalf. A few people asked me for the baby’s Hebrew name. They wanted to pray for her.

That is the Orthodox community I know.

After two weeks in the hospital, the doctors told us we could go home. In the end, they said they would monitor her condition, but over time it would likely go away on its own.

Our two kids at home were delighted at the return of their baby sister. They helped her and cared for her and nurtured her. As a parent, there’s no better feeling than seeing your children care for one another. Likewise, when God watched how my community took care of my family in our time of need, I think He too had that parental pleasure, so to speak.

I wish I could thank my community publicly for everything that they’ve done but I am writing this under a pseudonym to protect the privacy of my family. But I know that my community doesn’t want a public thank you. They were just doing what they do.

That is the Orthodox community I know.

March 16, 2014

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 48

(36) Deborah, May 7, 2017 5:17 PM

A beautiful article

The beauty and richness of Orthodox Judaism should be better appreciated, not maligned and over-exaggerated as is often the case.

(35) Mr. Cohen, June 9, 2016 5:49 PM

Alan M. Dershowitz and Orthodox Judaism

Harvard Law Professor Alan M. Dershowitz grew up Orthodox but later became secular.

He said this about Orthodox Judaism:

“I cannot leave my progeny any legacy comparable to the Orthodox commitment to, and intimate knowledge of, Jewish tradition and practice that my predecessors left me.

Though I have not abandoned my Jewishness – far from it – I have also not carried on the tradition of daily religious observance and total immersion in the sources of the tradition.
Sometimes I regret not having done so.”

SOURCE: Chutzpah by Alan M. Dershowitz (introduction chapter, page 12) published in year 1991 by Little Brown and Company ISBN: 9780316181372 ISBN: 0316181374

(34) Beverly Margolis, July 30, 2015 11:09 PM

That is what Jews do

The main reason I am not Orthodox is because being kosher is not an option for me and I would have to travel over 100 miles to get to an Orthodox shul..
I'm disabled with osteoarthritis and left overs from a massive stroke.
That said, I see no difference between Orthodox and Reform Jews.
First and foremost, we are JEWS and all versions of our faith do the same things. It is what Jews do.
I was brought up in a Conservative shul; my parents attended an Orthodox shul.
When I can attend services, I only have five miles to drive--yes DRIVE. I don't have to feel like a hypocrite when I drive to shul.
Currently, the outside temperature is 105F. If anyone WALKED in this kind of heat here in Texas, is asking for heat stroke.
And while I am here, a heat stroke IS A STROKE. It is an EMERGENCY and does require hospitalization.
Some people have tried to do it themselves with the results that either they die or become impaired in ways that nobody wants.

(33) Elinor, April 5, 2014 4:12 PM

I am a Noahide and I know what you mean

I was in a couple of Jewish communities when I had decided that I wanted to convert to Judaism, it was amazing to be next to a Jewish community and see the prayers, the supportive rabbis who help you and whenever you need help you see the taces of their presence, helping you directly and indirectly. When you live there, you understand how the world revolves around Shabat and how exciting it is to be there when fammilies are preparing for Shabat, how much excitement, the prayers in the synagogue, the movement in the kitchen, the littiel kids preparing the table all for shabat, waiting for the fathers to come back from the synagogue, perhaps with a couple of guest, and the best of the songs sang, the best of the food served, and the candle lights remind you of the beauty of being in LOve with the Creator and living and pleasing him with observing his covenant. One cannot understand it unless one goes there and sees it and feels it. I was not able to complete the process, but I have the best of memories from the moments I was there with the community and in the families, in the synagogues, observing men and women who are there, praying so devotedly, who celebrate, men who dance and sing and celebrate the gift of life that their father has bestowed upon them. Of the things I loved was continuously asking the kids the blessings of food and different types as I am so forgetful and the kids so patiently telling me again and again, like a mother :) Isn't that cute? :) My prayers and greetings go to all the Jewish communities around the world :)

(32) rachel, March 25, 2014 10:36 PM

smaller communities can be better at this

I was desperately ill while living in a small shul community, and people were amazing. When we used to live in a city and attended a biig shul, the personal connection just was not there.
And I would be remiss if I did not also note that a very different kind of community, my federal agency colleagues, also offered tremendous support. None were orthodox Jews. They included an Arab American, several African Americans, Catholics, Protestants, and non orthodox. I will always care about and respect them, just as they did for me. So while its truly wonderful that we orthodox take such care of each other, I hope those reading the article do not get the impression that we lack positive relationships with those outside our religious community.

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