Saturday Morning Live?

July-August 2000

Being headquartered in the Bay Area, we at the NOR are no strangers to strangeness. But with more than a raised eyebrow did we react to an article in the “Religion” section of a local secular newspaper’s Saturday edition.

The article is an absolutely glowing account of Sydney Mintz, female rabbi of Congregation Emanu-El, one of San Francisco’s largest Reform congregations. Emanu-El (labeled “venerable” by the paper) will celebrate its 150th anniversary this year as “a progressive temple that boasts two female rabbis…,” Helen Cohen and, of course, Sydney Mintz. This would not be markedly strange were it not for the fact that Mintz is a lesbian and pregnant. But you’ll be glad to know that she’s not one of those humorless lesbians, for she moonlights as a stand-up comic, having appeared in such revues as “Feygelah Schmeygelah: An Evening of Queer Jewish Humor,” and “Kung Pao Kosher Comedy,” the latter held annually at a Chinese restaurant “around Christmas time.”

Mintz, who “has always enjoyed entertaining people,” never felt compelled to “choose between stand-up comedy and becoming a rabbi.” Happily for Rabbi Mintz, Congregation Emanu-El is “clearly a place where the people appreciate a good joke.” It’s just too bad that, amid the din of hearty guffaws, the congregants don’t realize that the joke is on them and their co-religionists. Surely Orthodox and Conservative Jews would not be amused by any pregnant lesbian rabbi, no matter how “funny” her shtik. But, not surprisingly, the article does not quote anyone who would defend the venerable Jewish tradition from this self-mockery.

The previous week’s installment of the Saturday “Religion” section of the same paper calls attention to a different phenomenon. In a cautious tone, the article describes the rising popularity of “purity rings” among Catholic and Protestant teenagers, inspired by “Choose the Right” rings worn by Mormon youths. Purity rings (as well as necklaces and bracelets) are worn and exchanged as symbols of the bearer’s intent to remain sexually abstinent until marriage, and are often accompanied by a written pledge or verbal pledge before friends, sweethearts, parents, and God. Making and keeping such a pledge is no small order for today’s teenagers who struggle beneath the burden of a culture obsessed with sexual images, experimentation, and “education.”

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New Oxford Notes: July-August 2000

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