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 newspapers Saturday edition.
The article is an absolutely glowing account of Sydney Mintz, female rabbi of Congregation Emanu-El, one of San Franciscos 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 youll be glad to know that shes 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. Its just too bad that, amid the din of hearty guffaws, the congregants dont 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 weeks 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 bearers 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 todays teenagers who struggle beneath the burden of a culture obsessed with sexual images, experimentation, and education.
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