Several months ago I joined an online “social-networking site”. For a while it served as a great way to reconnect with old friends that I hadn’t contacted in years. In fact, may of them were involved in NCSY when I was becoming frum and many others were participants in NCSY when I was working for the organization. Until about 2 months ago, my “friends” from the â€œsocial-networking site” were actually about 90% Torah observant and the other 10% were not-yet observant (oddly enough some of them from my hometown and I am probably the only frum person they are in contact with).
Then there was a change in my friend demographics. Due to a public high school reunion coming up, someone from my high school found me online. He became my “friend”. Then other non-Jews that I really hadn’t thought of in almost 20 years started requesting my “friendship”. My demographics when from 100% Jewish â€œonline friendsâ€ to about 20% non-Jews and 80% Jews.
During my last two years in high school I was Torah observant. I was also, then, submerged in the whole punk/alternative music scene sub-culture. My life revolved around bands, music, and concerts. In addition to all the outer signs of individuality that I displayed it was almost, to most people, incidental that I wore a yarmulka, didn’t go out on Friday nights, and didn’t eat much food outside my home.
Of course, once I was able to leave my hometown and engage in formalized Torah education many of my priorities changed. Eventually most of my old cassettes/cd from all the bands I couldnâ€™t live without were sold and the money was used for seforim. Like most of us, I have over the years, immersed myself in the “frum” sub-culture. I realized as I started seeing names of friends from high school that I really havenâ€™t spoke to in almost 20 years that I probably come off (via an online profile) as a very different person with different reading and music tastes that the â€˜Neilâ€ they once new.
Itâ€™s funny, because during my years in a ‘traditional’ conservative Sunday school and Hebrew school program we were constantly told that assimilation is, like, the worst evil. We were told that a Jew should never give up their identity as a Jew. Because the word â€˜assimilationâ€™ means to make similar I was raised that as a â€˜traditional Jewâ€™ I couldnâ€™t be come similar to those around me. Well, as I examine who I am today, I think I’ve become an assimilated Jew. When I write â€˜assimilatedâ€™ it is in the sense that I have submerged myself into a lifestyle and culture like that of my fellow Torah observant Jews.
I probably didnâ€™t assimilate the way my old Hebrew school teachers thought I would, but then again, most of us BTs donâ€™t when up where we thought weâ€™d be. As for my friends from high school that have some out of the cyber-woodwork, let them go ahead and look up books like â€œBilvavi Mishkan Evnehâ€ and bands like â€œPiamentaâ€. This is who I am, someone â€˜assimilatedâ€™ in Torah observant culture.