DOREEN WACHMANN COLUMN
Judaism does not have to be in fashion

RECENTLY, a couple of my contemporaries have used the phrase 'I'm old-fashioned' to apologise for their views.

The first instance was in relation to opinions on promiscuity and drunkenness.

The second came from a congregant who preferred the synagogue children's services of yesteryear, which were actually mini-services, rather than the games which currently take place in this particular shul.

I argued with both these women, telling them that it wasn't a matter of them being "old-fashioned", but correct in their opinions.

Fashion has cost women far too much in hard cash as they regularly discard their old clothes in order to keep up with the trends dictated by big businesses who want to make sure that women just keep on buying.

I know about fashion. I grew up as a teenager in Southport, one of the most fashionable towns in Britain.

On Shabbat afternoons, my friend and I used to window shop in Lord Street, which, in the days before the resort went downhill, was one of the most fashionable shopping centres in the country.

On my way home from school, walking along Lord Street, I would grade out of 10 the fashionableness of every female who passed me by.

But as I grew in confidence and started doing what I felt was right, rather than ranking myself on the fashion register of what others might think of me, my criteria for choosing clothes changed dramatically.

Rather than worrying whether a certain garment was trendy and would be approved by others, I bought what suited me and made me feel good.

After all, if you keep your clothes long enough, they'll probably come back into fashion. But what does it matter anyway?

Nowadays, fashion dictates not only clothes, but a whole range of modern lifestyle choices including your car, phone, what you post on Facebook and the music you listen to.

And like the old clothes in your wardrobe, the vintage melodies come back if you wait long enough.

It was very convenient last weekend that the concluding part of the Eurovision Song Contest final coincided with the commencement of Lag b'Omer when we are allowed to listen to music.

So, in order to fulfil the mitzva of listening to music, I waited through all the final stages of the awarding of points to hear the winning song.

I was amazed to find that I actually enjoyed the vintage ballad, Amar Pelos Dois, whose melodious strains took me back many decades to when, as winning singer Salvador Sobral said, music was about feeling and not just screaming.

So why be a dedicated follower of fashion? If you wait long enough, the fashions will come around again, after you have wasted so much time and expense trying to keep up with the rat race.

Follow your heart and do your own thing!

The same applies to opinions on the important things in life as it does to clothes and music.

Judaism does not pretend to be a fashionable religion. If it did it would have gone past its sell-by date long ago. It promotes eternal values which can be interpreted to apply to every generation.

People of my generation were born into a time when Judaism shared many of its basic values with the dominant Christian society. But all that has changed as Christian politicians like Tim Farron and Theresa May have to redefine their religious teachings in order to win votes.

True, we have to be sensitive to the spirit of the age in which we live and sometimes, in order to be politically correct, keep our opinions out of view at the back of our wardrobes, but deep down we don't have to be apologetic for views based on our Judaic values.

The Jewish world too has changed in recent decades. Rather than formal services in large cathedral-like shuls, small informal shtiebels have become all the rage, primarily for the men while the women, many of whom are not allowed to use an eruv, stay at home and tend to the children.

But formal Anglo-Jewish-type shuls had and still have a lot going for them.

My kids participated in a children's service at which the children got used to the order of the main service and the boys learned to lehen and daven from the bima.

This is in stark contrast to many shuls today which just allow kids, who are not sitting next to their fathers, to run riot.

Even in the charedi community, understanding the prayers is a very low priority in many Jewish schools where boys are taught the intricacies of Talmud before they can understand the davening.

That may be the fashion of the day, but it doesn't mean we have to agree with it.

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