A Prospective Convert Wrestles with the Sabbath amid Pandemic and News Overload

Jan. 15 2021

Two years after beginning the process of conversion to Judaism, Nellie Bowles reflects on coming to appreciate the beauties and challenges of Shabbat. Writing last Thursday, she found herself “dreading shutting off the faucet of news out of DC,” and thus realizing she had all the more reason to do so. She recalls her initial resistance to the Jewish day of rest:

Why does it have to be Friday night to Saturday night? I get the point of resting, but couldn’t I adjust it a bit for what works best for my [schedule]? When I talked about this with my rabbi, Noa Kushner, she explained that part of it is just submission to the tradition. It’s Friday nights because it’s Friday nights.

With some time, Bowles began to find the weekly routine salubrious, a superior version of the “tech detox” recommended by the trendy gurus of “wellness.” Yet she also understood that such a perspective on the holy day effectively reduces religion to a form of self-help. To observe Shabbat, she writes, is much more than that: it is to “continue a project started long before me, for reasons I only partly understand.”

But then came the coronavirus:

Without friends and shul, it was hard to make the day feel special. It certainly didn’t feel holy. Saturday rolled around, and I looked at my phone all the time. And so it was that I came to Shabbat this past week with a new determination. . . . Going 25 hours without touching electronics during  lockdown was, let’s say, humbling. Miserable at points. Depressing in its clarity about how atrophied my self-control had become.

And it was precisely the difficulty, she writes, that helped her renew her commitment to observance.

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Read more at Chosen by Choice

More about: Conversion, Judaism, Shabbat

 

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

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Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam