Jen Taylor Friedman (hatam_soferet) wrote,
Jen Taylor Friedman

Talking to the Meorot Fellows the other week about why I work as a Torah scribe given that it challenges gender roles, one of them asked me whether I thought everyone should be egalitarian, and what my vision was for Jews, and people in general.

So I said, as I generally do, that egal works for some people and not others, as is true of most lifestyle choices, and my vision generally is for people to live happy lives in well-functioning, sustainable communities. Ones where the formal structure contributes to people according each other and their surroundings the kind of treatment which contributes to their lives and environment being more or less comfortable and contented. (The point there was that in communities where imposing an egal structure would make people very uncomfortable, I wouldn't say being egal was necessarily the best thing. We're not talking about that now.)

I see the Judaism I choose to live as helping me live towards that vision. Judaism is one of my formal structures, and it prompts me - or forces me, if I'm feeling lazy - to have a sense of respect for the world I live in. To care about the members of my community. To value other human beings. Not to live selfishly. To be a basically decent person living in a basically decent community.

A couple of weeks previously, I had to change health insurance plans. As a Torah scribe, I'm self-employed, and accordingly I'm extremely lucky that I'm able to get health insurance at all. I get it through the Freelancers Union, whom I cannot praise highly enough. I have insurance; I'm one of the lucky ones, but still, I have medication that I have to take, and on my new plan, my medication costs quite a lot more. Adjusting my budget to encompass that wasn't fun, but it's not like I have a choice right now.

Also in conversation of late, I've noticed US Americans being awfully surprised that the US is not in fact the world leader in caring for the environment. Being surprised that the US lags an awful long way behind Canada and Europe in this.

And the combination of these three has made me realise this: Respect for human life and its surroundings are at the core of who I am, who I want to be, who I want my fellows to be. My day-to-day existence is structured around the Jewish customs which are the outcroppings of these principles, which lie deep and under it all. This is who I am. This is who I want to be. But I am choosing to live in a country which doesn't value human life and doesn't value its surroundings. Which doesn't have free universal healthcare and doesn't care about the environment when so doing entails any inconvenience. Whose primary formal structure has a fundamental and systemic lack of respect for human life and the world it lives in.

This is a problem.

It's mitigated by my knowing a great many extremely fine people who are very much not like this; who would rather the US worked differently, and who do in fact value both human life and the environment. On the whole, the specific community I spend my time with appears to have pretty similar values to my own, to the extent that most of the time I am able to avoid confronting this problem. I appreciate you, I really do. But unlike most of you, I have a choice: I can live elsewhere. I can leave the US and live in Britain, whose approach to human life and the environment seems more compatible with who I want to be as a Jew and who I want to be as a human.

I'm left wondering whether I should exercise that choice.
Tags: ethics, politics, primitive lifestyle, torah, uk

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