Since my charedi mother-in-law has come to stay with us, I have had more contact and insight into the diaspora charedi world than I did even living in NYC for 22 years.
I guess you could say I spent years, after my initial becoming religious, turned off from wanting to know about the ‘ultra orthodox’ (as we in the States call them) or how they worked. And for me, it was how that former sentence sounds: Us vs. them. Prior to mother-in-law stay, it’s gotten to the point where I actually feel chiloni.
But now that I’m entering the charedi world via marriage, even if it’s long distance, I’ve had to take a deep breath and re-evaluate, and, though it’s been obvious to me all along, start to take the ‘theory’ I study in school and make it ‘practice.’ I guess this is as good a trigger as any.
And maybe today was a sort of formal graduation in theory -> practice as my first year in the conflict management & negotiation program comes to an end (sort of): I took my social psych final – testing me on terms like ‘prejudice’ and ‘indoctrination’ and ‘aggression’ and ‘conformity’ and ‘social influence.’
Then, after I left the final, headed towards the sherut and stepped inside to find it filled – not unlike many times before – with charedis – I didn’t let out a sigh or groan or keep my eyes low.
The one seat available was in between three large charedi women, and when they moved apart to let me sit, I said thanks. Then I turned to one who had been resting her baby on my seat before I showed up and asked her if it was ok that I sat there. She said yeah.
And my tank topped body sat still and peacefully until we got to Jerusalem.