From the time I was two years old, I’d lived in the White Oak neighborhood in Silver Springs, Maryland. At first glance my neighborhood seems like a typical suburban, upper middle class town. What makes life unique here is that it is a homogenous community comprised of religious Jews. Orthodox Jews tend to adhere to a religious law stricter than other Jewish sects. These laws bar writing and electricity use on the Sabbath and impose restrictions on diet and dress.
Since the majority of White Oak’s residents hold these beliefs, they transcend the boundaries of the home and are visible throughout the community. Women dress modestly in skirts and long sleeve shirts and men wear head coverings. Beyond these visual signs, the majority of the town’s children-myself included-attend private parochial schools. By living in White Oak, Maryland I feel more connected to my Jewish heritage that I otherwise would not feel if I lived in a smaller Jewish neighborhood.Order now
The everyday clothing worn by orthodox Jews is distinctive and brings me back to visions of pictures of my great grandmother and the way she would dress. Women cover their hair with either hats or wigs, wear loose fitting skirts that fall past their knees, and shirts that are loose and cover their collar bone and wrists. This is done in the effort to make sure they do not appear desirable to anyone other than their own spouses. For the women and children who don’t have spouses, they too dress in this fashion in preparation for a hopeful future with a spouse of their own.
They will also wear colors that will prevent them from attracting attention or appear flashy. Orthodox Jewish men will regularly wear a covering on their head, which is called a kippa, a white long sleeve button down shirt, and a dark color pair of pants. They too try to avoid being noticed. This self imposed dress code is important in the community because it ensures that one will be able to identify one another when outside of any Jewish community. Due to the fact that orthodox Jews adhere to dietary restrictions, they are prohibited from eating in chain restaurants.
To ensure that the dietary restrictions are abided by, special restaurants have been created for the Jewish community. Along with these restaurants, orthodox Jews have also opened supermarkets that sell only kosher items. This is necessary to Jews everyday life because the regular supermarkets do not have a large enough selection of kosher ingredients to feed their families. It has always been a treat to walk through my neighborhood passed the kosher supermarket and smell the wonderful aroma of all the different kosher foods that are being made.
The aroma from the supermarket is very similar to the way my grandmother’s kitchen smells when she is cooking for the Sabbath or a Jewish holiday. Her matza ball soup and potato kugel I could smell from a mile away! Luckily I only have to walk up the street to get some home made matza ball soup or her yummy kugel. While visiting my grandmother one day, she told me that she and her family would travel a great distance for the opportunity to buy kosher food, which made me realize how fortunate I am to have these conveniences right around the corner from my home.
Orthodox Jew’s day-to-day lives revolves around the observance of Jewish holidays and the Sabbath. They send their kids to parochial schools to ensure they will be knowledgable in regard to these religious observances. In addition, sending their children to parochial schools will enable the children to have time off and be home for the Jewish holidays that they will spend with their families. If these children were in the public school system, they would have to miss many days for all these different Jewish observances.
Therefore, it is essential for these Jewish children to go to their own schools where they will be able to succeed without obstacles. After attending a Jewish private school my entire life, I am able to confidentially say that without my Jewish education I would not have a fraction of the Jewish foundation I have now. Since graduating, I have decided that I too will send my children to a Jewish private school in the future. By sending them to that type of school, I hope to ensure that they will receive the same Jewish values that I received growing up.
To the average person these customs and practices appear extreme. However, in reality the customs are easily incorporated into my everyday life and do not preclude an individual to living in the world at large. I am very fortunate to live in a Jewish community that now has all the necessary living components that one needs to successfully live a Jewish orthodox lifestyle. I’m so glad that I was able to live in such a large Jewish community because if I didn’t, I would not know what my Jewish foundation would be like.