Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Just crying out that he was framed

I just submitted this workshop description for the NHC Summer Institute:

Don't Think of an Elephant: How Can Liberal Jews Express Our Values?

In his book Don't Think of an Elephant!, cognitive linguist George Lakoff writes about how conservatives have dominated American political discourse by framing the debate with terms like "right to life" and "tax relief", so that even when liberals argue against these positions, they are still arguing within the conservatives' frames. In this workshop, we will look at Lakoff's ideas and extend them to intra-Jewish religious discourse: every time a liberal Jew says "I'm not shomer shabbat [Shabbat-observant] -- I light candles after sundown and then drive to synagogue," s/he is allowing a particular Jewish ideology to define "shomer shabbat" even if s/he rejects this ideology for him/herself. We will look at the cognitive frames that are common, and then brainstorm new frames by which liberal Jews of all types can express their values positively rather than negatively.


  1. Interesting.

    This may be a pointless comment, but I'm going to post it anyway...

    Question: When I say that I'm not "frum" because I'm a lefty liberal Modern Orthodox type, is that the same thing? That is, am I accepting others' definition of "frum"? Or does "frum," being a Yiddish word, always mean "yeshivish" or "black hat" or "I want to have eight children" or whatever? This is obviously less critical than things like Shabbat observant/kashrut, etc., which is probably more of what you're talking about. I would never be offended (well, hardly ever) if someone else told me that I wasn't frum.

  2. Sounds like a great discussion to have.

    When I was in 7th grade, I wore kippah all year in what I guess was an attempt to reclaim the symbol as one that demonstrated the centrality of Judaism to my life as a not-traditionally-observant Jew. I ended up stopping after a year out of a sense that the negative impact of giving people inaccurate impressions (like, this restaurant is kosher) was too great, and I guess that the burden of representing Jews-who-wear-kippah wasn't one I could shoulder at the time...

  3. ALG- It depends how you feel about the word "frum", and whether you want it for yourself. As for me, I'm willing to let "frum" be someone else's registered trademark, which I'm not willing to do for words like "religious" or "observant".