Do you wish to know one small however highly effective means we might make Jewish life extra inclusive?
Cease telling fats individuals about your weight loss plan and asking in the event that they’d like to affix you.
Final 12 months I launched Fats Torah, with the goal of confronting weight stigma in Jewish communal life and deploying Jewish custom in methods which might be liberatory for all our bodies.
On the time, I assumed that I’d be offering recommendation to people who have been anticipating a chance to “Ask the Fats Rabbi.” And also you, my pricey Jews (principally Jewish girls) haven’t dissatisfied. It has been my pleasure to attach with individuals in Jewish communities who’re uninterested in weight loss plan tradition interfering with our full enjoyment of conventional meals and appalled by the enshrinement of weight reduction as a Jewish worth.
They’re deeply involved about how the pervasiveness of disparaging attitudes towards fatness and fats individuals harms not solely the most important amongst us, but additionally those that are struggling to recuperate from consuming issues (among the many most dangerous of psychological sicknesses).
My inbox is blessedly filled with their righteous anger, real unhappiness and deep love of the Jewish group, regardless of its failure to guard its personal from fatphobia and the numerous oppressive forces that so usually intertwine with it, together with misogyny, ableism, healthism, homophobia, transphobia and white supremacy.
However one downside has solely not too long ago occurred to me, 10 years within the rabbinate and 30 years as a fats activist however: Working with people has its limits when what we’re looking for is systemic change. The individuals who most want a fats rabbi’s recommendation — about “know higher so you are able to do higher” (to paraphrase Maya Angelou) or confront weight stigma inside themselves earlier than they proceed afflicting others with it — are those least prone to search my counsel.
We would like our communities — synagogues, faculties, summer time camps, packages for elders, Hillels and extra — to be locations that welcome us as complete human beings, created within the Divine picture. Anybody who has been even a little bit bit fats for greater than 5 minutes in our fatphobic tradition is already deeply aware of the sense that they don’t slot in.
While you recommend a weight loss plan to us, you reinforce the message that this area is one by which we can’t or ought not belong within the fullness of who we’re. If you happen to really really feel that your supply is a sort one, and are bowled over when we don’t reply with gratitude, please know that we’ve got already obtained too many of those presents and your “new” weight loss plan (or “program” or “wholesome life-style”) solely reminds us that we’ve got heard all of it earlier than.
Usually this urge to share your weight loss plan comes from a spot of being “involved about well being.” However you can’t correctly assess anybody’s well being simply by their measurement. If you happen to insist, nonetheless, on believing that every one fats persons are mechanically unhealthy, ask your self: What does Jewish custom train us about take care of the sick? One factor it teaches is that we have to take note of an individual’s precise wants and wishes, and never the wants that we’re projecting onto them. When the Talmud (Berakhot 5b) has us comply with Rabbi Yohanan, a famed healer, as he visits the sick, we study that his very first query is “are your sufferings welcome to you?” We are able to all comply with this mannequin of first assessing whether or not our “assist” is needed.
You do not want to surrender your personal weight loss plan. However please be conscious of how your relationship together with your physique — and the way you discuss it publicly — impacts these round you, particularly when that relationship aligns with oppressive stereotypes quite than disrupting them. Finally, nevertheless, the correct to physique autonomy extends to you, my pricey dieter, as properly: Your physique is yours and you must do what’s best for you. Nobody is coming on your cauliflower.
An essential caveat known as for right here: I’ve been horrified to study in regards to the pervasiveness in Jewish communities all throughout America of multilevel advertising and marketing (MLM) diets. MLM salespeople, who’re typically referred to as “consultants” or “coaches,” are inspired to promote to the individuals closest to them in a method often called “relationship promoting.” In what many regard as a quasi-legal Ponzi scheme — by which the overwhelming majority of members lose cash — these salespeople make commissions not solely from their very own gross sales however from others they recruit to promote.
This mix of the relational nature of MLM gross sales, the great stress individuals really feel to reduce weight and the closeness we aspire to in our Jewish communities creates an unlimited danger of exploitation. In circumstances of unequal standing, by which the “coach” can be somebody with a considerable amount of social capital locally, we’ve got the makings of misuse of energy.
Jewish communal life shouldn’t be a breeding floor for these exploitative and unethical companies. If the weight loss plan you’re dying to share with others is linked with this sort of “program,” I’d urge you not solely to cease recruiting others, however to discover a technique to get out of it your self.
I yearn for a world by which our Jewish communities might be locations of belonging for our bodies of each measurement. There is no such thing as a scarcity of labor to be accomplished to get there — from ensuring we’ve got seating that may accommodate the most important amongst us, to breaking ourselves of the behavior of utilizing fatness and fats individuals because the targets of “humor.” However please know, my pricey dieter, that merely holding your self again from attempting to recruit others to your weight loss plan plan would really be a beautiful start line for making a world of distinction. PJC
Rabbi Minna Bromberg is a singer, songwriter, rabbi, and voice trainer who lives in Jerusalem. This piece first appeared on JTA.