The living rooms of frummies:
A casual look around the first floor open to the public areas of frum peoples homes reveals something startling. That one can judge a persons frumkeit level based solely on what the frum person has lying around and how they present it. Since I have not been in many homes of chasidish folks I cannot say how their homes are set up so this post will based only on my sociological observations.
Yeshivish Black Hat: homes tend to have the nice silver displays of all the unused wedding gifts that they have not sold yet. Usually displayed over looking the dining room table so that the guests can revel in the beauty of the huge Kiddush cups, bisomin holders and challah boards that gather dust as the owners try frantically to get rid of them on ebay. Yeshivish black hatters also tend to have large displays of seforim in the living room and dining rooms with the set of artscroll shas taking the large empty place where the large flat screen would go had they been more modern. Children’s books are usually the only secular books lying around, though they are sometimes not even secular and they are more of the Moshe and Sarah do a mitzvah style books. If they do happen to be secular they are always 20 year old hand me downs of the Bernstein Bears, Clifford the Big Red Dog and Curious George. I do marvel in being able to tell the year the books were written based on the fact that no black or Asian characters can be found in these classic children’s books. The kitchens of these homes usually have a small radio where the lady of the house can listen to Dr. Laura while she relishes in her housewifedom and tends to the babies, churns the butter and waits for her challah to rise. The kitchen usually has one of those islands and those fridges that look like the cabinets, there is always a nosh drawer somewhere filled with sour sticks and bubble blast gum.
If the family has the internet they tend to keep it locked up in the den or in the middle of the kitchen so no temptations of pornography can be had. Scattered about the tables are old copies of Mishpacha magazine and special inserts from that weeks Yated. Bathroom reading material is strictly readers digest. All the light switches in the house have those button snap on prevent you from turning on during shabos things. The artwork on the walls is always Jewish themed, usually an Israeli scene from Tzfat, maybe a dancing chasid made out of hundreds of Hebrew words that from close up can be seen but from far away the chasid is all one can see. Some pictures of Rav Ahron, Rav Shach the Chofetz Chaim and maybe a token Chasidish Rebbe round out the room.
Yeshivish Modern: homes tend to have a TV that rarel gets actual TV and is mostly used to show the occasional Harry Potter movie to all the kids who gather around in a public area in the house to make sure they don’t watch anything else. The superbowl may also be shown but the commercials and half time show are skipped. In the dining room the same display of silver and seforim adorns the walls, but mixed in with the seforim might be some of those lame kosher novels by some Jewish author who is better known for their books on taharas mishpacha but decided to give murder mystery a try. Also mixed in with the seforim might be some more musardicka English books and other books that tend to adorn more modern homes. The yeshivish modern crowd tends to have a stereo system in their kitchen and they tend to have a stack of CD’s to listen to, MBD and Avraham Fried of course but even more edgy artists like Blue Fringe and Matisyahu may be able to grace the counter by the stereo if perhaps the family were a little more modern. Scattered copies of Time and Newsweek magazine or maybe Better Homes and Gardens grace the tables and shelves, sometimes here and there an untznius ad had been cut out. You tend to have a set of couches that the end pieces fold into recliners that you got from someone else who had them before. A bunch of reproduced lithographs of some famous artists my adorn your walls, a painting by one of your more artistic kids and then a bunch of original paintings that you one in some Oorah like raffle adorn your walls.
You may be a huge secular book reader and keep a rather large collection downstairs out of sight from your judgmental guests. Sometimes the more philosophical secular books make it to the main floor, like maybe some Marx or Nietzsche to show that you are an educated fellow and well rounded – since the more frummy folks will have no idea who they are. Many yeshivish modern folks also have large coffee table books like the big Talmudic encyclopedia maybe a large world atlas and one of those huge dictionaries.
Modern Orthodox Machmir: homes tend to have the TV in the center of it all possibly surrounded by seforim, but nevertheless the TV is behind some wooden doors to hide it most of the time and display proudly their seforim set. One can usually tell by the seforim alone as to what level of orthodoxy one is on. A huge old well used shas surrounded by micraos gedolos and a full size Shulchan Orech with maybe a full set of Rambam, the Tor and a Mishna Brura to go with it, all not in English portrays a frum fellow who likes to get hilchos shabbos from the source, not from the shmiras shabos book or the gray 39 milachos volume. So the Modern Orthodox Machmir folks may have all these but most likely they are in English and mot likely they are combined with a bunch of Golda Mier books maybe some Eli Weisel and then some Herzel works for historic purposes only of course. The silver platters rotting away in the display cases tend to not exist and rather the display cases hold arty ceramic type stuff that comes from Tzfat, and maybe a few funky glass menorahs. A framed poster of some famous movie from the 60s maybe hanging somewhere, your Ketuba is framed and in your dinning room, maybe a couple kamtza’s are hanging up and some other Israeli artwork. Throw in a reprinted framed Van Gogh and its all good.
Modern Orthodox Liberal: Besides the mezuzah on the door the only remnants of Jewishness adorning your home is a set of artscroll machzorim gathering dust sitting next to your shilo siddur from grade school and one of those antique suddurim with a silver metal cover that never can seem to stay open unless held there. There may also be some candlesticks lying about and the challah board may be lying on top of a bunch of benchers that say wedding celebration of John and Gloria so and so. You have a drawer called the yarmulke drawer and its where you keep all the free yarmulkes and benchers you get at weddings and your talis and tefilin sits on top of all of them. A few scattered free seforim you get from Telse and other yeshivas that try and beg you to donate money. Maybe some old boxes of free Telse yeshiva charoses and Chanukah wicks. Your huge entertainment system is graced on either side by huge towering speakers and digital cable system and stacks of DVD’s on either side. Couches or anything else sittable are faced toward the TV which always happens to be on for backround noise. Yoru only Jewish CD’s scattered about are some random Klezmer and maybe some Andy Statman albums if you are the jazz crowd. Your washing cup is only brought out for shabbos, and there are tons of old browning copies of the NY Times, and Jewish Week scattered about the tables. Your seforim are all ones you got at your bar mitzvah and some of you display them proudly while most put them in boxes and wait to give them as gifts to someone else. Somewhere out in the open is a Stone Chumash waiting to receive its weekly attention.