The Fierce Struggle For Purity

Today is the first day of Hanukkah, a minor eight-day Jewish holiday that gets a lot of press because it falls near the end of the Western calendar year and is thought of by the goyim as the Jews’ version of Christmas.

Hanukkah commemorates the exploits of the Maccabbees who kept monotheism and Judaism pure. Often portrayed as a battle between Jews and Syrians, Hanukkah was really a Jewish civil war between the zealots and the assimilationists.

In almost all of these battles through Jewish history, the zealots have won. Those with the highest commitment to Judaism tend to win out over those who want to be more like the goyim.

For the past 2600 years, the majority of Jews have lived as minorities in the diaspora. The way they’ve kept their identity is by constantly contrasting the Jewish way with the goyisha way. “That’s goyish” is a put down in Jewish life.

The Alexander Technique is so intoxicating a system that seems to explain so much of life, that for those Alexander teachers who are not already practicing a religion, the Technique frequently becomes a substitute religion.

While Alexander Technique teachers don’t take up arms against each other like the Maccabbees and their foes, they do take up words on places such as the AlexTech Google group.

As with the Jews, the zealots for purity tend to win out in Alexander fights and those teachers who do something a little bit different get pushed out.

You can view this as the victory of purity over impurity or as the victory of fanaticism over tolerance. I don’t have a side in these fights. I prefer to be an observer. I don’t know much. I’ve only been teaching for a few weeks.

I’ve gotten a lot of flak for my over the top blogs and videos on the world of Alexander Technique and I have to admit that my first reaction to this criticism is to think that I’ve done nothing wrong and why can’t other Alexander teachers just loosen up. Then I start to realize how offensive I’ve been and that the Technique needs to self-police. That’s how it has kept things so pure and good (or narrow and stilted, depending on your point of view).

I first immersed myself in the world of Alexander Technique fratricide when I studied the Dave Gorman controversy.

Orthodox Alexander Technique reminds me of Orthodox Judaism. “Orthodox” means “one truth.” Orthodox Judaism by definition can not accept the Torah legitimacy of non-Orthodox forms of the religion.

Because it holds that it has divine truth, Orthodox Judaism is constantly riven by conflict because its adherents care so much. Reform Judaism is much more easy-going because its religion is seen by its adherents as overwhelmingly man-made.

I’ve heard that in Eastern Europe in the 19th Century, Orthodox Jews would sometimes get into fist fights over what nusach to use in the davening (tunes for the public prayers).

That rarely happens these days because with the exception of parts of traditional Orthodox Judaism, most Orthodox Jews today don’t care so much about prayer. They’re not as emotionally invested in the nusach.

When people care, they fight to preserve what they believe in. That’s why I’m cool with all the fights in the Alexander Technique world. It means people care.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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