action · community · family · Jewish · joy

Jew: Part II

Sorry for the brief interruption of the daily blog, folks.
It was part intentional, part not. I’m not sure if I’m going to declare
Saturdays a non-internet day – at least throughout the day, before night. It’s
partly as a result of having spent some time with Jews on Friday, who take
Saturday off from electronics, and partly, just because I have a hard time
moderating my internet use – I’m sure you can’t relate 😉
It was also unintentional in that I was up and out till late
on Friday night, with said Jews, and slept in till my Sat morn commitment and
was off and running – more like galumphing – for the day.
Friday night was the first night of the Jewish holiday of
Passover. The first night, Jews all over the world come together for a ritual
meal called a seder, at which we retell the story of the Jewish slaves’
liberation from Egypt. You may remember this from such movies as “The Ten
Commandments,” or Disney’s “The Prince of Egypt.” 😉
I have heard, and don’t quote me, that if you do nothing
else Jewish for the whole year, if you participate in nothing else, do a seder,
and all-ish is forgiven. Basically, it’s another way of saying that the most
important holiday and event of all, is the seder. The retelling of the escape
from slavery to liberation.
I was invited this year to a friend’s not-a-seder seder,
which was to focus on social justice themes related to items on the seder plate
– i.e. there’d be a stand with an egg, and then all kinds of social and food
justice issues that currently surround egg production. There would be a focus on how are we today slaves to things, and talk about liberation from them. Where are people in the world actually in conditions of slavery, and what could we do. Etc. The room would host the
elements of the seder, but there wouldn’t, in fact, be a seder – the telling of the story.
I was surprised to find myself telling my friend that,
actually, I sort of wanted to go to a seder.
There are very few ways in which I still feel connected to
the Jewish community. I had worked at a Jewish non-profit for a little while
before school; then I’d taught at a synagogue Sunday school last year. But this
year, save the one time I went with my friend Barb to a “Young Adult” Friday
night service, and then was invited to her house for Rosh Hashana (New Year’s)
dinner … well, I’ve been pretty a-religious.
I am not religious. Haven’t ever been religious, and don’t
have a hankering to be religious. What I
do have a hankering for is the community. The stories, the mishpucha – family.
On Friday night, at this table of probably 40 people, even
though the majority of us didn’t know one another, we were family. There was a
moment when a particular part of the story was recited by 5 “extra” languages
around the table – English and Hebrew, of course, then Yiddish, Russian,
Spanish, French, and Japanese. It was the melting pot of Jews. The family next
to me was in town on holiday from Argentina. This gorgeous couple and 3
gorgeous children, and we all sang the songs the same. We read the Hebrew the
same. We banged on the table along with the songs, the same. That’s a hard
thing to get in most circles of life — that feeling of connection, belonging, and connectedness to a shared history.
I recently registered for the online Jewish dating site,
JDate. I’d really rather drink piss than a) admit that, or b) do it. But about
2 weeks ago, following a few more conversations with friends of mine, I signed
up, and actually paid. I’d been registered on this site for about 2 years,
apparently as it told me when I logged in this time, but I’d never paid for it,
and so I could see when people had emailed me, but I couldn’t read the emails
or reply. I was very unwilling then.
Problem is, I’m still unwilling now. But, I think it’s
causing me to see the absurdity of registering and demanding that the person I
date be Jewish when I have such a tenuous and almost laughable connection with
my own Judaism and my own community. What does it matter if the dude is Jewish
if I’m not participating in Jewish stuff anyway? Who cares, then, if it doesn’t
actually impact or change my life in any way. You’re Jewish, great, so am I –
let’s go get a cheeseburger. …
Not to say that I have an intention to go kosher, but just
to notice that I’m looking for a Jewish mate, but not looking for a Jewish
community. This seems counterproductive, or somehow just doesn’t make sense to
If I want Judaism in my life, personally and romantically, I
ought to get out there and go participate in Jewish things. There are fun
things to do – I know there are – I mean Jews are comedians – there’s gotta be something to that.
I am not sure what I’ll do with my JDate account for now –
it’s rather depressing and makes me feel like there’s scarcity in this world,
or that if I were wittier, I’d get more replies, or lied about my height, or
something. If I want to be my authentic self, then I ought to start with being
authentic to my desire to participate in a community that I love – and whatever
happens from that will happen.
For me, Judaism becomes something that when I’m there is part of my blood – And when I’m not, I forget how important it is to me. When I’m there, listening to the “long time ago, Rabbi so and so was talking to Rabbi other so
and so, and they were arguing about chickens.” I want to hear that. I want to hear that this thing here represents this about
the earth, but this about the spirit. I
want to hear the ironic laughter and the punchlines of
moral tales passed down through ages. I want to learn and I want to be a part
of. I don’t and can’t do that online,
But I can make an effort to do it in person. 

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