Sunday, May 17, 2009

The new living situation, so far

So, as I said in the previous post, I've moved to a place where the Jewish community is much more open-minded, much more progressive, etc..

The first Shabbat I spent here was awesome. I went to a (really small) Chabad. In the middle of davening, they took time to read a section of the parsha out loud in English. What was really cool about this is that they moved the mechitzah, and invited the women to come sit by the table in what had been the men's section so that we were a part of things, too.

Now while I've been to a lot of open-minded Chabads, I found this to be way more progressive than any Chabad experience I had thus far.

After that and after davening was over, I got invited back to this young family's house for a really awesome lunch. The family themselves were probably Conservative-ish in practice level, but what's been so interesting here is seeing the way that it just doesn't matter. The wife was super-spiritual, telling me about all these Jewish women's activities that go on here, but not really Shomer Shabbat. (They did ask me to make sure their kashrut level was okay for me before inviting me back.) At the same time, she was best friends with the rebbetzin of one of the Orthodox shuls (there are three, if you include Chabad).

From what I've seen so far, the Jewish community here is really, actually that: a community. Sure, there are a bunch of different shuls - each which practices mostly according to one branch of Judaism. But everyone hangs out together! This Shabbat, they had a community dinner, which people from all of the different "denominations" (it feels almost silly here, to use that word; I almost want to substitute it with "viewpoints" or just simply "synagogues") attended.

There aren't an abundance of kosher restaurants, it's true. (Although for me, at this point, that's not really an issue.) But there's kosher meat in the stores (I do still have a kosher kitchen) and a really large support network who don't seem judgmental at all.

When I lived in a really large Jewish community, I felt alienated from it all -- really, almost, like I wasn't Jewish at all. I'm not going to jump and say that this will definitely be better; I have, after all, only been here for two weeks. But, right now, it really feels like it might be.