Feb 10, 2008

Meeting strangers and things.

Today was an interesting day, but a really darn good day. After the day I had yesterday, it was good to get out, meet some people, and just be social -- even if with strangers. I went to my regular hangout, Argo Tea, with the intention of a friend showing up. The place was packed and within the span of about 5 minutes after I grabbed a table, a fellow and a lady asked if they could just sit in the seat across from me at my table. Of course, anticipating friend, I said no. But then friend texted and said he wouldn't be coming, so I found the guy -- scrunched in between some others at a table -- and told him the space was his if he wanted it. He came down and sat at my table reading a paper he was refereeing, and I reading "Constantine's Sword." A friend of his showed up, and she pulled up a chair and there we were. Strangers sharing a table in a crowded tea shop. It was really great, especially because after the gal arrived, there was conversation. Turned out they were both Jewish, familiar with the Conservative shul I've been going to every now and again, and one of them even knew my former boss and just laughed when I said I'd asked for reassignment. He understood, instantly. We discussed Jewish things, that I was a convert from Nebraska, my crisis of the self regarding where I belong in the "movements" of Judaism, my former shul, and other things. I felt really lucky to have these strangers sit with me, and the woman even gave me the book she was reading (Eat, Pray, Love), because she'd finished it and I'd been told that I would love it by a few people. So I got her e-mail address and at some point, I'll return the book. It was a nice day, despite the bitter cold.

So I've made some headway in both books. I have a lot to say about both books -- those being "Constantine's Sword" and "Conservative Movement in Judaism" by Elazer. But I'm going to hold off and try to sort of collect some notes in a Word file in hopes of creating some type of logical statement or argument about either of them. So, well, in truth I'm in the middle of five or six books right now. This is the danger, of course, of being a book-a-holic. I'm going to try to finish off "CS" and "CMJ" and then move on to another book, suggested by a reader of the blog who has no luck with the comments, Schvach. He's suggested "American Judaism" by Nathan Glazer.

On that note, I leave you with perhaps my new mantra, which is in the dedication of Elazer's "Conservative Movement in Judaism,":

ונתתי את־לבי לדרוש ולתור בחכמה על כל־אשר נעשה תחת השמים
("I set my mind to study and to probe with wisdom all that happens under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:13)


ZM said...

Hmm. As mottoes go, that's a good one. it's all too easy for religion, in particular, to become felt but not considered, and I'll admit freely that this is one of the things that gets my goat.

Zohara bat Sarah said...

"my crisis of the self regarding where I belong in the "movements" of Judaism"

I don't know too much of your particular story on this, but I'd say, welcome to the club! I also don't know what your current community is like, but you could also try moving somewhere with less choices! (JK). I went from a community with 30+ shuls of pretty much every flavor to a Reform-Chabad town (with a bad relationship between the two, to make things stickier). I sometimes feel like everyone around me is split into two camps: the people who think that one day I'll be Orthodox and the people who think I would never do/be that. (Or maybe it's just me that's split...) I'm glad you met these "strangers" who understand not everyone fits into one movement. I'd say relax and enjoy yourself (and your studying) and don't let anyone tell you that you can't go to 2, 3 shuls for different needs.

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...


I am *so* glad you found the site, really. I hope you also found the jewsbychoice.org site, being a convert and all :D

I really like the variety, because it gives me options, but the big city is very different than the small community I come from, so it's a struggle to make myself fit into that. I sometimes look at the Traditional and Orthodox communities as being, perhaps, more closely knit than the super-synagogues in Chicago proper. But who knows. I was busy this shul up in the Orthodox neighborhood (which I'll blog about later, G-d willing), but next Shabbat I plan to go to this Orthodox shul down near me where, according to everyone, it is super welcoming and no one will ask any questions. Wahoo!

I'll write more to you later -- but I am so very excited you found my blog. And Alaska!? Wowzaz. I always wanted to live there :D


PS: Mama: I agree with your comments :)

Zohara bat Sarah said...

I found your blog after I found jewsbychoice.org
If you ever find the means to make your way up here, you certainly should. We have a nice little community up here. I was doing some research recently and trying to find info on Jewish communities in Northern Canada and New Zealand and it made me realize how lucky I am to have what we have--two services a Shabbat (every Shabbat), a full-time preschool...

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

BTW, Zahava, have you read Michael Chabon's the Yiddishe Policemen's Unit? It's about Jews in Alaska :D And Alaska being the Jewish homeland. Absolutely loved it ... and you likely would to :D But chances are you've already read it, ha!

Zohara bat Sarah said...

I actually haven't read it. Someone gave it to me right when I was moving up here, and I tried several times but didn't get into to it. I came in my 2 suitcases, so it didn't make the cut...I've heard a lot of people say it's a hard book to get into, but more say how wonderful it is. Maybe one day.

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