Where do you find your “Jewishness” in the summer?
Where do you find your “Jewishness” during the summer? Is it during travel, visiting museums, finding special exhibits, film festivals or????? This summer I was fortunate enough to explore, enrich and appreciate, my “Jewishness” at many different places.
Friday Night Services on a Transatlantic cruise….I was at sea on my 1st cruise with my husband, Glenn, as we were celebrating our significant birthdays (divisible by 5, but in big numbers) and an anniversary. Curious as to what our options might be (if any) for Shabbat services we discovered that a service with great wine and very tasty challah was in the ship’s daily announcement. A timid, more than a minyan-sized group showed up. No one seemed confident to lead the services, so in the awkwardness of the silence, we shifted into our own synagogue and camp experiences to lead the group, amused that it was the Reform Jews taking charge of the rituals. It led to new friends who returned the next Friday with a few more friends. We were not all the Jews on the cruise, but it was an interesting portal to meeting some new friends.
We continued the celebratory trip to Paris, which was another place to seek out ones “Jewishness”, especially in current times where we hear about so many challenges for Jews and current anti-semitism. Paris is a “pulled back into history” place which activates my childhood images of the impact of World War II, particularly on the Jews. Visit Champs Elysee, climb the Arch de Triumph and once again visualize the Nazi Occupation of Paris. Racked with the conflicting image of then and the current hustle/bustle of tourists and locals, chic stores or high-end hotels, Paris continues to be striking. The Marais District, full of Orthodox Jews, has long lines at the falafel stands and is considered a young trendy neighborhood with hip fashions.
We visited the Paris Jewish Museum, a converted old hotel with such a range of valuable Jewish Heritage and featured Jewish artists who often are lost in the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay. The Holocaust Memorial was a sensitive and artful tribute to Righteous Gentiles and Jews alike, documenting history for Parisians’ future. There is also the little Holocaust memorial located just behind the Cathedral of Notre Dame. I accidently discovered this spot many years ago and you have to look carefully to not miss it. Coincidentally, we came upon an exhibit about the Parisian children who were deported and/or saved during the Shoah. The exhibit was hosted by the city government and held at the historic Hotel de Ville. It was about the Jewish Parisian children of non-Parisian parents who were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. It was reassuring to know that institutions and exhibits like these are in Paris. It feels monumentally important to find, visit and support them when traveling.
“Jewish Camps make Jews”, and visiting URJ Camp Swig-Newman with 15 women from Women of Temple Sinai as part of our Temple Sinai, Oakland’s “Shabbat at Camp” is an annual treat. This is one of the most Jewishly reassuring annual summer pleasures. Camp Swig and Camp Swig/Newman have personally impacted my family’s Jewish identity. Has this happened to you?
Not only is it a treat to spend 24 hours with my “sisters” but to be able to spend Shabbat at camp with hundreds of “Happy Campers” celebrating their Jewishness. There is the warmth of greeting old friends, like talking to the camp doctor who was one of my youth group “kids” when I was the advisor 30+ years ago. Teasing him about how he behaved when he was a teenager. There is the Shabbat service where you see a sea of tallit, held by the counselors, over the heads of the campers as a prayer for children is spoken. Later there is the gathering for the evening program on the blacktop for songs and watching the dancing youthful maniacs who welcome you into their circles or the youthful reminder as healthy teenage boys rush over to teach you the steps to the latest Israeli dances as they see you tripping over your feet and looking perplexed. Camp blends all the Jewish senses and thoughts into magic.
Where do you find your “Jewishness” in the summer? And do you happen upon it or seek it out? What makes you notice? And there is still more summer to find some more.