June 05, 2005

Jewish Geography

For my readers who are not M.O.T. (members of the tribe) the title of this post will likely cause you to think that this is about where Jews live or something along those lines, or so I suspect. Maybe I am wrong, it wouldn't be the first or the last time, ask my wife. ;)

When we speak of Jewish geography it is usually a reference to the small world of Jews and Judaism in which it is very common for Jews who do not know each other to find that they know someone in common. If you consider that in a world of billions there are only something like 16 million Jews it becomes easier to see how this might take place. Quick, give me a
mathematician like The Shmata Queen and tell me what percentage of the population is composed of Jews. Now discuss.

In any case if you are someone who has been involved in Jewish groups for any extended period of time it eventually becomes a bit of a game to try and find out how you are connected to any number of people. Not that it really matters, but for me I have always kind of enjoyed doing it. In my short time on the Earth I have been involved with Nifty, Skifty, USY, AZYF, hetz vakeshet, Hillel, JCCs, Ramah, JSU and many different shuls.

Translating that alphabet soup into English it means that I have been involved in a lot of different Jewish organizations in the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox denominations. So I find that most of the time I can find some kind of personal connection with a large percentage of the Jews that I come in contact with.

I like it because when you meet someone it is nice to know that the stranger you see in front of you is not so strange. You know someone in common and there just might be a bond from that.

Back in my single life this could work for or against you. Sometimes you met a woman that you were very interested in only to find out that she wouldn't go out with you because you used to date her third cousin's best friend's step-sister or some other odd combination.

Or sometimes you found out that you were interested in dating your buddy's Sandy. For those of you who are wondering the term comes from the movie Grease and refers to Olivia Newton-John's character, Sandy, the Australian summer love of one Danny Zuko who suprises him by showing up at his high school. If this doesn't make sense to you, don't worry about it, I don't understand it either. ;)

In our world what this really referred to is finding out that the girl you were interested in had recently spent a Summer in Israel or at Camp as the girlfriend of a good friend of yours. Rick Springfield wrote about this topic when he penned Jessie's Girl. Eric Clapton wrote Layla and then still took George Harrison's wife as his own.

In the circles that I moved in we tried not to get involved with someone who had dated a friend, it had too much potential to get ugly.

Returning to the topic of Jewish Geography or should I say touching upon a slight variant I ran into a half dozen people I know from the various groups I mentioned earlier. I should also add that it is probably considered bad form to look at someone and start laughing when they say that they have become a rabbi.

Now I can say without exaggeration that I know at least 25 different rabbis on a first name basis. I am not impressed by titles but do appreciate their devotion and decision to take that path, but sometimes it is hard to forget the things that these men did prior to their receiving smicha.

But that is a topic for a different day.


5 comments:

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Alice said...

"but sometimes it is hard to forget the things that these men did prior to their receiving smicha"

That's exactly what makes them good rabbis. One of the many things I love about Judaism is that rabbis get married, have kids, weren't always super observant, etc. Their advice is so much more down to earth and believable because of it, at least that's what I have found. Part of what drew me to Judaism is that I have historically found the advice rabbis give to be so pragmatic and genuinely helpful compared to the advice priests, etc. give. Of course I did not grow up within Judaism so that might sound odd to someone who did.

Neil said...

I also have a friend as a rabbi, and one of his missions was to get younger people into his temple. But I went a couple of times, and had to tell him, "You are a great rabbi, but there's no way I'm going to be able to see you as an authority figure." Again, he was really good, but I couldn't stop giggling when he made a sermon.

Jack's Shack said...

Again, he was really good, but I couldn't stop giggling when he made a sermon.

Neil,

I know that you mean.

Alice,

Makes sense to me.