Chulent: A Surreal Post-Surrealist Manifesto


This is a guest post by Sam Shuman. Sam is a Sociocultural Anthropology student at Columbia University and a Jewish Women and Gender Studies student at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He hails originally from a small community near the Amish in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Sam enjoys living in a Bundist-style collective, running a Jewish LGBT club, investigating the history of the industrial shlishkes machine, engaging in direct actions and loitering around Ukrainian Hasidic gravesites.

In 2012, Sam spent Rosh Hashanah in Uman, where he investigated “things beneath the surface.” You can listen to his unconventional lecture/performance piece here. Sam presented his observations and extrapolations at Chulent, the informal weekly gathering in New York City for Orthodox Jews looking to question, celebrate and build community. Sam shared his reflections on Chulent with Jewschool.

Chulent: A Surreal Post-Surrealist Manifesto

With regard to a false interpretation of our enterprise, stupidly circulated among the public, I declare as follows to the entire braying literary, dramatic, philosophical, exegetical and even theological body of contemporary criticism:

1. An in-gathering of Diasporic bodies wandering through the urban frontier of New York City—in contradistinction to independent Jewish spaces which inevitably become co-opted by Jewish corporate sponsorship, re- assimilated back into the machine.

2. A shape-shifting organism—far too amorphous an organism to ever become institutionalized.

3. A space that cannot be located on maps, an underworld that cannot be charted onto longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates.

4. An organism in constant motion. A collective that occupies spaces only to abandon them (leaving silent breadcrumbs of disruption to mark its path if it ever decides to return).

5. A salon for Hasidim, Neo-Hasidim, ex-Hasidim, intellectuals, pseudo-intellectuals, and anti-intellectuals.

6. A Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ) to which Hakim Bey would flee if he ever decided to disavow his Sufi anarchism and convert to Judaism.

7. A salon that S. An-sky would record in his ethnographic expeditions, the type of space that Warsaw yiddishists of the pre-war era.

8. An embodiment of what Sander Gilman refers to as the Jewish Frontier—a post-structural landscape that challenges the center-periphery model of Jewish historiography.

9. What the biblical Ir Miklat (City of Refuge) looks like in galus.

10. A home for the possessed and dispossessed.

11. A never-ending niggun drunk on cheap vodka.

12. A spectacle aware of its spectacularity—à la Guy Debord.

13. A primitive tribe supported by a cigarette gift-giving economy.

14. A meeting ground for Burning Man Burners and Rainbow Gathering Gatherers.

15. An opening for Hasidim fleeing from Hasidic communities.

16. A spot for ecstatic clapping, stomping, and singing—to retrieve the lost sparks hidden in Uman, Berdychiv, Medzybush, and Breslau and capture the anti-nomian traces of the Baal Shem Tov’s spirit.

17. An experimental playground—akin to sanctuaries constructed by Radical Faerie.

18. A Jewish stew and a stew of Jews.

Signed: Sam Shuman

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik