“Indulge your creative side with GesherCity as we present Jewish art and media from New York City blended with Boston’s local scene” the postcard ad says. It’s a GesherCity Boston event on June 12 called HaMisiba (“the Party”), framing itself as a night of hip young Jew scene, at Phoenix Landing in Cambridge. I’m kind of irked. Don’t we have enough Jewish hip things going on in Boston that we don’t need to import it from New York?
I’m third generation Jewish Bostonian. Born and raised in the land of baked beans and frappes, Patriot’s day and the packie, the T and the Sawx, and I love that dirty water. Boston’s Jewish community is vibrant and even innovative. The Combined Jewish Philanthropies is a thriving arm of the federation that single-handedly created the position of synagogue educator by making community education a funding priority. Kosher restaurants, synagogues of every kind throughout the Boston area, young Jews and old Jews, indie minyans and enormous centuries old stained-glass structures — Boston’s a place in which you can make a Jewish life without a struggle.
Now, it may have to do with the Red Sox-Yankees battle of good over evil (and we will prevail, Ruby K, check those standings!), or it may be the smog, or it may be stubborn pride mixed with thinly veiled jealousy, but I really hate it when people act like the only thing cool and Jewish going on in America is in New York City. True, a huge number of American Jews live in New York City, and I think I still don’t fully understand the Jewyness of the place even after having visited it countless times, but still: we’ve got our own thang over here. And so do they in San Fran, Hotlanta, D.C., Miami, Philly, not to mention L.A. Why do we always have to be looking over our shoulder at what New York is doing? Do we really have to import Jewish culture from New York in order to be cutting edge?
And yet… as I write this from an apartment in Jerusalem, approaching my first Shavuot at the Kotel, I do know that it feels like the center of the universe here sometimes. Many times. Maybe because it is the center to my Diaspora. And I know that sometimes sheer quantity of people makes innovation happen, and although we are robust, we in the Hub of the Universe (that’s Beantown for those not in the know) don’t have the several million Jews crammed into one place to birth some of the stuff happening down in New York or happening here in Israel.
Maybe the difference is how we consider our Diasporas? What we consider their centers to be? For many Jews whose families come from New York or who grew up in New York, New York is the obvious Jerusalem to their Ann Arbor, or Washington, or even Boston. As someone who appreciates Israel but has no intention of making aliyah, who values both center and Diaspora equally and defines her role in the Jewish world as being completely tied up in the Diaspora, I submit that when we start appreciating and highlighting the unique contributions of all our many Diaspora communities, both can only become richer.
Oh yeah, and this GesherCity event, HaMisiba? It looks pretty cool. Check it out. Jewschool may show up to wow the crowd, stay tuned.