“They’re a little insistent, but that’s the way Jews are.” – Bouncing Baby, on Chabad’s presence at the Rainbow Gathering.

Like a lot of you on this page, I go to a lot of festivals, gatherings, hoedowns and whatnot. The one big festival I’ve never been to is the Rainbow Gathering, that annual summer celebration of peace, love, and shared food in the national forest. I was pretty curious for a long while, but never got it together, and then I met E, my next-door neighbor on East 12th Street in the Village. (This was back in 2000, before I made the Westward Migration.)
E was born into the “Family,” raised in Yogaville and bringing light and music to the world with Doofus and other NYC hobos. She went to every Rainbow gathering in New York and tried to bring me along. But I was having my baalat teshuva moment at the time and all I wanted to do was gather with my newfound family…down on Grand Street. All of E’s friends seemed like mooches that wanted to eat all her food and stink up the the hallway with patchouli.
So years later, it was with interest that I today watched Under the Rainbow, Ryan Lifchitz’s documentary about a group of Lubavitchers who go to the 1998 Arizona Rainbow gathering to set up a kosher kitchen and basically, do the Chabad thing. They Bar Mitzvah people, wrap tefillin, share their food, upgrade some neshamas and so forth. They also get their minds opened a little bit about the counterculture. Our heroes have varied experiences of the scene – some are more interested and accepting than others, who see the nudity, drugs and seeker vibe as a symptom of our greater ailing moral culture.
This is a fun little documentary, and a good glimpse of a world many haven’t had the chance to see in person. The film is a bit heavy on crazy old hippies talking shit, and far too few women doing anything, but still, if you’re at all interested in Rainbow, or in Chabad, it’s worth a peek.
San Francisco seekers will get a special kick out of an adorable young Yoav Potash, who’s excited to see the Chabadniks in the forest and what the event will do to them, as well as how they will elevate the event.
Under the Rainbow (three clips of about 20 minutes each)