Identity, Religion

To dance at two weddings

And when we might assert one thing is certain, inside my skin I know what’s what but everything outside me is mysterious and alien — these are two separate worlds — then we look at the tzitzit on the edges of our selves, we look at these fuzzy fringes made always of my own cloth and the Universe’s air, we look to see that not good fences but good fringes make good neighbors, we look at these threads of connection that bind us to each other and we pause at that moment to remember to remind ourselves… – Reb Arthur Waskow
Two looks at fringe-y Jew gatherings (because they’re the best kind):
via sevenfatcow: Today’s NYTimes takes a look at Chulent, an NY gathering described as existing on the fringes of orthodoxy. In addition to the gathering itself, there’s an attempt made to identify some of the reasons folks go “off the derech,” both historically and currently, and explores how the ‘net makes such gatherings of fringy-types all the more possible.

Outside, the streets were dark and empty except for a few taxis hurtling uptown. Inside, people beat on African drums, chain-smoked cigarettes, spoke Yiddish, drank beer, played electric guitars and sang old Hasidic songs at the top of their lungs, creating a mutant yet richly textured variation of the culture they grew up with. Young men wearing yarmulkes clutched one another’s shoulders and danced. A man and woman sat in a corner studying a volume of ancient text. Sholom Anarchy and his friends scrawled graffiti on a wall.
The energy was almost palpable. It was as if, inside a packed space in the middle of the night, this motley crowd had found a stop on their own private underground railroad.

Sounds fantastic – I’ll have to try to make it to the city for one of those. Any ‘schoolers attend?
Over at MahRabu, Jewschool’s own BZ examines his first experience at Jews in the Woods with the kind of academic zeal and general thoroughness we’ve come to expect (plus, a self-referential hilchot pluralism check-list).

To discuss what JITW was like, I’m going to compare it … with two other Jewish retreats that I have attended a total of 9 times: the Hadar Shavuot Retreat and the National Havurah Committee Summer Institute. All involve spirited davening, learning, and community-building in a bucolic setting, all take place outside the major Jewish denominations, and all are organized mostly or entirely by volunteers.

BZ continues:

As different as they are, I should note that there is substantial overlap of participants among all three of these retreats (or certainly between any two of them). To be sure, each of them serves a population segment that is not represented in large numbers at the other two:

  • JITW – people who won’t daven in egalitarian minyanim
  • NHC – people over 40
  • Hadar – people wearing suits or high heels

I wonder how Chulent might fit into the framework BZ has laid out. There were at least two folks at JITW with Orthodox smicha (Rabbinic ordination), one of whom sometimes dons the full chassidishe outfit, but I don’t know of anyone beyond that who might fit the description offered by the Times.
I’d have to say BZ’s post replaces Jay Michaelson’s piece in the Forward as the most comprehensive look at JITW to date, and given the flexibility of the medium, there’s a great mix of anecdotal and sociological observations.
I attended this past JITW with BZ, and my journey-mates on the way there had both recently attended their first Chulent. Are we all just attracted to fringes?

7 thoughts on “To dance at two weddings

  1. Fuck. I hope this doesn’t ruin chulent, the NY times mentioning it. Maybe it’ll help us get the bigger better venue we’ve been waiting for…
    But meanwhile, ironically, the Jewish Media blackout of SevenFatCow now comes to an end. This where the most exciting developments and insights, arguments and obnoxious truths in the dirtiest and brightest corners of the Jewish world are being hashed out. feel free to look, touch and be touched.

  2. oh, ok…i read it.. it’s jen bleyer… it’s a good article…. a lot of jewschoolers go… i’m not gonna name names… the audio commentary/slide show with issac schoenfeld is cool…

  3. “I attended this past JITW with BZ, and my journey-mates on the way there had both recently attended their first Chulent. Are we all just attracted to fringes?”
    I think it’s more that living culture only grows at the fringes; everything else is just fodder for where it’s really happening. That’s why the most mainstream part of any culture, movement, or science is the lamest, and most reliable.

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