Sunday, August 24, 2008

Awkward moments at the Institute

The Mystery of the Missing Spouses

My husband and I attended several of the earliest National Havurah Committee Summer Institutes. Due to a combination of circumstances, we were unable to attend for over twenty years thereafter. Imagine our dismay when two of the people whom we had known (from those early Institutes) as halves of two different married couples showed up unaccompanied by a spouse. In the case of one of the individuals, whom we saw every day, my husband was seriously concerned that the fact that that person never once mention her/his family might indicate that a nasty divorce had taken place in the interim. In any case, we were afraid to ask, and can only hope that the missing spouses were missing due to scheduling conflicts only.

Sunday, September 7, 2008 update:

Apparently, my husband and I are both a little short on visual memory--we didn't realize that one of the allegedly missing spouses was, in fact, at the Institute. Not only did we see the names of both halves of one of the couples on the 2008 NHC Institute Roster, but we were relieved to see that both still live at the same address. (Whew!)

The jury is still out on the other couple--the Roster confirmed that only one of the spouses attended, and my Internet search skills are not good enough to enable me to find any reference to their marriage that's more recent than several years old.

I'll admit to liking to hear myself talk--that's one reason why I blog :)--but sometimes, listening to oneself talk is a necessity

When our son was a kid, I told him that he shouldn't offer to help a person with a disability unless the person asked for help or appeared to need it, because people with disabilities do have their pride.

I should have paid more attention to my own words. :(

Watching a woman in a wheelchair maneuver around the cafeteria with a tray of food in one hand, I commented, admiringly (never have seen this done before), "That's a neat trick." As if that comment hadn't already, in all likelihood, annoyed the individual enough, I then offered to carry the tray, and took it. "I said 'No,'" the person protested. "Oh, I'm sorry--my hearing isn't what it used to be," I replied, and, handing back the tray, beat a hasty retreat, feeling quite appropriately rebuked and chastened. If, perchance, the party in question is reading this, I apologize for the affront to your dignity.


A group in our neighborhood is currently in the process of creating what they're calling a "synagogue without walls," housed at one of the local churches. I don't know whether the fact that none of these people has any interest in joining any of the three existing shuls, all of which are dying, because all of them are too traditional for this crowd, makes me feel better or worse, but it certainly doesn't make me feel good.

So you can imagine how I felt upon meeting the rabbi of the new shul at the Institute and striking up an acquaintance. The individual certainly seems very dedicated to the job (though we disagree on patrilineal descent--the rabbi's pro, we're con), and it doesn't hurt that he/she has a wonderful voice and was a welcome addition to the various groups sing z'mirot (Sabbath songs). But that didn't make me feel any better when I walked into my local synagogue quite late (due to exhaustion) yesterday morning and discovered that they were waiting around for enough men to start the Torah reading. To the Jews in our neighborhood who won't set foot in our shul, all I can say is, in the words of that old Yiddish-English expression, "What are we--chopped liver?" :(


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