Thursday, December 19, 2013

Guest Post: Maybe Next Year by Paul Warhit

I spent last week with 5,000 Jews at the URJ biennial in San Diego, California and I came away with 2 observations.  The first observation is that nobody in his right mind would return to New York in December after spending 4 days in sunny San Diego.  Yet here I am back in New York.

The second observation is that while I am extremely comfortable being a Jew in Westchester in 2013, that comfort level reaches new heights when I am surrounded by thousands of other Jews all learning, singing, eating, and praying together.  As vibrant as our Westchester Jewish community is, we are still a minority population.  It is incredibly empowering when 5,000 Jews take over a convention center and become the majority for a few days.  It's nice to know that wherever you look, you'll see YOUR people.

Of course, that euphoria quickly dissipated as soon as the cab dropped me off at the airport Sunday morning and I became part of a religious minority once again.  It's not like I was discriminated against or anyone looked at me funny.  It was just that I was no longer surrounded by MY people and that absolutely changed things for me.  I had lost that confidence; that swagger that I had back in San Diego.  Coincidentally, when I landed at JFK airport and left my gate, I passed a gate with a group of passengers on line to board a flight to Tel Aviv on El Al.  I thought to myself, "My bags are already packed.  I could be in Eretz Yisrael in a mere 12 hours.  I could be surrounded by millions of MY people and soak in the feeling that I longed for."  I actually stopped walking and thought about it for a moment.  Then reality hit and I continued walking toward the exit.

I love living in Westchester with all our wonderful neighbors.  I appreciate the ethnic and religious diversity our community offers.  At the same time, I do enjoy being surrounded by MY people.  Maybe one day.  Maybe next year in Jerusalem.

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