Thursday, April 10, 2008

At the Debate, the sights, the sounds.

Okay, so I thought about something I wanted to blog about this morning on the bus, and now I can't remember. I do remember, however, thinking "I will blog on something and then never blog about my experiences at the debate the other night, wahahahahaha" (though the evil laugh was in my head as I attempted to not nod off). But now I can't remember what it was, so I guess I'm back to square one.

The debate comprised a microcosm of Jewish society. There were Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Chassidic, you name it, everyone was there. You had the women who were JAP-esque with their bleached blonde hair and fancy nails and jewelry and you had women sporting sheitels, scarves, and nothing at all. There was one woman who reminded me of the Mennonite women I would often see at Wal-Mart while working. There were women with fully covered arms, collarbones, and elbows, but who had skirts that were -- in my mind -- far too short for modest dress. When I was talking to the Kosher Academic about this, she reminded me that as long as it covered the knees, it was fine. But in my mind, well, it was quite short and flowy, and it barely brushed the knees. It seemed like an interesting, yet odd, dynamic for an Orthodox woman. Some of the sheitels were well groomed and you could barely tell it wasn't the woman's real hair, and then there were some that were disheveled as if tossed on at the last minute. Some scarves were wrapped beautifully, others looked like they were probably irritatingly wrapped. There were black hats and no hats, kippot in all colors and sizes. Tzitzit dangled freely on men in suits talking on BlackBerries and other men with simple black pants and white shirts. Children with curls, men with curls. The elderly and the collegian. It was definitely a beautiful scene of the Jewish community, all united to listen to two schmucks discuss politics and which candidate is "good for the Jews."

Afterward there were groups of men davening, first a group near the entrance, later a group near the door to the theater where the debate was. It was interesting to watch these men, as there were more than enough active in their prayers to make minyan, but men would saunter up, look around uncomfortably and then their lips would move, as if mumbling something. It was an interesting sight, of course, as it looked like many of the men joined in simply because, well, when there is davening, you daven -- secular or religious or not. But myself and the girl I'd just met looked on at the sight (a most involved, passionate prayer that, well, you don't see in most liberal shuls).

Overall, I felt really cozy and at home in the crowd. It was one of those "these are my people!" standing on a mountaintop and feeling refreshed kind of moments. I mean, it helped that the busride there involved passing several kosher bakeries and stores like Chaim's something or other and the Hadassah resale shop. I love that there is community, and I don't think it's a bad thing when communities create their own havens. It makes sense, really. A lot of people frown on groups of individuals who congregate (read: often called segregate) in a certain area and open shops and businesses that cater to their people. Think about (in Chicago anyway) the Puerto Ricans in Humboldt Park or the Indians up on Devon or the Ukranians in the Ukranian Village or the Jews in West Rogers Park. I mean, I think it's great. China town is looked at as a spectacle in so many cities, but it makes sense, and no one says "Why won't the Chinese integrate themselves! Why must they segregate!?" We go there on Christmas or to get manga or something and we don't wonder why the Chinese live in China town. I mean, there are people all over the city, spread here and there, but I understand the cohesive nature of communities of specific groups of people. And I have to say, I hope to live in such a community someday.