I am still figuring out what it means to be part of a community: this is why I am repeating everything I already wrote, and will repeat it again
A topic not many famous essays have been written about, because it is not interesting and very boring.
If you are sick of this community topic, skip to the next chapter (page to be announced).
There is spitting going on in Israel. Meetings are happening and community is taking place. Thank you to the Knesset, people are starving. The difference is that I have to find it. In America, it found me. It found me as a child, because my parents made me go to shule and wear a suit. I cannot find it as I did a young lad. Most people don’t wear suits and there are too many orthodox Jews in Israel. Now I have to choose who I am going to nag and complain about for the next 90 some-odd years of my life. That is a hard decision. That is a harder choice than who to marry. You can get out of a marriage nowadays and nobody cares. People talk when you leave the community. The community will follow you throughout your marriage and make sure every detail of your marriage is public knowledge. The community will show up everywhere: the hospital, the birth of your firstborn, your BBQs, your yard sale, your day school events, your dressing room at Marshalls, your Bar Mitzvah, your bris, your wedding, your shower, the new city you move to. That is a relationship you cannot get out of. Even when you leave, they will still send you the monthly bulletins. Since I have moved to Israel, I have no information sheets telling me who has died. I could fly back to Rochester for the honorary dinner for people who might donate money to the shule, but that is an expensive way to be part of a community. There is a reason I have never been honored.
In Israel, everybody says that the community is your friends. When I say everybody, I mean my friend Avi that I was talking with a couple days ago. I thought community was supposed to be people who I had to see once a week, because they also pray to Gd once a week. I don’t want to see my friends that often. I don’t like my friends that much. They expect more help than strangers. Praying together with community, more than once a week, is a commitment. I like being forced to be together, because we are different, once a week. I am good at being Jewish, once a week.
This whole being a Jew all the time is hard. It is how you live in Jerusalem, each moment, Jewish, bothered by a daily interaction with other Jews. It is as if they are regular people too, with jobs. They might even be good for more than reading the Torah, which most of them mess up anyways. Now, I have to deal with them in business, and unlike the people from my community in Rochester, they make me pay. I don’t like that. If you are a doctor in a community, it is your duty to give free advice, at all times.
To add, friends are not of importance. Friends are lowest on the list. They are takers. Maybe we should call them ‘people who want something.’ ‘People who David does favors for.’ Rich friends are even worse; ‘people who like to take David to restaurants to split a bill for food he cannot afford.’ I like acquaintances; ‘people David sees every once in a while, and do not feel comfortable asking David for favors, for fear that he will bring it up at a meeting.’
I have had to create my own social circle over the years of Aliyah, and I have found enough people I dislike. But they are not community, they are friends. Community is supposed to be the people who I have meetings with, who listen to Yaakov get angry so he doesn’t have to scream at his spouse when he gets home. I have no meetings with my friends; we barely talk. My friends are the ones who I am supposed to go to, to complain about the community. Friends are people I might want to see. Community is made of people I have to see. Friends are people who do not have time to get together, because they have a community function. Friends are people who cannot get together because their spouse is not feeling well. Friends are people who have children who are ‘tired,’ because they have really annoying kids and they don’t know how to discipline. There are friends who make their way into my community, but then we sit in a meeting and they are not friends anymore. Community members are a step up from friends; they are the people who are around all the time, once a week. These are the people who will see my family and children through the years. I would want my children to have crazy random people to look up to, just as I had all types in my childhood- forced to come together in Rochester, NY.
Maybe what I speak about is a congregation. That is what I miss. I miss the idea of justifying what I do as correct, with other people who are doing exactly what I do; complaining about a rabbi.
It was brought to my attention to move to a Yishuv/settlement. Settlements are a modern day type of Jewish community, developed in Israel, to the chagrin of other people. These people come together, build homes in Israel, which angers the world, thus making them a legit Jewish community. But settlements are homogenous and that is hard for me to grasp.
Smaller communities do exist in the towns and villages. Communities of Israel are the people that the rest of the world hates. The people who live in the settlements consist largely of expats who moved to Israel and need to live in houses. The only place to find a two bedroom house for less than $500,000 is the settlements. So, you see that these people are not rightwing; they just want a backyard. These people now live in a small enclosed area, they have to make sure they have water, a place to pray, and an arab village nearby. Now they can have meetings about security, the UN complaining about something they do not know about, and the Israeli government that might dismantle them if it makes the US smile. So, you see, meetings do exist in Israel and I just got political. Do I know anything about politics? No. Do the people living in the settlements know anything about politics? No. But I do know that saying anything that is not anti-settlements is rightwing. And I do know that it is not important to know anything about politics to have a political opinion. I can vote. And I do vote for whomever Avi says to vote for. That is my political opinion.
I want a home and a view too. But they do not want the single people in the family populated settlements. They put the red dot right on your single person house. To move out to a settlement, you have to be married. Otherwise you are different and then they have to have security meetings about you. They have to vote whether or not they can let their children run around with you in the neighborhood. Decisions have to be made as to whether you can be the shule’s candy-man. I am stuck in the purgatory of single leftwing living within the green line, with regular garbage collection and car washes. That is how I define rightwing and leftwing. Leftwing people live within the green line.
After doing no research, I have come to the conclusion that all communities we have nowadays are nothing more than small congregations from a while back. This was confirmed by Wikipedia. The Chasiddim, Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Modern Orhthodox…The list of Jews spending time with people they are like, goes back centuries, if not millennia. In Israel you have Dati, Dosi, Dati Leumi, Chardal, Charedi, and it goes on. There is a whole list of nouns I have that nobody will understand, but I thought throwing in five to ten of was enough for now. In Israel, there are whole cities and towns built around the idea of keeping out ‘other people.’ To stay away from the outside influence, we gravitate to different areas.
In America, I was used to living in the same area as ‘different’ people, but shunning my neighbors. That made me feel better as a ‘religious’ Jew. It confirmed my practice to be able to see the heathens, and mock them for washing their vehicles on Shabbat. Knowing that heaven was all mine. I was part of the congregation that was not them. I never had the honor of growing up in a gated neighborhood. I had to see random people, and I knew they were not as good. I always told my parents we belonged in a gated neighborhood. We even parked cars outside of the garage, which forced us to sometimes have to say ‘Hello’ to people that do not open the gate. Who was to keep people out and check them for an ID and signature before they knocked on our door?
There is no doubt that neighborhoods in Israel are more interactive. That is a hard thing to accept. The community life allows for understood limited interaction, where we did not have to worry about people bothering us in our home. Having to deal with people all the time, sharing a va’ad Bayit/building committee can hurt the fabric of a healthy neighborhood where you never have to see the people who live next to you. I liked community, but I am American and it is in my blood to never want to see people in my house or to share anything that is mine. Mine, mine and all mine, or my parents’- all the same. I don’t think I know my parents’ new neighbors in Rochester. To give some background on American living, at some point in the mid ‘90’s neighbors became a disturbance; a destructive aspect to the American neighborhood. They realized that leaving the home and seeing people could kill anybody’s day. The home entertainment system was created, allowing one to enjoy a movie without having to run into other people. And the quest of the American Dream, to never see anybody, still lives on. I am quite sure the neighbors that moved into my parents’ neighborhood are all undercover. When they see me, they might wave real quickly, to pretend like they are real people. Even so, they don’t want me figuring them out. That is why every home has its own gate. Another reason why Olim feel so comfortable in settlements; the fences built around them and the security booth. It feels just like living in any poor, rundown, gated community.
The point is that every stream of Jewish practice comes down to a response to something they did not like. The Conservative movement, a response to the Reform movement. The Chasidic movement, a response to the knowledgeable Torah scholars. The tanners, a response to the shoe makers. Chiloni, a response to religious Jews. They are secular, not because they do not believe in Gd. They are secular because they hate seeing people in black or fur hats when it is 35 degrees Celsius outside. Settlements, a response to hi-cost living.
What is the response that I must have now? That is the question that I have no answer for, because I am confused as anything. I pray every day, and it says stuff about being in Israel and that being important. But I say it all in Hebrew and Jewish Day School and Ulpan were not helpful. I am bewildered and babbling. Why did the rabbis not make it easier to understand? Why are there Jews still living outside of Israel? I know that it is important to make money. I know people can be excellent people outside of Israel. I don’t think I am better than anybody else, even if my writings may suggest that I am the greatest person alive. Why are we alive? Answer the question. Please, just one person answer that question. I don’t want an argument about it. I want it put in easy to understand, English terms. I do not want any commentary. I just want it answered, so that I can know where I am messing up and feel comforted in my failures.
I like the end of the Second Temple approach of the shule. It is just that I have a different understanding of it than the average person living in Israel. American communities in Israel, a response to people talking Hebrew.