Feel the Love

As you read this blog, I am enjoying adventures (you, too?) during the second half of the summer. I will be returning to some favorite places and going to other locations for the first time. Happily, I have decided that each of these spots is a spiritual vortex where you can “feel the love.”

The last days of July will find my family in Tacoma, WA for a simcha. I have been to my sister-in-law’s synagogue and home in Tacoma several times. I know we will feel the love there, on the occasion of her younger daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.

From Washington State, my son, Emmett, and I will go to Washington University in St. Louis for Epsilon Math Camp. This will be my second summer accompanying Emmett to math camp. As someone who chose my college based, in part, on it not having a math requirement, you may wonder that I “feel the love” at Epsilon. I was surprised at first, too. But the love in the air is palpable. The kids who attend this camp find so much joy, beauty, and discovery in mathematics. While the children are “high” on math, the parents bask in the support their kids enjoy — from teachers and peers alike. The children who choose to go to Epsilon have strong and similar passions. They not only share a love of math, they also generally enjoy music, logic, puzzles, Rubik’s cubes, science, origami, coding, and knitting. When Emmett met these people, it was like meeting his second tribe (Jews being his first tribe, of course).

Then it’s back home (where I certainly hope and expect to the feel the love) and back to my home synagogue (ditto) for catching up with work and “normal life.”

My family and I will leave again for one final trip: to the Chautauqua Institution. This will be my second time teaching at Chautauqua. When I first set foot there, I felt the magic of the place. The natural beauty is spectacular, but there is gorgeous land throughout the northern part of New York. What makes Chautauqua exceptional is the spiritual atmosphere. Originally home to Methodists on retreat, and then to inter-denominational Christian dialogue, and then to Jewish-Christian dialogue, and then to dialogue among the Abrahamic faiths (including Islam), and finally to people of all religions and no religion, Chautauqua is a place of love, acceptance, and peace. It is “summer camp” for adults who enjoy learning about religion, politics, and culture. Every day, there are multiple lectures, religious services, poetry readings, concerts, plays, discussion groups, as well as art, music, and meditation classes to choose from. You can sail, kayak, do yoga, bicycle, or just walk the campus, admire the architecture, and feel the love.

After teaching (and learning!) at Chautauqua, I will arrive back in New Jersey in time for my synagogue’s end-of-summer barbecue. Once again, I know that I will feel the love. My “bimah partner,” Cantor Lenny Mandel, likes to say about summer vacation, “I can’t wait to go away, and I can’t wait to come back.” Gut gezukt (well-said), because it’s good to come home.

Soon after all the end-of-summer travels and festivities, Jews everywhere will gather for Rosh Hashanah and the beginning of day schools, Hebrew Schools, and yeshivot. After a quiet summer, when our public buildings are relatively empty, there is something exhilarating about joining together in larger numbers. You can feel the energy — and the love.

I am blessed to be going to some fabulous places this summer, and I hope you are, too. But here is the secret to a great summer — whether you are staying home or traveling; working, vacationing, and/or retiring; no matter the occasion, location, or weather. Instead of just waiting to “feel the love,” bring the love with you, everywhere you go.

Cause love to be felt, and then you’ll really feel the love.

About the Author
Debra Orenstein, rabbi of Congregation B'nai Israel in Emerson, NJ, is an acclaimed scholar-in-residence. She is editor of Lifecycles 1:Jewish Women on Life Passages and Personal Milestones and Lifecycles 2: Jewish Women on Biblical Themes in Contemporary Life (Jewish Lights). A seventh generation rabbi, she was in the first rabbinical class at The Jewish Theological Seminary to include women.
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