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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Envy or malaise


Usually when I skip services it is for one of three reasons. The first is that there I have been invited to some sort of celebration and by attending, I feel like I’m embracing the oneg (joy) of shabbat. The second is that I’m out of town. The third is heart break or some sort of romantic problem. For whatever reason, I can’t bear to be in shul when my heart is tender.

Today was the first time I’ve been in my synagogue for services since Yom Kippur. I’ve been to other synagogues, but I missed sukkot, simhat torah and shabbats at my synagogue lately. It’s been a combination of the above three. On an airplane between NYC and Chicago, at a pizzaria with geeks and some tenderness of the heart.

What I’ve been mulling over lately is a desire to be closer to a young, Jewish community like I saw in New York when I was there. On the Tuesday night I was in New York, I went out with Esther K. I wandered around the Upper West (or East?) Side for awhile and then we went for sushi, then to a bar to meet up with another wandering Jew.

That Wandering Jew was in town for one night and was catching up with all his Jewish friends in NYC. They all showed up at the bar and everyone in the group was only one degree separated from each other. I envied the woman talking about meeting her husband, “Well, the first time he invited me over for a shabbat meal…”

What did I envy? A group of young Jews that assumed a shabbat meal was a normal part of courting or dating. They weren’t ultra orthodox or even modern orhodox, but they lived in a community that revolved around the Jewish calendar.

When I said I was surprised to see so many people out on a Tuesday night, I was quickly told that since Sukkot started the next night, it was really a Thursday night. Everyone was talking about a holiday that is barely on the radar of most Jews I know in Chicago, beyond perhaps one dinner or social event.

Then after I was back in town, I went to a couple things at the modern orthodox shul in Lakeview. Sigh. Look at all these 30-somethings (and even tall Jewish men) who have a great little community that revolves around Judaism and the Jewish calendar in a way mine simply doesn’t. I envy them and want to be a part of it, but am not sure how to make that leap. I’ll let you know if I figure it out.

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