Saturday, February 07, 2004

So Friday night, N and I make our way down to The Crane Club, on Amsterdam at 79th. Really. No, we're not clubbing, we're participating in Kol Zimrah, a post-denominational neo-chavura (motto: meanigful prayer through music) - watch me use that jargon. I'm a born-again Jewish intellectual. There's about a hundred people in the basement. Many of them may also be grappling with where they are on the spiritual dimension.

What do New York Jewish women wear? Same as me: black, black and more black. Because you can never look too thin. Especially if you have some curves you're intent on hiding. But this is not a manicure story: I digress in a fashion-oriented way, when really this is about spiritual connection, and music, and a Carlebachy-Debbie Friedman kinda vibe. I like.

Some years ago, I had my first experience of the Noo-York-Jewish-Thang: a friend took me to BJs on a Friday night, and growing up midddle-of-the-road Anglo orthodox, I was bowled over by the hundreds of people, the sound system, the musical instruments, and the fact that everyone went out for Chinese afterwards.

Kol Zimrah has a way-mellow vibe, although there's still something slightly surreal about sitting in the basement of a club on the Upper West Side (had to hold back the urge to order a Manhattan), and N reminds me that they had musical instruments in the Temple, too. Exactly.

After lots of humming swaying, and me wishing I could sing, we made our way down the the JCC for the Tubishvat Seder. Now the irony of having an $x million dollar building three blocks away that doesn't allow "prayer groups" or whatever language they use, was not lost on me. This isn't a problem we have - yet - in the UK, because Anglo-Jewish life officially evolves around the synagogue you don't go to. But I can see why the existing synagogues could be worried that this shiny new toy (it's be open less than two years) would take people away from traditional synagogue buildings.

And it has a gym, the JCC, which obviously I didn't visit on shabbes, but it got me thinking. I've often thought a shul is very like a gym: you pay a lot of money, you don't go often enough, you feel guilty, and when you're there, you spend time chatting not doing what you came for. Why not combine the two? Looks like the JCC of Manhattan already thought of that.

There's a lot more to say. But I'm thinking of getting a workout, and then I'm meeting J and O on the Lower East side. Tough life, eh?