Monday, August 16, 2004

A Meditation on Loneliness

(Sorry for the poncey title. But I've been thinking about this stuff).

There's 1400 people here at CAJE (a Jewish education conference). At Limmud, we have almost twice as many. I'm not saying that in the traditional - Jewish - numbers-game way, I'm saying it to acknowledge that among 3,00ish people, I kinda feel at home. I know my way around, I know some people (OK, more than some), it's my community, I know the language, I know the deal.

Here, I'm an outsider. Six of us are the Briddish delegation, and I suddenly feel how people who come to Limmud for the first time feel. Overwhelmed. Confused. Disoriented. Don't get me wrong, I feel those things too sometimes, but I know they'll pass, because I'm home.

Here, I'm watching. I'm like a novelty doll in a high-class animation: pull my head, and I do the cutesy accent. Listen: last night, they were giving out ice-cream, so I went to get some for my friends (OK, they sent me), and when I went to the ice-cream guy, there was a woman there, and she looked at my badge and said "gee, London." Then I asked for six ice-creams, but I didn't want to appear glutonous, so I turned to her, and said "they're not all for me, honest, my friends sent me,", and she replied "gee, she's cute."

I feel disconnected. I'm not a professional Jewish educator, although I'm commited to Torah Lishmah (learning for it's own sake). I can't talk about camp, or the sanctuary, or my JCC, or how I've been coming here for twenty years, but I like being here.

Being Jewish has an outsiderness to it, and being Anglo has an added outsider dimension, so being in such an out-and-proud place, despite all my protestations about being a New Jew (which I am, if I wasn't, I wouldn't even be here) this is off my scale.

I've smiled at some people who haven't smiled back. I've talked to some people who are clearly only going through the motions.

Having said that, I've met some wonderful people, too. But the glass is always half empty, right?

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