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My First Shabbaton

I suppose that technically all those Limmud conventions were Shabbatons. Also, we sort of held a Shabbaton before our wedding by sequestering our guests from Friday through Sunday. But really, technically speaking this past weekend at Brooklyn College Hillel was my first taste of a real, live Shabbaton.

Because my husband was away on internship business, I headed to Brooklyn with the rest of my entourage, my cute little sister. She help me lug my little suitcase around and chatted up guests during dinner so I wouldn’t hurt my face before my actual speech. She did such a good job chatting guests up that our section of the table was surrounded by a handful of Brooklyn College students throughout the meal. I think she had a good time because she didn’t ask me to pay her for her time later.

Friday night I gave my “Becoming a Jewminicana” speech. I had most of the speech memorized by I improvised some extra jokes and took sneak peeks at my notes. Actually, sometimes, the resulting laughter threw me off a little but I speedily charged ahead to garner more laughs. I had been worried before that perhaps parts of the speech would be so depressing I wouldn’t get many laughs but I was pleasantly surprised. My joke about Stern girls was a hit.

Afterwards, a student asked me if I was a stand-up comedian and another congratulated me on “a great performance.” I wonder if I have a career as a stand-up comedian in me. Hmm. Even a Catholic in the audience says she wasn’t offended by my Christian jokes. I think the Rabbi and Rebbetzin, who are totally awesome by the way, were pleased that I was actually a legit speaker.

I woke up early on Saturday morning but like Friday night, I didn’t get much praying done. I have trouble sitting through Shabbat meals without pain and I was worried that if I threw praying in on top of that, I would collapse before my second speech/lecture on “Racism in the Jewish Community.” This really leads one to wonder about my priorities. Sorry, G-d.

Again, though the topic (“Racism in the Jewish community”) was not light on Saturday afternoon, I managed to get a lot of laughs. As usual, the room was split with people who were incensed by racism in the Jewish community, people who didn’t mind it so much and people who were just trying to digest their food while giving my words some thought.

Before I even gave the racism speech, while sitting in a corner at a lunch, a student approached me by asking, “Are you a convert?” I quickly explained why was an inappropriate question and that I, the speaker for this lunch, would explain it further in my talk when I mentioned how (born) Jews (and converts) of color are treated in the community.

One disheartening racism story came from someone in the audience. She said she had seen a Jewish mom with a Jewish kid in a shopping cart in a supermarket. Then she saw them ride up alongside a Hispanic mom and her Hispanic daughter in a shopping cart. The Jewish kid pointed over at the little girl and said, “Look, Ma, a baby maid.” That managed to get a reaction from even the crowd that thought the Mexican housekeeper joke that had pissed me off one Shabbos meal was funny.

After both speeches, I hung around with students at the Hillel. They were an eclectic mix wearing everything from suits to cowboy hats and jeans. When I got home, despite my best efforts, I did collapse. And my little sister was there again to help me out of my clothes, mix a painkiller/muscle relaxer cocktail, feed me and put me to bed. G-d bless her. Next time I’ll have to watch myself to make sure I don’t overdo it but it’s hard to watch yourself when you’re having so much fun.

6 thoughts on “My First Shabbaton

  1. It was great having you at our Shabbaton.Your speech was funny and moving at the same time, an interesting combination.We hopefully will have you at future Hillel events, but until then, I’ll just have to keep reading your blog 🙂

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  2. We’ve experienced the racism as well. It usually comes on long summer Shabbat afternoons when a more charedi looking child will see our son playing , wearing a kippah and tzizit, and then tell him “You aren’t Jewish!” Our good friend Rabanit Rivka Levitansky of Cleveland came up with a wonderful response. It goes something like: “No he’s a Jewish child and his name is________, just like you are a Jewish child and what’s your name?”

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  3. that was ur first one? wow, well u did AWESOMELY well. thanks for shining a little light in a dark world with humor, intelligence and strength. And maybe, just maybe people wont look at me like im crazy and say “racism in the orthodox Jewish community? ur crazy!” LOL. Progress …yay!!

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  4. Hmmm. I wouldn’t just call this an Orthodox problem. All of the aforementioned incidents have also occurred in Reform and Conservative circles. The issue of Jewish racism isn’t merely a frum problem. We have Jews of color from all streams of Judaism leaving the faith due to such insensitive behavior.

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